Urgent need for improving coordination and corporation for better regional connectivity
To ensure better regional connectivity and safety of Bhutanese travellers outside Bhutan, there is an urgent need for improving coordination and corporation among different ministries and departments of the governments. This was finding of independent study carried out by Bhutan Media and Communications Institute (BMCI).
The findings and the recommendations were shared during the stakeholders meeting on “Trade, Transport and Transit Facilitation in the sub-region,” last Thursday.
The participants included from government, corporate, private sectors, Civil Society Organization (CSO), international organizations and media agencies.
The presentation from the BMCI showed that there are different stakeholders involved in trading, starting from farmers, truckers, brokers, support service providers along the highway, policy makers, check points (customs, immigrations, BAFRA) manual workers, clearing agencies etc.
BMCI director, Pushpa Chhetri said that Bhutan is dependent on trading to fulfill our basic needs like rice, clothing and religious artifacts mostly imported from India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. On the other hand it is extremely important to find market outside Bhutan to export for rupee and dollar earning.
The study found out that condition of the road infrastructure, facilities at the LCS, skills, internet connectivity and use of technology determine the trade flows and the quality of people’s lives.
After the finding and through study, BMCI rec- ommended including establishment of integrated cross-border checkpoints, need to diversify traffic, encourage women participants, improve road and transport infrastructure. The recommendation also includes encourage and facilitate 24/7 support service along the high way, need for alternative trade route, equipping the checkpoints, town planning and cross border coordination.
Other recommendations included need for storage facilities in all the Dzongkhags, exploring multi-model and green transport, raising awareness among different stakeholder, etc.
BMCI conducted this study in Bhutan as a part of a larger study in the sub region constituting Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, India and Bangladesh.
This independent study mapped the perceptions of selected stakeholders in Bhutan on the current state of trading through the journey of three products imported and exported to and from India, Bangladesh and Nepal. It attempts to give a people centric approach by studying the impact on livelihood, gender and poverty reduction.
Meanwhile, Bhutan import readymade garment from Bangladesh, rice from India and handicraft/statue from Nepal and Bhutan export an apple, ferrosilicon and gypsum.
The corridors selected for the study are Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Jaigaon, Changrabandha, Burimari, Dhaka and Pemagatshel, Samdruojongkhar, Rongia, Birathnagar.
The study highlighted that livelihood of certain stakeholders like truckers, laborers, and support service providers in border towns are directly dependent on the volume of trade. If one side is affected by political problems then trade on the other is affected adversely.
While trading has opened up several opportunities for women to be engaged in economic activities, they have mostly taken over the roles of service providers along the highway and nearby bordering towns and industries.
Women are engaged more in administrative work, sales and support staff. For instance, most of the handicraft and readymade garment shops have employed 98 percent women in sales.
The study shows that the female participation is very low in South Asia, while the trading has opened up several opportunities for women to be engaged in economic activities. Such engagements depend on the nature of the work. For e.g. there are no women truck drivers in Bhutan although there are many light vehicle drivers.
Clarifying why the livelihoods of people in certain groups like farmers, people residing in border towns, truckers and women warranted separate mention, Pushpa Chhetri said that, “The study is people centric and the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable groups need special attention from all stakeholders.”
The study shows that for people residing at the border towns of Phuentsholing and Jaigaon, livelihood concerns of people living on one side of the border are echoed by people engaged in similar activities on the other side.
In Phuentsholling, if one side is affected by political problems than other side’s trade is also affected.
The director of Consumer utility and Trust Society, Kolkata, Bratindra Bhattacharya expressed his appreciation to the participants and said that the feedback and suggestions provided by the group were very valuable and would be considered for inclusion wherever appropriate in the report.
Meanwhile, as a part of the project, BMCI conducted four dialogues in Bhutan to validate their findings as well as create public awareness on regional connectivity.
The participants were from government, corporate, private sector, CSO, international organizations and media agencies.