Outcome of visit to Bangladesh

Friends

Friends

 

 

For those who are interested, I’m reproducing the joint press statement by the Governments of Bangladesh and Bhutan on my recent official visit to Bangladesh.

 

 

 

  1. At the invitation of H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Hon’ble Prime Minister, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, H.E. Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, Hon’ble Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan paid an official visit to Bangladesh from 06-08 December 2014. The Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bhutan was accompanied by H.E. Mr. Rinzin Dorje, Hon’ble Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Mr. Norbu Wangchuk, Hon’ble Minister of Economic Affairs and other senior officials. There was also a high level business delegation from Bhutan.
  2. During the visit, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bhutan paid a courtesy call on H.E. Mr. Md. Abdul Hamid, Hon’ble President of Bangladesh.
  3. The Prime Minister of Bhutan laid a wreath at the National Martyrs’ Memorial at Savar as a mark of respect to the memory and contribution of the valiant freedom fighters of Bangladesh. He also paid tribute and respect to the memory of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum.
  4. The official talks between Bangladesh and Bhutan were held on 06 December 2014 in an atmosphere of great warmth and cordiality reflecting the excellent bilateral relations and age-old friendship between the two countries. The two Prime Ministers led their respective sides. Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh hosted a banquet in honour of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bhutan and the accompanying delegation.
  5. E. Mr. Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, MP, Hon’ble Foreign Minister; H.E. Mr. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, MP, Hon’ble Finance Minister; H.E. Mr. Tofail Ahmed, MP, Hon’ble Commerce Minister; H.E. Mrs. Raushan Ershad, MP, Hon’ble Leader of the Opposition; H.E. Prof. Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Hon’ble Adviser on International Affairs to the Hon’ble Prime Minister; and some other dignitaries paid courtesy calls on the Prime Minister of Bhutan.
  6. During the official talks, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh recalled with gratitude Bhutan’s invaluable supporting role to the War of Liberation of Bangladesh. She also recalled that Bhutan was the first country to recognize Bangladesh on 6 December 1971. The Bhutanese Prime Minister handed over to the Bangladesh Prime Minister a text of the wireless message that was sent on 06 December 1971 by the Third King of Bhutan to the then Acting President of Bangladesh conveying recognition of Bangladesh by Bhutan as a sovereign independent country.
  7. The two Prime Ministers agreed that this visit by the Prime Minister of Bhutan gave the two sides an opportunity to take stock of the progress in bilateral relations as also to infuse further impetus towards deepening and strengthening the relations between the two countries.
  8. The two sides expressed satisfaction at the excellent Bangladesh-Bhutan relations which have particularly blossomed over the past six years. They discussed ways and means to further intensify their mutually beneficial cooperation, including inter alia, in hydro-power, water resources management, trade and commerce, connectivity, climate change, tourism, culture, education, agriculture, health and human resources development. They noted with satisfaction the institutionalization of regular meetings at the Foreign Secretary and Commerce Secretary levels, which provide the opportunity to further promote the friendly bilateral relations.
  9. The Prime Minister of Bhutan recalled the inspiring leadership of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He lauded Bangladesh’s tremendous socio-economic advancements during the tenure of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The Bhutanese Prime Minister also expressed his admiration for the able leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in forging dynamism into the relations between the two countries and among the countries of the region as also for her contribution towards advancement of global peace.
