Press Summary from the 4th Meet the Press

Press Summary from the 4th Meet the Press held on 8th March, 2019

‘25 pledges in 120 days’

 

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa has always believed in not just doing what is popular, but doing what is right for the nation. As the government completes 120 days in office today, we would like to share the status on the ‘25 pledges in 120 days’.

The following are the pledges and the status on the pledges:

1.     Establish a high-level committee to draft the country’s new long-term vision, Bhutan: Vision 2045 to carry our nation forward.  

[ACHIEVED]

The government has always believed that a development pursuit should not be based on the 5-year political term of a political party. Bhutan has been fortunate in receiving the guidance from our enlightened Monarchs who have based ‘development with values’ at the core of our system. However, keeping in mind, the long-term interests of the country, the government has completed discussions with the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) on the long-term vision document. A guideline has been developed and a committee established to develop the vision document.

The Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) will lead discussions and take the discussion on the vision forward in consultation with stakeholders and all political parties.

 

2.     Establish a dedicated water agency with a plan of action to ensure water – DRINKING and IRRIGATION for all by 2021.  

[ON-TRACK] 

A flagship program on water related issues (allocated few Billions) has been approved in the 12thPlan. The government is in the process of identifying expats and expertise required in the management of the project.

This process will also include harmonizing the legality and issue of the ownership of water (Water Act 2011, NEC, MoAF).

It is an irony that Bhutan has one of highest water per capita, and we still face water shortages.

 

3.     Convert Samrang project into vegetable farming project. PROMOTE vegetarian meals during official functions.   

[ACHIEVED]

The government did not pursue the pledge as Samrang is not a meat-processing unit. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests is carrying out study assessing the vegetable mega-farm feasibility in Samrang. MoAF is also reviewing the monsoon water quality for fishery and dairy farming strengthening mechanisms for Samrang.

Deciding to lead by example, the cabinet has been promoting and catering vegetarian meals during official functions.

 

4.     Develop “Suung Joen” app to enable Bhutanese to communicate freely without the need to recharge voucher. Remove five percent voucher tax. 

5.     Free access, 24/7, to all online data within the country – BBS, online shopping, websites browsing and document downloading – by installing intranet technology.   

[NOT ACHIEVED]

‘Suung Joen’ App has been one of the most talked pledge in the country. While the development of the app is easy, a proper assessment on the operationalization of the app is eminent.

The Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) has held consultations and completed all preliminary works such as determining system requirements and specifications for both Suung Joen app and free WIFI hotspots. The Ministry is now working on calling tenders and ascertaining the exact budget requirements.

The government is keen to provide intranet services in gewog centers, institutions with proper assessment and on need-based analysis while considering factors of market for B-Mobile and TashiCell.

The Ministry of Finance presented a draft bill to the Cabinet on the doing away with 5% Sales Tax on Telecom Services. The Cabinet has directed the Finance Ministry to include the proposal of doing away with the 5% voucher-tax for inclusion in the upcoming major tax reforms.

The government has approved a flagship project on ‘Digital Drukyul’which will also cater to provide these services efficiently.

 

6.     Implement free nutritious lunch program in all schools.  

[ACHIEVED]

The government would like to advance from the quantitative to qualitative feeding for our school children who are the future of our country. Malnutrition and stunting rates are still high in some pockets of the country and the government is aware of the economic impact that can result from such health hazards.

Feeding our school children qualitatively will benefit our nation in generations to come.

 

7.     Initiate and implement discontinuing examinations until Class VI, and removing Class X cut-off point.  

[ACHIEVED]

Understanding that with all our policy changes, every job opportunity or pursuing further studies now require a minimum qualification of class 12, the government is elated that over 4000 class 10 passed students will no more be ‘cut-off’ from mainstream education.

The government will work for the gainful engagement of all class 12 students so that the burden of class 10 is not shifted to class 12.

The government is happy to bear the upfront cost of implementing this policy because we are aware that we will not be able to sustain supporting thousands of class 10 dropouts being added to the pool of jobseekers in the market.

Taking advice and guidance from the expert educationists, the government has agreed to discontinue examinations for classes PP-3 from the next academic session and for the rest in the following sessions. This time-gap is being considered mainly to educate and train our teachers as we shift from summative to formative style of education.

The government is thankful to all the expat educationists for their valuable advices and inputs. 

