Healthy debate necessary

The government’s decision to procure utility vehicles for 199 gewogs that have good enough road connectivity has ignited a national debate. It is imperative that we invite healthy discussions, especially when decisions concern development and economic impact that the country likely could confront.

What is important is that we do not distort the arguments based on party lines and agendas. It would be a sad commentary on our governance system if we failed to bring us together and summon the courage to listen to each other.

Finger-pointing and mud-slinging at the best will only render our debate meaningless. And therein lies the danger. Development initiatives should benefit our people and, more importantly, they should be sensible and sustainable.

The government’s decision is, in itself, not wholly unscrupulous. If the gewogs could have a utility vehicle that could be used in times of emergency, it is for the benefit of the people that the government is looking at. But is it the best option we are left with? And, have we set up necessary system of checks and balances?

People from certain quarters are asking for a thorough economic rationale behind executing such a policy decision that they argue will only prove to be unsustainable and eventually counterproductive. The argument is valid. When we are still grappling with the issue of misuse of government vehicles at the centre, what strategies are being planned or put in place to stop that from happening at the gewog level?

Collecting government pool vehicles to stop them from being misused and buying new ones do not much make sense. And there are those who are of the view that for an economy driven by aid money and import, recurring expenditure could become unmanageable in the future.

We believe that we still have time and space enough to deliberate and to arrive at a more sensible solution. For indeed, when we do earnest listening, prudent solutions aren’t very hard to come by.

It is important that campaign pledges do not become too expensive for the nation and the people.

1 reply
  1. irfan
    irfan says:

    With any international Donor Agency willing and ready with a scheme to donate an Utility Vehicle each to every gewog in Bhutan; this very call for a healthy debate wouldn’t have been a requirement. But even with such a Donor Agent ready to help, a healthy debate is always a need when our focus is on benefits for economic utility.

    So the basis enquiry remains whether these villages need any such utility vehicles to drive a certain economic development and hence, an economic growth of some kind! Things were a lot easier when we discussed those power tillers. Any agrarian society will never say no to a supply of power tillers.

    Utility Vehicles will have their use within a village or rural economic cycle. So once again we don’t expect the villagers to say that they don’t need one. When some villages will require more than one vehicles during a peak hour of an economic need, another village will not need any. And here is the issue that needs to be addressed before it actually becomes a case of misuse of funds or wastage of resources.

    If I am the vehicle manufacturer with a contract to win here, I would have come up with innovative applications installed on my vehicles which will directly aid to certain economic activities for these rural economies. But for that to happen in a procurement process, the government agency must come up with what speciality applications they are looking for in these Utility Vehicles. The answer to that enquiry remains with the question…’why these vehicles at the first place?’. So I personally feel that the government needs to be more elaborate on what exactly it is looking for in these vehicles and for what economic needs. Otherwise, a Pick-Up Truck is a pick up truck and it’s a pick up truck in that or this way.

    Moreover, procurement can happen in phases. And vehicles can be maintained in a separate pool rather than allocating one vehicle each to each gewog. This is assuming that when some villages will need the use of more than one such vehicle, another village is not in need of any. Similar issues have surfaced even when it comes to utilisation of the Gewog Development Grant or Fund of 2 million Ngultrum every year. So many of the villages have failed to come up with economically beneficial projects that are contributing positively to the rural economies. I am not sure about it, but such worries have circulated on social media in the past and it’s mentioned even on Kuensel posts.

    So just like we have the Helicopter services in place for the benefits of the people, an Utility Vehicle service can be designed and put on place. But only if the government elaborates what they intend to achieve with the procurement of these vehicles, even we as common citizens can have some idea about how much should be considered a good budget spent.

    After all, pledges made by political parties are also considered as demands made by public for not yet fulfilled needs, economical or not so economical. So a pledge fulfilled is also about expectations met for good governance in a political party based system of democracy. So a healthy debate will also demand healthy and honest intentions.

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