  10. Referring to the huge hydro-power potential of Bhutan, Bangladesh Prime Minister reiterated interest to obtain hydro-power from Bhutan to Bangladesh and requested for Bangladesh’s partnership in Bhutan’s future power projects. The Bhutanese Prime Minister agreed to work together with Bangladesh in this sector.
  11. Recognizing the utmost importance of enhancing regional connectivity, both sides agreed to jointly work towards that end both bilaterally and sub-regionally.
  12. The Bangladesh side agreed to consider Bhutan’s request for sharing internet redundancy.
  13. Both sides agreed to work together to enhance collaboration in Water Resources Management and Power/Hydro-power and Connectivity in the sub-regional context.
  14. Emphasizing the need for enhancing trade relations for mutual benefit and recognizing the huge potential it holds in bringing prosperity, the two sides agreed to diversify bilateral trade and take further trade facilitations measures for deeper market access. Bangladesh side offered to export more products such as ready-made garments, pharmaceuticals, ceramics, jute and jute goods, agricultural produce to Bhutan. Bhutanese side agreed to look into it.
  15. Recognizing Bangladesh’s lead role in developing global awareness and international partnership on Autism and other neuro-developmental disorders, the two sides agreed to work together to contribute to the process regionally and internationally. Both sides also agreed to actively engage in the work of the Southeast Asian Autism Network (SAAN) and the formulation of a multifaceted Global Action Plan on Autism. The Bhutanese Prime Minister appreciated the personal commitment and leadership of the Bangladesh Prime Minister and Ms. Saima Hossain, Member of WHO’s Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health in promoting the rights and well-being of persons affected by Autism.
  16. Both sides put emphasis on having a Cultural Exchange Programme to further strengthen the common and unique cultural linkages that date back to history.
  17. Recognizing the huge potential of tourism, the two sides agreed to further increase cooperation in this sector.
  18. To enhance cooperation in agriculture, the two sides stressed on early commencement of work by the Joint Technical Committee formed in this regard.
  19. It was also agreed to enhance collaboration in other sectors namely, education, health and human resources development.
  20. Referring to the 18th SAARC Summit, the two leaders exchanged views on various issues under SAARC and reiterated their commitment to strengthen the SAARC process.
  21. The two sides also exchanged views on cooperation in other regional and international fora including UN and BIMSTEC and noted the commonality of their views and positions on all major issues and agreed to continue to work together for mutual benefit.
  22. Expressing concern about the adverse impacts of climate change on the two countries, both the sides put emphasis on securing climate justice and equity based on the principles of UNFCCC; balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation; clear provision of new, adequate and predictable financing; and enhanced technology development and transfer.
  23. As a token of friendship, the Government of Bangladesh provided a piece of land for the Royal Bhutanese Embassy at Baridhara in Dhaka, as a gift to Bhutan and its people.
  24. Following the official talks, two agreements were signed between Bangladesh and Bhutan on 06 December 2014:
    • The bilateral Trade Agreement and its Protocol (renewed for ten years);
    • Agreement on allotment of land to Bhutan for construction of its Embassy Premises at Baridhara diplomatic enclave in Dhaka;
  25. During his stay, the Prime Minister of Bhutan visited a pharmaceutical company and the National Museum.
  26. The Prime Minister of Bhutan expressed his deep appreciation for the cordial welcome and warm hospitality extended to him and the members of his delegation during his stay in Bangladesh.
  27. The Bhutanese Prime Minister, on behalf of His Majesty the King of Bhutan and on his own behalf, extended invitations to the Hon’ble President and Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh to visit Bhutan. The invitations were accepted and it was agreed that the dates of the visits would be finalized in due course.

