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 instituted the Planning Commission as an independent body. 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 Planning Commission was also responsible for aid management, co-coordinating inter-ministerial development programmes, and monitoring and evaluating programmes at the macro-level. It was also the role of the Commission to ensure timely implementation of the Plans according to specified objectives and priorities.
In 1993 the role of aid management was transferred to the Ministry of Finance from Planning Commission. 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 bridge between the line agencies and the Planning Commission to improve the quality and efficiency of the planning process.
In 1995, the Planning Commission became the Ministry of Planning. It reverted back to Planning Commission in 1998 when His Majesty the fourth king dissolved the then existing Lhengye Zhungtshog and devolved executive powers to an elected Council of Ministers. But in June 2003, the Planning Commission was dissolved and its secretariat was renamed as the Department of Planning and placed under the Ministry of Finance.
The representatives of the people raised concerns over the dissolution of the erstwhile Planning Commission in the 84th session of the National Assembly. Accordingly, the 84th session of the National Assembly in 2005 passed a resolution to re-establish the Planning Commission. As a result, the Planning Commission was reconstituted with the Prime Minister as the Chairman and the Finance Minister as the Vice Chairman, all government secretaries including the Secretary of the National Environment Commission and the GNHC Secretary as the member secretary. The Department of Planning was also separated from the Ministry of Finance on 15th
December 2005, and renamed the Planning Commission Secretariat (PCS).
In 2007, in recognition of Bhutan’s unique development philosophy of Gross National Happiness, the Planning Commission was renamed the GNH Commission and the PCS became the GNH Commission Secretariat (GNHCS). The GNHCS would follow the same mandates as the PCS and also be responsible for ensuring that national development would promote the happiness of all Bhutanese. With the repositioning of the organization as a Commission and the recent political changes taking place in the country, the Commission and its stakeholders see the GNHC and the GNHCS as a knowledge-based service provider and facilitator. The value of GNHCS largely depends on how effectively it is able to undertake this role and establish itself as a credible national authority on planning and policy guidance. The goals and Objectives of GNHCS are shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Goals & Objectives of the GNHCS
1.b Client System and Services Provided
The GNHC services are cross sectoral in nature. The client system and services provided are grouped into four categories.
i. Line Ministries, Agencies & Local Governments
The main mission of GNH Commission Secretariat as articulated is to steer national development towards promotion of happiness for all Bhutanese guided by the philosophy of GNH. In order to do this, GNHCS must provide the overall policy guidelines and frameworks to ensure that all line ministries and local governments’ plans and efforts conform to national development priorities.
In addition, the GNHCS must make funds available to these agencies in a timely manner for capital investment projects. Funds are mobilized through resource mobilization exercises.
The GNHCS must also facilitate problem solving (debottlenecking) between concerned stakeholders to ensure smooth implementation of planned programs and activities.
ii. International Development Partners
In order to supplement the internal financial resources, the GNHCS mobilizes resources through development partners and must liaise closely to ensure smooth implementation of committed grants. The GNHCS currently is the focal resource mobilization agency for in-country development partners and the GNHCS must provide streamlined procedures and alignment of Official Development Assistance with national development priorities.
iii. Bhutanese People
While GNHCS is not a direct implementing agency, it is serving the people of Bhutan who expect their Government to meet their identified needs through planned development. GNHCS is especially responsible for incorporating the needs of the most vulnerable groups and mainstreaming all crosscutting development issues into national and local plans and policies. GNHCS therefore must ensure that while preparing all mid-term and long-term development vision of the country, the aspirations of the Bhutanese People as captured by the concept of GNH is always accorded top priority.
iv. Policy and Lawmakers –GNH Commission
Policy and lawmakers rely on the GNHCS to provide the complete geo-political perspective of the country at any given time. The GNHCS must provide evidence based policy guidance and advice on a wide range of development issues including the macro-economic issues facing the country and recommend remedial measures as well as provide perspectives for the future.