Cross-cutting issues to be addressed during the 13th Plan Period

TASHI LHAMO
Thimphu

Bhutan faces a range of cross-cutting issues that are inextricably linked to its sustainable development efforts, with potential impact on progress across multiple domains of GNH.

These concerns need to be addressed systematically through integration into decision-making processes encompassing policy, planning, and budgeting, as well as program implementation under all clusters.

Despite constitutional and policy guarantees of equality, the full realization of gender equality and women’s empowerment continues to be hindered by structural and cultural norms.

Bhutan ranks 126th out of 146 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report 2022 rankings – which uses indicators of political empowerment, health and survival, educational attainment, and economic participation and opportunity to assess the extent of gender parity.

Areas warranting attention include maternal and reproductive health, enrolment and completion in tertiary education, low participation in public decision-making and political spheres, and gender-based violence.

Critical processes requiring sustained effort include gender mainstreaming processes, implementation of legislation and policies, and capacities for the collection and use of sex-disaggregated data.

As global and regional average temperatures continue to rise, Bhutan remains highly susceptible to climate change impacts with far-reaching implications. It faces a range of natural and man-made hazards that threaten lives, livelihoods, infrastructure, and the economy. Disadvantaged communities are disproportionately affected or at risk, worsened by rapid urbanization.

Meanwhile, with development imperatives placing increasing pressure on the natural environment and resources, Bhutan faces the critical challenge of managing co-benefits and trade-offs and balancing conservation with development.

Integration of climate action into local plans, especially for key urban centers, and building resilience to the impacts of climate change are critical for the country.

However, this requires strengthened capacities for taking climate action – which encompasses improved climate data and research, integration of climate change into education, and technical capacities for understanding and implementing international environmental legal instruments.

A proactive approach to disaster risk reduction and preparedness – which also accounts for pandemics and other emergencies – is an urgent priority. Currently, this is hindered by lack of a strategic overview and risk-informed development approach, poor multi-sectoral coordination, and inadequate infrastructure and capacities of key institutions, among other factors.

There is limited capacity for the integration of DRR in infrastructure planning and development and sensitivity to the differentiated needs of vulnerable groups.

Poverty reduction has been a key aspect of Bhutan’s development agenda. Over the 10th FYP (2008-2013) and 11th FYP (2013-2018) periods, efforts intensified with targeted programs to root out extreme poverty. Since the 12th FYP (2018-2023), interventions to reduce poverty and inequality have been mainstreamed across multi-sectoral programs.

 In 2022, Bhutan’s poverty rate was set at 12.4 percent, based on an upward revised poverty line – which indicates that 12 out of every 100 individuals belong to households with a monthly per capita real expenditure below Nu 6,204.

Additionally, 0.4 percent of the population was classified as subsistence poor, with four out of every 100 persons residing in households with a monthly per capita consumption below the food requirements of BTN 2,852. Poverty incidence is higher in Zhemgang, Samdrup Jongkhar, Samtse, and Trongsa, while Thimphu and Punakha have the lowest poverty rates. All four Thromdes consistently exhibit poverty rates below 10 percent.

The 13th FYP – which is anchored on the 3Ps of ‘people’, ‘progress’ and ‘prosperity’ – is inherently designed to address poverty in all its forms, as it strives to uplift living standards and ensure a high quality of life for all its people by attaining high-income status.

Moreover, to ensure that the vulnerable do not fall through the cracks, there are several initiatives such as providing affordable housing; enhancing boarding facilities; instituting social protection schemes for vulnerable persons; and ensuring adequate resources for places with high poverty incidence by using poverty as a criterion for LG resource allocation.

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