Observing the state of the Nation

I made a brief statement on the PM’s state of the Nation address today in the National Assembly. What follows is a summary of what I said…

Introduction

I thank the Honourbale Speaker for allowing me to submit my views on the prime minister’s annual report on the State of the Nation to the Parliament.

I congratulate the prime minister and the cabinet for presenting a detailed report on the activities of the government during the last year. I’ve divided these activities into four broad categories: (i) those that were part of the Ninth Five Year Plan; (ii) those that were executed by government corporations; (iii) those that were executed by non government organizations; and (iv) those that are part of the Tenth Five Year Plan.

Activities of the Ninth Five Year Plan

A considerable amount of the achievements that are reflected in the government’s report are part of the Ninth Five Year Plan. I congratulate the government for implementing these “spill over” works of the Ninth Plan, but would like to note that these activities were finalized and funding secured by the previous government. These include roads, bridges, hospitals, the national stadium, the tendril thang, and the repair of monasteries and dzongs.

Credit for successfully completing the “spill over” works of the Ninth Plan must go to the current government. But, the report should have indicated which of the activities belonged to the Ninth Plan, and, more importantly, how much of that work was completed in the last year. This would have given us a better idea of how much of the work was actually done by the government.

For example, according to the PM’s annual report, 292 km of farm roads were constructed during the last year. This may be so, but we do not know how much of these roads are spill over from the ninth plan and how much, if any, are part of the tenth plan.

The construction of the Gyalposhing-Nganglam highway, Gomphu-Panbang highway, Samtse-Phuentsholing highway and Nangar-Ura highway were all part of the ninth plan. Funding for these projects were already secured and the work had started before the new government took over.

I thank Project Dantak for undertaking the double-laning of the Thimphu-Paro highway, Chumzom-Phuentsholing highway and Samdrupjonkhar-Tashigang highway.

Activities of government corporations

The works of government corporations have also been included in the annual report. And this is necessary to provide a complete picture of the country’s development in the last year. But, the report should have also attributed the successes to the corporations and the DHI directly. These include rural electrification (which is funded by the government and executed by BPC), expansion of transmission lines (BPC), mobile connectivity (B-Mobile), internet connectivity (Bhutan Telecom) and Dagachu hydropower project (DGPC). I would also like to add Druk Air has, for the first time in its history, not just turned a profit, but paid taxes as well.

Activities of civil society organizations

I acknowledge the good work done by our NGOs. The beneficiaries of their hard work include youth, women, the disadvantaged, the poor, animals and the environment. Additionally, NGOs are responsible for successfully showcasing Bhutan through exhibitions and festivals.

Tenth Five Year Plan

The government’s annual report does not indicate which of the work implemented during the last year form part of the 10th Five Year Plan. While some of the work must be from the 10th Plan, we cannot tell as the Plan documents were being distributed only recently. I, for example, got the plan documents only last week.

I wish to report that all of us must work together if we are to realize the objectives of this plan. But we have barely three and a half more years to complete the 10th Plan. I am concerned. At Nu 148 billion, the tenth plan is more than twice the size of the ninth plan, which was only Nu 73 billion. And yet, the ninth plan was extended officially by a year. Now, if last year’s activities are also mainly from the ninth plan, then the Ninth Five Year Plan would have taken seven years to complete. And, I repeat, we would basically have only three and a half years to complete the entire tenth plan.

I thank the Government of India for their generous support of the Tenth Five Year Plan. Though they and other donors have contributed generously, the tenth plan still has a shortfall of Nu 18 billion. This is after taking Nu 10.2 billion in loans. Therefore, I would like to request the government once again (I’d submitted a similar request during the second session) to consider if that much money is really needed to meet the overall objectives of the tenth plan.

Poverty alleviation

23.3% of our people live in poverty. And of the people living in rural areas, 30.9% are poor. Poverty is, therefore, more pervasive in our villages. Yet, I did not see anything definite in the government’s report in terms of targeting poverty.

