Yangchen C Rinzin  

Construction of dry ports at Pasakha, Gelephu, and Nganglam are some of the new and critical infrastructure activities frontloaded in the 12th Five-Year Plan (FYP), owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

These are a part of the three major new activities the government had to reprioritise and adopt in the 12th FYP as part of the Covid-19 interventions and Economic Contingency plan.

The initial plan was to only prepare detailed project reports for Gelephu and Nganglam, according to officials from the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) Secretariat. However, the construction of dry ports had to be frontloaded to be implemented within the 12th FYP to facilitate trade and the import of essentials.

Realising the importance of internal connectivity during the lockdowns, construction of internal connectivity roads such as Samrang to Jomotsangkha, and Gomtu to Tading gewog in Samtse, were major road projects prioritised in the 12th FYP. Jomotsangkha drungkhag and Gomtu are not currently connected internally.

The government identified or reprioritised critical infrastructure facilities based on the potential for the activities in question to enhance the local economy and create jobs, as well as the readiness and resources situation of the planned programmes, and expenditure trends and implementation status of the activities.

The government also frontloaded activities based on the availability of raw materials and domestic labour to implement the activities.  

“We’ve retained activities and incorporated new initiatives that are important and contribute to socio-economic development and engage unemployed youth,” a GNHC official said. “It also includes prioritisation of activities in health, food security, local economy, and job creation at the local government level.”

Construction of a petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) depot in Mongar, cold-storage facilities, and the improvement of farm roads in all dzongkhags were also brought forward for implementation.

“The establishment of industrial estates was also activated to fast-track development and operationalise businesses and create employment opportunities,” the official said.

A GNHC official said that farm road improvements were reprioritised, considering the minimal requirements for imported labour. The improvements can be managed with local workers, using domestic raw materials.

“The frontloaded activities are being implemented and progress is well on track,” the official said. “Reprioritisation has enabled sectors to undertake viable activities, thereby ensuring that there is economic growth despite challenges posed by the pandemic.”

A total of Nu 1.048 billion in additional grants was also mobilised from development partners in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as support for the vaccination roll-out, Covid-19 waste management, and supply of health-related equipment, surgical masks and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), among others.

Initially, Nu 116 billion was the 12th FYP capital outlay, which was revised to Nu 117.234 billion later for central agencies, local government, flagship programmes, and the Bhutan Economic Stabilisation Fund.

Nu 53.033 billion has been spent against the revised outlay so far.

Activities were mainly reprioritised at the central agencies level; activities such as the construction of offices, staff quarters, regional offices, and dzongkhag courts were deprioritised.

“Capacity building activities and awareness programmes were also deprioritised, and the budget from these activities was allocated to support Covid-19 activities or responses,” said the official.

Edited  by Tshering Palden