Even as the 12th Plan is being finalised, the government is planning to align Five-Year Plan cycles with each government’s term so that the electoral cycle does not affect development activities.
In an interview with Kuensel, foreign minister and government spokesperson Dr Tandi Dorji said that development activities should not come to a standstill whenever a government completes its term. “Our economic development Plan should go by the electoral cycle, not by the timely five-year cycle,” he said.
There have been no new development activities since the end of the 11th Plan on June 31. Six months will be lost when Parliament, which took office on November 7, endorses the 12th Plan in January.
“We are saying a Plan period should go from government to government,” Dr Tandi Dorji said.
The present government will complete its term in November 2023. But the foreign minister said that the government wanted to propose 12th Plan activities going up to June 2024 so that the 13th Plan would be implemented as soon as the next government takes office.
The past two governments didn’t encounter major issues even though the Plan period cycle were pegged with the fiscal year. The first elected government took office three months ahead of the commencement of the 10th Plan in April 2008, while the second elected government endorsed the 11th Plan as soon as they took office in July 2013.
If a solution is not found, the government is of the view that the future governments would run into problems as the vacuum between the two Plan periods might widen because of the mismatch between the election timeline and Plan period. Within the current system, the dates of Plan period will move forward by three months or more every five years.
Lyonpo Tandi Dorji said future governments would lose more time if the present system continues. “In some cases in the future even a year could be lost due to the government formation process and the Plan period time table,” he said.
One of the options, the foreign minister said, was early resignation of the government. However, he added that the present government would get only four years and three months if it resigns prematurely in June 2023.
The government, however, lyonpo Tandi Dorji said, has not arrived at a decision and that it would discuss the plan with other political parties and stakeholders. “It seems like there is no legal hurdles. If this is so, we would like to take this forward and discuss with all the political parties,” he said.
Lyonpo said that the present government was serious about engaging all the political parties in matters of national importance. “We will consult all the political parties and if required, take it and pass it through Parliament,” he said.
The finance ministry is looking at whether or not there are legal obligations against allowing continuity of Plan activities even before the formation of a new government.
Finance minister Namgay Tshering said his ministry was working with the GNH Commission and the department of budget to come up with an option that will ensure a smooth transition of activities from one government to another. “We are working on the modality (of five-year Plans),” he said.
Opposition spokesperson Dorji Wangdi, however, said that there weren’t much to maneuver on the issue and that the government had to work within the prescribed law. “We have to go by the letters and the spirit of the Constitution,” he said.
Earlier, the Opposition had informally suggested the then Prime Minister to dissolve the government 90 days before the end of its term. However, the former government had argued that such a move would not provide a level playing field for new political parties.
Govt. reviews other parties’ manifestos
The government is currently working with the GNH Commission to incorporate its pledges into the draft 12th Plan, Lyonpo Tandi Dorji said.
“We are going to complete it probably by next week. We reviewed most of it, but the GNHC now has to incorporate the changes that the new government has suggested.”
He said the government also reviewed the manifestos of the other parties to see if they could also be incorporated into the 12th Plan. Many of the pledges of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa and Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party, he said, were similar.
“The 12th Plan would be presented to the Cabinet, which will endorse and submit it to Parliament for information. The annual budget, of course, will have to be passed,” he said.
The government, he said, has asked the GNHC to finalise the draft Plan by next week so that it can be presented in the Cabinet the following week.
He said the total outlay of the draft plan would remain more or less the same. The initial draft 12th Plan had a total outlay of Nu 322 billion (B).
“Although the total outlay is not going to change much, it will depend on the incorporation of our pledges,” he said.
The foreign minister said that Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale during his recent visit to Bhutan expressed India’s support for the 12th Plan although the main agenda was to invite the Bhutanese prime minister to India.
Lyonpo Tandi Dorji said Bhutan looked forward to continued support from India. India, he said, was willing to consider providing more funds to Bhutan for the 12th Plan if it requests.
He said that pledges like maternity allowance and free education up to class 12, could face sustainability issues. However, he added that the pledges would be implemented.
“We will have a clear picture (about the 12th Plan) by the end of next week. If the budget goes either up or down, we will request to the Government of India during Lyonchhen’s upcoming visit to India,” he said.
India fully funded Bhutan’s first (1961 – 66) and second Plan (1966 – 71).
The total outlay of Bhutan’s first and second Plans were Nu 107.2 million and Nu 202.2 million, respectively.
The share of GoI support in the 11th Plan decreased to 23 percent (Rs 50B including the Rs 5B special economic stimulus package) of the total outlay of Nu 213B.
The planning process for the 12th Plan covering the period July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2023 began in January 2016.
The objective of the 12th Plan is “Just, Harmonious and Sustainable Society through enhanced Decentralisation.”