Lhakpa Quendren

The People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) announcement of having explored external funds and having money ready in case they win the upcoming election has raised concerns among other political parties.

Former Education Minister, Norbu Wangchuk, in a 4:20-minute voice message in a Telegram group, said that the PDP’s president has toured about 25 countries and explored Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) to improve the economic situation of the country.

“The exports have decreased and our national debt has increased. Considering the challenging state of our country’s economy, I feel that other political parties should recognise and support our efforts in exploring foreign investments,” he said.

In public consultations, PDP’s president, Dasho Tshering Tobgay, in Tshangla language, highlighted the achievements of the PDP government and his service during the lockdown. “During our time in office, the government didn’t have to worry about budget shortages.”

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that the PDP’s act is a political move, rather than a genuine effort to improve the country’s economic situation. “The primary objective of the party is to mislead the voters.”

He said that the government is still in power and political parties exploring external funds sets a worrisome precedent for the future. “This is against the electoral rules and the nation’s security that will threaten the election processes.”

Lyonpo said that the government should have been informed about the party’s efforts to secure external funding in his capacity concerning the economic situation. “We were not aware. If funds were secured to improve the country’s economic situation, this should be out of political discussions,” he said.

Lyonpo questioned the actual achievements of bringing FDIs during PDP’s tenure. He also said that the PDP had the opportunity to bring in FDI during their time in power.

Lyonpo criticized the PDP’s public consultations, which he said were more of election campaigns that accused the current government of failure.

The political parties raise concerns about whether the public consultations are being conducted in accordance with electoral rules and whether they are more about winning votes than genuine public discourse.

A political party says that the diplomacy and mobilisation of resources from foreign sources is the sole mandate and responsibility of the incumbent government. “Even the Opposition in Parliament does not have a direct responsibility on such matters, let alone parties outside Parliament.”

The party says that such claims by the PDP are “a serious misrepresentation and indeed an election fraud that must be dealt with appropriately by the relevant authority.”

A political observer says that the existing laws on who can raise grants and loans are very clear. “Such laws and measures are put in place for the right reason to secure our sovereignty.”

“If the Election Commission does not intervene, it could set a bad precedent. The Commission should not wait for complaints but act on such serious issues. They should monitor, act, and warn people to refrain from doing such activities,” he said.

ECB’s spokesperson, Phub Dorji, said that the Commission has not received any written complaint.

Kuensel learnt that ECB has deployed its officials in the group chats of various political parties on social media platforms.

PDP responds

Refuting the allegations, the PDP said that their party president, in the last three years, has been reaching out to potential investors and donors around the world.

“PDP believes that every political party should take advantage of all means available that can help save our economy and put it back to a growth trajectory,” a party official said.

The party claims that many of the investors the party’s president met so far have expressed great enthusiasm and strong interest in investing in Bhutan.

Besides creating economic opportunities for Bhutan, the party claims that its president has assumed the role with a strong sense of responsibility to boost tourism in the country.

“Our president has graciously participated in several international interviews with reputable magazines and various media outlets in line with this commitment,” a party official said.

As a matured political party, he said that the party is duty-bound to be prepared to take charge of governance if the people provide them the mandate, adding it would be doing disservice to the country.

“Being prepared entails presenting a great manifesto that would serve the nation. Being prepared also entails presenting a detailed plan to finance the 13th plan and our manifesto,” a PDP official said.