The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Saturday, July 14, 2012

State of the state

The prognosis is good
In all basic developmental indicators, the country has scored highly, as reflected in its 8.1 percent growth rate
«Lyonchhoen presents the 4th State of the Nation report at the Parliament yesterday
State Of The Nation Report: Going by the figures, and what the prime minister presented to the Parliament, brimming with senior civil servants and media personnel apart from the members themselves yesterday, the nation’s state, in general, was good.
After speaking for almost three hours, Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley, while presenting the fourth annual state of the nation report, said the country’s achievement over last one year was something to applaud.
He started off with a rerun of the good moments last year, a significant one being the royal wedding, an occasion that was “celebrated not only by the jubilant Bhutanese people, but by an enchanted world”.
But, on the flip side, the house was reminded of the tragedy country witnessed last year, the September 18 earthquake, Rupee debt, and the recent fire incident that reduced the age-old Wangduephodrang dzong to rubble.
Moving on to the country’s economy, Lyonchhoen said Bhutan’s 8.1 percent growth rate was ranked second in South Asia, and 11th in the world by real GDP growth rate for last year, in the list prepared by the US central intelligence agency.
It was mainly driven by industry, with hydropower constructions contributing 44.1 percent, followed by service sector at 37.4 percent, and primary sector at 15.1 percent.
In terms of the minimum program for accelerating poverty eradication, about 22 of the 49 gewogs in the country targeted to be connected by motorable road in the 10th plan have been completed.
About 80 percent of the Bhutanese families have received electricity, as of March 2012.
Claiming that all the funds are in place, the remaining 16,462 households will be electrified during the 2012-13 financial year.
Lyonchhoen admitted that their commitment of delivering a minimum of three doctors for every dzongkhag hospital was a challenge.
“While it’s difficult to get doctors from abroad, even if we did, we’re also unable to afford the amount they demand,” he said, adding a number of existing doctors were also undergoing specialisation programs abroad.
As such, although 11 dzongkhags have at least three doctors each, five dzongkhags have two doctors each, while the remaining four have a single doctor at the moment.
In figures
Access to Save drinking water
94% (From 69% in 2008) of the population
Mobile connectivity
68.4% (484,189) as of Dec. 2011 (From 56.4% in 2010)
Number of cooperatives
16 registered cooperatives
64 Farmers Groups (FGs)
Industrial license
2,447 industrial licenses issued in the last year (Total 15,190 licenses operational)
Tourists arrivals
100,833 tourists in 2011
(46% growth from 2010)
38.80km of national highway constructed in FY 2011-12
146 km of feeder/dzongkhag roads built
108 km roads connecting hydropower projects constructed
104 km of road resurfaced in FY 2011-12
30 Motorable bridges built in FY 2011-12
But Lyonchhoen said they hoped to fulfill this goal by 2013.
There were also places where safe drinking water through “conventional methods” has not reached. Alternative technologies in the form of rainwater harvesting system and pumping water supply were implemented.
All 205 gewog centres now have access to mobile services. Through government subsidy, services were made available in remote and difficult places.
In the agriculture sector, Lyonchhoen said a budget of Nu 32M was allocated for fiscal year 2012-13 to accelerate vegetable production and marketing, one of the moves taken to address ongoing rupee shortage.
He also claimed a substantial improvement in livestock productions, generated through gains in milk production, about Nu 1,280M, followed by egg, about Nu 195M.
Cattle population was also increased by four percent, pig by eight percent and poultry by 69.
Education wise, the number of schools increased to 553 and extended classrooms to 108 to meet government’s objective of providing all children with access to education within an hour’s walking distance.
In the tertiary education sector, five programs – media studies, BA in Bhutan and Himalayan studies, bachelor of sustainable rural development, BS (nursing), and diploma in computer hardware and networking were introduced in the past year under the Royal University of Bhutan.
Claiming that it to be one of the lowest in the world, the unemployment rate is declared at 2.1 percent, with youth unemployment rate falling from 9.2 percent last year to 7.3 percent.
In the health sector, to address the long-standing human resource shortage, the first university of medical sciences of Bhutan will be launched this month.
Introduction of health help centre, Lyonchhoen said, enabled people to access services of health professions within an hour at any time from anywhere through a telephone or mobile network.
In the field of communication, construction of about 100 community centres has been completed. About 22 G2C services were also provided through the centre.
Although temporarily stalled, the launch of domestic air services in Yonphula, Bumthang and soon in Gelephu would supposedly enhance transport connectivity, reduce travel time and also promote regional development.
The highest revenue contributor, trade sector, contributed about Nu 4.8B in the last fiscal year, an increase by about eight percent.
All hydropower projects were “well on track”, with Punatsangchu I and II and Mangdechu projects already employing about 2,853 Bhutanese.
Introduction of 20 percent green tax on vehicles and the pedestrian day were some recent moves to ensure environmental conservation.
In conserving culture and architectural skills, Lyonchhoen highlighted the conservation projects of Paro, Lhuentse and Dagana dzongs, scheduled to be completed by June next year.
Lyonchhoen also applauded Royal Audit and Anti Corruption, who played key roles in ensuring transparency and accountability, for their devotion and professionalism in carrying out the mandates.
Stressing a need for strong media in a democratic setup, he commended the existing media.
He, however, said the number of newspapers appeared more than enough for a small country like Bhutan.
Bhutan has also established diplomatic relations with 14 additional countries between end of 2011 and March 2012.
Introduced for the first time, a three-day visit designed to know Bhutan was extended to ambassadors, based in Dhaka and New Delhi, representing 44 countries.
“In reflecting on the reasons and causes for such accomplishments, I am reminded, once again, that the credit belongs largely to our highly dedicated and competent civil servant,” he said.
“Likewise, the local governments, the corporations and the business sector are deserving of high praise.”
By Kesang Dema
source: Kuensel

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