Students of Sherubtse College and residents of Kanglung gewog commended the opposition’s firm motion against the move to corporatise the national referral hospital in the last Parliament session.

Opposition leader, Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) during a meeting with the students and community in Kanglung on February 13 received appreciation for the role the opposition has played so far.

A student said that had the government corporatised JDWNRH, it would mean no more free medical service to the Bhutanese. This would have created a major difference between the haves and have-nots, he added.

The student said that the governments’ concept of central school has put pressure on the increasing external debt the country is currently facing. “We are not sure if the idea would be sustainable in the long run.”

Highlighting the role of the opposition in a democratic system, Pema Gyamtsho said that although the title has a negative connotation, the opposition’s job is not only to critique and contradict the government’s decisions.

“For democracy to flourish and to enable good governance, check and balance is required. This is provided by having an opposition,” he said. “We didn’t oppose things just for the sake of opposing. So far we have contributed only constructive opposition.”

Pema Gyamtsho said that the corporatisation of JDWNRH was opposed as it went against the constitutional right that allowed free basic health service to all Bhutanese.

Corporatising according to him was synonymous to saying that people would have to pay for any sort of medical service availed from JDWNRH. “It was a move from the government to provide doctors with better remunerations and encourage retention of the doctors.”

He said the intention could have been executed better had the government routed through the pay commission, as it is the designated body to carry out such activities.

The central school concept, although noble in its intention, required further review, he said.

Since resources for central school is mostly dependent on external funding, he questioned the sustainability of the initiative. “Unlike other policies, if something goes wrong in education, the future gets affected.”

Responding to a question on employment from a student, he said there are several avenues that required further exploration to create employment opportunities.

Not being able to create employment opportunities for a small population is a serious problem with policies, he said. “Overseas employment programme cannot solve the issue. We have to look beyond.”

He added that the tourism sector held several prospects to generate employment opportunities. Bhutan, he said, is an all-weather destination and should not be restricted by seasons. “Opportunities in recreational and adventure tourism have potential to attract tourists. We have to work on it.”

When he met the community, the opposition leader reiterated the party’s intention to contest in the National Assembly elections. “Many are still doubtful that the party will not contest this year. This is not true,” he said. “With experiences as both the ruling and opposition, we cannot decline to contest this year.”

Younten Tshedup | Kanglung