 

 

Dhaka

08 December 2014

SAARC Summit

SAARC in action

SAARC in action

My statement to the 18th SAARC Summit:

Mr Chairman, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen:

I have the honor to convey the warm greetings and good wishes of His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, the government, and the people of Bhutan to this august gathering and to the friendly people of Nepal.

Nepal is a country of breathtaking beauty. As the birthplace of Lord Buddha, it is a country of spiritual affinity to all Bhutanese and millions of people all over the world. Nepal is also home to an institution of great diplomatic significance for all South Asians – the Secretariat of our Association. We are indeed happy and privileged to be here in Kathmandu for the 18th SAARC Summit. I would like to convey my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Government and to the people of Nepal for the meticulous arrangements and the warm hospitality extended to us.

Mr. Chairman:

My delegation expresses our warmest felicitations to you on your election as the Chair of SAARC. We have no doubt that SAARC will be greatly strengthened under your wise and able stewardship. I assure you, Your Excellency, of my Government’s full support and cooperation.

I would also like to convey my deepest appreciation to H.E. President Abdul Yameen Gayoom for the sterling manner in which he discharged his responsibilities during his tenure as our Chairman.

Let me also congratulate Mr. Arjun Bahadur Thapa on his assumption of the post of Secretary General of SAARC. I am confident that he will utilize his rich experience in international affairs and proven diplomatic skills for the benefit of SAARC. We also owe our gratitude to the former Secretary General, Mr. Ahmed Saleem, for his dedication and diligence in advancing the goals of SAARC.

Mr. Chairman,

My delegation welcomes ‘Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity” as the theme of the Eighteenth SAARC Summit. We believe that whether we do so now, on our own terms, or later, under compulsion- forces are at play, which can only be adequately addressed through the collective endeavors of all nations. Such united, coordinated responses are imperative in order to tackle cross border crimes like terrorism, trafficking in humans and drugs, as well as to address wider common challenges like climate change, poverty alleviation and indeed to realize our dreams of prospering together through increased intra-regional trade.

Mr. Chairman,

Protecting our environment even as we pursue economic growth is a decision which Bhutan made from the beginning of its development history, about 50 years ago. We have consistently taken many initiatives to promote eco-friendly policies and have made a constitutional commitment to maintain at least 60% of our land area under forest cover. We have also pledged to remain carbon neutral for all time to come. And we have designated more than half a country as protected areas. We know that as a tiny country, our actions may have minimal impact in the world. We also know that we are sacrificing growth even as larger and more developed nations continue to do less. But we will continue to do what is right.

Sadly, we are already living with the consequences of climate change. Snowfalls have become less frequent not just in the valleys but even on our mountaintops. Glaciers are retreating, crop yields are fluctuating, water levels in our rivers and streams have receded and we are experiencing more extreme climate. Flash floods and landslides have become recurring events, causing widespread damage and destruction in our countries.

The increasing frequency of devastating floods each season is an alarming trend that we can no longer afford to ignore. We must redouble our efforts in accelerating action to avert potential dangers from environmental degradation. Our region should exert itself to fulfill regional and international commitments to protect the environment and build resilience against climate change. National actions must spur even greater collective action at the regional and international levels. In this regard, I would like to draw attention to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which was summarized by the influential US magazine Mother Jones in 3 simple sentences: “It’s getting hotter. We are causing it. And we have to act now.”

Mr. Chairman,

Bhutan welcomes the closing of three Regional Centers and merging of four related centers into one, as the “SAARC Environment and Disaster Management Center.” The establishment of this new center will reduce costs, avoid overlapping of activities and contribute to making the programs more effective. Bhutan offers its support and cooperation to the Centre in fulfilling its mandate.

Mr. Chairman,

Poverty alleviation is our region’s unfinished work. We cannot claim to be the custodians of the world’s great civilizations and yet allow so many among us to go hungry and exist in dehumanizing levels of want and deprivation. Our region is blessed with abundant natural resources but we need to ensure that the bounty from these is used optimally and distributed more equitably. But, it is our human resource that is our greatest and most precious asset. We have one fifth of the world’s population. That population, with a young demographic dividend, can transform the socio-economic landscape of the region. But our young population need to be provided not only with better education and skills development but also with enabling policies to unlock their unlimited potential. Our poverty alleviation strategy must, therefore, be aimed at making optimal use of both- our abundant natural resources and our rich human resources we have in our region.

Mr. Chairman,

I am pleased to report that in Bhutan, we have made good progress in improving the living conditions of our people. 94% of the population has access to safe drinking water; primary health coverage is 90%, and net primary school enrolment stands at 98.5%. However, poverty in the midst of growing prosperity remains a great challenge for us, as 12% of our population still lives below the poverty line. As a small and least developed country that lives in and practices Gross National Happiness, my government is committed to reducing poverty and improving the socio economic wellbeing of all our people.

Mr. Chairman,

The most obvious path to a more prosperous South Asia is through increased intra- regional trade. At present this is dismally low due to the many barriers that have been holding back meaningful economic cooperation in our region. In this context, we welcome the progress towards finalization of the SAARC Agreements on Motor Vehicles, Regional Railways and Intergovernmental Framework for Energy Cooperation. Once these agreements are signed their implementation will contribute to removing barriers and deepening economic integration in our region.

