Yangchen C Rinzin
Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa rose to power in the third Parliamentary elections riding on the promise to narrow the gap.
As the government completes its first year in office today, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said narrowing the gap still remains the government’s main agenda.
“But it’s not only about closing the income gap,” he said. “Most carry this misconception even as we’re completing a year in office.”
“Although income gap is one of the many components there are gaps at every level. For instance, the accessibility to services like free health-care services,” Lyonchen said. “But we know there is a gap because people in urban can access to better facilities while people in the villages cannot even have access to a proper basic health unit.”
Such gaps were what the government wanted to narrow besides that of the income.
Lyonchhen said the government’s salary raise for civil servants in the past one year narrowed the income gap in principle where the revision for the lowest income group was six times higher than that of the highest income level. However, this benefits only public servants.
“We’re sad that we can’t do the same for those in the private sector.”
Lyonchhen said that initiatives to narrow the gaps, including improving private sector, that would benefit generations have begun.
He said that people criticise every decision of the government citing its pledge to narrow the gap.
This, the prime minister said the government is happy people were aware of the concept.
“Narrowing the gap doesn’t mean everyone should get equal salary. Those who work more should be paid more.”
Another popular pledge was to reform the health sector to provide equal, better, quality health care in every village, gewog and dzongkhag, and build a healthier nation.
However, there are reports on health sector still grappling with the lack of equipment or health workers.
Lyonchhen said that politically or personally, health would always remain close to his heart. So the government would work on providing equal primary and tertiary health care, which also means narrowing the gap.
“What we said was we need to redefine primary health care. For instance, there is a need for BHU II to upgrade to BHU I so, the vision we have set is construction of BHU I level and above. In the past one year we’ve worked and came up with the health flagship programme.”
Lyonchhen said that the Nu 1.3 billion health programme would take care of detection and prevention of the three most common cancers, all essential required diagnostic and treatment will go to the grassroots. “Formative stage and planning mode has already started and we’ll roll out the service in a proper manner.”
When pledges were made, what attracted and excited people most was the free WIFI, suung-joen app, breastfeeding allowance, and foreign domestic helpers. A year has passed and people are still waiting.
Lyonchhen said that these pledges were not made to excite the voters. He agreed that the government had failed to achieve some pledges that it had promised to fulfill in the first 120 days, which he said the government had accepted.
“We’re working on this. As the mandates have increased for these pledges, it is taking time. We’re coming up with the digitalisation flagship programme and digital Drukyul flagship programme, we’re strategising the plan for now. So it’s coming. This would cater to those pledges.”
Lyonchhen admitted that the government made a mistake by putting it in the 120-day pledges but assured that they would definitely be delivered within its term.
On domestic workers, Lyonchhen said that unless they work on the security system, have Digital Drukyul in place, Change tourism policy, it would not come through.
“Just because we pledged, it’s not necessary we’ll have to do it. If we’ve to chase this as a political pledge, we can but we don’t want to hamper the security in the long run. This is why we’re not rushing and carefully considering the pros and cons.”
Lyonchhen also expressed that he wished there was an individual or a system to thank and appreciate the government for not fulfilling certain pledges and not risking the security of the country.
“It’s an election process, a positive competition. Every political party may have tried to win through pledges. However, when it comes to implementation lot of things need to be considered. If governance is judged only on the pledges then governance is not difficult.”
On the pledge of creating 5,000 jobs annually, Lyonchhen said that the government is concentrated on creating a good platform to address unemployment and under-employment issue instead of only counting numbers of jobs created.
Lyonchhen also said that the government has started working on its pledge to create inclusive economy and it is almost in the final stage. There would be direct, indirect, and property taxation in its major tax reform that would be launched soon.
“We’re trying to push this in the Winter Parliament. Since the work is still under process, I don’t have the details.”