Development has to be people- centric, more so in a society like ours that emphasises happiness of its people.

As consultations for the 12th Plan gain pace, we are told are that this Plan would be peopl e – centric. While this development in planning is humane and progressive, it compels us to ask if the rest of the plans were not. If they were, then what does people – centric mean?

The Plan aims for a just, harmonious, and sustainable society, strengthened through decentralisation. For us to achieve these aspirations, we need to know where we are in these areas. If we are to assess the society through the unemployment lens, we have not done well. But we have a glorifying report of the economy growing by almost eight percent. This should have translated into more jobs, but in our case, it hasn’t.

Besides being mired in controversies, initiatives taken to provide employment opportunities do not appear sustainable. Those sent overseas are returning home adding to the lot at home who are waiting to be employed. The current P lan was about making Bhutan self-reliant. There is a need to know how we have done in becoming a self-reliant society first, for that becomes the foundation to create a just, harmonious and sustainable society. We don’t call an economy built on borrowings as self-reliant.

We identify ourselves as an agrarian society but the GNH survey found that our farmers that form a large portion of the society are the least happy. Our youth, which also forms a bulk of the population, were also among the unhappy group. When those between these two large groups claim to be happy, the society needs to ask what went wrong with our development plans. How is it that those who ought to have been benefitted the most appear to have been left behind. The findings of the GNH survey reflect our development progress and process. It is hoped that these findings have informed the planning process.

Our planners tell us that 12th Plan will be about decentralisation, a concept which was limited to decision making. The government campaigned the same through its philosophy of Wangtse Chirphel, but the people are now made aware that much of the fund management for developmental activities were centralised.  Parliament members have also raised concerns over resource allocation for development activities between the dzongkhag administration and the gewogs. It is hoped that we have learned some lessons. A people -centric plan means an informed and inclusive planning process.

The recent issue of allocating budget erroneously for a road that was not in the plan is an indication of complacency and poor accountability. Roads bring development and for this reason, often gets politicised. We are all familiar with the Shingkhar-Gorgan saga. But for the community, budget allocation is one such visible indication of development. Calling it a clerical error does not make amends.

But it is encouraging to note that the 12th Plan is about inclusiveness and consolidation and decentralisation in its true sense. It is hoped that the people- centric approach will address the problem we face in weak implementation.

A just, harmonious, and sustainable society will otherwise remain an aspiration.