Mr. Chairman,

Terrorism has spread across all borders, to all regions of the world, including our own. The adoption of the SAARC Convention on Suppression of Terrorism, its Additional Protocols and other SAARC anti terrorism initiatives bear testimony to the commitment of SAARC to prevent, combat and eliminate terrorism in all its manifestations. We are pleased to know that the SAARC Home Ministers have been meeting annually. Such forums provide an opportunity to further strengthen the existing regional mechanisms to collectively address the menace of terrorism that increasingly threatens the peace and security of our peoples.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

South Asia is a region with vast potential. But our concerted effort is needed to tap this potential for the benefit of our peoples. Let us give substance to the theme of our Summit, “Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity” by giving a strong commitment to remove the barriers that have held back meaningful economic cooperation in our region. Other regional groupings have done it and their peoples have been enjoying the benefits. Let us exercise our political will and take the necessary steps to make it possible for the people of South Asia to also reap the full benefits of close regional cooperation.

I thank you for your kind attention. Tashi Delek!

Haa tragedy

I am shocked and deeply saddened to hear about the tragedy in Haa that cut short the lives of eleven of our young soldiers and injured ten others. Young Bhutanese men in uniform with their entire lives ahead of them, some with wives and children, laid down their lives while in the service of our nation.

I join all Bhutanese in offering my heartfelt sympathy to the families and loved ones of the victims of the Anakha tradegy. I hope that you can draw some measure of comfort knowing that you are not alone in your grief – that people across our country, and Bhutanese everywhere, pray and mourn with you.

For the families of the injured, please know that we will do whatever possible to restore the health of your loved one. We join you in your prayers for their full and speedy recovery. And, we will be there with you for as long as it takes.

At this time our hearts also go out to all members of our armed forces who risk so much in the service of our nation – who are always ready to risk their own lives so that the rest of us can live in safety and security.

And, at such times, it is always His Majesty the King who is first on the scene, the greatest source of comfort for those in pain, and the provider of welfare to the children and spouses of the victims. We are blessed to have His Majesty at Anakha, offering solace to bereaved families and ensuring that the injured receive the best medical attention. All of us in the government humbly stand by His Majesty the King, our Kidu-Gi-Pham, to serve and do whatsoever is required of us to provide support and comfort to the victims and their families of today’s tragedy.

At a personal level, it pains me deeply that I am not in Bhutan at this moment of tragedy. I will return home as soon as possible but until then my thoughts and my prayers will be with the families of our soldiers who have suffered a terrible fate.

Draft RTI Bill

The government will table the Right to Information Bill during the first session of the Second Parliament. The cabinet is still discussing the draft bill, and would appreciate your comments. Thanks in advance.

 

Draft Right to Information Bill, 2013

PREAMBLE
Whereas, the Right to Information  upholds the principles of gross national happiness through good governance, it is essential to ensure an informed citizenry, to secure access to information held by public authorities, and to promote governmental transparency and accountability; and
Whereas, Section 3 under Article 7 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan guarantees the right to information to a Bhutanese citizen;
The Parliament of Bhutan at its _____ Session, on the _____ Day of the _____ Month of the ____________________ Year of the Bhutanese Calendar, corresponding to the _____ Day of __________ 20__, hereby enacts the Right to Information Act, as follows:
CHAPTER 1 – PRELIMINARY
Short Title and Commencement
1. This Act shall:
(1) be called the “Right to Information Act”;
(2) come into force on the _____ Day of the _____ Month of the ____________________  Year of the Bhutanese Calendar, corresponding to the _____ Day of __________ 20__.
Scope
2. This Act shall:
(1) extend to all citizens of Bhutan; and
(2) all branches and levels of government, including the executive, legislative, judiciary and military as well as private bodies  carrying out public functions or receiving public funds.
Construction
3. In this Act, the singular shall mean plural and masculine shall mean feminine wherever applicable.
Repeal
4. The provisions of existing laws and regulations that are inconsistent with this Act are hereby repealed. [Continue Reading…]

