The 12th Five-Year Plan period would be from November 1, 2018 to October 31, 2023 and aligned with the term of the government.
All past Plans began from July, coinciding with the commencement of the fiscal year. The initial draft had covered the Plan period from July 2018 to June 2023, in which case the government’s term would end four months after the completion of the Plan period. According to Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC), the Plan and its fiscal framework was approved in the joint Cabinet and GNH Commission meeting that was chaired by the Prime Minister on December 6 and 7.
Finance minister Namgay Tshering said the finance ministry found no issues with the Plan period not following the fiscal year. “The fiscal year will be from July to June,” he said. “The plan period is aligned with the government’s term so that subsequent governments do not lose substantial period of time.”
The government believes that development activities should not come to a standstill whenever a government completes its term. However, the vacuum between the two Plan periods could remain and the electoral cycle will continue to affect activities under the capital budget even if the Plan periods are aligned with the government’s tenure.
If development activities are to continue uninterrupted even in the election period, the 12th Plan must extend up to June 2024, when the next government will take office. The government will complete its term in October 2023.
There have been no new development activities since the end of the 11th Plan on June 31. Six months will be lost when Parliament, which took office on November 7, endorses the 12th Plan in January.
The GNH Commission has already presented the Plan, which has a total outlay of Nu 310 billion (B), to both the houses of parliament ahead of the winter session where the report will be presented. Completion of the 12th Plan, which is themed “Just, Harmonious and Sustainable Society through Enhanced Decentralization”, will mark Bhutan’s graduation from the group of least development countries.
Draft 12th Plan should be improved, say MPs
Unlike the 11th and 12th Plans, which were introduced in Parliament for information, the 12th Plan will be presented for deliberation and adoption in the upcoming session, according to some of the MPs.
MPs told Kuensel that the Plan has failed to meet their expectation and that it should be improved during the deliberation.
“There is room for improvements in the draft Plan, which GNHC has presented to us,” Chairman of the Economic and Finance Committee, Kinley Wangchuk said. “I think it’s not excellent because I’m someone who wants to see revolutionary changes.”
Kinley Wangchuk said he was not satisfied with the GNHC’s method of incorporating the pledges into the Plan as many of the pledges, especially local pledges, were left out. “They have certain methods of putting things together when it comes to incorporating pledges. For instance, they don’t entertain local pledges although some of the national pledges are incorporated,” he said.
The chairman said almost every MP has made pledges at the local level and that important local pledges should be incorporated in the Plan.
He also raised concerns on the local government’s capacity to implement budget efficiently with transparency and accountability.
This is the first Plan in which the budgetary allocation is 50-50 between local governments and the central agencies. He said that it would be difficult for the current human resource at the local government level to manage and implement funds.
According to GNH Commission, the GNH Index score has been used for the first time in the 12th FYP as one of the criteria to determine resource allocation to local governments. This means that a dzongkhag, gewog or a thromde with a lower GNH index score receives higher allocation of resources.
The weightage for the GNH index has been set at 10 percent for gewogs and thromdes and 15 percent for dzongkhags.
The government has said that it has made the Plan inclusive by incorporating major pledges of all parties while keeping most of the PDP pledges intact. Such pledges, according to the government, form part of National Key Result Area (NKRAs) and flagship programmes.
Opposition party’s spokesperson Dorji Wangdi described the 12th Plan as “just another routine Plan that has nothing ambitious, exciting, or revolutionary.” He said that although Bhutan had the advantage of doing things much better and faster than other countries, such Plans would take more than required for the country to develop.
“Going by the 12th Plan, we have no ambition as a nation. We should do more,” he said, adding that Parliament needs to deliberate and improve the Plan.
Dorji Wangdi said that certain features in the Plan such as common minimum infrastructure and flagship programmes did not meet his expectation and that some of them were just miscellaneous programmes.
He also said that resource allocation based on certain theory developed by local institutes were complicated and debatable since the method did not correlate with the fund requirement. He said most members are apprehensive about the resource allocation method.
However, he said that some of the pledges of the opposition were incorporated in the Plan. “There are few good aspects such as monitoring and accountability with key result areas. TVET, which was in our manifesto, is one of the inclusions that is very important,” he said.
However, Dorji Wangdi said that the southern highway would be incomplete without the Gelephu-Panbang highway, which is not included in the Plan. He said the Plan has incorporated Kalikhola-Sarpang highway and the Nganglam-Dewathang highways.
According to MPs, officials justified that the Panbang-Gelephu highway needed not be built immediately as the construction of the Maukhola bridge would take time. An initial budget of Nu 400 million have been allocated for the bridge, it is said.
Although the government has said its election pledges have been incorporated in the Plan, the 12th Plan outlay does not cover some of the pledges like maternity allowance. However, the government has said that funding for the allowance would be arranged.
During the first meet the press on December 21, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that while the projected fiscal deficit in the Plan is Nu 29B, it could reach as high as Nu 40B.
The government has said that it will avail highly concessional interest-free loans amounting to Nu 4B from international institutions like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and International Fund for Agriculture Development. It also plans to source the remaining Nu 25B from domestic financial institutions.
According to the government, an additional NKRA has been added into the initial draft. The new NKRA is aimed at ensuring water sustainability.