Claims PM’s office is already looking into the issue

MB Subba

The National Assembly yesterday shot down the motion to relocate some government offices, departments and institutions from Thimphu to other regions and dzongkhags to promote balanced regional development.

Most members supported the objective of the motion but did not support its adoption. They were of the view that relocation of offices alone would not promote balanced regional development and that such decisions should not be rushed.

Relocation of offices to decongest Thimphu and promotion of balanced regional development are two of the government’s main pledges.

Member of National Assembly from the Jomotsangkha Martshala constituency, Norbu Wangzom moved the motion. Opposition members and a few ruling party members spoke in favour of the motion.

Citing the Population and Housing Census of Bhutan, Norbu Wangzom said that Thimphu’s population had reached about 138,736, which is almost 18 percent of the total population, as most government offices were located in the dzongkhag.

The increase in the population would lead to overcrowding and related problems. “Some of the challenges faced by the city’s population are high rents and lack of housing, increasing vehicle numbers and air pollution,” she said.

Norbu Wangzom also highlighted overcrowding of schools, waste management issues and deteriorating quality of public services as a growing concern due to overcrowding of Thimphu. She moved the motion to carry out a study on relocation of some government offices to other dzongkhags within the 12th Plan.

Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD), who supported the motion, said that most offices were established in Thimphu due to lack of communication facilities in the past.

“Today, it’s not required for all offices to be located in the same place as there are many modern means of communication and virtual meetings are possible. If there is a need to meet officials in person the travel time has been reduced,” he said.

Water shortages and crimes, the opposition leader said, would become some of biggest problems in the city in the future. He also cautioned possible epidemics of infectious diseases such as coronavirus (COVID-19) could spread beyond control if the city is overcrowded.

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said that the government was already working towards resolving the overcrowding issue. He said that many institutions were established during the past governments’ tenures but none of the offices were established out of Thimphu.

“Our party, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa, had mentioned clearly even in our 2013 manifesto that offices should be established in other dzongkhags, but we did not come to power. Now we have got the opportunity and we are working on it,” he said.

Dr Tandi Dorji said that Thimphu’s development roadmap would be considered in the 21st Century Economic Roadmap. He said that there was no need for the motion to be moved in the House, justifying that the prime minister’s office was already looking into the issue.

“In fact, the motion is good and in line with the government’s plans. But issues related to implementation and the need to incorporate the plan in the 21st Century Economic Roadmap should be considered,” he said.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that there was a need to promote balanced regional development in terms of health services and other services. But she said that such decisions should be rushed to avoid ramifications.

Some members said that it was not possible to relocate ministries outside Thimphu. But the motion mentioned that only some offices, departments and institutions be relocated.

Gangzur Minjay MP Kinga Penjor said that Thimphu was an administrative city, not an industrial city. “If the labour ministry is shifted to Trashigang, then the minister needs to travel to Thimphu by air to attend a cabinet meeting,” he said.

Out of 41 members present, 18 voted yes and 21 voted no for the Bill, while two abstained.