 

8.     Institute the fourth pay commission to revise civil service salaries and allowances. 

9.     Review and revise working conditions and salaries of RBP personal to ease long duty hours and appropriate compensation for additional duties. 

[ACHIEVED – DRAFT EXPECTED IN A MONTHS TIME]

The government constituted the 4thPay Commission on 9thJanuary, 2019.

While the government awaits the recommendations of the 4thPay Commission, the government in addition to the deserved raise has emphasized for a ‘WOW,’ factor which can be simplified as performance-based allowance/incentives for all who work beyond time, have to be on call (civil servants; police personnel; emergency service providers; firefighters and others) and deserve allowances/incentives for the value of their work. This is an initiative from the government so that people who work extra be paid extra and their efforts appreciated.

 

10.  Begin projects to address stray dog problem, manage wastes more efficiently and develop a blue print for building adequate residential complexes. 

 [ON TRACK]

 The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests has initiated a project proposal which is ready for fund mobilization on the issue of stray dog problems.

However, the government is planning to initiate a flagship program on ‘waste management’ which would also address the issue of stray dog problems. While the two may sound different, they are linked. At the current state, multiple agencies are involved in waste management whereby there is a fragmentation of efficient service delivery. The flagship on waste management will be managed by the Prime Minister’s office with an outlook into stray dog problems and proper waste management.

 

11.  Set up insurance schemes for farmers to protect their crops. 

[ACHIEVED]

The government is aware that when the crops grown and fostered over a period of time by our farmers are LOST to natural calamities or wildlife, the hard labor and time catered by our farmers are shackled. Realizing this, the government has inducted an insurance policy scheme for farmers.

While an insurance policy system was present, our farmers were not keen on it as it mandated them to pay premium. The Agriculture Ministry and Finance Ministry has held negotiations with insurance companies on this matter. The Finance Ministry has approved opening a Current Deposit (CD) Account for an Endowment Fund with an allocation of Nu. 20M in the FY 2018-19.

 

12.  Develop professional service standards and minimal turn-around times for all public services. 

[ACHIEVED]

13.  Institute mechanisms for delivery of all public services in gewogs and thromdes through one-stop shops.  

[ON TRACK]

 Efficient service delivery is an important mandate of the government and a right for the people.

The government with the Public Service and Grievance Redressal Division (PSGRD) under the Prime Minister’s Office held a 2-day consultative meeting with all stakeholders to assess and improve service delivery standards.

Professional service standards are already in place and minimum turn-around time for several public services have already been developed. The PSGRD has developed additional 77 services standards in addition to the already existing 74.

The PSGRD has a total of 151 services provided by 22 key agencies, in addition to the 85 services provided by Dzongkhags. Turnaround times have been set and monitoring mechanisms strengthened.

The government aims to better address public grievances with improvement in the eKaaselsystem, making it convenient for illiterate people. The government also plans to manage a webpage or social media portal [Facebook] to enable citizens to provide feedbacks.

 

14.  Contributing to decentralization process, support tshogpas by opening offices for them at chiwogs.  

 [ON TRACK]

Bhutan is a mountainous country with harsh geographical terrain. We are well aware about the scattered gewogs and villages in the country. Despite such rugged terrain, tshogpas from every chiwog dedicate their service to our villagers and act as a bridge between the gewog centers and villages which are sometimes very far.

With aspirations to help those tshogpas who serve in the remote corners of our country, the government aims to provide an office for those tshogpas. The Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs (MoHCA) is studying the case and working to rationalize the requirement for Tshogpa offices.

 

15.  Establish a tourism development board and initiate implementation of Bhutan Tourism Review, 2016recommendations.  

[ACHIEVED]

Tourism has always been accorded one of the highest priorities in the government and the first ever National Tourism Conference themed ‘Taking Tourism to the Top’ has further strengthened in enhancing and diversifying tourism in the country.

Taking cue from the Bhutan Tourism Review, 2016 which recommended a separate body to promote, market and raise concerns faced by agencies in promoting tourism, a 13-member ‘Tourism Development Board’ has been formed.

The 13-member board includes representatives from Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO), Handicraft Association of Bhutan (HAB), Hotels and Restaurants Association of Bhutan (HRAB), Guides Association of Bhutan (GAB), Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture & Forests, Ministry of Home & Cultural Affairs; Ministry of Labor & Human Resources; Ministry of Information & Communications, Gross National Happiness Commission and Director General of Tourism Council of Bhutan as the Chair.

