“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.

 

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Comments

  1. Pema tenzin says:

    Seems many r talkin about druk nyamrup n dpt we hear no word about rather than pdp ex candidate has joined in other new parties..n replaced by young girls …how can u say pdp growing stronger la

  2. Good one OL! BUT before you make such grand statements, make sure your Party qualifies for the Primary Round. Round up some boys and girls from the street and bars and you might still get the numbers….

  3. The interview Q&A well matched, congrats to both. If I were to lead PDP in government from 2013, following are my priorities but not exhaustive.
    1. Revamp agricultural sector – subsidies, soft loan, mechanization.
    2. Strengthening Civil Servants, pay & allowance not based on position systems but based on results.
    3. 11th FYP should not be ambitious but compact and implementable – prioritize particularly road construction
    4. Plan activities not on need based as done in 10th FYP but on economic too.
    5. As mentioned by HOL, start two to three private colleges regionally balanced.
    6. Encourage agricultural based and local production industries – stop / end importing stone aggregates, sand and toothpicks
    7. Stop spending money on GNH but instead practice GNH free of cost like GNH holiday
    8. Develop strategies as to how to give “Power to People” – PDP’s promise

  4. It is easier said than done. One can give a very fantastic interview to a newspaper, but can everything be practical? We know what each party would like to achieve. But, we want know how you would achieve that. For instance, all the political parties are saying that they will improve our economy, but how? We want strategies, not the objectives.

  5. The Kuensel interviewer is absolutely right there in pointing out that people are concerned about which party to get opposition role in the upcoming elections rather thn which party to form the government.

  6. Unebenu says:

    The farsightedness of his excellency is undoubtedly splendid. His excellency seems to wear gallileon telescope while observing the bhutanese postirity. But i feel some things still remains as loophole that can pit-home pdp’s dream come as the ruling party, for with a band of young girls and boys with unknown identity in public as candidates vying for those chairs, it would rather sound a wildgoose chase….anyways all the best sirs and madams

  7. guardian says:

    On a complete different topic, is this Jigs news some sort of a PDP mouthpiece or what, I only see PDP trolls using that site.

  8. Returning the duty car is a good exemplary when the country is running through rough time. Many schools are in need of class rooms. Many people in villages have no proper shelter to live in. Many do not have 3 meals to eat.

    It is very bad on part of dpt to do away vehicle quota from civil servant, take the ministers duty car with them, pull all business towards themselves yet they say in public that the economy is very safe. Hahaha……..

  9. It seems to me that our former HOL is so busy and not visiting his blog. he has not bothered even to comment on the comments we posted on this article.

    So I request you to at least comment something even if you do not require any of our further comments and suggestion.

    Silently, I could confess that most of the issues that I raised are reflected in the promise / agenda during the primary campaign. If you require further more of such suggestions and advice do let me know.

    All the best

  10. Honorable Prime Minister elect,

    First of all, congratulations on your party’s well deserved win in the general elections.

    I have been an ardent admirer of your policies and party ever since you became the opposition leader of Bhutan. I also admire your credentials of having graduated from one of the world’s most prestigious university and experience in various post serving our country.

    The reason for my message here is since I also am a passionate followers of world events of every kind (politics, sports, economics, finance, religion, etc) and I consider myself quite educated in world affairs therefore I would like to voluntarily offer my suggestions and opinions on any issues related to our country, if PM elect so desires.
    Thanking you,

    Sincerely,
    A well wisher and a concerned citizen

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