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Are we losing our priorities?

As the 11th Plan draws to a close, we look to the new Plan period keeping in perspective the real demands of our communities. A system of systematic planning has taught us that even with meagre resources we can achieve desired economic growth and bring commendable improvements to the lives of our people. For any plan to succeed, though, it is critically important that we achieve optimum balance of needs and demands with the available resources. Otherwise, we haven’t got our priorities quite right.

Because a major chuck of our development budget comes from aid money, preparation of the 12th Plan should focus on making judicious use of the available resources. And that will require segregating our needs from our wants first. For example, why is there a need for a cinema hall and a helipad each in all the gewogs of Thimphu in the 12th Plan? Resources that could run into millions of ngultrums can be saved from such ill-conceived plans to address the dzongkhag’s urgent development needs.

What our planners at all levels should get right is the need to align development activities with the overall theme and objective of the 12th Plan – to build a just, harmonious and sustainable society through enhanced decentralisation.

At this stage of the nation’s development, challenges like increasing shortage of water, lack of motorable roads, rising unemployment among the young, agriculture productivity and access to market and the need to encourage entrepreneurship are calling for special attention. Our gewogs certainly can do without helipads and cinema halls. The question is: what purpose would these amenities serve when households in our villages are becoming empty as young people increasingly look to the bigger towns and cities for better prospects?

If we have roads, we need better roads in the 12th Plan. In a nation that is richly endowed with water, lack of drinking water in many of our villages and urban centres is a slap in the face of our planners. If we have jobs for our young, we need to create more jobs that our youth are willing to take. We may have only a small percentage of arable land, but fallowing of land should decrease and agriculture productivity rise in the 12th Plan. For all these to succeed, we can do away with a couple of helipads and cinema halls.

Planning big is getting our priorities right.

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