The government is confident that the TDB will cater to function and recommend the government and Tourism Council of Bhutan in our prospects of ‘Taking Tourism to the Top’.

 

16.  Finalize a framework, in consultation with teachers nationwide, to reduce teacher workload. Provide administrative/HR support for extra/co-curricular activities. 

 [ON TRACK]

 While the government believes that youths are the backbone of our country, we are well versed that teachers shape our youths.

Teaching has always been titled as an important profession but, they have not been accorded the deference and stature they deserve.

The government, in an effort to ease workload for the teachers and provide HR and administrative support has been reviewing modes. The Ministry of Education has been facilitating appointment of support staff for sports and administration that will contribute in the reduction of workload for our teachers. The recent resolution of ‘no classes on Saturdays’ is also an initiative in subsiding workload of our teachers. This comes at a time when the government is working towards shifting from summative to formative style of education.

An in-depth analysis and discussions with the Royal Civil Service Commission will be carried out to discuss on the Individual Work Plan (IWP) for the teachers.

Education and teachers will receive attention from the government that they really deserve.

 

17.  Review the national youth policy and implement a national youth action plan to address the needs of our youths. 

[ON TRACK]

It is evident that the government accords a high priority in our youths who are our future leaders. The Youth Center Division under the Department of Youth & Sports, Ministry of Education is working on the development of the National Youth Policy and the implementation of the National Youth Plan. The Ministry on 23rdJanuary also organized a meeting between Ministry of Health, Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority, Youth Development Fund, Royal Bhutan Police, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs and Bhutan Olympic Committee to get feedbacks on the need for revision of the National Youth Policy.

The government has also urged participation of the Civil Society Organizations such as Youth Development Fund in engagement and grooming of our youths.

 

18.  Identify and list country’s skill needs and design a program to train youth for employment. Complete review of employment policies to strengthen it and draw up strategies to achieve jobs and livelihood opportunities for all. 

 [ON TRACK]

Unemployment has been issue that is being faced at a global level. Unemployment in Bhutan has also been increasing and the government recognizes the current status of mismatch between field of study and job.

The Ministry of Labor and Human Resources (MoLHR) has identified the skill-need of the country for the next five years and identified the 12thFYP HRD Masterplan for the Economic Sector (2018-23) to guide Labor Ministry on different HRD and skills interventions required.

The Masterplan has identified six broad sectors of tourism; construction; production; ICT; training & education; and services.

Labor Ministry has also initiated a long-term Skills Need Assessment under the ADB funded Skills Training and Education Pathway Upgradation Project (STEP-UP) to identify skills need of the country for the next 10-15 years. It will also include identifying the overseas skills requirement for developed countries such as Japan, Korea, Australia and Canada based on employment opportunities in these countries.

The government also plans to review the National Employment Policy (NEP) 2013 (through the support of WB) and the National HRD Policy 2010 and the draft TVET Policy 2013 (through the support of HELVETAS). The objectives are to take stock of the implementation status and achievements thereof and to align these policies to the current situation if necessary. Efforts will be made to harmonize these three policies with the change in the labour market and other relevant policies such as the Economic Development Policy (EDP) 2016, Tertiary Education Policy, draft National Education Policy, etc.

The government’s initiative in instituting an Employment Responsibility System (ERS) to bring a coordinated effort among different key agencies in fostering employment in the country. Specific targets for employment generation have been allocated to various ministries and agencies for the 12thFYP. The ERS will oversee implementation of the employment plan andwill provide a formal platform for the ministries/agencies to work together to address the issues. The overall system will be supported by the Bhutan Labour Market Information System and Job Portal System for seamless functioning.

The government hopes that such newer initiatives under the Ministry of Labor & Human resources will revitalize and assist in the employment opportunities for all.

 

19.  Enumerate and provide budget to all community lhakhangs to support them to conduct annual rituals and festivals. 

 [ON TRACK]

Culture and tradition is an embodiment and pride for all Bhutanese. The government’s initiative to provide budget to all community lhakhangs is an initiation by the government to support and enhance the flourishment of our culture and tradition.

The Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs is developing an inventory of all lhakhangs (zhungdratsang; private; community) to categorize and rationalize the eligibility of the lhakhangs.

