MB Subba 

Chaired by Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, the first meeting of the high-level roundtable on the 21st Century Economic Roadmap held yesterday reviewed the proposed goal and timeline within which the roadmap is to be drawn.

The proposed goal of the economic roadmap is “High Income GNH Society by 2030”, the threshold of which is a GNI per capita of USD 12,375.

A national task force comprising members from various professional backgrounds will spearhead the development of the economic roadmap on the strategic direction of the high-level roundtable. The task force is expected to be formed in the third week of next month.

According to the proposed timeline, drafting of the roadmap should be completed by October this year and launched on February 21, 2021. The high-level roundtable will continue with discussion in the next meetings.

The high-level roundtable comprises People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Dasho Tshering Tobgay and Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) president Dasho Neten Zangmo.

The inclusion of the two political parties is aimed at ensuring political ownership of the economic roadmap.

The Prime Minister said that the economic roadmap is expected to be the guideline for political parties in framing their manifestos. The economic roadmap, he said, will not be a political document of the government.

Other members of the high-level roundtable are the Opposition Leader, Chairperson of the National Council, the Speaker, acting Chief Justice, Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) president; and heads of Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies and the GNHC secretary among others.

Besides providing strategic direction to the national task force, the high-level roundtable will build consensus, promote political ownership and approve the roadmap.

The first meeting of the high-level roundtable also discussed the formation of five groups of people to brainstorm on the economic roadmap. Eminent members of the society, civil servants, officials from financial institutions and the private sector will be represented in the groups.

Opposition Leader Pema Gysmtsho (PhD) sought clarification on whether it should be a socio-economic roadmap or economic roadmap, saying that socio-economic roadmap would be too broad. “There should be a thorough brainstorming on where we want to go,” he said.

The prime minister clarified that the roadmap will mainly focus on economic components and that the socio-economic components would be taken care by day-to-day functioning of the government. He also said that the Five-Year Plan system might need to change due to incorporation of new economic plans such as the economic roadmap.

BKP Vice President Sonam Tobgay said that the goal of the economic roadmap was too broad that it needed clarity. He said that a thorough visioning exercise needed to be carried out for a good economic roadmap.

There will be brainstorming on various themes including technology, innovation sustainability, and equality.  But five themes – sovereignty, security, GNH, peace, harmony and unity – have been identified as non-negotiable.

The meeting agreed that education was one of the main focus areas in the roadmap due to its huge potential in economic development and that rethinking was required.

The Opposition Leader said that targets in the education sector needed to be aligned with the macro-economic goals. A proper brainstorming was required to avoid mismatch and brain drain to developed countries.

Technology and innovation are expected to play a central role in the economic roadmap. Officials said that technology has high potentials to create jobs and that work on the Digital Drukyul has begun.

Acting Chief Justice Kinley Tshering said that the judiciary has started work on judiciary roadmap and that it was ready to contribute to the economic roadmap. Lyonchhen said that various roadmaps should converge.

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said that possibilities of aligning with the Five-Year Plan needed to be considered.

During the 112th National Day, His Majesty The King said that the government, lawmakers, the private sector, the people 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.

Lyonchhen earlier said that the economic roadmap was not about building road and infrastructure but creating a unique economy.

Bhutan is expected to graduate from the group of Least Development Countries by 2023. Seven years from there, Bhutan would become a high-income GNH society, if the proposed goal of the economic roadmap is achieved.