… Finance minister says he’ll present on the issue to NA on Tuesday

Nima Wangdi  

The Opposition Party wants the government to reassess the reprioritised and deprioritised plan activities so that the implementation of the current plan meets its ultimate objective of equitable and balanced development.

The press release that the party issued on November 25 stated that the reassessment is also important to ensure the party’s objectives are prevented from masquerading as overall sound planning and development goals. The party calls the 12th Five-Year Plan (FYP) reprioritisation and general utilisation a policy and political corruption. “It violates the constitution and public finance resource allocation formula (RAF),” the press release stated.

According to the press release, some critical national programs were dropped. “Government has also diverted a disproportionate amount of the budget to the Prime Minister’s and the constituencies where bye-elections were held.” The Opposition Party stated that the annual audit report 2020-2021 also reported transfer of general reserve funds to normal local development activities, particularly in the finance minister’s constituency.

The party stated that the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the government to reprioritise some planned and budgeted activities. “The government also has the executive power to reprioritise the plans to be responsive to the needs of the situation. But such violations by the government are a serious concern.”

The press release stated that the power to reprioritise or make technical adjustments is not a license to discriminate and favour constituencies. “Though the government has the leverage to align its priorities with the overall Plan endorsed by Parliament, it’s wrong to exercise that leverage at the expense of long-established practice of ensuring fairness in planning processes and outcomes.” The press release stated that the reprioritised budgets and activities were not presented to the Parliament.

The three-page press release declared that in some important reprioritised areas, there is clear unashamed pandering to the temptation of meeting the by-elections promises. “On the priority scale, by-election constituencies have been given more importance over other constituencies. Even the ones that the ruling party members represented were cursorily treated,” the press release stated.

“It is not to undermine the government’s authority but we’re compelled to question the government to explain the source of legitimacy to discriminate among constituencies and regions,” the release stated.

The Opposition also stated that it was more about the ‘element of abuse and adulteration of the authority and duty’ the people placed in the government of the day.

“It is the thirteenth year of parliamentary government in Bhutan. There’re no records of any preceding government that distorted the fundamental principles of equity in development in the name of reprioritisation like the present government,” the release stated.

According to the Opposition Party, this will set a precedent that Bhutanese will not be proud of in the future, and also defeat the decades-old national planning approach with the goal to pursue equitable and regionally balanced development. “Such distortion would compromise the national priority projects while trying to accommodate by-election pledges and discriminatory objectives.”

The People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) also issued a press release reiterating the Opposition Party’s claims. “The budget was also diverted to fulfil the pledges made during the by-elections in Chhoekhor-Tang and Mongar constituencies.”

“This is besides the Nu 19M funded from the General Reserve Fund into the Finance Minister’s constituency in Paro,” the press release stated.

The PDP’s press release claimed that activities worth Nu 2,685M were deprioritised. “The government reprioritised activities worth Nu 385M in the Prime Minister’s constituency, Chhoekhor-Tang and Mongar.”

“The government’s actions set a bad precedent for the future and take the funds away from the poorer regions and dzongkhags. This is policy and political corruption,” the party’s post on its social media stated.

Meanwhile, finance minister Namgay Tshering said he would be reporting this issue in the parliament on Tuesday.

Edited by Tshering Palden