In order to eradicate poverty, we must follow through with our government’s promise to connect every gewog with a motorable road. And we must allocate more resources to the local governments. In this connection, I wish to reiterate that the funds for the Constituency Development Grant should be allocated directly to local governments without the interference of the members of parliament.

I wish to also report that I am still to receive a reply to the letter I personally submitted to our honourable finance minister expressing my views that the CDG may be unconstitutional. If the government is not willing to explain why my concerns are unfounded, I may be left with no option but to seek the opinion of our courts.

Similarly, I have not received replies to several other letters to the government which I shall not discuss now.

The economy

Our government’s reaction to the global financial crisis has not been clear. As a result many businesses have still not recovered from the affects of the crisis. This is especially so in the manufacturing and tourism sectors which provide employment to a large number of our people.

It is not easy to do business in Bhutan. And a recent study by the World Bank indicates that doing business in Bhutan may in fact be getting more difficult.

Education

Several surveys were conducted over the past year. And, they indicate that the quality of our education is poor. The quality of our education must improve if we expect our youth to enjoy gainful employment. Otherwise, the social problems that our prime minister mentioned – alcoholism, drug addition, prostitution, gambling – will only increase.

Though a lot of money (almost Nu 10 billion) has been allocated for the education sector in the 10th Plan, I am concerned that monastic education will receive none of it. The monks that attend schools in our dratshangs and shedras are also Bhutanese children. In fact, most of them belong to the poorer sections of our society, so we should be even more concerned about their education.

Housing

Housing is a major problem. In many parts of Bhutan, our farmers live in shacks that cannot keep out the rain or the cold.

And in our towns, especially in Thimphu, our people cannot afford the rents. The Tenancy Act is not implemented at all. An obvious solution to the housing shortage is to encourage more people to build houses. But, in most parts of Thimphu land owners are still not allowed to construct new houses. More houses mean rents would automatically fall to reasonable rates. Today Thimphu must have about 100,000 people. It can easily accommodate 200,000, if it must, but if and only if the housing problem is solved.

Media

An independent media is crucial for a vibrant democracy. And, yes, the media must be responsible. But they do not need constant lecturing. This will intimidate our media, since most of them depend on the government for their revenues.

BICMA is already regulating the media. And there are laws that protect us from possible abuse by the media.

Recent floods

The government estimated that about Nu 719 million in damages were caused by the recent flash floods. But the government’s estimate does not include losses in business. Road blocks in many parts of the country and the diversion of the Druk Air flights would have caused losses totaling many millions of ngultrums.

In this connection, I wish to acknowledge the work done by Project Dantak to restore the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway soon after it was damaged severely during the floods.

According to the Constitution, the government is required to establish a Relief Fund that will be used by His Majesty the King in times of natural calamities. I am concerned that the Fund has still not been established. I raised the same issue during the first session of the Parliament, and the Hounourable Finance Minister had assured the Assembly that the Relief Fund would be established within the year. It still has not been established.

Constitution

Our Prime Minister expressed concerns that the Constitution is being used as a detailed manual. And that interpreting the Constitution in rigid and narrow terms undermines good governance and weakens the government. He also reported that we should not unnecessarily invoke and test the Constitution.

I disagree. I firmly believe that we should constantly refer to the Constitution. And that, even if we don’t understand any other law, we should study the Constitution thoroughly. After all, the Constitution is the mother of all laws in Bhutan.

If disagreements arise in the interpretation of the Constitution – and they will be many differences – they should be discussed amicably and with the understanding that all parties involved want nothing but what is best for our country and our people. And, naturally, if these disagreements cannot be resolved the option to take the matter to the courts is always there.

 

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  1. Gail Jones says:

    Bravo, Tshering! I am really proud of you – even a democracy needs a watchful eye. Amen to your observations about protecting the Constitution. It is, in fact, the foundation of your country if your country is to be a democracy.