Cost-cutting measures

Press Release

23 August 2013

Bearing in mind the current state of the economy faced with a growing public debt, INR dearth and ever increasing current expenditure, the Fourth sitting of the Cabinet decided on adopting austerity measures to rein in unnecessary and excessive spending. As such, the Cabinet has decided to implement the following cost cutting measures until economic situation improves in the country:

 1. Pay: As per recommendation of the National Assembly conveyed vide NAB-SP/2010/74, dated 16/12/2010, the pay scales for the Ministers of the Second Parliament was to be increased from Nu.78,000 – 1,560 – 85,800 to Nu.1,80,000 – 3,600 – 1,98,000 for the Prime Minister and Nu.1,30,000 – 2,600 – 1,43,000 for Cabinet Ministers and equivalent posts.

The Cabinet has decided not to adopt the new pay scales as recommended above. The existing pay scale of Nu.78,000 – 1,560 – 85,800 will be applied for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Ministers with effect from 27th July 2013, the day His Majesty the Druk Gyalpo granted Dakyen to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers. The next Pay Commission may review and suggest otherwise if necessary and recommend to the Government later.     

2. Accommodation: Prime Minister has decided to live in his private residence and spare the official residence for continued use as a State Guesthouse. Cabinet Ministers will mandatorily occupy official residences at Lhengye Densa as it would involve payment of housing rent allowance otherwise.

3. Security: Security personnel for the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers shall be reduced to bare minimum and no pilot escort will be used for movements within Thimphu and Paro. The Ministry of Home & Cultural Affairs has been directed to revise the Security Protocol for VVIPs/VIPs, 2013 accordingly.

4. Ex-country Travel: Ex-country travel by the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers shall be kept to bare necessity. The Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers will travel abroad only when it is absolutely necessary and that too with a bare minimum delegation even if financed by host countries or organizers. There should be no formal reception or see-off line up at the airport.   

5. Chadri Arrangements: Chadri arrangements should be confined to events involving Royal Family Members, Zhung Dratshang and that are of national significance only. Pitching of tents, hoisting flags, arrangements of dancers, serving food, etc. during other events must be stopped. During visits of Cabinet Ministers to places outside Thimphu, there should be no elaborate chadri at the place of stay, whether hotel or guest house. Packed lunches for mid-way meals and tea to be arranged by the visiting team. The practice of Dzongkhag officials coming half-way to receive the officials should be discontinued. This applies to the visit of the Prime Minister as well. The Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs is directed to revise the Chadri Protocol accordingly.

6. Hospitality and Entertainment: No excessive expenditure shall be incurred for extending hospitality and entertaining guests by the Cabinet Ministers. Government entertainment for official purposes should be reduced to bare essential. Wherever possible, lunches should be hosted instead of dinners, and number of government invitees should not exceed twice the number of guests. Food items containing local products should be promoted, instead of imported stuff. The Ministry of Finance is directed to revise the existing circulars/guidelines on government entertainments and hospitality and further streamline it.

 

7. Transport/Vehicle: The Prime Minister is entitled to one Land Cruiser and Cabinet Ministers to one Toyota Prado as exclusive duty vehicles with drivers and operation/maintenance costs. One Maruti WagonR car is provided for secretarial duty of the Ministers.

  1. Notwithstanding the above entitlements, the Prime Minister has decided to use the old vehicle (Toyota Prado) on his duty. The Cabinet Ministers will use one of the pool vehicles available with the ministries. No new vehicle will be procured by the Government until the economic situation improves.
  2. Maruti Wagon_R cars provided for secretarial duty of the Ministers will be returned for pool use in the ministries.

8. Domestic Staff: Prime Minister was provided five and Cabinet Ministers two domestic staff at residences. The Cabinet has decided not to avail this facility. The Pay Commission may study the need and suggest otherwise later. The DNP’s Maintenance Unit will look after the flower gardens and general cleaning of premises on regular basis.

9. Cabinet Secretariat: Cabinet Secretariat currently has 41 staff (2 Executive, 13 Officers, 2 Contract, 11 Support, 9 Operator and 4 GSP) as against some 52 approved posts. In addition, there were 4 political appointees and one Photographer on contract basis.

