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Since the government assumed office two weeks ago, it has been engaged in a marathon of orientation programmes and courtesy call on meetings. This is a good practice to orient the cabinet ministers and the members of parliament on the issues of governance.

A priority for the government is the finalisation of the 12th Plan and so far we have heard nothing concrete on it from the government or Gross National Happiness Commission. What we are told is that the cabinet is in discussion with the commission on the new plan and is looking at incorporating some of the good pledges of other political parties. What we are all also aware of is that the government has already lost six months of the 12th Plan period.

Holding discussions on the new plan is a necessity, especially given our weakness in implementation. The draft of the plan was shared with all political parties before they drafted their manifestos. The commission has also done a cost analysis of the pledges of each party. All these works were done in advance to ensure that the transition of governance and workflow is smooth, and not caught up in bureaucratic hurdles and meetings that we tend to be increasingly known for.

One can say that with the country still observing two months of dhana or inauspicious period a lull is expected. It may be still early but people have begun to get impatient and questions are raised on what the members of parliament would be doing during these months.

Given that discussions on the new plan are still on-going and in the spirit of change the new government has promised, it could be worthwhile for it to vet the 12th Plan against the findings of the GNH surveys. Although under the ambit of GNH, our plans, thanks to the incorporation of political pledges, are increasingly becoming GDP and infrastructure driven. In meeting these developmental needs, we tend to have ignored the softer components of development.

Community vitality and psychological wellbeing, considered the strength of Bhutanese people, have slumped and we see no efforts being made to amend this development. We do not have agencies and institutions responsible for strengthening and preserving these values. But we conveniently refer to these trends as collateral damage of development and a global trend.

Relegating these values that held the society together for ages as negative offshoots of development is not enough. Not when we profess to pursue development with values.

Party politics is also cited as one of the reasons for the decline in community vitality and psychological wellbeing. The prime minister has said that one of the first things his government would do is to bring the country together. How the government would go about reconciling the electoral differences would be an important indicator of change that the people empowered it to make.

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