Say the report was flooded with rhetorics 

Younten Tshedup 

The Prime Minister’s State of the Nation report to the Parliament, in all its flamboyancy and glory, has failed to convince the political parties, whose representatives have scathing comments on its achievements in the past year.

Despite Lyonchhen’s eloquent delivery, the representatives criticised the report for lack of details including critical ‘facts and figures’.

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party’s (BKP) president in-charge, Sonam Tobgay said, “The State of the Nation report does make little to no sense, flooded with rhetorics when the country is drowning in heavy debt, and rising unemployment with businesses shattered to the ground.”

He said that the report was devoid of what the people needed to hear or read — concrete plans and programmes in the coming year. Optimism on socioeconomic development was not near the horizon, and people should hold the DNT government accountable, he added.

“For example, potato price soaring to Nu 90 a kilogramme is one of the many manifestations of DNT’s failure which I am sure they will pay dearly in the next election,” he said.

According to the 2020 State of the Nation report, commodity prices have been on the rise, driven by the increase in imported and domestic food prices. Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation had averaged a little over 2 percent in the six months, prior to the detection of the first Covid-19 case in March. Since then, inflation has risen from 3.3 percent in March to 7.4 percent in August.

People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) secretary general, Jigme Zangpo, said that the report lacked concrete progress the government achieved in the last one year. “There are no facts and figures to support their claims.”

He said that although on the Covid-19 front, the government had done a good job, other developmental activities took a severe toll this year.  He said that the country’s economy has been projected as low as negative 6 due to the pandemic, which was worrisome. 

Jigme Zangpo said that the government had failed to come up with a clear fiscal management plans to address the issue yet.

“Private sector has not been developed. The economy is at its worst and there is no sign of the much-awaited economic roadmap the government was tasked to come up with,” he said.

The much-debated Tobacco Control Act, he said, was not tabled in the Parliament despite its urgency after the government decided to allow the sale of tobacco products in the light of the pandemic.

BKP’s Sonam Tobgay said that the fight against the pandemic must be attributed to the leadership of His Majesty The King and The Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

“With this burden lifted, DNT has no excuses but to prove worthy of its pledges beyond the rhetorics of seeking public sympathy drowned in derailed eloquence,” he said.

He said that most of the people were experiencing the ills of the pandemic with many families and businesses on the verge of closing down. “It is the primary responsibility of the DNT team to safeguard the economy, optimising limited resources in a prudent manner.”

He added that the private sector has worked hard and deserved better stimulus packages and a more friendly business environment. “Implementation of rescue plans must be intelligently devised following principles of good governance with the government of the day setting an example to the rest of the country.”

“If pledges are deserted to jingles of “tsagye malang”, then the electorate will be left with no choice but to pass on a severe verdict against them come election time,” Sonam Tobgay said.

The Opposition Party in a press release also criticised the government for now having a clear economic vision, two years after taking over the governance. 

The Opposition Party stated that the shrinking fiscal space because of a hefty ‘debt burden’ of Nu 28 billion (B) in the last two years will be a stumbling block to the economy’s performance.

“The present government is a typical case of a political government that is getting misled by itself. The claim that a surplus account of an already allocated budget for development is a ‘budgetary achievement’ is a gross economic and budgetary misunderstanding,” it stated.

The Opposition stated that the government in the first half of the fiscal year was able to spend only 6 percent of the Nu 37B capital budget allocated for the current fiscal year. This, it said, was an “unforgivable failure” of execution of development activities.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering during his State of the Nation presentation last week to the Parliament said that as the government was gaining momentum and building on the foundation laid during the first year, the Covid-19 pandemic brought everything to an abrupt halt.  

As the pandemic started to take a toll on the country, the government’s priority shifted to saving lives over livelihood.

Despite several challenges, the government has managed to keep Bhutanese safe from the virus, maintaining zero deaths from the pandemic so far.