If the government could translate the rationale used for prioritisation for the 13th Plan when it comes to connectivity, travelling around the country would be faster and easier. The priority, it says, is consolidation of existing highways over construction of new roads and bypasses.

We had built enough roads.  There is literally no place in the mountainous country that is not connected by a gewog or a farm road. What we need is  good roads or roads that can be used all throughout the year.  Since the first five-year plan in the 1960s, our priority was connectivity with roads being the foremost. We are still building, widening and repairing roads.

Drive around the country and we can see how roads have reached every nook and corner of the country. In fact, we can boast of connecting every settlement in the country with a motorable road. Laya, Sakeng or Merak are no longer remote. Once only reached after days on foot, these places are now hours away from the nearest dzongkhag headquarter.

With basic connectivity ensured, even if with a lot of speed bumps, the focus, as a middle income level country should be on shortening distances and improving the quality of the road.  Improved technology in road-building allows this with the minimum damage to the ecosystem. Cutting distance could mean reductions in transportation costs. As a landlocked country, the cost of transportation is one of the main drivers of inflation.

Elected governments  focused on connecting gewogs and villages with motorable roads for nearly a decade after transitioning to a democracy. That was the need, and it was delivered looking at  the freshly cut roads in all the gewogs.  The need has changed with time. It is improving connectivity by cutting distances. In fact, even villagers feel it would be not expensive to do so as some villages suddenly see more than one road connecting them.

The distance between the capital and the commercial hub in Phuentsholing has shortened by an hour or two, depending on the driving skills. Many feel that the so-called lifeline could be shortened if we follow the Wangchhu. An alternate route from Thimphu to Phuentsholing following the Wangchhu could be a new priority. In interior Bhutan, based on the topographic conditions, a lot of roads could be connected to “byass” the only roads built decades ago.

A good example could be connecting Chamgang in Thimphu to Nahi village in Wangdue across the Hinghlayla, the pass between the two dzongkhags. Village elders say it is an old trodden road that shortens the journey by a day when avoiding the Dochula pass.

As a mountainous country, the benefit of a  new road or a bypass could suddenly see many villages, gewogs and dzongkhags benefit. The Gyelposhing- Nganglam road is a good example. The Ura-Nangar bypass has enabled us to reach Mongar, even Trashigang in a day from Thimphu.