Local governments will be able to exercise greater flexibility in planning, budgeting and release of money from this year, according to the recently endorsed 12th Plan.

This means that gewog administrations will not have to hold budget discussions with Ministry of Finance (MoF) and the Gross National Happiness Commission annually. Individual gewogs are only required to submit their budget utilisation plan.

The change, the Plan document states, is aimed at promoting ownership and quality delivery of local plan priorities and development by local governments.

Each of the 20 dzongkhags has been allocated different amounts of  grants for the five years based Resource Allocation Formula (RAF) and Common Minimum Infrastructure (CMI). Seventy-eight percent of the total grants are allocated based on RAF and 22 percent are allocated based on CMI.

The resource allocation formula takes into consideration specific needs and priorities of the dzongkhag, gewogs and thromdes. The CMI has been devised to  reduce disparities in distribution of common public infrastructure and facilities among dzongkhags, gewogs and dzongkhag thromde.

Gewogs can use the money allocated through the resource allocation formula in a similar manner as the erstwhile gewog development grant. The government has allocated a total of Nu 50 billion (B) as capital budget for local governments in the 12th Plan, an increase of Nu 25B from the last plan. The 100 percent increase in the total capital budget for local governments, according to the government, is required for meeting the increasing demand of public services at the local level.

The total capital budget has been divided among three bodies of local governments – Nu 20.B for the 20 dzongkhags, Nu 19.855B for the 205 gewogs and Nu 10B for the thromdes.

For gewogs, money will be released on a quarterly basis from July 2019. In dzongkhags’ case however, each dzongkhag will be allowed to utilise Nu 10 million (M) annually as Dzongkhag Development Grant (DDG), in addition to project-tied grants, which are also part of the capital budgets for local governments.

For dzongkhag thromdes, total capital grants allocated through the resource allocation formula will be used as tied grants for financing and implementing planned activities of their Plan.

Some of the infrastructure development projects under the common minimum infrastructure are a children’s park each in Gasa, Pemagatshel, Lhuentse and Dagana at a cost of Nu 20M. Another Nu 140M has been allocated for construction of a bus terminal each in 16 dzongkhags, except Chukha, Thimphu, Trashigang, Mongar, Samdrupjongkhar and Sarpang.

As per the Plan, the government plans to construct a total of 50kms of farm roads worth about Nu 1,050M to chiwogs that are without any. The Plan has also allocated Nu 2,517B for blacktopping of 867.81kms of gewog centre roads and Nu 4B for maintenance and laying of base course (soling) on farm roads.

The government has allocated Nu 17M for construction of 14 helipads in different dzongkhags. According to the Plan, the helipads were identified as per a list provided by the Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services Limited.

Also under the common minimum infrastructure programme, the government has kept aside Nu 504M for yenlag throms(satellite towns) in Dagana’s Lhamoizingkha, Autsho in Lhuentse, Nganglam in Pemagatshel, Nobding in Wangdue and Panbang in Zhemgang.

The money will be used in the construction of internal road networks, water supply schemes, streetlights and footpaths among other activities. Another Nu 1,916M has been allocated for construction of similar facilities in 16 dzongkhag throms and for management of sewerage in Bumthang, Dagana, Pemagatshel, Paro and Zhemgang.

Dzongkhag wise, Samtse has received the highest capital grant of Nu 1,348.85M, followed by Wangdue at Nu1, 257M and Dagana with Nu 1,179M. The smallest dzongkhag in terms of population, Gasa, received Nu 665M.

At the recent parliament session, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the next dzongkhag thromde will be established in Samtse. He said that it was important for the government to ensure that all 20 dzongkhags are equally developed.

“However, we want to start from Samtse when it comes to establishing dzongkhag thromdes,” he said, reasoning that the government would give special attention to the dzongkhag since it was graced by the Druk Gyalpo on the 111th National Day.

Among the highest recipients of capital budgets are Trashigang (Nu 1,122M), Thimphu (Nu 1,139M), Chhukha (Nu 1,042M), Paro (Nu 1,075M), Mongar (Nu 1,011M) and Zhemgang (Nu 1,009M). Sarpang, one of the biggest dzongkhags in terms of population has been allocated Nu 951M for the five years.

MB Subba