A lot has been discussed about the 12th Plan, which government officials say is still being refined and finalised and so not yet shared with the people. It is a different story that political parties clandestinely managed to get hold of the draft Plan so that they could align the manifestos with it.
From what has been shared so far, the 12th Plan is transitional, the last that Bhutan would implement as a least developed country but the first to have decentralised 50 percent of its budget to the local government. It is also the first Plan that has adopted the nine domains of GNH with national key result areas aligned to the domains. Apart from financing aspects of the Plan, it is these factors that would make 12th Plan the most ambitious Plan yet and perhaps, even the most challenging.
For at the helm of this Plan are a new government and an old bureaucracy. The government promises change. It still is. The bureaucracy resists change. It continues to do so. We have seen reforms initiated in the civil service being met with resistance more than it resulting in enhanced efficiency and improvement in public service delivery. In the process of making the civil service good to great, we saw the civil service being politicised.
In between the cabinet and the bureaucracy is the local government, which has a colossal mandate in implementing the 12th Plan. The drinking water woes in Thimphu city for instance is largely due to inefficient distribution of water supply by a local government institution than resource allocation. With the local government now as responsible as the central agencies in executing the Plan activities, the need to deploy human resources and build the capacity of those in the local government becomes necessary. The civil service commission has stated that it would conduct a demand-based review of the human resource allocation for the first two years of the plan period. To what extent this would resolve weak implementation of planned activities is yet to be seen.
The government doesn’t want to be separated from the civil servants and insists that the two are together. They are when it comes to governance and delivering service to the people. But the civil service is an apolitical institution, with a critical responsibility to ensure continuity and safeguard the interest of the nation. They cannot be clubbed together nor berated for giving professional advice. The civil servants of the day must work with an elected government, not with a political party.
The implementation of the 12th Plan would demand these layers of institutions, political and apolitical institutions to work in sync with each other so that planned activities are rolled out efficiently and professionally. At the core of this matrix are our civil servants. Understood this way, the 12th Plan is as much a test of our civil servants as it is of the government.