Connectivity: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will be ready to implement the Nganglam-Dewathang highway and the Lhamoizingkha-Sarpang highway once the security situation in the area improves.

While the 68.3km Nganglam-Dewathang highway (NDH) has been postponed, the 98km Lhamoizingkha-Sarpang highway has been dropped.

ADB vice president, Wencai Zhang, who was in the country for the signing of an assistance package, said ADB is still willing to provide support on the highways. “If the government comes back to us saying that the situation now is good enough we will be very happy to start again,” Wencai Zhang said. “We understand that the decision came mainly because of the security situation in that area,” he added.

However, the vice president said that the ADB is very much committed to supporting the road sector development. The southern highways, he said, were important programmes for enhancing connectivity in the country.

He said that the projects were already approved by the ADB and that the bank hopes it can continue road projects in future. “We should also make sure that there is safe environment so that we can implement the project.”

Wencai Zhang said that the ADB was waiting for the government to provide further information on the projects.

During his visit, the vice president held talks on the highways with Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and Finance Minister Namgay Dorji. “I conveyed that these are very important projects for us and Bhutan as well.”

To improve and diversify its economy, the vice president said, Bhutan needed a lot of reforms particularly improving infrastructures.

“We have a lot of beautiful mountains but at the same time they are hindering connectivity,” he said.

The vice president advised the government to develop a good connectivity system with good roads, airports and even a railway in future. Infrastructure, he said plays a vital role in developing the private sector.

The country was in need of private investment and increased manufacturing sectors, he said. “With this we can at least achieve self-reliance so that we don’t have to rely so much on imports,” he said.

Although Bhutan is good at hydropower, tourism, agriculture and mining sectors, he said the ADB is helping Bhutan identity some sectors where it can enjoy an advantage among competitors. The ADB is also helping the government get private investments in development projects.

He said that the government should develop skilled labour force as it has a high unemployment rate particularly among young people. “Although the population is very small job creation is very important.”

The vice president also attended the signing of the motor vehicle agreement among transport ministers of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal in Thimphu on Monday. He described the signing as a historical land mark agreement to enhance trade in the sub-region.

Wencai Zhang said the signing is expected to increase the regional trade and investment through smooth movement of goods and people.

He said movement of goods can enhance trade, investment and economic changes and people to people exchanges. “This really is the kind of efforts we are talking about for promoting economic corridor from the transport corridor.”

He said the ADB is very committed to helping the sub-region to implement the agreement. “This is a signing which we need to implement. We still have a lot of follow-up to do,” he said.

By MB Subba