Bhutan embarked on the path to modernization and development by initiating the first socio-economic development plan in 1961. A decade later in 1971, His Majesty, the Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck constituted the Planning Commission, an independent body, with the then Crown Prince, HRH Jigme Singye Wangchuck as the Chairman and HRH Ashi Dechen Wangmo Wangchuck as the Vice-Chairperson. The 13 member Commission constituted of the Representatives of His Majesty, Speaker of the National Assembly, Ministers of the Government, Chairman and Representatives of the Royal Advisory Council, Secretary of the Ministry of Development (member secretary) and the Government of India Advisers in the Ministries of Development and Finance as Observers.
The broad functions of the Planning Commission and its Secretariat were to formulate overall development strategies and coordinate sectoral activities, policies and programmes, and formulate Five-Year Plans and programmes. The Commission was also responsible for aid management, co-ordinating inter-ministerial development programmes, and monitoring and evaluating programmes at the macro-level. It was also the role of the Commission to ensure the timely implementation of the Plans according to specified objectives and priorities.
His Majesty, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck was the Chairman of the Planning Commission from 1971 to 1991. In 1991, His Majesty the King relinquished the Chairmanship of the Planning Commission to ensure greater decentralization in the decision-making process. The Minister of the Planning Commission Secretariat, Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji was appointed as the new Chairman. The reconstituted Planning Commission had 15 members consisting of all the Representatives of His Majesty the King, the Chairman of the Royal Advisory Council and all ministers, deputy ministers, senior secretaries of the Government and the Chief Operations Officer of the armed forces.
In 1993 the role of aid management was transferred to the Ministry of Finance. Furthermore, in the same year the role of Dzongkhag Development Coordination was transferred from the Ministry of Home Affairs to the Planning Commission.
To enhance planning and its translation into programmes, Policy and Planning Divisions (PPDs) were established in the various ministries in 1991 after detailed discussions at various levels of the Government. The PPDs were set up to act as a direct professional link between the line agencies and the Planning Commission to improve the quality and efficiency of the planning process. A Technical Committee to assist and advise the Planning Commission on issues of technical and professional expertise was also established in 1991. It had 21 members comprising of heads of divisions and other technical personnel from various ministries and departments. The Committee was chaired by the members on a rotational basis and met as and when necessary.
With the dissolution of the Lhengyel Zhungtshog by Royal Decree in 1998, the Planning Commission was reconstituted. The Chairman of the Council of Ministers (all elected ministers) appointed Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, Finance Minister as the new Chairman of the Planning Commission on 10th August 1998. The Planning Commission was reconstituted with 17 members as per Government Order No.COM/02/42 issued on 27th January 1999. The members were appointed for a period of three years after which fifty percent of the membership would be changed and fifty percent would remain to retain continuity. The members were appointed based on their professional and individual capacities. The Technical Committee was dissolved in 1999, after the reconstitution of the Planning Commission.
The broad functions of the reconstituted Planning Commission were to:
On 28th December 1999, the Head of Government was appointed as the Chairman of the Planning Commission.
During the 94th session of the Planning Commission held on 6th February, 2000 it was recommended that the Cabinet Secretary and the Heads of Policy and Planning Divisions of the government agencies should be appointed as members of the Planning Commission. This proposal was approved during the 58th Coordination Committee Meeting of the Council of Ministers and the number of members to the Planning Commission was increased to nineteen including the Chairman and the Member Secretary. The 109th session, which was the very last Planning Commission meeting, was held on 13th June 2003. As a result of the restructuring exercise in the government, the Planning Commission was dissolved and its Secretariat was renamed as the Department of Planning and placed under the Ministry of Finance, with its mandate and functions remaining the same.
Following a resolution passed by the 84th session of the National Assembly, the Department of Planning was removed from the Ministry of Finance, and the Planning Commission was reconstituted in December 2005. The Prime Minister was appointed as the Chairman of the Commission, the nine ministers as members and the Commission’s Secretary as the member secretary.
In August 2007, with the dissolution of the Lhengye Zhungtshog, the Planning Commission was also dissolved and the function of aid coordination was transferred from the erstwhile Department of Aid and Debt Management to the Planning Commission and became the Development Cooperation Division. In September 2007 the functions of the Department of Local Governance related to local development was transferred to the Local Development Division of the Planning Commission. Along with this function, the responsibility for the Gewog Administrative Officers was also transferred to the Planning Commission. In October 2007, the Sustainable Development Secretariat under the Ministry of Finance was merged with the Planning Commission.
On January 24 2008, in line with the Executive Order PM/01/08/895 Planning Commission was renamed as the Gross National Happiness Commission. In addition to its existing responsibilities, the body also assumed the responsibilities of the Committee of Secretaries. Its main task as outlined in the executive order was to ensure that GNH is embedded firmly into policies and that proper coordination is undertaken to ensure proper implementation of plans and programs. The membership of the GNH Commission is as follows: PM as chairman, Cabinet Secretary as the vice chairman, secretaries to the ten ministries as well as the head of the National Environment Commission as members, and the GNHC Secretary as the member secretary. Amongst others, the GNH-ization of plans and policies will be focused on the immediate tasks of promoting the following objectives:
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