ABD com­mits funds for road con­nec­tiv­ity

Bhutan Times - - Front Page - Biku Gu­rung

Ly­onchen Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay was in Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank (ADB), head­quar­ters in Manila last Fri­day to dis­cuss the coun­try’s more than three-decade-long re­la­tion­ship with the Bank with ADB Pres­i­dent Takehiko Nakao. Dur­ing the visit, Ly­onchen spoke to the Board of Direc­tors and ad­dressed ADB’s staff as part of its Em­i­nent Speaker Fo­rum on “Bhutan’s Eco­nomic Vi­sion: Pros­per­ity for All.” He also launched a book on Bhutan’s drive for im­proved gov­er­nance.

Ly­onchen thanked ADB for its con­tri­bu­tion to Bhutan’s de­vel­op­ment, high­light­ing the role ADB has played in Bhutan’s near-univer­sal ru­ral elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and fi­nanc­ing roads to con­nect in­te­rior re­gions and boost links with neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

“Since its part­ner­ship with Bhutan be­gan in 1982, ADB has grown to be Bhutan’s lead de­vel­op­ment part­ner,” Ly­onchen said, “ADB’s support over th­ese years is very much ap­pre­ci­ated, in­clud­ing its work to de­velop eco-friendly trans­port. The con­tin­ued as­sis­tance from ADB is vi­tal for the suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of our am­bi­tious 11th five-year plan, which tar­gets self-re­liance for all na­tional de­vel­op­ment needs by 2020, in­clud­ing cut­ting poverty from the cur­rent 12% to 5% or less of the pop­u­la­tion, and car­bon-neu­tral growth.”

Mr. Nakao thanked Ly­onchen for the warm hos­pi­tal­ity ex­tended dur­ing his visit to Bhutan in Fe­bru­ary this year. He com­mended the Ly­onchen for his gov­ern­ment’s pru­dent macroe­co­nomic man­age­ment and de­vel­op­ment progress. Poverty in Bhutan has dropped from 23.2% in 2007 to 12.0% in 2012. Eco­nomic growth is ex­pected to re­bound to 6.0% in the fis­cal year end­ing June 2014.

“Bhutan has made great strides in poverty re­duc­tion in the last few years while boost­ing eco­nomic growth,” Mr. Nakao said. “Chal­lenges re­main in broad­en­ing the eco­nomic base, en­sur­ing equal ac­cess to ba­sic pub­lic ser­vices such as ed­u­ca­tion and health, and cre­at­ing more jobs for youth. It is also crit­i­cal to main­tain macroe­co­nomic sta­bil­ity through ap­pro­pri­ate fis­cal, mon­e­tary and pru­den­tial poli­cies.” Bhutan can chan­nel the rev­enues from its vast hy­dropower re­sources to de­velop hu­man cap­i­tal and in­fra­struc­ture. It should also en­hance its ef­forts to at­tract for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment into man­u­fac­tur­ing and agribusi­ness.

ADB’s Pres­i­dent as­sured Bhutan of ADB’s con­tin­ued support. ADB’s 20142018 Coun­try Part­ner­ship Strat­egy for Bhutan ap­proved in July 2014 will fo­cus on trans­port, en­ergy, ur­ban de­vel­op­ment, and fi­nance. It will also pro­vide tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance for skills de­vel­op­ment and wa­ter re­source man­age­ment. Bhutan is el­i­gi­ble for loans and grants from ADB’s con­ces­sional lend­ing win­dow and is ex­pected to re­ceive about $180 mil­lion be­tween 2014 and 2017. The newly es­tab­lished ADB of­fice in Bhutan is ex­pected to deepen the part­ner­ship with the coun­try.

Ly­onpo Nam­gay Dorji , the Fi­nance Min­is­ter and Pres­i­dent Nakao signed a loan and a grant agree­ment for a $69 mil­lion South Asia Sub Re­gional Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (SASEC) Road Con­nec­tiv­ity Project. This project will im­prove 70 kilo­me­ters of Bhutan’s busy South­ern East-West High­way, and build a dry port in Phuentshol­ing with a land cus­tom sta­tion along the Bhutan-In­dia bor­der.

Since join­ing ADB in 1982, Bhutan had re­ceived $337.46 mil­lion through 29 loans, $135.39 mil­lion for 9 grants, and $54.89 mil­lion for 129 tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance projects, as of the end of 2013. Five ADB-fi­nanced ru­ral elec­tri­fi­ca­tion projects in the coun­try have col­lec­tively elec­tri­fied more than 37,000 house­holds, or 43% of the ru­ral house­holds in Bhutan, con­tribut­ing sig­nif­i­cantly to the gov­ern­ment’s 100% elec­tri­fi­ca­tion tar­get.

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