The government aspires that this would not only support the lhakhangs but also keep the unique festivities and traditions of the communities alive. 

 

20.  Cabinet Ministers will use electric/hybrid cars for local travels.  

[NOT ACHIEVED]

The use of electric/hybrid cars is a step towards going green and reducing dependency on fossil fuels.

Working towards achieving this, the government has already enquired the rates of the hybrid cars. The government plans to auction a few prados and purchase hybrid cars for formal use, while saving a few existing SUVs for distance travels.

 

21.  Meet taxi tshogpa, thromde representatives and other agencies to address issues facing taxi drivers over parking space, professional driving license and ownership, age of vehicles and age of drivers. 

[ACHIEVED]

On 25thFebruary, Lyonchhen, MoIC Lyonpo and officials from MoIC met the taxi operators. The following decisions were undertaken:

a)    No educational qualification required to attend Professional Driving License (PDL) course and obtain a PDL.

b)   Maximum age limit to be marinated at 65 years of age.  The government believes that more than the age, the medical fitness of the taxi driver is a matter of concern, which will be regulated.

c)    To increase lifespan of operation of taxi from 9 to 12 years. The government merits the road worthiness and quality of the car as more important factor than the operational years.

d)   Discontinuing the region based use of taxis.

The government is also in discussion with Dzongkhags and Thromdes on parking spaces for taxis as taxi stands should be in prime locations for easy use by the public.

 

22.  Review the 12thPlan to include revolving fund for CSOs and funds for film and documentary production.

  [ON-TRACK]

Civil Society Organizations are important non-governmental bodies in any country. The government aimed to include a revolving fund for CSOs in the 12th Plan. However, a revolving fund is already existent.

The government however is working in involving the CSOs as the country graduates from Least Developed Country to Middle Income Country and partnering with CSOs in combatting the cross-overs and duplications of services provided by the government.

The government has met few CSOs such as Bhutan Toilet Organization and queried if they would be interested in managing toilets throughout the country.

The government will meet other CSOs and work to partner with them while also making use of our Embassies/Missions/Consulate offices to fund drive for the CSOs.

 

23.  Initiate Sonam Gongphel project where the government will buy farmer’s produces. Review and revise the function of farm shops to buy from farmers at floor price without impeding small businesses in the gewog. 

[ON TRACK]

The government aims to graduate from subsistence to commercial farming with initiatives of cooperative farming groups and buy-back mechanisms. The government is looking at redefining the roles of FCBL, Bhutan Post and farm shops; and establishment of cold chain system (storage and transportation).

This government is also looking at solving the unemployment issue through the agriculture sector.

We are aware of the huge import of agricultural products in the country and the unexplored domestic potential.

 

24. Establish a private sector development committee led by the Finance Minister in partnership with BCCI. Together implement Private Sector Development – The Way Forward, 2016recommendations. 

 [ACHIEVED]

As the country graduates from the status of Least Developed Country to Middle Income Country, it is eminent for the private sector to be strengthened.

In line to strengthening the private sector, the government on 5thMarch established the Private Sector Development Committee (PSDC) chaired by Economic Affairs Minister. The committee is reviewing the Private Sector Development – The Way Forward, 2016.

The government has also directed all the Ministries to relook into the State-Owned Enterprises for proper review so that the SOEs do not impede the private sector development. On the road to private sector development, the government is also reviewing FDI and CSI policies.

The government will engage CSOs and private sectors professionally to avoid duplication of services and waste of resources.

 

25. Initiate recruitment of domestic workers by reviewing and amending immigration rules and regulation. Institute stringent monitoring standards and guidelines for that. 

[ON TRACK]

The government has been clear on the recruitment of domestic workers. We however want our regulatory bodies to be strengthened for which chaired by the Labor Secretary with relevant agencies of Immigration, Census and Department of Employment, a committee has been formed.

 

The government in the last 120 days has worked to initiate the 25 pledges as promised while holding 14 LhengyeZhungtshog(Cabinet Meetings) and DensaMeets formulating decisions for the betterment of the country and the people.

The government believes that nothing can be achieved in isolation and; unity and coordination is strength. The government aspires and is committed in further improving and achieving the pledges for the strengthening of Bhutan.

 

WE PLEDGE TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT AND NOT JUST WHAT IS POPULAR.

 

 

***

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