Opposition and PDP whip govt. on recent budget allocation fiasco

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa
People’s Democratic Party

SONAM PENJOR

Thimphu

The Opposition Party has alleged that the Government has diverted disproportionate amount of budget to the Prime Minister’s and Bye-Election Candidate’s Constituencies, including accusations that some 12th Plan activities have been redrawn to meet their selfish gains.

Further, as reflected in the Annual Audit Report of 2020-2021, it has been reported that a substantial amount of General Reserve Funds (GRF) have been transferred to normal local development activities, particularly the Finance Minister’s Constituency which the Opposition states as ‘unethical.’

A press release from the Opposition Party states, “We take the cognizance of the fact that the government had to reprioritize some planned and budgeted activities given the difficult situation the Covid-19 pandemic brought about. We also recognize the executive power vested in the government to reprioritize the plan activities to keep the plan dynamic and responsive to the needs of the situation.”

Stating that the matter is of serious concern, the Opposition Party said the government has breached sections of the Constitution, Public Finance Act and Resource Allocation Formula (RAF). The RAF, among others requires ensuring equitable and balanced development through fair distribution of our limited public resources.

“Moreover, the reprioritized activities and budgets have not been reported to Parliament. Such exercise of powers by the Government sets a wrong and a deeply worrying precedent,” the Opposition alleged.

The press release also states that the power to reprioritize or make technical adjustments is not a license to discriminate other constituencies and favour some.

“Though the government has the leverage to align its priorities with the overall plan endorsed by Parliament, it is wrong to exercise that leverage at the expense of long-established national practice of ensuring fairness in planning processes and outcomes,” the press release questions, adding it is the constitutional duty of the government to ensure fairness and objectivity in undertaking development activities.

In some important areas of reprioritization of plan activities and adding new ones as the government priorities, the press release further states that there is a crystal-clear unashamed pandering to the temptation of meeting the bye-election promises and discrimination among the constituencies.

On the scale of priority, the bye-election constituencies have been given more importance over other constituencies. Even the constituencies represented by the ruling party Members of Parliament have been given step-motherly treatment compared to bye-election ones.

“It is difficult to not be understood as ‘policy corruption’. What kind of precedence is the government creating in the governance architecture of the country,” the press release opines.

“We are compelled to question the government to explain the source of legitimacy to discriminate among constituencies and regions. It is not about questioning and undermining the authority of the government, but more about the ‘element of abuse and adulteration of the authority and duty’ the people placed in the government of the day – through the expression of their constitutional mandate and right to elect a responsible, transparent, fair, and accountable government.”

The country is into the thirteenth year since the inception of parliamentary governments. The press release further states that records show that no previous governments distorted the fundamental principles of equity in development in the name of reprioritization and new priorities in the measure the present government is up to.

“This will set a precedent that will not only polarize politics of which the Bhutanese will surely not be proud of in future, but also defeat the decades-old national planning goal to pursue equitable and regionally balanced development approach,” the Opposition asserted.

They said the immediate results of distortions would compromise the national priority projects to accommodate bye-election pledges and discriminatory objectives.

The Opposition Party further urges the government to reassess the reprioritized and de-prioritized plan activities to ensure the implementation of the current plan meets is ultimate objective: equitable and balanced development. Moreover, the reassessment is crucial to ensure a political party’s objectives are prevented from masquerading the overall sound planning and development goals.

Meanwhile, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) also issued a press release wherein it states that the government of the day has reprioritized planned activities from 12th Five Year Plan (FYP) and pumped the budget into the constituencies of the Prime Minister and to fulfil the pledges made during the by-elections in Chhoekhor-Tang and Monggar constituencies.

This is besides the Nu 19-million (m) funded from the GRF into the Finance Minister’s constituency in Paro.

According to the figures compiled by the Opposition Party, Nu 2,685-m worth of activities in the 12FYP were deprioritized.

In addition, the press release adds that the Government has re-prioritized Nu 385-m worth of works all in the Prime Minister’s constituency and the two constituencies won by Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa during the by-elections in Chhoekhor-Tang and Monggar.

“If not for political mileage, blacktopping of Genekha gewog center road was completed just in 2018 with a cost of about Nu 15-m. Road improvement seems unnecessary,” PDP alleged.