To continue or not to continue with 5-year plan

Puran Gurung/Thimphu The ruling DNT government is resolute that the five-year-based development planning must discontinue because it is not relevant any more in a fast changing world. The model influenced by India has served Bhutan since 1961 when the first five-year plan was begun but, today, in a world that is driven by technologies which are changing lightning fast, finding an alternative is not a choice but a necessity, according to the government. “Things are changing so fast,” said Foreign Minister, Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji. “We are looking for an alternative.” He clarified however that the government is not fully scrapping the five-year-plan as we know it. The bigger vision and direction for the country, as spelt out by His Majesty The King, will continue to pave the country’s way forward. For example, attention to thrust areas such as telecommunications, infrastructure, road, investment on STEM subjects and IT will continue irrespective of whichever government comes to power. “Five years is a very long time – technology, information, what is relevant today may not be relevant five years later,” said Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji. “We are saying that things are moving so fast, everything is going online and that we now need a shorter planning.” The five-year plan development model was first launched in the Soviet Union with many other countries following in its footsteps. However, these very countries today are doing away with this system and resorting to shorter models. A shorter plan period will also allow political parties to help fulfil their mandate and pledges to the people, according to Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji. With inherent flexibility, the parties will be able to incorporate their campaign pledges within the plan. “Today, we are running the government and we have put our pledges in the five-year plan but in the next election, if a new party comes to power, they may not be able to do so as easily,” the minister said. He allayed concern raised by the opposition DPT party that giving up the “time tested five-year plans” may give rise to “politicised planning”. The gewogs will decide what they want and likewise the government, which was elected in the first place based on its campaign platform, must also fulfil its pledges. He asked: “How does this politicise things? “The role of the bureaucracy is to ensure that the government of the day is supported, and if something is not in the interest of the country, there is a procedure to scrap it.” The opposition leader, Lyonpo Dorji Wangdi, continues to insist that to consider finding an alternative to five-year plan is dangerous. Preparation of a draft Five-Year plan is critical to inclusive, equitable and balanced outcomes of socio-economic development of the country. It provides continuity from one plan to another, and forms an important basis for an elected government to build its five-year development plans and programmes in line with the overarching national vision and goals. ‘Dangerously, it will lead to highly arbitrary and politicised planning and resource allocation, undermining the functions of different institutions of governance, local governments, for example,” HE SAID. “A draft plan will be critical to both domestic and external resource planning and mobilization too. Thus, it will be a big blunder on the part of the present Government to do away with the practice of preparing a draft Five-Year Plan.” Meanwhile, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has come out in support of the government “if there are alternatives”. The party pointed out that there is no written provision anywhere that it is compulsory to continue with the five-year plan. “However, before we discontinue with the current system, we must first question ourselves if we have a better system on our side to serve the purpose,” stated a news release from the PDP According to the PDP, the current system provides a clear picture of how and when developmental plans are to be executed, the budget required for timely execution and implementation. The five-year plan also sets out a framework for the government's action along with that of local governments and in mobilising internal resources and external funding. Bhutan is currently implementing the 12th Five-Year-Plan.