The Cabinet decided that there will be no political appointments made in the Cabinet Secretariat. Instead, Prime Minister will look into re-organizing and down-sizing the Cabinet Secretariat. Excess staff, if any, could be relieved off on transfer to agencies facing shortage of HRs.

 

The Cabinet hereby pledges to abide by all relevant laws of the land and consciously work hard towards curtailment of wasteful public expenditure. In doing so, the Government earnestly hope that all ministries, autonomous bodies, corporate agencies and also the private sector understand the gravity of the economic situation and encourage them to voluntarily come up with their own austerity measures. The Government and the people must collectively aspire to revive the economic situation through collective efforts and sacrifices.

“We have emerged stronger”

Kuensel recently interviewed me. Their piece is reproduced below:

 How have you grown since the time you became the country’s first opposition leader and today as you exit your first five-year term?

It’s not for me to say whether I’ve grown or not in the past five years. I certainly hope I’ve grown. But that’s for my family and, more importantly, the people to judge. What I can say is that I have learnt a lot in the past five years. I have had the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life – the poor and the rich, the young and old, farmers and businessmen, monks and students, soldiers, teachers and countless other public servants. I have been able to listen to them and to learn of their deepest hopes and aspirations. And that has been an extremely enriching experience. On democracy, I have learnt that it is hard work, that it is not free, and that the most difficult part of democracy is the exercise of checks and balances. In this context, PDP has had the difficult yet distinguished responsibility of serving as the Kingdom’s first opposition party.

You have been very critical of the government’s performance in a number of areas. Any area you feel the government did do well and deserves credit?

The transition to democracy has largely been stable and peaceful. For this, the government must be given due credit. However, this transition would never have been possible without the complete support and constant guidance of His Majesty the King. Furthermore, the government could have done a better job in strengthening democratic institutions and in minimizing the anxiety levels that our people have sometimes been subjected to.

One area in which the government failed badly?

The government has failed to inculcate a healthy respect for the rule of law. Some times, the government threatened to amend laws, including the Constitution, to suit their narrow, immediate purposes. At other times, they themselves blatantly violated the rule of law, like when they imposed taxes unconstitutionally. That led to the first constitutional case which they eventually lost. What followed was unprecedented – the government was made to return the taxes that they had collected unlawfully.

Another important area where the government failed is the economy. The economy has become extremely vulnerable with debts rising and short-term Rupee borrowings spiralling out of control. At this rate, we are heading towards an economic crisis, a crisis that will undo the benefits of decades of hardwork and subject the country and people to unimaginable hardship.

Some political pundits indicated 2013 election is more about who will become the opposition…

I hope the political pundits are wrong. If the pundits are right, and if the 2013 elections is only about who will become the opposition, it would mean that DPT is invincible and will form the government again. Such a foregone conclusion would also mean that democratic choice would be undermined. Therefore, it becomes crucial for all of us, including the political pundits themselves, to support the other parties so that they can offer credible alternatives and healthy competition.

Some former PDP candidates and members said they were hardly consulted while opposition played its role and that the party should have been regrouped years ago than now. What happened?

The opposition party has just two members in the Parliament. As such, we have had to work extremely hard during the past five years, especially since the very idea of an opposition was nonexistent until then. It is hard to imagine that anyone associated with PDP, including our former candidates, would be upset if the opposition were able to play its role successfully. As far as the two opposition party members are concerned, we have actively sought to consult any and everyone available, both inside and outside the party.

All of us agree that PDP should have regrouped years ago. But that is easier said than done. Our party was in shambles. The president had resigned taking moral responsibility for the 2008 loss, and the party was burdened with huge financial debts. Added to that, many candidates resigned, some for professional reasons, some to form a new political party. It was testing time for the party, but we have not just overcome our difficulties, we have emerged stronger and are now well-positioned for the coming elections.

You made many remarks on the Rupee issue the country continues to reel under. Had your role reversed to play the government, how would you address the issue?

