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Party presidents debate on manifestos

DNT to uplift the low and middle class

If elected, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) would put in place policies that will encourage use of alternative sources of energy to reduce the country’s trade deficit as majority of imports are fossil fuel and other petroleum products, one of the founders of DNT, Tandi Dorji, said at the second party presidents’ debate yesterday.

“If elected, the cabinet ministers would use hybrid cars for local travels and encourage bio-gas and induction cooker for cooking to reduce the use of LPG, among others,” he said.

This was in response to Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP)’s vice president Sonam Tobgay’s question on how DNT would reduce Bhutan’s trade deficit.

Besides reducing the use of fossil fuel and other petroleum products, Tandi Dorji said the country has the potential to produce local produces like vegetables and fruits.

“If we focus on these, we would be able to reduce the imports.”

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s vice president Lily Wangchuk’s asked how DNT would narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots.

Tandi Dorji said the party has its priorities clearly stated in its manifesto on how to narrow the gaps in every sector.

He said DNT’s pledge to do away with Class X cut-off point to enable financially challenged students to continue until Class XII and enable students who disqualified Class X to study until Class XII had some private school owners and teachers worried that private schools would be shut down.

Tandi Dorji clarified that the party had kept the private schools in mind when developing the pledge. He said the government would provide scholarships for students to study in private schools.

If elected, the DNT government would buy identified farm produces from farmers across the country. “The government will pay them the price it will announce a year in advance. Such an initiative, we hope, will also generate employment, which is a major concern for the nation.”

Tandi Dorji, responding to People’s Democratic Party’s vice president, Dorji Choden’s question on how the party will address the poverty problem in the country, said using data from Population and Housing Census of Bhutan, DNT would launch targeted intervention to eradicate poverty.

To narrow the gaps, DNT has developed many priorities, among which health is the party’s top priority. “When we say narrow the gaps, our focus is on low and middle-class groups meaning we would uplift the low and middle-class group.”

Tandi Dorji said the party has pledged to increase salaries of civil servants twice during their tenure, provide uniform DA and DSA to all civil servants and institute fortnightly salaries.

“We will review the position of ESP and GSP level civil servants so they benefit in terms of salary raise, allowances and pension,” he said. “Civil servants’ salary raise will be such that those at the lower echelons receive higher increase in keeping with our aspiration to narrow the gap.”

DNT pledges to make teaching a profession to vie for, by offering the best and most prestigious scholarships. “We will provide projectors to each classroom across the country.”

If elected, Tandi Dorji said DNT would consider other party’s pledges if it benefits the people and aligns with DNT’s ideology.

Tandi Dorji said it is learnt that there is use of money to lure the votes. “Votes in exchange for money will mean closure of doors of opportunity for our rural folks and our children in future, for elections will then be limited to the wealthy.”

Dechen Tshomo


 

BKP to improve good governance 

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) pledged to render timely, effective, and efficient public services if it forms the government.

“At present the trend is one has to know someone to avail of services in most of the organisations, this needs change,” BKP vice president Sonam Tobgay said at the second party presidents’ debate yesterday. “You don’t have to know the service provider to avail of the services.”

BKP’s priority to improve good governance will address the need to uplift the quality of public services.

“For instance, BKP’s Digital Bhutan flagship programme will offer public services online and on a first come first serve basis on time,” he said.

Due to some confusion of instruction and the debate format, Sonam Tobgay lost his opportunity to present the manifesto and   instead went ahead commenting on the DNT manifesto. The other two vice presidents also  landed up doing the same.

However, he did more than enough to recover the lost opportunity to capitalise on in the subsequent question time.

To reduce the gap between ‘haves’ and ‘haves not’ would need to focus on development of the rural areas where more than 63 percent of the Bhutanese live, he said.

BKP pledges 100 percent irrigation and drinking water, and affordable housing for all.

Sonam Tobgay asked how DNT would fix the trade deficit of Nu 41 billion as fulfilling the party’s pledges would incur more expenses.

His party sees plenty of opportunities in reducing imports by creating opportunities for 62.3 percent of population by substituting rice imports worth Nu 1.7 billion, chili Nu 80m, and dairy products worth Nu 1.6B.

“There are opportunities worth Nu 5 billion for our farmers,” Sonam Tobgay said. “How the previous governments did not see this opportunity, I don’t know.”

To help farmers, BKP pledges to bring buyers to them so that farmers need not undergo harassment in travelling far with their produce.

High value high volume tourism is estimated to bring in Nu 2.6B in royalty.

BKP pledges to develop private sector development, including the small and medium industry, which will also create jobs, and extend them to rural areas.

“Wood based industries, agro-processing, and storage facilities will also be set up,” Sonam Tobgay.

BKP pledged to set up a pay commission to look into the raise salary and TADA for civil servants.

Responding to PDP vice-president Dorji Choden’s comment on fear mongering, he said, BKP doesn’t want to point fingers. “Words are rife of nepotism in promotion and training civil servants and no consultation with them by the former governments despite their expertise,” he said.

If BKP comes to power, then contractors would not confront delayed payments on work done.

BKP said it would prioritise tourism, culture and home affairs ministry.

“Youth need financial support to start business, so BKP would give collateral free loans if their business proposals are innovative,” he said.

