In their pursuit to please the voters, political parties could gamble with the principles of gross national happiness (GNH) if national plans and programs are not screened in future.

The national council yesterday resolved to lay this point in its draft recommendation as they discussed the 12th Plan.

The Bumthang council member, Nima raised the issue relating to GNH screening test. He said that currently it is only the written policies that are put under the radar of the GNHC’s screening tool.

If the country is to put GNH into practice, government’s plan and programmes should be screened in future, especially those intended to achieve national objectives.

Members said past projects such as central schools and mega farms went ahead despite much criticism in the media and resistance from different agencies. To ensure that national programmes are well aligned with the GNH principles and to avoid controversies, members agreed that plans and programmes must be put through the screening test.

The national council also questioned the time frame of the 12th Plan, which the government proposed it to be aligned with their tenure.  

Eminent Member Tashi Wangmo said the Plan not following the fiscal year would not only be inconvenient but also contradicts the norms. Citing the present example where capital budget was passed only for six months in the earlier budget, she said capital works are put to halt. This, she said would affect the GDP growth of the country.

“A thorough study may be required to attune the plans with the fiscal year. Probably, its time we introduce multi-year rolling plans,” she said.

Other members also questioned the conduct of evaluation and monitoring if the time lapse between the fiscal year and the Plan further widens in the near future.

Eminent member Phuntsho Rabten said usually in the first year of the Plan when the new government takes overs, lower GDP growth rates are recorded. The impact of time lapse may hit the economy and development works.

In line with this, members also suggested increasing the GDP target from the estimated 5-6 percent. Given a record size of Nu 310B and Istanbul declaration where LDCs must maintain an annual growth of 7 percent, the Zhemang Council member, Pema Drakpa said that the target should be increased.

“Being the last plan as LDC, growth target should be more optimistic,” he said.

With the commissioning of Mangdechhu Project and Punatsangchhu II, eminent member Karma Tshering said more growth could be achieved. However, he said that the Punatsangchhu II has not been mentioned in the Plan despite the officials expecting it to be completed by 2022.

The Council also questioned the government’s pledge of providing allowance for mothers. The Mongar Council member, Sonam Pelzom said that only women in the rural areas are entitled for six months allowance.

“Not all women in the urban areas are employed. There are equally high prevalence of urban poor,” she said adding that equity must be maintained.

Dagana representative, Surjaman Thapa questioned as to how the government would draw a line to segregate women in rural and urban areas when most census are registered in their villages. ”Some women might live as dependent in urban areas and earn nothing. Are they entitled?” he said.

Other members, including Punakha representative, Lhaki Dolma, who is currently on maternity leave but attended the discussion on 12th Plan, supported this recommendation.

Lhaki Dolma said that the clause allowing allowance for only women who delivers in hospital must be relooked because delivery could happen anytime and anywhere.

The discussion will continue today.

Tshering Dorji