KP Sharma

Despite limited time for questions on the 13th Plan presented by the finance minister in the National Council, some members raised concerns about the impacts of the large budget allocation and associated risks, urging for uniform allocation for balanced development.

Eminent member Tashi Wangyel said that while the government has presented a substantial budget, inadequate monitoring poses risks to the country and its economy. He cautioned that expansionary fiscal policy could adversely affect monetary policy, foreign exchange reserves, money supply, deficits, and inflation. 

Tashi Wangyel added that rising imports could affect the economy, as it has happened in the past. He questioned the minister on measures to mitigate these risks. “Although the objective of the government looks promising, it has affected the people and failed to benefit them in the past,” he said.

Finance Minister Lekey Dorji acknowledged the concerns, assuring that the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) would monitor the situation. 

He attributed rising civil service attrition to insufficient salaries, leading to human resource shortages. The minister highlighted plans to increase import substitution through economic development, such as road construction and market access in rural areas, and fiscal incentives for the private sector. 

He also highlighted the government’s aim to maintain inflation at four to five percent to manage money flow risks.

Eminent member Phuntsho Rabten questioned the minister on whether the government considered uniform allocation across dzongkhags for balanced regional development. He linked issues like rural-urban migration and price disparities to imbalanced budget allocation.

Bumthang’s NC Kencho Tshering pointed out the lack of budget for employment opportunities in gewogs compared to dzongkhags and thromdes, stating that such funding would help curb unemployment.

“Gewogs face the issue of huge unemployment and a budget allocation would benefit them in curbing unemployment issues,” he said.

In response, Lyonpo Lekey Dorji highlighted the challenges of uniform budget allocation due to factors like population ratio and dzongkhag size.

He said that plans are being made to create interconnectivity between neighbouring dzongkhags to maximise benefits.

Members also urged the government to facilitate easy access to finance for rural populations. 

Due to time constraints, the Chairperson allocated an additional 10 minutes for discussion with the finance minister, but it still was not enough to include feedback from all National Council members.

With a budget outlay of Nu 512.28 billion, the 13th Plan saw a 63 percent increase, the highest so far.