I raised the Rupee issue way back in 2009. Since then, the opposition party has consistently raised the issue in the Parliament. Today, even though we have a full-blown Rupee crisis, one that is holding our economy at ransom, the government still has not admitted that we have a problem. Any other government would have understood that our economy is small, that imports exceed exports, and that, as such, foreign currency, Especially the Rupee, must be managed very carefully. Past governments, in which many of the current ministers also served, were acutely aware of this and ensured that shortfall of Rupee never assumed critical proportions. So I, like many others, am extremely disappointed that the DPT government has failed to prevent this crisis.

What would we have done if we were in the government? We would have exercised caution right from the start. We would have monitored the economy carefully and ensured that trade imbalances did not spiral out of control. We would have reined in exessive government spending, while making sure that agriculture, services, manufacturing and small businesses thrived throughout the length and breadth of our country. In short, we would have made doing business in Bhutan easy and enjoyable. So a Rupee crisis would never have occurred under our watch. But if it did, we would have accepted the problem, studied it, and addressed it head on.

Five political parties this year. Where does PDP stand?

That is for the people to decide. On our part, we will work hard and work honestly; we will leave no stone unturned to provide a credible alternative; we will serve to fulfill the promise of democracy and the hopes and aspirations of our people.

Your priorities if PDP came to power…

If PDP comes to power, our first priority, like that of any other party that comes to power, would be to undo the damages done by DPT. Government expenditure has been excessive. Our economy is in a mess. Doing business is cumbersome. Youth unemployment is rife. Poverty is still very visible. Agricultural production is dismal. Education quality is an issue. Roads, especially farm roads, are in urgent need of repair and reconstruction. Corruption hasn’t been tackled boldly. Private media has been weakened.

Given the opportunity, PDP would strengthen democratic institutions, and devolve power and authority from the centre so people can enjoy the blessings of liberty, equality and prosperity. That’s what PDP’s ideology, Wangtse-Chhirphel, is all about. That’s why PDP promises Power to the People.

Contrast and compare

Express job

Express job

Have you travelled on the Thimphu – Chunzom higway recently? Is so, you would have noticed a frenzy of construction activity at “Charkilo”. What’s being constructed is the road to the controversial Education City.

For all the controversy surrounding the Education City, the government has made sure that the project has not suffered for want of attention or support. The cabinet has earmarked and approved the lease of 1000 acres of land as the government’s equity for the project.  A new company, DHI-Infra, was established two years ago to spearhead the project. A full board, with the works and human settlement minister as the chairman, has been set up. Numerous road shows have been conducted. The cabinet “further ratified” the Education City project bid, and awarded the bid to a consortium of bidders. A law was passed specifically for the Education City. The government has allocated a subsidy to the Education City in their 2012-13 budget. The construction of the Nu 133 million road and bridge has taken off. Someone has lobbied hard enough for the IFC to recognize the project as an outstanding public-private-partnership venture. All this while the detailed project report is still being prepared.

The Education City project is going ahead. It is being bulldozed ahead by the government.

What’s not going ahead, and what deserves our attention, are the proposals to establish three private colleges. These colleges will be established by Bhutanese people, using Bhutanese money, and for Bhutanese students. So we should render them our full support. Instead, they’ve been left on their own, without any government support. And the proposals, all three of them, are lost, mired in the government’s infamous red tape.

 

Message on Happiness Day

Today is a big day for Bhutan … and the world.

Today, people all over the world will come together to observe the first International Day of Happiness. My family and I join the people of Bhutan in celebrating the first ever global happiness day.

I thank the prime minister and the government for their hard work and perseverance in advocating Gross National Happiness at home and abroad. I congratulate them for for successfully promoting happiness in the international agenda, and for pushing the United Nations to adopt the resolution on happiness. Their efforts have led to the adoption of the International Day of Happiness.

Today is a good time to think about our priorities – to ask ourselves what is important and what we aspire to do with our lives. It is also a good time to take a deliberate break from regular work; to spend time with family, friends and loved ones; to be true to oneself, free of material ambitions and insatiable desires.

Today is also a good time to reflect on Gross National Happiness and how it was born. It is a time, a proud time for all Bhutanese, to remember that His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, gave the world a new idea, a new calling. So today is a time to offer thanks to the Fourth Druk Gyalpo for gifting GNH to Bhutan and to the whole world. On this happy day, I urge all Bhutanese to offer prayers for our beloved Kings.

