The two-day Tenth Round Table Meeting (RTM) for Bhutan successfully concluded on 18 February 2008 in Thimphu. The RTM is the highest level of donor coordination between the Royal Government and its development partners. Over one hundred and thirty participants including 83 delegates representing 14 countries, 20 multilateral agencies and 4 NGOs as well as senior government officials, attended the meeting. The Meeting was marked by spirit of cooperation and a warm atmosphere of mutual understanding.
The meeting was co-chaired by Lyonpo Thinley Gyamtsho, Minister for Education and Mr. David E. Lockwood, Acting Regional Director for UNDP. The Bhutanese delegation made a series of presentations relating to Bhutan’s transition to parliamentary democracy, progress on the Millennium Development Goals and poverty reduction, Strategies and Priorities of the Tenth Five Year Plan and Developing the GNH Index. Presentations were also made on Macro Economic Framework and New Initiatives to Enhance Public Expenditure Management, Public-private Partnership, Human Resource Development & Employment Opportunities and the issue of the people in the camps in eastern Nepal.
The development partners commended the bold steps initiated by His Majesty towards the introduction of a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy aimed at promoting a system of governance that is more responsive and accountable to the people. They expressed satisfaction at the progress achieved in the implementation of the Ninth Five Year Plan. Development partners reaffirmed their commitment to continue their support towards addressing the emerging challenges facing Bhutan in ensuring a smooth transition to parliamentary democracy, at the same time as continuing support for the reduction of poverty.
The focus of the discussions was on Bhutan’s Tenth Five Year Plan, which will be the first Plan to be implemented under the reign of His Majesty the Fifth King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and the first elected government under parliamentary democracy. It was noted that ensuring successful implementation of the Tenth Plan is important towards building people’s confidence in the new system of governance. Over the next five year period, the Plan looks at reducing poverty levels from 23% to 15%, diversifying industrial base, tackling growing unemployment, meeting the growing cost of social service delivery and the political transition in the country. While impressive progress has been made towards improving the wellbeing of the Bhutanese people, the issue of high incremental costs to provide services for unreached communities is a challenge in ensuring balanced development. The Government highlighted the need for continued support from its development partners to sustain the pace of progress made in Bhutan’s development.
The development partners renewed their commitment to work collectively to attain Bhutan’s goals and objectives as outlined in the Tenth Five Year Plan, which is MDG based, and guided by the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness. They committed to aligning their future assistance with the Royal Government’s national priorities of the next five years.
In his concluding remarks, Lyonpo Thinley Gyamtsho, Minister of Education expressed appreciation to the development partners for their good will and continued support to Bhutan, which has been instrumental in successfully implementing Bhutan’s development plans. He reiterated the importance of the Tenth Plan and expressed Royal Government’s desire to continue the close consultations with the development partners to ensure that cooperation and the Tenth Plan was finalized simultaneously.
The Co-Chair of the meeting, Mr. David E. Lockwood, Acting Regional Director of UNDP stated that there was overall consensus among development partners to continue to support the government in its efforts to reduce poverty and attain the MDGs, in particular among its rural population where the greatest incidence of poverty prevails. There was also widespread support for the democratic transition currently underway and admiration of the foresight that made this possible. The critical importance of ensuring continued and sustained support of external development assistance for the Tenth Plan was widely recognized, under-pinning the democratic transition.
The 10th Round Table Meeting was timely for Bhutan and its development partners to jointly review the country’s progress made thus far and discuss Bhutan’s continued development during its transition period and beyond. The 10th Round Table Meeting has given a fresh momentum to the process of mutual cooperation and consultation between the Royal Government and its development partners.