Council: For dzongkhags to keep track of their development and identify areas that need more attention, recording GDPs individually is the way forward, the National Council has recommended.

This is also expected to help in the budgeting process since it would give a representation of economic activities in each sector within a dzongkhag.

While the deliberation on budget and appropriation bill will continue today, this was one of the recommendations that the majority of Council members supported in a show of hands.

By keeping track of their GDPs, Gasa representative, Sangay Khandu said the government would be in a better position to define the requirements of a dzongkhag.

However, eminent member Dasho Tashi Wangyel said budget allocation based on GDP could give a false representation of reality.

For instance, he said Wangduephodrang’s GDP would be huge because of the two mega hydropower projects and the Basochhu project. But there are places like Ada-Rukha, he said, which deserves attention.

Should any natural disaster strike a dzongkhag, funds for renovation and rebuilding would flow in the aftermath. This, he said would elevate the dzongkhag’s GDP and might affect the budget allocation because all economic activities and investments will go into calculating the GDP.

He, however, agreed with the idea of allocating budget based on prevalence of poverty at the gewog level.

Sangay Khandu clarified that GDP could be used as a tool to gather information on individual sectors within the dzongkhags and track down where the money has gone.

The Pemagatshel representative, Jigme Rinzin also said the country’s annual budget only reveals the estimates of expenditure and resources available every year.

However, he said it is important to discern where the money has been spent. “How much assets the country accrued from annual spending is not reflected,” he said.

For instance, the budget might be spent on procuring vehicles and construction of buildings.

As all grants and resources injected for development activities are spent in the end, he said reflecting the assets in the budget would help track the money spent.

Samtse’s representative, Sangay Khandu, said it is generous on the part of government for allocating significant funds for the agriculture sector.

A budget of Nu 6.6 billion has been allocated for the renewable natural resources sector.

But this, he said is not going to address the issue of rural-urban migration. “The government couldn’t diagnose the disease,” he said. “It’s like applying medicine on the foot when the wound is on the head.”

Even after spending much money, he said it is not certain whether people have benefited or not. The budget, he said should be placed in the right areas.

For instance, he said Nu 50 million is allocated for works on development of the Phuentshothang Agriculture Rehabilitation Project. The intent is to substitute import of rice. But, he said in places where paddy could be harvested twice a year, farmers are losing their crops to wildlife.

Likewise he pointed out various initiatives such as irrigation and infrastructure from the budget report.

“But farmers need security,” he said, adding that the focus should be on ensuring harvest. “The huge spending on infrastructure makes no sense if farmers lose their harvests to wildlife.”

He said in Sipsu alone, 2,000 acres of crops were destroyed by elephants. People from the community, he said, had left their lands fallow and started migrating to the capital.

Tshering Dorji