The foundation has been assisting Bhutan since 2009

ICT: The third phase of the capability development programme funded mostly by the Temasek Foundation, a non-profit organisation from Singapore, officially ended, yesterday.

The foundation funded 70 percent of the cost of training, and development of ICT master plans and systems, among others, for three government agencies in the third phase. The total amount provided was USD 335,000.

Implementation was handled by IDA International, the execution arm for collaborations on public service information communications between Singapore and other countries.

The three beneficiary agencies under the third phase are the finance ministry, the economic affairs ministry, and the land commission. While representatives of all three agencies expressed appreciation for the funding and training, they also pointed out that further support from Temasek would be welcomed as the new systems once in place may not be as effective without the trained human resources to handle them.

Under the collaboration, the finance ministry has developed the terms and reference for the creation of an e-procurement system in Bhutan.

Finance secretary Lam Dorji said that a tender has already been floated and that work on the system should begin by next month. To demonstrate the ministry’s seriousness, the target to develop and have in place an e-procurement system has also been included in the ministry’s annual performance agreement with the Prime Minister, he said.

The finance secretary also pointed out that the procurement system in Bhutan is regularly criticised and that having the e-procurement system in place should address flaws and criticism.

“Although today is a closing ceremony for phase III, for us it’s just the beginning because now we’ve to really get into seriously developing the system,” he said. “It’s also going to be expensive because we’ve to finance it ourselves.”

On behalf of the finance ministry, the secretary requested Temasek to consider continuing capacity building for procurement personnel in Bhutan. “Because at the end of the day, no matter what institutions, systems, rules and regulations we’ve in place, if we don’t have the right people, there’s going to be problems.”

National Land Commission (NLC) secretary Pema Chewang also reiterated the finance secretary’s request.

“We can have a good system but if we don’t have the human resources to implement it then we don’t achieve that 100 percent goal,” he said. The secretary added that it was also hoped that the NLC would be able to collaborate with the Singapore Land Authority through Temasek.

Economic affairs joint secretary Sonam P Wangdi said the ministry as a result of its collaboration with IDA International and Temasek now has in place an ICT industry development plan. The purpose of the plan is to transform ICT into a vibrant and sustainable industry, he said. Some of its goals include a five-fold increase in employment by 2050 and a two-fold increase (six percent) in its contribution to GDP.

Using the plan, the ministry hopes to foster innovation, develop industries and other key infrastructure relevant to the ICT industry, and to develop a market for its products and services.

He said the entire plan to implement will cost Nu 334 million but that some funding had already been acquired and that just another Nu 189 million was needed.

To conclude the closing ceremony, information and communications secretary, Dasho Kinley Dorji said that while the feeling among the agencies is that while they are thankful for the assistance, they were not ready to say goodbye to Temasek just yet. “This is not the end of any project but the beginning, the celebration, of a long journey together,” he said.

Speaking to Kuensel and in response to the requests for further support, Temasek CEO, Benedict Cheong, said that the “possibility is always there.”

He added that if the requests are for short, “booster” type programmes, like training and capacity building, further support could be provided without difficulty. However, for larger programmes that involve different components, further discussion would be required.

Benedict Cheong pointed out that while Temasek is committed to continuing its partnership with the government in various aspects, it is not a large foundation. He said that the company has a fund of somewhere between USD 14-15 million and has to optimise it for all of Asia.

During his address, he pointed out that so far, Temasek has committed USD 111 million for 288 programmes in Asia that cover areas like health care, education, public administration, urban management, and disaster management.

It was also pointed out that Temasek supports programmes that promote networks of exchange and cooperation among leaders. The fundamental principle for Temasek’s support in Asia is that if Asia learns and develops together with mutual cooperation and trust, it will be a more connected and prosperous continent in the long run.

Temasek Foundation has been supporting training initiatives in education, nursing and transportation, among others, in Bhutan since 2009.

Gyalsten K Dorji