    How much is a nu worth in dollars? Maybe Phil should work there with microfinance!

    Take care, and love to the family. Gail

  2. Jagpamelen says:

    In a nut shell, the present government takes credit for the continuation of the 9th plan. The only thing I see the government has brought about, is the ‘legitimacy’ of certain ‘religious movement’ in our country, which according to the ‘Government’ is within the parameters of our constitution and thereby guarantees these individuals the freedom of religion. I absolutely agree but the constitution also prohibits proselytization, which we all know is happening especially with the poor and vulnerable sections of our people in the rural areas.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I am not being a zealot, I understand and respect the belief of true practitioner but at the same time, I am concerned. I know it for a fact there is this side of this particular faith that has been raising it’s ugly head of late and it is gaining momentum.

    Our country is but a tiny one and in the words of our most beloved Druk Gyalpo, “our population if we must can fit in the palm of our hand.” With the most profound and inexplicable wisdom the nation has been handed over to us the people. The conditions are just right, with unity and solidarity of our countrymen, the sky is the limit, lest discord and disharmony be sowed.
    In short this movement which is gathering momentum as I write this humble footnote, is an imminent threat, which poses a ‘clear & present danger’ to the unity & stability of our peaceful land.
    I am curious????? has the Government looked beyond it shoulder and try to fathom the enormity of this issue…!

  3. Jagpamelen says:

    PS: If you are reading my comment, there are few errors. I meant, ……”the ‘legitimacy’ of ‘a’ certain religious movement,” and” the belief of ‘a’ true practioner,” and last but not the least, ” has the Government looked beyond it’s shoulder.”

  4. Phuntsho says:

    english correction:

    correct english is “last but not least” and not “last but not the least”, which we always think is correct.

    i hope it benefits all other readers.

  5. Reading the Kuensel this morning, Tenzing Lamsang provided a detailed report of what went on yesterday at the NA. It seems all other MP’s attacked OL for raising some critical issues. This is a reiteration of why the DPT MP’s wanted the ban of live telecast so that they can blabber uselessly in teh NA hall without the public watching them. We are quite sure that the likes of Pasang Thrinlee Wangdi MP, Thsering Phuntsho Punakha MP & some others who have no depth & content are the ones who initiated the ban of the live telecast. Punakha MP Tshering Phuntsho odes seem like a classless human just capitalizing on his Dzongkha wit addressing the NA with worthless accusations. Some of these MP’s seem to function with empty guts coupled with empty heads.

    DPT government has no doubt done some good for the nation. I wouldn’t consider for having them done nothing. It will be unfair to do that given their time period of only one+ years of governing. However, decisions like banning live telecast and calling it a majority decision is totally wrong. Such decision make us doubt the authenticity of the government that is supposedly headed by a very capable LYONCHEN. For the sake of the nation and the citizens of our country – donot let the majority endorse the decision that is against the wish of the Bhutanese people. At least some one from teh government – either the LYONCHEN or some ministers should stand for this right should not allow the empty MP’s thoughts to prevail. What happend to brillian lyonpo Thakur, what happend to very logical Lyonpo Khandu, what is Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba who is seasoned & next to lyonchen doing. Are you all mobbed by the majority of MP’s who cannot think or talk sense. All of you seasoned ministers have led the country more than a decade and we expect you to still lead with expereince and caution that is for the benefit of the king, country and the people of Bhutan.

  6. I was utterly shocked to wne I read the kuensel this morning on yesterdays NA session. MP Tshering Penjor has no discipline at all to say that CDG issue is coming up again and again. Mind you, CDG issue to the public of Bhutan is still not constitutional and your majority vote is not accepted by the Public of Bhutan. As mentioned by Romeo, with Hon. PM followed by seasoned Ministers this majority rule should not be allowed. If this majority rule is followed you will ruin our country. It is very obvious that majority of our PM’s are either fresh graduates or most of them did not have that experience which is required in our parliament. Therefore, my humble request to our Ministers and PM is not to go by majority which will provoke your party to step down or else your party will have no votes in 2013.
    MP tshering Penjor is not ashemed when he says that OL has no discipline. Infact he should have discipline in saying that as this is still not accepted by the public.

