The Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay communicated a strong message to the 23 contractors who are widening the East-West highway: that he will personally monitor their progress and quality of work. Any poor quality would result in repercussions such as loss of future government contracts.
With an engineering background, it should be difficult for any corners to be cut, especially if lyonchoen is conducting the tests himself, during his frequent travels. Broadening the lateral highway is not only a government priority, it is important for the nation. It is the lifeline of central and eastern Bhutan.
The planned East-West highway along the international border, an alternative to the roadblock prone lateral highway is not going to come through soon. Therefore, it is only appropriate that we have a comfortable and reliable road from Thimphu to Trashigang.
Lyonchoen’s message to the contractors should not be taken as a warning or an ultimatum. It is an expression of the importance of the lateral highway for the country. For the last many decades, Bhutanese have been building roads. With the development of the private sector, more Bhutanese are taking part in building roads in the country. However, poor quality has always been an issue.
From Thimphu to the farm roads in rural Bhutan, quality of works have not lived up to the expectations of the people. It does not matter if it is an urban or a farm road, potholes pock mark our roads, sometimes, just a few months, or even days after it has been constructed.
The most common complaint from road users is the poor quality of roads everywhere, whether it is the thickness of the blacktopping or the cutting.
The private sector is profit oriented but that does not mean that scarce natural resources are wasted for ensuring the sector to survive and grow. Poor quality work will have broader implications on the national economy.
A start has been made with the Prime Minister promising to reward contractors who ensure quality work and punish those who compromise quality for profit. It is a bold decision and should set a good example. There is no rocket science needed in monitoring quality of works, especially building roads. The problem is we didn’t act, even after seeing new roads disintegrate mere days after completion.
After decades of building infrastructure in the country, we are complaining of the same quality problems. An elected government will be remembered if it can correct flaws in the system. A government will be remembered if it brings to heel, the contractors that have for far too long, exploited the system and given us substandard work.