Round Table Meeting 2 September, 2011 – Bhutan will continue to be in need of donor assistance for its development activities, in fact until its vision, stretching as far as 2020, is realised.
That was what came out quite clear from both the prime minister’s address and that of the UN assistant secretary general’s in their opening addresses at the round table meeting that began yesterday.
Following a list of achievements and challenges that were highlighted in their ad- dresses, their underlying statement towards the end of their speeches was for donor agencies to continue supporting the country in its development activities.
Addressing a gathering of representatives from donor agencies, Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley said, in the nation’s earnest efforts to ensuring economic self-reliance, it had taken a number of initiatives in the Tenth Plan.
Among others, he talked about the country’s endeavours towards achieving the 10,000MW hydropower- project, four of which were under implementation, and its pursuing the promotion of a green and sustainable service economy and expansion of the hospitality industry.
“If all these go well, then we as partners will be able to achieve our shared goal of removing Bhutan from the list of aid dependent countries,” Lyonchhoen said. “Bhutan will be able to continue with its pursuit of GNH without external development assistance after the year 2020.”
Until that time, however, he implored the donors of the need for further investment to strengthen the socio- economic foundation, critical to the success of the political reforms and development that were underway.
In the same vein, UN assistant secretary general Dr Ajay Chhibber urged Bhutan’s development partners to continue their support to the government’s efforts, as they required to turn its people’s shared vision into something tangible.
“External assistance still finances a significant portion of the budget,” he said, adding it included capital investments crucial for boosting agricultural production, diversifying economy and improving social and other services in rural communities.
A drawdown in assistance, he explained, would mean, besides frustrating people’s growing demands and aspirations for improvements in living standards, foiling the promise of democracy, and to fully implement the millennium development goals.
“As a small, landlocked, least developed country, Bhutan is vulnerable to external shocks due to a narrow domestic economic base,” he said.
During the “meet the press” session later that day, about which Lyonchhoen made reference in the morning in front of the donors as its initiative to promote transparency, he said they would justify the need for same kind of resources as was received during the present plan.
“I made a pitch this morning,” he said. “I’m hoping we’ll get indications and commitments to continue their support.”
He explained how donor commitments were linked to one of the main goals and objectives for overseas development assistance for the donor countries.“That is to promote democracy,” he said, adding democracy was not fully established in Bhutan and that it was only emerging.
“We’re still in this transition and, if in this transition they abandon us, then they’ll have lost what they have achieved in their objective, that is to create a democracy here,” he said.
Lyonchhoen also said they wanted to make sure the outcome would be a good level of commitment for the Eleventh Plan, endorsement of country’s vision and, if possible, realignment with respect to the kind of direction the nation ought to pursue in the Twelfth Plan in the course of the discussions.
“Then being able to leave for the next government a comfortable level of resource commitments from the donors, so that it won’t be handicapped,” he said.
The second government, he said, was going to face tremendous difficulties, even to just maintain what the present government has been able to build and create.
“Until our 10,000MW hydropower plants start paying, including other efforts like the target of 100,000 tourists, donor assistance is crucial,” he said.
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