By Tashi Dendup
The European Union (EU) committed its support of 31 M Euros to Bhutan for the next EU programming period which begins from 2021 to 2027.
The gesture comes despite the EU withdrawing their support in early 2020. The Gross National Happiness Commission’s (GNHC) Secretary said other development partners also assured their assistance.
A government press release stated that the EU support committed is regardless of the country’s graduation from the Least Developed Countries (LDC) category in 2023.
The Secretary of GNHC said: “With them we have this five year cooperation which actually officially concludes in 2020. But some of the activities are still ongoing so one major announcement was formally that irrespective of our graduation status, EU will continue to support Bhutan and they have already started working on our next phase of support which will go on from 2021 till 2027.”
The secretary added that Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation has also committed USD 1.5 M to help the country overcome the deficit for this financial year.
Besides, the Asian Development Bank has already committed its support of USD 307 M for the government’s 12th Five Year Plan. Of this, USD 44 M is given as grants and the remaining as high concessional loans.
Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said the development partners have asked Bhutan to focus on the recovery of the economy from the COVID pandemic and on the sustainable LDC graduation.
“It’s not just sufficient to graduate but to be able to graduate sustainably and to at least if not go higher but at least to maintain the middle-income status. So, I think this will be the two-critical focus; one is recovery of economy from the COVID pandemic and second one is on the sustainable graduation process,” said Dr Tandi Dorji, the foreign minister.
The government allocated Nu 4bn for COVID-19 related activities last financial year. Similarly, Nu 3bn is allocated this financial year.
Earlier in 2014 the European Commissioner for Development announced that the EU development programmes for Bhutan will triple in the 2014-2020 period in comparison with the allocation from the previous years.
The EU has focused on intensive support for Bhutan’s efforts towards poverty reduction, food security and – most recently – democratisation. The previous development programme for the time period 2007-2013 was worth €14 million and mainly provided support for renewable natural resources and enhancing good governance.
The total contribution of the EU to Bhutan’s development efforts since the early projects in the 80s adds up to more than €90 million.