MB Subba

More than two years in office, the government still has no clarity on its economic vision, the Opposition Party in a press release said last Friday.

The Opposition Party stated that the economy was the foundation of the country’s future, security, sovereignty, identity, and democracy and that economic resilience and economic self-reliance must be the collective national goal of all political parties.

The press release, which contained the Opposition’s assessment of the government’s performance, was released in the evening before the Prime Minister’s State of the Nation report.

“It (government) has conveniently got lost in the muddles of indecisions and foggy thinking. Its most damaging failure is in economic visioning and planning that will have unbearable ramifications for our nation in the future,” the Opposition stated.

The press release states the economy this year is projected to nosedive to between negative 2 to 6 percent growth due to Covid-19 situation, which is the worst performance in the country’s economic history.

The Opposition stated that the disruption in the economy warrants proper fiscal planning. It alleges that the government has not been able to come up with a clear fiscal management plan yet.

The Opposition Party stated that the shrinking fiscal space because of a hefty ‘debt burden’ of Nu 28 billion (B) in the last two years will be a stumbling block to the economy’s performance.

“The present government is a typical case of a political government that is getting misled by itself. The claim that a surplus account of an already allocated budget for development is a ‘budgetary achievement’ is a gross economic and budgetary misunderstanding,” it stated.

The Opposition reasoned that the government in the first half of the fiscal year was able to spend only 6 percent of the Nu 37B capital budget allocated for the current fiscal year. This, it said, was an “unforgivable failure” of execution of development activities.

The Opposition demanded the government to speed up in implementing the development activities so that the allocated capital budget fuels the economy through increased investments.

The Opposition stated the government should work hard to establish new hydropower projects as it had established none so far. It reminds the government of its manifesto which states: “Generate additional 5,200MW of hydropower through Sankosh, Kuri-Gongri, and other projects”. 

The Opposition described unemployment as one of the most pressing issues in the country. It states that the government has not been able to come up with timely and long-term strategic interventions to address it.

“Major pledges continue to remain as election campaign pledges,” the Opposition stated, citing the examples of the promise to provide free WiFi, maternity allowance, construct Maokhola Bridge, and to start hydropower projects are still in the manifesto pages.

Private sector

The Opposition Party stated that there has to be some policy shift and bold decisions on the government’s part to strengthen the sector.

It alleged that the government’s education policy miscalculation has killed the private schools, which was one of the vibrant and important sectors that contributed to the growth of Bhutan’s educational foundation and society.

The Opposition urges the government to make public the people involved in executing the Digital Druk Yul project, those involved in supplying electric cars and allied projects.

The press release states that the government should frame proper rules and regulations for nominations of officials to international organizations. This is said in the backdrop of the nomination of the ruling party former general secretary, Tenzin Lekphel, for the post of the Secretary-General of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral and Economic Cooperation (BIMISTIC).

The Opposition stated that the government had been deliberately misleading the people by claiming that there was no capital budget deficit. Citing the Public Debt Situation Report of October 2020, the Opposition states that there is a fiscal deficit of Nu 15.34B for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

The Opposition Party alleged that the government has been claiming that it has adequately deployed medical specialists in unprecedented numbers.

“It must be put on record that those hospitals were constructed, and recruitment of medical professionals was undertaken through a decade of planning,” it stated, adding that the only significant concrete contribution of the present government to the health sector so far was the recruitment of 20 doctors from Bangladesh.

The Opposition Party urged the government to rise above “sweet talks that appeal to the vagaries of people’s emotions”. “The Covid-19 pandemic cannot be an allowance for non-delivery.”

“The government’s lengthy, at times poetic and emotional press releases, FaceBook posts, smooth talks, and political rhetoric far overwhelmed the actual delivery on the ground in the last two years. If not for those good reads and sounds, there is nothing much to show,” it stated.

However, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering in his State of the Nation on Saturday said that not everything works out as planned.

“With engines pumped, we were on a roll to build on the foundations laid in the first year. From employment to economy, to the social sectors of health and education, we were exploring ways to move forward with critical reforms,” he said.

He said that the plans came to an abrupt halt when we crossed paths with Covid-19 which was rapidly taking over the world. 

“It was a pandemic, unprecedented in modern history. It was about saving lives first, and then livelihood,” the prime minister said.