MB Subba

The economic affairs ministry reported significant progress in the business infrastructure at the 12th Plan mid-term review (MTR) held on April 15 in Thimphu.  

The ministry reported to the MTR which was chaired by the prime minister that 75 percent of the works at both the Dhamdum and Jigmeling industrial parks had been completed. Most of the basic amenities, it reported, have been put in place. 

The work progress at the Motanga In Samdrupjongkhar industrial park stands at 61 percent. 

The Dhamdum industrial park in Samtse is being undertaken under the Government of India’s project tied assistance. Spreading over 730 acres of flatland, Jigmeling industrial park in Gelephu is expected to be the biggest in the country.

A total of 14 business units have initiated the construction of their firms in the three industrial parks, of which three have already started to operate. The ministry expects that about 20 industries will be fully operational by the fiscal year 2021-22.

The construction of the industrial parks is expected to enhance economic growth through sector diversification and creation of businesses and the promotion of exports. 

Officials said that labour shortages posed challenges against completing the projects on time. The works are likely to be frontloaded, which means that the completion deadline and funds could be adjusted. 

About 15 percent of the works at the Pasakha dry port, which will be the largest in the country, have been completed. 

Economic affairs secretary, Karma Tshering, said that about 30 percent of the construction of the retention wall of the dry port has been completed. He added construction of an approach road has also been initiated. 

The secretary said that about 15-20 percent of the work of the dry port is estimated to spill over to the next Plan. A total of Nu 943.65 million (M) has been earmarked for the project that is expected to be completed in 2024. 

“The Pasakha mini dry port has been of crucial importance during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said on the importance of the new dry port. 

The dry port is strategically located near the Pasakha industrial estate and Bhutan-India border at the Allay land customs station. 

The government says that the need for dry port facilities has become critical and necessary to address the logistical challenges faced by landlocked Bhutan for import and export of goods.

The economic affairs secretary also reported that 54.73 percent of physical progress has been achieved at a CSI (cottage and small industry) estate at Changchey in Tsirang. The financial progress reported was 98.9 percent.

The ministry has six main programmes in the 12th Plan—enhancing economic growth through sector diversification, creating business and investment-friendly environment, export promotion, enhancing sustainable hydropower generation and transmission, assessment and reduction of risks associated with geo-hazard and promotion of use of alternative energy.

The budget for the ministry has been revised at Nu 4.989 billion (B). The ministry reported a budget utilisation of Nu 1.419B, which is 42.3 percent of the total allocation in the first half of the five-year period. 

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that there were no high expectations in terms of the ministry’s performance in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The MTR, which started on April 15 was the first official engagement of the prime minister after completing his 21-day quarantine. He had returned from an official visit to Bangladesh. 

“We may not need to conduct MTR if APA is planned and implemented seriously,” Lyonchhen said. He added that APA results would be one of the bases for promotion of department heads. 

He added that framing of APAs, must be in the context of the pandemic and the changing global context. 

He said that it was for the first time that APA and allocation of the budget for a new financial year (2021-22) was taking place simultaneously. This is expected to help the government identify needs and priorities and allocate the budget accordingly. 

Lyonchhen urged that ministries and departments should focus on not only the quantity but also the quality of APA targets.