The government lacks clarity of vision and direction, the Opposition stated yesterday at its first press conference after assuming office.
This, the Opposition said is apparent from the modest targets of GDP growth, poverty reduction and gini-coefficient intended to achieve in the 12th Plan.
“It lacks ambition and clarity on what it wants to achieve,” the Opposition MP Dorji Wangdi said.
Delving into the 12th Plan, he said the biggest highlight of the Plan is the flagship programmes. All nine programmes, he said are tentative and that the government is not sure what they want to do.
Most of its popular pledges such as breastfeeding allowance, doing away with cutoff point and super specialist hospital are not in the Plan and not budgeted.
The common minimum infrastructure in the Plan, he said was quite similar to the first elected government’s common minimum programme such as electricity for all, telecommunication network for all and safe drinking water supply for all.
However, he said the activities for the common minimum infrastructure of the 12th Plan are small. For instance, one of the activities is to install four quick charging stations. “The programmes are not in keeping with the lofty names,” he said.
The Opposition has pointed out that the 12th Plan, which is the last mile towards graduation from LDC is not geared towards achieving self-reliance.
GDP or GNH?
For a least developed country, a GDP target of 5 to 6 percent is very conservative, according to the Opposition.
This was also raised in the Parliament.
However, the Prime Minster claimed that the country’s development philosophy is Gross National Happiness and that the GDP yardstick is not important. The DNT, he had said is center-left party and that it will invest in social sectors, which would not result in GDP expansion. Lyonchhen also claimed that GDP growth in double digit is not achievable since the GDP base has increased substantially compared with the 10th Plan.
For a developed nation, a GDP growth of 2-3 percent is tremendous, Dorji Wangdi said adding that Bhutan’s target should be more ambitious.
The ideology of DPT, he said is GNH. “We are GNH followers and not capitalist,” he said indicating that GNH and GDP can go hand-in-hand.
If the focus is placed on infrastructure and capital investment, he said GDP is bound to grow and that investment on road, health and education is well in keeping with the GNH principles.
This, he said is not the case going by the budget allocation in the 12th Plan. He added that the country’s recurrent expenditure is soaring while only 20 percent of the budget in the 12th Plan is allocated for capital expenditure.
“The statement that GDP should be kept low to achieve GNH does not hold water,” Dorji Wangdi said. “Does the government mean that investment in hydropower does not result in GDP growth?” But the revenue from hydropower, he said, is pumped into social sectors that improve GNH.
“The government has a totally wrong perception and flawed interpretation,” he added.
Opposition Leader, Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) said all plans are well aligned with the four pillars, nine domains and 72 indicators of the GNH and that GDP is an unavoidable yardstick to measure the country’s progress.
But if the government considers GDP as not important, he said there is no GNH index target either. “If we don’t invest in economic growth, we cannot create jobs. Without jobs are we a happy society?”
While there is a general feedback that the Opposition and the government get along well, opposition leader said that it cannot be taken as collusion and neither would the party compromise on its role.
But the opposition’s role, he said, was not to criticise and stop the government from functioning. “Where policies are in the best interest of the nation, we will support the government. But if it does not benefit the people, Opposition will provide alternative views and suggestion to improvise things,” he said.
“This also does not mean that we don’t appreciate the gesture extended to us by the government,” he said adding that the cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister always discussed and sought suggestions from the Opposition so far.
Even the first sitting of the third Parliament, he said was very successful with speaker playing a precise non-partisan role.