    MP Pasang Thinley has boldly said that CDG should not be given to Sombekha Constituency,you try doing that and we will see where you will land up to. Do you want to take our share of CDG for your house construction? Your vocal has not got you any good result in the past and it will not bring you any good in future. So do not depend somuch on your useless vocal. We will see to it that you do not get even a single vote in 2013. By the way when MPs could throw such ideas in the National Assembly, we really get shock. What do you all think la?

  7. Well, i think government has a right to take credit for all spill over works…..as an executive body, they have a right to either continue or discontinue those works….so they have completed it successfully….so i think, no harm in taking the credit and mentioning facts and figures.

    if i am not wrong, i think PM mentioned and thanked all corporations, autonomous bodies, civil servant etc for executing those works. so, why necessary to again specify? we all know that gov alone can not achieve all these…it has to be a joint effort by everyone including corporation, autonomous bodies etc…

  8. Good job, Mr. Ol! You make more sense than the 6 oldies and 4 other default miniters.

  9. Kudos to you Hon’ble Lyonpo for the courages action.
    I am sad and depressed after going through the kuensel article about DPT MP’s behaviors.
    As you might already know Tshering Penjor is himself a no good son of a rascal. He only completed cl 10 with a pass marks, disqualifed and went to Semtokha for higher secondary.. again disqualified and got into NIE. completed a bloody BEd course and have been only a actor.. not at all a good one again!
    And today, he is talking shit in the NA hall and trying to act smart!!!

    I cant believe this is happening. We all know that people like him has no value and ethics and content..
    anyways, that was only my frustration!! pardon for that..

    Good luck and god bless NA of Bhutan!

  10. I agree with Romeo… and I beleive that MPs should take personally the professional criticism. In fact they should be guidance and a feedback from which they can either do better jobs next time or learn from mistakes. but it just seems like MPs like Tshering Penjor, just want to beat around the bush and blame. Well, we can’t blame him though… look at his education. A dzongkha lopon who has no idea how to run a public sector or who has no idea how to think analytically or critically. There are many more like him- fresh graduates who have barely done any work in the past and the older people who think they can run democracy like how they have run thier organizations in the past…. it really feels like they have either no idea or the passion for thw work that is required and demanded as a public figure.

    Issues resloved can be brought up again and issues that concerns the people are never useless.
    It is disgusting. Instead of taking criticism personally, they can explain or if they have done thier jobs then act professional at least. I am somtimes ashamed of what is happening to my country. this is sad and unacceptable.
    I don’t know how we are going to progress for the next three and a half years until the next elections if this is how our present govt feels.

  11. Samchhar says:

    I think “Scrap” is the right word. People like Tshering Penjor and Passang Thrinlee are the scraps, the unwanted or the “useless” among the Bhutanese people. These are people without any substance but can blabber on any subject under the sun..least realizing they are only making a fool of themselves…

    This is the era of democracy and more so this is the pronouncement of our Kings. How dare they forget that? many of OL’s claim made a lot of sense but for these bunch of fools…only they are right!

    Passang Thrinlee…a man who was as good as court martialed from the Armed Force, good for nothing” thinks that issues that effect the people and the country are “useless”.

    and haha Rinchen Dorji…I thought he was an intellectual but he thinks MP’s have the power to throw a reporter in prison!!! I appreciate Kuensel editor’s response to that.

    Guys there is something called constructive criticism and if you had taken it in a positive sense you all could have tackled it very well….but no…your reactions were as expected…very narrow and senseless.

  12. OL – u r appreciated high..Those MP who said ‘folish’,’ no discipline’,’would be thrown in prison’ actually means they are that. They are simply senseless people. Honb’le OL made lots and lots of sense there!

