AID: A re-prioritised list of projects was agreed to in the fourth annual Bhutan-India development cooperation talks held in New Delhi, yesterday.

In foreign affairs terminology, an agreed re-prioritisation means that cost escalations for certain projects have been approved by the Indian government. However, the cost escalations are addressed with funds being reallocated from other projects under the 11th Plan for which there have been savings.

The two delegations agreed to re-prioritise the construction of the 40-bed Tsirang hospital, the 40-bed Dewathang hospital, the new headquarters for the Election Commission of Bhutan, and the Rehabilitation Centre.

The two delegations also re-prioritised certain projects in the irrigation sector that include construction and rehabilitation of irrigation schemes.

India is contributing Nu 45 billion (B) for the 11th Plan, of which Nu 28B is under Project Tied Assistance (PTA), Nu 8.5B for the Small Development Project (SDP) programme, and Nu 8.5B is provided as Programme grant or development subsidy.

The two delegations also reviewed the overall progress of PTA projects. The PTA covers major priority sectors of socio-economic development like roads, bridges, education, health, construction of regional hospitals, engineering services, industries, energy, security, security, agriculture, livestock, judiciary, civil aviation, urban transport, sports, culture, ICT, e-governance, scholarships, and trainings, among others.

The two sides also noted with satisfaction the overall progress of SDPs, which are short gestation and community-oriented projects like drinking water schemes, irrigation, farm roads, and other kinds of basic infrastructure in rural areas.

The Indian government recently approved a total of 182 projects worth Nu 2.4B during the third Bhutan-India Small Development Project Committee meeting.

A total of 85 PTA projects and 485 SDPs have been broadly agreed for implementation during the current Plan period.

The annual development cooperation talks are the umbrella mechanism for discussing the Indian government’s bilateral development assistance to Bhutan.

The Bhutanese delegation thanked the Indian side for the steady and timely disbursement of funds and also highlighted fund release priorities for the next one year, it is stated in the press release.

The two delegations also agreed to hold the next annual development cooperation talks in Thimphu, some time next year.

The Bhutanese delegation was led by the foreign secretary, Tshering Dorji, while the external affairs secretary for economic relations and development partnership, Sujata Mehta, led the Indian side.

The talks were successfully held in a friendly atmosphere, the press release also pointed out.

Gyalsten K Dorji