Yangchen C Rinzin
It is almost six months since the task force submitted the draft 21st Century Economic Roadmap to the Gross National Happiness Commission Secretariat (GNHC) for onward submission to the government.
The GNHC was to review and detail out the implementation plan to operationalise the roadmap. However, information on how the final document is shaping up is in short supply from the Commission.
The roadmap was drawn from the His Majesty The King’s speech during the 112th National Day, in 2019. The task force comprising of members from various professional backgrounds was formed to develop the economic roadmap.
His Majesty The King said that the government, lawmakers, private sector and experts in various fields must work collectively to chart out a clear Economic Roadmap for the 21st Century to help every individual and entity understand their respective roles and work towards a common national objective.
Many are questioning whether the government has shelved the task force’s recommendations or rejected the draft economic roadmap.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering told Kuensel that any planning for economic activities must evolve through GNHC and so the review was vital.
He said that the gap does not mean that the recommendations are shelved or rejected by the government. Review only means to review the document before submitting it to the Cabinet, he said.
“Several reviews are also important. The process is going on and we’ve not forgotten the economic roadmap amidst the pandemic and challenges,” Lyonchhen said. “GNHC must come up with implementation strategies to achieve the targets mentioned in the roadmap.”
Lyonchhen explained that the government cannot rush and endorse the roadmap because it’s the country’s economic pathway. “My directives to GNHC is that they shouldn’t rush and discuss thoroughly before submitting to the government. I don’t want GNHC to give me a reason for time shortage so, I’ll wait for them to submit when they’re fully ready.”
GNHC’s policy and planning division’s chief, Karma Jamtsho, said that GNHC was reviewing the recommendations made by the task force and was simultaneously making sure that the roadmap does not impact Gross National Happiness.
He said that the economic roadmap is a comprehensive report and so the GNHC should be careful during the review, especially to look into how to achieve those targets and investment it would require and availability of resources.
“The task force has set a GDP target,” he said. “We may have to reject some of the recommendations if they are not implementable. Review is mainly to improve on the recommendations.”
With many questioning the GHN values with the government focusing more on the GDP, Karma Jamtsho said that the review also included how to address this suspicion and achieve GDP without compromising the GNH.
“But we must understand that the roadmap is not only for the present pandemic situation; it encompasses decades from 2020. We cannot rush,” he added. “However, we’re targeting to complete the review by this year.”
What’s are we looking for in the roadmap?
The roadmap sets an ambitious target of a high-income economy by 2030 with a per capita income of USD 12,375.
The task force was formed before the country recorded its first Covid-19 case.
In the wake of the pandemic, the government lowered the GDP growth to 2 percent from around 6 percent for the current fiscal year.
Accordingly, the task force set a GDP target of USD 10 billion within the 10 years with an annual growth rate of 10 percent.
It entails a cumulative investment of about Nu 1.5 trillion assuming a much higher level of incremental capital-output ratio (ICRO) of 2.8 than the historically recorded ICOR of 7.
To enable the flow of resources towards productive purposes, the roadmap emphasises an ecosystem that makes investment and employment generation as frictionless as possible.
Governance and ecosystem, human capital and infrastructure, and technology are three key thematic elements that will define the characteristics of the 21st-century economy.