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Govt. says economic growth impressive, Opposition disagrees

Although the government will be unable to achieve the 10% economic growth which it had pledged to achieve during its tenure, Finance Minister Namgay Dorji maintained that the growth has been impressive so far compared to the situation it had been when the present government took over in 2013.

However, Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho told Business Bhutan that it’s just a lame excuse for justifying the government’s failure. “The present government came to power on the campaign platform to improve the allegedly ailing economy,” he said.

Responding to query on the country’s economic growth from the media during the Meet The Press on Wednesday, the finance minister told local journalists that the health of the economy is very important and people of the Bhutan need to know the health of the economy.

“And it is important that media and the journalists have to put the right perspective on the health of the economy of our country. When it comes to our case, the health of the economy was bad in 2013 when we took the reign of the government. But with policy interventions it was immediate and it is important that we should know about it. Firstly, the impact was there within a short span of time and the growth was very impressive,” he explained.

Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay added that in the 11th FYP document, the average growth was projected to be around 12% per annum and the figure was published by civil servants during the 10th FYP. GDP was estimated to grow by 7.07% and in reality it grew by 2.06% in 2013. Then GDP was projected at 17.36% for 2016-2017 and at 24% in 2017-2018; driven largely by electricity through the commissioning of PHPA I project in 2017 and Mangdechhu project in 2018.

“So it’s not that the government has calculated and changed the figures,” Lyonchhen said, attributing the delay in completion of PHPA I and Mangdechhu as reason the government won’t be able to achieve the 10% economic growth.

“Punatshangchhu I was supposed to be complete by November 2017 and II was to be complete by 2018, likewise Mangdechhu was supposed to be complete by March 2018. All these mega projects have been deferred beyond the control of the government which made achieving the 10% economic growth not possible,” he added.

Even if the government is not able to achieve the stipulated economic growth, according to Lyonchhen, the country’s economic growth measured by World Bank and growth projected by IMF and The Economist is commendable.

“It will continue because our interest rates have fallen, Rural Economic Development Corporation is being expanded, Priority Sector Lending has been institutionalized. Fuel prices have been slashed which will add to economic growth addition to hydropower,” Lyonchhen added.

Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho, however, said the government, at the end of their term, can’t blame the past government as they did it at the beginning of their term.

“As far as what we observe, the government has not initiated or implemented a single project that could enhance our economy or generate employment. Hence, even whatever the government has reported is a result of the works done or initiated by the previous government,” he said.

Yenten Thinley from Thimphu