Addressing a gathering of party members and supporters at the packed RIM multi-purpose hall in Thimphu yesterday, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) party president Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) said the crowd was bigger than expected.
The meeting endorsed the party’s North Thimphu candidate Lily Wangchuk as its third vice president by a show of hands. She joined DPT in March after deregistration of her former party Druk Chirwang Tshogpa.
The party introduced 46 candidates to the supporters. Candidate from Samtse’s Dophuchen-Tading is yet to be introduced.
Pema Gyamtsho said DPT had experience and was prepared for the upcoming election. “We would be disrespecting democracy if we did not participate in the election.”
He added that the party’s foremost aim was to strengthen the nation’s sovereignty and security.
He said that while in the government, DPT reduced poverty from 24 percent to 12 percent. “Among others, we constructed roads, took electricity and mobile services to almost every corner of the country which benefited both rural and urban economies.”
DPT was responsible, he said, and did not oppose the government just because the party was in the opposition. “However, we stopped the government whenever necessary.
For example, we stopped the government’s plan to corporatise JDWNRH. We can’t make patients pay for health services.”
Opposition leader said that among the problems facing the country today, one is the need to reduce the growing trade deficit. “One of the indicators of the state of the economy is trade balance. Our economy is not doing well.”
He urged the party supporters and voters at large to exercise their right to vote responsibly.
“Bhutan has arrived at crossroads. We must tread the right path,” he said, adding that the people must elect capable and right party to form the government. As a landlocked country, the opposition leader said that it was important for Bhutan to achieve self-sufficiency to strengthen national sovereignty and security.
He said: “It is important for us to strengthen relations with other countries. More important, we would like to further strengthen our excellent Indo-Bhutan relations for mutual benefits with trust and confidence.”
Opposition leader emphasised that media freedom should be enhanced if democracy is to succeed the lack of which, he said, could have a bearing on the proliferation of anonymous accounts on and often reckless users of social media.
On national issues
Vice President Dorji Wangdi said that political parties need support from the grassroots.
He said high poverty incidences, human-wildlife conflicts, drinking and irrigation water, shortage of nurses in BHUs were major concerns facing the nation today. “The widening gap between rich and poor is our main priority.”
Among other issues that needed improving, he said, were public transport system, access to information and finance, and reducing crime rate.
“Right to information is very important. But there are no radio and TV services in some parts of the country,” he said.
Politicisation of civil servants, rising house rents, weakening tourism industry, imbalanced development and possibility of phasing out of B.Ed courses were some of the serious concerns, Dorji Wangdi said.
He said that while the national debt had increased by 68.28 percent from 2008 to 2013, it increased by 83 percent in the current government’s time. The national debt stands at Nu 184.95 billion today. Trade deficit, he said, increased from Nu 21 billion to Nu 30 billion in the last five years.
He said that overall unemployment had increased from 2.1 percent to 2.4 percent, youth unemployment increased from 9.6 percent to 13.2 percent.
“One of the biggest achievements of our government was the reduction of poverty by 12 percent. Present government did not do much,” Dorji Wangdi said.
He said that average GDP growth when DPT was in the government was 7.2 percent against the present government’s 5.9 percent in the 11th Plan.
Opposition leader thanked outgoing MPs – Khandu Wangchuk, Yeshey Zimba, Zanglay Dukpa, and Karma Rangdol – who will retire after the completion of their term. Wangdi Norbu, Dechen Zangmo, and Jigme Wangchuk, according to the party, volunteered not to recontest.
Yeshey Zimba said that the party’s manifesto would outline its policies and programmes for the betterment of the country. “We join politics to serve the country. Political parties should not treat each other as enemies.”
He also urged the crowd to be vigilant against corrupt practices in the election.