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India-Bhutan to discuss funding for 11th Plan

The 11th Plan plans to make  Bhutan self-reliant by 2018

The two-day Plan talks between Bhutan and India, which began today in New Delhi, India would review the Tenth Plan’s progress and discuss India’s support to Bhutan in the 11th Plan.

Led by the foreign secretary Yeshey Dorji, the Bhutanese delegation would also follow up on the remaining Tenth Plan funding of Nu 5.7B from India.

Minister in-charge of foreign affairs, Khandu Wangchuk said India is yet to release the remaining Nu 5.7B as budget discussions in India are still ongoing. The Indian foreign minister, Salman Khurshid, who was in Thimphu last month had assured of early release of funds.

The fund has been pending for more than six months for projects with the Royal University of Bhutan, education, roads, civil aviation and judiciary. The Government of India’s commitment to the Tenth Plan is Rs 34B, which is about 74 percent of the total external assistance Bhutan received. The amount excludes non-planned activities such as in hydropower.

During the meeting, the two countries would also discuss Bhutan’s request for support to the 11th Plan from the government of India. “We are looking at a support of Rs 45B from India during this preliminary discussion,” lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk said.

The talk is a preliminary discussion to mobilise resources for the 11th Plan, the minister said. “The government feels it’s their duty to draft the 11th Plan and also mobilise resources even though its the new government who would implement the Plan,” lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk said.

Bhutan’s biggest development partner, India has supported Bhutan’s development since the first Plan in 1961. “The government of India remains committed to provide the funds and is doing everything for its early release,” lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk said.

While the final draft of the 11th Plan was initially planned to be ready by December last year, Gross National Happiness Commission officials said the draft would now be finalised by next month.

With an estimated outlay of Nu 201B, work on the plan that would make Bhutan “self-reliant with inclusive green socio-economic development,” in the next five years began in August 2011. The plan would begin in July.

The Eleventh plan may be smaller in terms of “investment programmes” compared to the past plans but in “absolute sizes,” the plan would be bigger than the Tenth Plan, GNHC secretary Karma Tshiteem said in an earlier interview.

This means that while investment into infrastructure might be less than the previous plan, the cost of maintaining the infrastructure that the government built in the Tenth Plan would be more, explained commission officials. “It would be smaller since we depend a lot on development assistance and to a large degree we still would,” secretary Karma Tshiteem had said.

Secretary for works and human settlement Dasho (Dr) Sonam Tenzin, economic affairs secretary Dasho Sonam Tshering, finance secretary Lam Dorji, Gross National Happiness Commission secretary Karma Tshiteem and senior government officials are also part of the Bhutanese delegation in New Delhi.

By Sonam Pelden

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