Claims no major project that generates employment and economic growth has been implemented

Opposition leader Dr Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) has said that Bhutan needs to focus on implementing projects that would generate employment and economic growth.

“Our goal is to attain self-reliance as soon as possible, not self-sufficiency,” the opposition leader said at a press conference in Thimphu on February 2.

To achieve the goal, he said development projects should not only accelerate growth within the country but also earn revenue through export. “We can’t achieve self-reliance with freebees, exemptions, deductions and reductions,” he said.

The opposition claims that if there are any projects generating employment and revenues, they were implemented by the former government. The opposition leader cited the Thimphu Tech Park, the hazelnut project in eastern dzongkhags and hydropower projects as examples.

“The trade balance is negative, yet we are saying the economy is good. The national debt has increased from about Nu 96 Billion (B) in 2013 to a projected amount of Nu 185B today. We should be worried,” he said.

The opposition leader said that the government did not manage to start a single hydropower project, except for Kholongchhu. “Did the government start any projects that would generate income for the country and create jobs?” he said.

The government today, he said, was sending people for employment in countries where there is not respect for human rights.

MP Khandu Wangchuk said that ministers were spending resources just to inaugurate minor projects such as a small bridge, farm roads and farm shops.

“They banned selling of thukpa and momo (on the street). Then they inaugurated the same again,” Khandu Wangchuk said. “Have you seen the government inaugurate a major project that generates income and employment?”

He said a power tiller given to a private individual would last for more than 15 years, while a government-run power tiller hardly lasts for months.

‘Ruling party nervous about DPT’s growing popularity’

Opposition leader Pema Gyamtsho said there is a growing fear among the PDP leadership and members that the Opposition as well as emerging parties are doing well.

“The ruling party is getting nervous about the growing popularity of the opposition as well as other parties. This is because they have failed to deliver on most of their campaign pledges such as 100 percent employment,” he said.

The government, he said, was also facing serious corruption charges and cited the ongoing investigation into an alleged corruption in the labour ministry.

Labour minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo is on a paid leave on account of corruption allegations in the ministry’s overseas employment programmes.

The opposition leader claimed that the government’s attempt to corporatise the JDWNR Hospital and shortsighted populist programmes like distributing power tillers to villages has made the government unpopular. “The government’s economic policies have affected the sustainability of the economy.”

Khandu Wangchuk alleged that ministers were spending more time than required away from office to inaugurate small projects and that bureaucrats have been unable to take decisions in absence of their minister. “If they decide anything, they would be in trouble,” he said.

DPT’s vice president Ugyen Wangdi said although the Rupee problem was eased, the Indian currency was not available in dzongkhags.

“The Rupee is available but people from other dzongkhags have to travel to Thimphu. If they need to exchange Nu 10,000, they spend another Nu 10,000 to travel to Thimphu,” he said.

The Opposition claims that the unemployment situation with thousands of youth remaining unemployed is worsening.

He also urged the media to look into the issue of wasteful expenditures incurred by the government.

Distribution of power tillers and lack of proper utilisation, he said, was a waste of public resource.

“There is an increasing evidence of wastage of resources through unsustainable activities like purchase of helicopters, supply of power tillers, establishment of agriculture shops and gewog fuel depots and central schools,” the opposition leader said. “The miscalculated and unpopular forays into corporatising the JDWNRH and the establishment of Samrang Slaughter House have also made the government unpopular.”

In an earlier interview, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said the opposition’s press release contains many wild allegations. “The sole purpose of which is obvious  – to divert the nation’s attention from the main issue at hand, which was the major political corruption involved in the fiscal incentives that was granted by the previous government,” he said. “Since I am not in Thimphu at the moment, I will look forward to addressing each and every one of the allegations as soon as I return.”

MB Subba