Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering

Most of the 25 pledges fulfilled: PM

The government came out with a flattering self-assessment of its performance in the first 120 days after it took over the reins of governance on November 7 last year.

Except for the pledges on converting Samrang project into a vegetable farming project and removing the five percent voucher tax, Cabinet ministers said the pledges were met as scribed in the manifesto.

Foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji said every pledge has to be read for what it stands for. “What we have said is to review policies, initiate projects, establish committees, and identify skills needs,” he said.

He said that the progress may not be tangible but the government has worked as pledged.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said the system pushed them to get down to work from day one as the budget and 12th Plan was on hold, and everything was waiting for the new government to take place.

He said the 25 pledges were to serve as starting points and to push the government to business.

After its first meeting with the Prime Minister, the Gross National Happiness Commission is in the process of selecting a team to form a high level committee to draft the country’s new long-term vision, Bhutan: Vision 2045.

“This document may not be called Bhutan: Vision 2045 as reflected in our manifesto because it has to be an apolitical vision. We’ll let GNHC decide on this.”

The flagship programme on water is approved by the parliament and the dialogue has started in principle to establish a dedicated water agency with a plan of action to ensure water drinking and irrigation for all by 2021, he said. 

Information and communications ministry would soon float the tender for the Suung Joen app. 

“Removing the five percent voucher tax would be taken up when the government implements taxation reforms,” Lyonchhen said.

The prime minister’s office will have a flagship programme for stray dog and waste management.

“The money that is intended to manage waste is getting lost in the system,” he said adding that many agencies have waste managing components but no ownership.

The pay commission is established and it would submit the first draft next month.

The home ministry is working on establishing offices for tshogpas in the gewogs. However, only tshogpas who are away from the gewog offices would get the offices.

The government formed a tourism board, changed the chairmanship to foreign minister from the prime minister and held the first national tourism conference. “We’ve done more than we pledged in tourism in the 120 days.”

The education ministry decided to drop examinations for classes PP-III from next year. Examination for class IV and V would be removed in the following years but the board examination for class VI will remain. The ministry will train teachers for formative assessment of students this year.

The ministry is also reviewing the non-academic workload of teachers but has yet to finalise a framework to reduce teacher workload as pledged. “We’ll have to sit down and talk with RCSC on individual work plan of teachers,” lyonchhen said.

The government has cancelled classes on Saturday, and removed the class X cut-off point.

Works are on going to engage youth in gainful employment and a national youth action plan, lyonchhen said.

The home ministry is making an inventory of all lhakhangs in the country categorising them according to the need for funding.

The Cabinet has asked the State Trading Corporation Bhutan Ltd on the viability of selling existing Toyota Prado cars and buying electric or hybrid cars with the money.

“We have decided to sell some of the cars (prados) and buy hybrid or electric cars,” he said.

Lyonchhen said that the pledge to resolve parking space issues, professional driving license and ownership, age of vehicles and age of drivers has been met. The maximum life period of the taxi is raised to 12 years from nine, taxi-operating permit is removed, and the maximum age of the drivers is maintained at 65 years. “This decision was made after numerous consultations with various stakeholders,” lyonchhen said.

While the government pledged to review the 12th Plan to include a revolving fund for Civil Society Organisations and funds for film and documentary promotion, it realised there is already a revolving fund for the CSOs.

The government would involve CSOs as partners in the 12thPlan, the prime minister said.

Agriculture, labour, and education ministries are working on the sonam gongphel project. Lyonchhen said there would be at least one farming cooperative in every gewog to cater to the needs of schools, hospitals, and other institutions in the gewog.

The ministries are relooking at the state-owned enterprises (SOE) because there is no development in private sector while there are too many SOEs.

“I’ve told the MoEA minister to look into what activities can be handed over to the BCCI that are currently done by the ministry,” lyonchhen said.

The government is also reviewing the policies on the recruitment of domestic workers as pledged.

The government has dropped the pledge to convert Samrang project into vegetable farming project. “There’s hardly any meat processing unit but the fishery will need some modifications,” he said.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Penjor said the ministry is negotiating with banks to introduce insurance schemes for crops.

“We’re trying to review the role of Food Corporation of Bhutan and sonam tshongkhangs,” lyonchhen said.

Tshering Palden

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