Thimphu: the government will implement all the remaining activities of the 10th five year plan within December 2012, six months ahead of deadline, and ensure that the plan’s primary objective of reducing poverty to 15percent or less achieved. Holding a press conference in Thimphu yesterday, the Gross National Happiness Commission Secretary, Karma Tshiteem, said the consolidated assessment in the 20 dzongkhags and 205 geowgs during the mid-term review showed that the government is well on track to meet the targets.
He added that the government is not only ” confident” of completing all planned activities within its set deadline but that the remaining six months will be spent on carrying out ” finishing touches’ to the planned activities, if required.
The secretary reported that, financially, 52 percent of the activities had been completed although it was reported that the actual expenditure incurred, against what the government had provided, was 68 percent.
In all, during the first two years of the plan, 1,350 kilometers of farm roads-dubbed the single biggest maker of impact to poverty reduction-were constructed, rural drinking water coverage had reached 93 percent, and 94 percent of children nationwide were enrolled in schools. Likewise, 76percent of the populations had mobile connectivity while 61percent of the households had access to electricity. In terms of health indicators, the achievements had already surpassed the targets of the millennium development goals.
” In order to solve any bottlenecks in implementing the remaining developmental activities, the central government will monitor the dzongkhags and the dzongkhags in turn will monitor the geowgs”, Karma Tshiteem said. The secretary indentified lack of contractors and engineers, maintenance of farm-roads, and stringent procurement guidelines as some major issues and challenges confronting the government.
Another glaring issue, he said, was that a few schools in the rural areas would have to closed down because of a drastic drop in enrollment caused by a dwindling population of children in the villages. Based on the mid-term review, the government had also taken some major decisions. It was agreed that all the farm roads will be soled properly, instead of 60 percent as had been targeted at the inception of the plan. Similarly, our-reach centers will be constructed with locally available resources, and every dzongkhag will be provided with a heavy machinery – pay loader – to maintain the farm roads.
Concurrently, villagers will be encouraged with financial support from the Bhutan Development Finance Corporation Limited to construct and rent out houses/staff quarters for officials working in the rural areas. Special support will be provided to those living in the highlands as it is not feasible and practical to construct roads. Additionally, students hailing from the highlands will be given scholarships to complete their under-graduate and graduate studies provided they return and work in their own villages.
The 10th plan goal to reduce poverty is to be achieved through a minimum program. These include connecting all geowgs with roads, mobile phones and electricity, providing every household with clean drinking water, ensuring 100% primary enrollment, and creating easier access to improved health services. ” We focused on these areas because we know for certain that if we achieve these, then there will be a very positive and significant impact on the overall objectives of reducing poverty”, Karma Tshiteem said.
He added that the mid-term review was a very effective exercise for the government and the local leaders, especially the gups who now have a clearer idea of their roles and responsibilities. ” Overall what we saw in the MTR (mid-term review), we feel we will have a very positive impact on strengthening decentralization in terms of creating awareness of how the three layers of the government – the central government agencies, the dzongkhags and the geowgs – all come together to achieve common aspirations like reducing poverty”, he said.
According to the secretary, one clear message that went out to the local governments was no more money beyond what has been already provided and that as local leaders they must reprioritize those activities which are most important and beneficial.
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