Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering on Wednesday signed the first annual performance agreement (APA) with the ministers, who did the same with their secretaries. Agreement was also signed with Thimphu dzongdag and thrompon. More APA signings are expected to follow in the coming days.

APA is essentially a good idea to remind ourselves, particularly the civil servants, of the development targets we have set to achieve in a given year. Done right, we can keep a tab on the planned development programmes and intervene accordingly. It is a way to increase efficiency in the system and to ensure that we are using our limited resources with utmost care and prudence. However, there is also the danger of not getting things done.

Because the whole structure of APA is based on performance appraisals of the civil servants who are at the heart of the system, targets could somehow be always reflected as achieved. In fact, we have had many such issues in the past where review reports showed 100 percent achievement mark when nothing really was done to justify the rating. Almost all the sectors showed, going by the review reports, that the government’s development projects and initiatives were amazingly all on track, some so well on course to surpass expectations. Questions were raised about the credibility of the reports because, for example, in places where water shortage was most severe, review reports showed that achievement target was 100 percent. In some cases, even more. Either the water shortage was a lie or some miracle descended and it ceased to be a problem.

The fact is that we are still struggling with the shortage of water for drinking and irrigation. In some places, the problem is getting worse by the day.

While a system of improving efficiency to deliver on the planned development projects is always desirable, it should not encourage unnecessary haste and the tendency to whitewash the uncomfortable realities. APAs, therefore, should be informed by sensible planning, practical allocation of budgets and stringent monitoring system, failing which we would just be laying our resources to waste and basking on image of false success. We cannot afford such unavailing pride.