Cooperation: The government of Japan has committed to assist Bhutan develop a comprehensive development plan in the next two years and one that will be achieved by 2030. The technical assistance project is worth USD 3.6 million.

Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) secretary Thinley Namgyel and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) chief representative Koji Yamada signed the record of discussion of the technical cooperation project on September 30 in a simple ceremony.

The project has six components including preparation of the plan, general guidance for development incidental to the plan, recommendation of the implementation framework of the plan, provide experts in developing various aspects of the plan, machinery and equipment and training works and human settlement officials.

Bhutan submitted the proposal to Japan in the 10th bilateral annual consultation meeting last year.

The works and human settlement ministry will implement the two-year project.

The principle of development policy in Bhutan is well-balanced development and prosperity between urban and rural areas. However, the country is rapidly urbanising with increasing migration from rural to urban areas, mainly from the east to west.

About 65.1 percent of Bhutan’s urban population is concentrated in the western region, which constitutes only 20.74 percent of the total land area. The influx of population to the larger cities like Thimphu is linked to rising crime rates, unemployment, pressure on urban amenities, emergence of squatters, pollution and environmental degradation in the urban centers.

Rural-urban migration is also seen as a cause of problems in rural areas such as labor shortage leading to fallow agriculture land, socio-cultural break-up, and under-utilisation of government facilities and services.

One of the causes of domestic migration is the happiness gap between urban areas and rural areas. Gross National Happiness Survey 2015 shows that the happiness score in urban areas (0.811) is higher than rural areas (0.731).

The Poverty Analysis 2012 states the poverty rate of urban areas (1.8 percent) is much lower than rural areas (16.7 percent).

With a view to addressing the issue of rural-urban migration and promote regionally balanced development, the government is planning to initiate sectoral interventions like the development of special economic zones, industrial estates, hydro-power projects, tourism, farming and agro-based industries.

To address these issues, the government requested Japan to implement “The Project for Formulation of Comprehensive Development Plan for Bhutan 2030” to promote comprehensive and coordinated development.

Tshering Palden