  13. Nemesis says:

    Yes, we PPD supporters must stand behind OL regardless of whether he makes sense or not. After all he is our only voice in the NA. It is a pity we don’t have internet connection to all the households in the country – may be we should supply computers and modems to our potential supporters during next campaign instead of beer, food and cash. Would you be interested to make a contribution? I guess not! Lip service is cheaper althugh it hurts as badly as cash service in the end. Long live PDP! We are 100% behind you just as we said before the 2008 elections and we will do the same before 2013..

    • Namesis la,
      I beg to differ from you. You cannot ask fellow PDP to be behind OL whether he makes sense or not. This is wrong. Ol should be supported and applauded for when he makes sense. If the support is given when OL doesnot make sense, then PDP is no diferent from DPT. We know OL is wise, capable and will make sense as he will speak forth wisely and analytically for the sake of the nation and he will always get support from the mass irrespective of whether someone is PDP or DPT.

  14. Sangchen says:

    Good Job OL; Keep it up.

  15. omgnaz yagman says:

    Amongst others and the many illuminating & food for thought Pov’s OL mentioned above , Bravo Honb’le OL for mentioning the plight of businessess effected by the cascading effects of the global economic turmoil .

    Its about time someone starts to invigorate the senses of our economic affairs . We are vunerable and much suceptable to the downturn . Sooner than later when it comes to making pre-emptive fortifications around our rather fragile economy.

  16. Private says:

    Yeah, I am glad too that OL is aware of the plight of the businesses houses that are effected by the Global economic crisis. Whether we like it or not the world economic downturn effects have penentrated our country and our government should respond accordingly specially in teh field of tourism where tourists are less, revenue generated is falling, employment is effected badly, handicrafts vendors, animal transporters, vehicle transporters, restaurnats, hotels, farm houses – you name it – everyone is effected by the ripples of tourism down turn. So, better guidance and initiative and guidance in terms of cooperation is awaited.

  17. freewill says:

    By the way, I don’t have a single once of a sympathy for the civil servants and the corporate employees that are whining right now. You reap what you sow. You guys are solely responsible for electing every dumb DPT MPs out there, you guys brain washed your illitrates ralatives, into thinking that DPT is good and PDP evil, you guys fooled your poors farmer relatives by persuading them to vote DPT.
    I feel like you civil servants and corporate employees who brain washed your illitrate relatives form poors villages should be put into jail.
    Let this be a lesson to you people, next time, look before you leap, because all that glitters is not gold.

    • freewill,

      So what makes you think that if PDP were in power, civil servants and corporate employees would not be whining.

  18. Villager says:

    freewill,

    You are right when you say that our villagers were influenced by their educated relatives. I’m sure things would have been different if the candidate who was running for the post of pm was not SN. Although ex lyonpo SN went from village to village intereacting with the villagers at close quarters since the 90s (as if he knew Bhutan was to eventually become a constitutional monarchy) but there are also lots of stories he left behind in the villages which didn’t do good for him. I’m sure come 2013 things will be different. I would like to see young and capable people like OL run for the office in the next election-I’m sure he’ll make a great PM. It’s time for the Oldies like JYT to go find a peaceful place and recite MANI their remaining life.

  19. Hats off to OL. OL looks very aggresive but he’s got what we call analytical skills. Mp’s like Tshering penjor are dumb ass….they cannot even analyize simple policies.all they want is thobthangs, salutes ,respectS.

  20. MP’s like Tshering Penjor may not be knowing the meaning of “Analysis”.All he must be knowing is memorizing “chetams”(sayings) which he proudly presents without any hesitations in the NA sessions…all craps. He is got the guts to say that OL has no manners…what does he expect? does he expect OL to salute the DPT gang…shameless joker

  21. Looks like OL wants everything to go the way he feels and views!!! POLL is just a poll and i don’t think anybody will take it seriously…For that matter, even earlier polls might be wrong!

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