Tashi delek!

 

With thanks

The following is a rough translation of my address yesterday, in the closing session of the parliament.

HM-kengkhar

The People’s King

Today is an auspicious day: it is the closing ceremony of the 10th session of the first parliament. Today is also an historic day: it is the closing session of the first elected parliament after Bhutan became a democratic constitutional monarchy. On behalf of the opposition party, I offer thanks to His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen for gracing the closing session of the parliament.

In the past five years since the introduction of parliamentary democracy, His Majesty the King has worked tirelessly and contributed so much to the nation and the people that it is impossible to recount them all here. In fact, it is difficult to even offer a summary, because no such articulation would do justice to His Majesty’s contributions.

Nevertheless, on behalf of the opposition party, I take the privilege of offering our sincere gratitude to His Majesty the King for the continuing, steadfast and unwavering support and guidance that the country has been blessed with. And so I would like to take the privilege of highlighting just a few areas and projects through which His Majesty has led the country with vision and dynamism.

First, by granting royal kidu, His Majesty the King has changed the lives of countless people. His Majesty has granted land to the landless and the poor. Thousands upon thousands of people in the villages who couldn’t pay for their excess land were granted exemption, and their excess lands were regularized in their name. This went on to address the biggest concern for countless people in the villages and helped them lead a normal life. It gave them hope to continue living in the villages at a time when rural to urban migration has become a grave threat.

His Majesty’s kidu program has been extended to poor students to help them go to school. It has given the rural and poor students an equal opportunity to go to school and shape a career for themselves. His Majesty also supports many elderly, poor and needy citizens all over the country. The Kidu program ensures that no one is left behind and His Majesty has personally met all of the recipients to understand their problem.

Second, it was unfortunate for our country to have suffered from so many disasters in the past five years. We had entire towns and a dzong destroyed by fire. We experienced windstorms, floods and earthquakes posing a lot of hardship for the people. We even had an unfortunate plane crash where some Bhutanese citizens on pilgrimage died in Nepal. But whenever a disaster struck, His Majesty personally and immediately went to comfort the people. While His Majesty’s mere presence gave people hope and comfort, relief funds and support helped them rebuild their homes and lives.

Third, as a deeply religious country, the two great religions of Bhutan have spread even more and taken greater hold. It is because of His Majesty’s personal work and example that the people have even greater faith and belief in our religions. In this context, I would also like to thank His Holiness the Je Khenpo, Trulku Jigme Choida, for his exemplary leadership, and the five lopens, the clergy and the monks, lay monks, and nuns of all faiths for their continuous prayers for the nation.

Fourth, as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, His Majesty the King has strengthened the security of the country. His Majesty has guarded our external boundaries and protected the country from all internal threats. In addition, His Majesty initiated the De-Suung program which has strengthened community vitality, patriotism, and volunteerism. The De-Suung volunteers are the first ones to reach any disaster affected area. They seem only eager to help and such positive enthusiasm would not have been possible without His Majesty’s vision and leadership.

Sixth, it is amazing to recount that His Majesty has personally met almost all the people in the country. Despite the busy schedule, His Majesty has given audience to people from all sectors at the Royal Palace. His Majesty invited and personally attended to people from the civil service, corporations, local governments, business community, farmers, musicians, movie industry, media, bloggers and many others. His Majesty listened to them, took stock of their problems, joked with them, advised them and the most important, inspired them to achieve greater heights. In addition to that, His Majesty has been visiting schools constantly. Ever since ascending the throne, His Majesty has graced every graduate orientation program, whether it is university graduates, vocational graduates or teachers, and has been personally giving away the graduation certificates no matter how large a group is. His Majesty has always reiterated that the youth are the future of the country and has always kept them in the loop with constant interaction and in the process advising and supporting them.

Seventh, His Majesty the King has taken Bhutan’s international relations to new heights. His Majesty has generously granted audiences to international visitors to Bhutan, and has visited many countries. Each visit has brought unparalleled goodwill and standing. While making new friends, His Majesty has taken the friendship with India to a new level. [Continue Reading…]

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