MB Subba

The government has, as of April 20, received more than Nu 90.018 million (M) and USD 5,675 as contributions for the Covid-19 response fund.

Officials from the finance ministry, led by Finance Secretary Nim Dorji, appraised this to the joint parliamentary committee on Covid-19 preparedness on April 21. 

The amounts include contribution received in cash and cheques. The contributions received as international assistance have been deposited as cheques through the government budgetary process.

The government has opened Current Deposit Accounts with Bank of Bhutan and endorsed an operational guideline for proper management of the contributions. Officials have been informed to make voluntary monetary contributions towards the response and containment of Covid-19 virus.

The overall response and support has been encouraging. According to the finance ministry, people under quarantine and isolation have also contributed to express their appreciation to the government. 

As part of its budget re-appropriation exercise to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has allocated a total budget of more than Nu 1,271M for health, fuel, appropriated, and essential food items.

The government says it has already stockpiled vaccines and essential medicines to last up to nine months. Food and other essential items are also being stockpiled. 

A National Resilience Fund of Nu 30 billion (B) has been established to deal with the circumstances and the need for unconventional strategies to build economic resilience and boost growth. 

The finance ministry also stressed the need to revitalise the rural economy and create employment opportunities with the main focus on tourism, agriculture and infrastructure. 

Joint committee’s recommendations 

The joint parliamentary committee expressed concerns about Foreign Currency Reserve.

The committee’s chairperson, Dorji Wangdi, said that an imminent risk that Bhutan could face was depletion of foreign currency reserve, both Rupee and convertible currencies. 

“Therefore, the government must accord the highest attention to management of Foreign Currency Reserve in close dialogue with the Royal Monetary Authority,” he said. 

The committee also drew the finance ministry’s attention for the need to review the economic development policy (EDP). 

Members of the committee stated that the government needed to formulate new EDP in view of new economic scenario. “The 21st Century Economic Policy should be a much longer vision document,” he said. 

The committee advised the government to use the opportunity of the current crisis to revive domestic agriculture in a big way. 

The government, the committee said, should use the opportunity of the current crisis to re-engineer policy and investment direction in health and education sectors, private school, as well as tertiary education and health services. 

The committee also recommended that the ministry formulate plans and strategies to retain Bhutanese workers in the domestic economy after Covid-19. 

“Nonetheless, a lot of reprioritisation activities being done based on the position of budget and practicability of implementation being done,” the committee chair said.