Although it did focus on the economy, the recent exchange between the government and Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa saw more than numbers being flung at each other. Even as both parties claimed that the issue was being politicised, the exchange showed that politics becomes part of the debate.
Somehow political parties seem to make an attempt to detach themselves from politics and show that the concerns raised are non-political. Economic issues have social implications on the people, the polity, which means there will always be a political dimension to issues concerning the people. Pretending that it is not adds no value to the discussion. The crux of the debate, if it at all continues, should be on the state of the economy because it is vulnerable and affects all. It is no secret that our small economy is dominated by the hydropower sector. It is understood that our reliance on imports for both consumption and capital goods needs is as high as our reliance on development aid. Reports point out that grants finance about 30 percent of the total budget.
Our policymakers, political parties and the society should be concerned that we are relying on others to become self-reliant. How do we sustain economic growth when the same is induced through external aid? Our economic vulnerability is exposed not only through our reliance on development aid and loans, but as much through political campaigns. The country has seen it happen and it would be naïve to assume that the politics of economics would not be used and abused again.
Compounding such an economic geography is our incapability to tap into our primary sector – agriculture. Perhaps, it is because of the nature of the sector, where results are not as immediate or visible as compared to other sectors that it has not been given the attention it deserves. Yet, we continue to claim that we are an agrarian society, even though the primary sector’s contribution to GDP has been less than one percent between 2008 and 2015. How the sector performs and impacts the livelihood of those who depend on it appears to matter little even to political parties concerned. But when linked to the debt issue, it appears to matter that farmers in some remote parts of the country received a flock of sheep. In such frames, even the bleating of a sheep tends to carry political meanings.