A helicopter service next year was the highlight of plans in place over the next few years

APA Meeting: Bhutan will have its first domestic helicopter services by the end of the next fiscal year.

This was one of the major decisions taken at the finalisation of the annual performance agreement meeting of the ministries, excluding foreign and finance, at Paro yesterday.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said the two helicopters should come within the upcoming fiscal year.

This would fulfil the much talked about pledge, the People’s Democratic Party government had made to the people during the election campaigns.

For the helicopter service, the information and communications ministry will open 40 helipads across the country within the next fiscal year.  Besides this, the information ministry also targets to cover all 20 dzongkhags with 3G internet and mobile connectivity services.

Among other announcements, the agriculture ministry said it would distribute 135 power tillers next month, one each to a gewog.  The ministry distributed 70 power tillers in Lhuentse and Mongar dzongkhags last year, and the hiring centres across the country together have 400 power tillers today.

“The government will distribute power tillers in several rounds until each gewog has a minimum of five power tillers that farmers can hire,” lyonchoen said.

The ministry has an ambitious target of installing 205 (numbers) of electric fencing of which 44.5km will be installed in the south.  The ministry will also construct 172km of irrigation channels, including 145km renovated for farm productivity.

“This is the best technology to ward off animals so far,” agriculture secretary Tenzin Dendup said.

The ministry will establish mega farms for meat and dairy products, and privatise or corporatise them when farms become sustainable, he said.

Whether the agriculture ministry has succeeded in achieving its targets can be seen in the reduction in imports of agriculture produce that are mainly imported through Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB).

Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said that last year alone FCB imported 7,000MT (metric tonnes) of rice worth Nu 159M (million).

Farm shops will be set up to buy back farm produce and also sell agriculture equipment, seeds, and fertilisers, among others.

The education ministry asked for additional budget to fortify school feeding programme, since some of the nutritious items, such as meat, could not be provided in the present system.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said it would be too early to draw conclusions about the programme as half the budget year was yet to complete.

“The ministry has to talk with FCB to work out a proper solution to this,” he said.

The education ministry will approve three colleges in the east, excluding a college by the Nalanda University, which is also in line with the PDP’s eastern development initiative.

Unlike last year, the labour ministry has not committed to creating full employment.  Labour secretary Pema Wangda said, “We’ve realised over the past one year that the ministry has no authority to create jobs, and that job creation is closely related to economic activities.”

Labour minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo said that all ministries and agencies have to consider creating jobs as a collective responsibility.

The labour ministry will establish an arts and crafts college at the current Zorig Chusum Institute in Trashiyangtse.

Lyonchoen said the dzongdas should take note of the priorities for the next fiscal year being rural water supply, farm roads, blacktopping roads, agriculture farm productivity, and electric fencing.

The health ministry’s target is to ensure at least three doctors in every district hospital.

Medical services department’s director general Dr Ugen Dophu said the health ministry would make it necessary to conduct a health impact assessment before approval of new mega hydropower projects and industries.

“Otherwise, unplanned settlements may overcrowd health facilities and increase incidence of communicable diseases,” he said.

The home ministry would conduct a comprehensive study on rural-urban migration and its causes within the next fiscal year. “We’d also maintain a contingency fund of emergency in terms of disasters,” a home ministry official said.

By Tshering Palden