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Helping Bhutan’s parliamentarians better understand economics

Yoichiro Ishihara's picture
Bhutanese Council Members and World Bank Staff
Bhutan's newly elected council members with World Bank staff. 

Members of parliament are valuable partners for the World Bank. They enact laws, shape and review development policies, and hold governments accountable for World Bank-financed programs. This applies for the landlocked Himalayan kingdom of  Bhutan. The role of its parliament has been increasing since the country’s successful transition from monarchy to constitutional monarchy in 2008. Through its engagement with these elected representatives, the World Bank effectively integrates citizen voice in its programs to achieve lasting and inclusive development results.
 
A joint workshop between the World Bank and National Council of Bhutan, the upper house, was a great opportunity for the World Bank to engage with the 25 newly elected National Council members.

Presenting the fundamentals of macroeconomics
Presenting the fundamentals of macroeconomics
Bhutan’s annual average economic growth rate at 7.6 percent is the third highest in the world. The national poverty rate declined from 23 percent in 2007 to 8 percent in 2017. Despite the progress, the country’s size, geography and economic structure make Bhutan vulnerable to shocks. The weak private sector has not been able to create quality jobs for educated youth.       
 
Under the development context, the three-day workshop on “Understanding the Fundamentals of Macroeconomics and the National Budget” on May 20-23, 2018 had two purposes: sharing World Bank’s knowledge and expertise on macroeconomics and budgeting, applying them to Bhutan, and exchanging views on Bhutan’s key development. To achieve these purposes, the workshop was conducted through the following sessions.
  • Macroeconomics for non-economists with applications for Bhutan: After explaining why macroeconomics is important for National Council members, this session focused on key concepts and approaches to macroeconomics. The approaches and concepts were applied to better understanding Bhutan’s economic context.
  • Macroeconomic policy analysis: This session explained the roles of the state, key macroeconomic policy tools and the governance framework. These were applied to Bhutan’s past macroeconomic challenges such as 2012 Indian Rupee shortage. Afterwards, the participants had an opportunity to apply the knowledge of two sessions to a case study.
  • Introduction and analysis of the national budget by the Ministry of Finance: During the session, the participants gained practical knowledge on the process of formulating, implementing, and accounting of the national/ sub-national budgets for Bhutan.
Group discussions on Bhutan’s development potential
Group discussions on Bhutan’s development potential
Regardless of academic background and experience, all participants actively participated in discussions on both theory and application of macroeconomics in Bhutan. Smiles and positive feedbacks from the participants showed appreciation for the sessions. The National Council members are now better equipped to apply macroeconomics into their work over the next five years. Honorable Chairperson, Tashi Dorji, said “this three-day workshop was very useful for the all National Council members to get used to economics and budget based on theories and practice in Bhutan”. This experience in the kingdom of Bhutan shows how the World Bank, as a knowledge bank, can use its development knowledge to effect development.