The 12th Plan that has been drafted would be implemented no matter which party comes to power.

BKP pledged to ensure a harmonious society and an inclusive government.

Tshering Palden | Samdrupjongkhar


 

PDP for unity, stability and prosperity 

For People’s Democratic Party Wangtse Chirphel has been the binding force in bringing about unity, stability and prosperity, which in turn strengthened democracy and promoted good governance. If PDP is given the mandate to form the government for another five years, vice president Dorji Choden said the party’s manifestos was in keeping with these principles and ideology.

At the second party presidents’ debate yesterday, she said the capacity of the local government had to be enhanced and civil servants motivated and thus the pledge to increase the Gewog Development Grant and civil servants pay and allowances.

“If people want unity, stability and prosperity, now is the time to vote for PDP,” she said.

She highlighted PDP’s aim of strengthening the nation’s economy within the domain of five jewels.  Making the national referral hospital into a super specialist hospital, building more central schools, addressing the youth unemployment and gender sensitive policy are, among others, included in the PDP manifesto.

She questioned DNT’s ideology of narrowing the gap. She said that since the initiation of the first five-year Plan, the target was to empower people and most of the developmental activities were people-centric. She questioned as to how the DNT intended to accomplish the task in five years.

She said PDP had also prioritised the rural development through various projects acknowledging that wildlife conflict and shortages of manpower in the rural communities have been a biggest challenge. “The solution is to address the issues piece by piece and to narrow the gap in a sustainable way, once for all, is difficult in five years time,”  she said.

When DNT president asked her about the party’s unachieved pledges such as 100 percent unemployment, RTI, doing away with PE exams and Prime Minister pledging to take charge of ministry, she said the PDP did whatever could be done.

On unemployment, she said the PDP set its target high so that efforts to achieve the pledge were even higher. Since the number of youth coming out in the job market every year increased, even if the government solved it for once, it would re-emerge, she said.  “It is impossible for any party to solve it in a sustainable manner,” she said, adding that PDP created many opportunities in the state enterprises, private sector and the overseas through various initiatives.

PE and RTI, she said, were not within the authority of the government.

When BKP vice president quizzed her on the debt issues, she suggested segregating the hydro and non-hydro debt. DPT vice president asked Dorji Choden on PDP’s commitments for women, excluding the six-month maternity leave which have created lesser opportunities for women in the private sector.

To this she said that it had to start somewhere and it was with civil service. Dialogues with the private sector is already on, she said.

She spoke on lengths about what PDP has in store for the private sector and mining sector in particular. “A thorough review of the mining policy would be carried out to spread its benefit to the national economy and creating jobs,” she said if PDP comes back to power.

The party, Dorji Choden said, did not tolerated corruption. “We accomplished the 11th Plan successfully and no parties has given us the credit,” she said.

Tshering Dorji


 

DPT for an equitable society

Introducing her party’s manifesto, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) vice president Lily Wangchuk said that the party would work towards realising the vision of His Majesty The King for a just, equitable and harmonious society and strive to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of the people of Bhutan.

She said that her party would strive to ensure that national unity, security, justice, fundamental rights and freedom were not compromised.

Lily Wangchuk said that she joined DPT to serve the country after dissolving her erstwhile party Druk Chirwang Tshogpa.

Highlighting national issues, the DPT vice president said that unemployment was a growing problem in the country. She also said that the six-month maternity leave had not benefited women across all the sectors and that not much was done to address women issues.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) vice president Tandi Dorji asked the DPT vice president wealth was in the hands of few and how her party would create equity and justice. The DPT vice president said that the gap between rich and poor remained wide and that the party had plans to create a just, equitable and harmonious society.

She also highlighted the DPT government’s past achievements, saying that electricity, roads and telecommunication infrastructure played important role in the development of the country and helped in narrowing the gap.

She said that the government should not be involved in the work that should be carried out by the business sector.

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) vice president Sonam Tobgay said he was not satisfied with DPT’s role as opposition. In response, Lily Wangchuk said DPT’s performance, as opposition should not be judged based on whether it sued the government for violation of law. “The Rupee problem was caused by imports, not by DPT,” she said.

Alleging poor performance of DPT, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) vice president Dorji Choden said that the GDP growth was only 2 percent in 2013. In response, Lily Wangchuk said that her party had plans to address all the economic problems. She said that the DPT’s first term in government brought about a tremendous transformation in the economy and the party would achieve self-reliance in seven years.

Highlighting the plight of the private sector, Lily Wangchuk said that the truckers, taxi drivers, tour operators, and small business were suffering due to lack of conducive environment.

Highlighting the manifesto, Lily Wangchuk said DPT would accelerate the economic growth and reduce income poverty rate significantly. The party, she said, would also reduce the rich-poor gap.

DPT, she said, would also reduce interest rates enhance access to finance and reduce trade deficits.

She said that some of the main problem facing the nation are unemployment and drugs. “We will try to address the problems by creating job opportunities in collaboration with the private sector,” she said.

In her concluding remarks, the party, she said, would also provide low-interest loans to encourage youths to encourage them to take up business. Farming would also be made attractive to make agriculture a source of employment.

Lily Wangchuk urged the people to vote for a capable and experienced party. “DPT has the experience of serving the country as opposition as well as the government,” she said.

MB Subba

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