MoEA: To tap private money for infrastructure development in the country, the government is looking at a public-private participation (PPP) model to develop eastern Bhutan as an educational hub, where two colleges will be established.

To be developed under the ministry of economic affairs (MoEA) initiative, the colleges will be either public or private. The ministry invited expression of interest from prospective investors on April 13.

Economic affairs minister Norbu Wangchuk said the establishment of the colleges would be in line with PPP policy, which the cabinet was to soon endorse.  The Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) has vetted the PPP policy, which according to lyonpo, would play an important role in chipping in private investments in infrastructure development.

“So far, it’s been taken for granted that government develops all the infrastructures,” he said.

The proposals will be received while the PPP policy is being finalised.  The type, location and capital investments of the colleges will depend on the kind of proposals the investors come up with. “For instance, if the investor comes with a proposal for a nursing college, it’ll be established near a good hospital, and the amount of investment will be discussed with the investor,” he said.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said that this was an innovative idea to tap private money for infrastructure development in the country. “This is a win-win proposal for both the government and the private investor,” he said. “In fact, many countries are already following this model.”

The government’s role in the development of the colleges would be to make sure that the land is identified and other facilities, such as telecommunications and access to road, are available. “We’ll also provide tax incentives to the private investors.”

Lyonpo said the proposals for the development of the colleges can fall under the government’s East Development Initiative (EDI), which calls for development of three colleges, a polytechnic, nursing and teaching college each.  The EDI says there should be colleges in the east that would provide trainings for certificate, diploma and undergraduate programmes.

Meanwhile, the education ministry had earlier received three proposals to establish private colleges, but officials said they weren’t aware of the proposals’ status.  Education minister Mingbo Dukpa said he did not have the update on the proposals for the three private colleges.

Last year in June, the prime minister had said that the government was soon going to take a decision on how many of the three proposals would get through.

The three private colleges proposed earlier were Kuengaa College in Paro, Shangri-La International College also in Paro, and Jampel Ling College at Jigmeling, Sarpang.

The two colleges in Paro were proposed as management schools, and the college proposed in Jigmeling, Gelephu was to be a nursing and technical college.

MB Subba