“Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi is a brilliant leader, a brilliant orator and he is very well known in the world,” said the Prime Minister of Bhutan Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgye during a press meet at the Ministry of Information and Communication, in Thimphu after Modi left Bhutan.
The PM said Modi’s visit to Bhutan was with an open heart, open mind and open arms. The PM added he said what he meant and meant what he said and that all of India has great hopes and expectation from him.
In response to a question on curtailing of subsidies during the elections the PM said that the friendship between both the countries was never under any kind of reconsideration or threat. He said that the subsidy issue only came up since its time period had lapsed.
Regarding the benefits Bhutan would gain in the short term and long term from Modi’s visit, the PM said, “It wasn’t to establish any short term gains or fulfill any long term priorities on his part nor did we consider any political or economic gains,” but he said it was a celebration of friendship between two countries.
Furthermore, on the issue of the negative import-export ratio and rupee crisis in Bhutan, Lyonchhen said Bhutan exports hydropower but imports everything from India. On the issue of tariffs he said that the hydropower tariff was set based on the cost of construction of the hydropower projects and increased periodically.
He mentioned the latest increase of power tariff for the 336MW Chukha hydro project to Nu.2.25 from the earlier Nu.2. He said the hydro revenue helped the country meet its deficit caused by increase in imports of fossil fuels, agricultural goods, food, dairy products, meat, edible oil, clothes and laborers.
On the rupee issue the PM said Bhutan today has a healthy rupee reserves but would have to work hard to drive the economy in terms to producing more electricity, agricultural goods, improving the tourism sector, emphasizing on small and cottage industries and mining.
He said two years ago the regulations imposed by Royal Monetary Authority were made purposefully difficult to address the issue at that time, which is better now and assured that the Central Bank will make some restrictions lighter.
On Modi’s idea to start a university for Himalayan studies, Lyonchhen said it is timely since the Himalayas make up a large territory and is diverse and unique. He said it is important to nurture and encourage cooperation in the Himalayan region.
Lyonchhen stated that the two countries are closely linked in their economy Bhutan would prosper if India did but it would also depend whether Bhutan worked hard.
The PM also gave an updated status on the 10,000 MW projects for the first time reflecting uncertainty on the 2020 deadline.
Upon the Bhutan’s vision to develop 10,000MW of electricity by 2020, the Lyonchhen said a year ago the entire capacity generated was about 7000mn units of electricity where 75% that is more than 4000mn units were exported to India.
“I am not sure we can develop all the 10,000 MW by 2020 but both governments have committed to giving it their everything,” he said. “As far as Bhutan is concerned, our government will have to let no stone unturned to fulfill our part of the agreement,” he added.
Within the 10,000 MW aim, three hydro-projects (Punatsangchu-I and II and Mangdechhu) on inter-governmental model are under construction having the capacity of about 3000 MW and are to be completed by 2017 and 2018. Four other projects like Kholongchu, Chamkarchu, Bunakha and Wangchu are on the joint-venture model for which the government signed an agreement in April this year.
The three projects (Kurigongri, Sunkosh and Amochu) are to be built under the intergovernmental model as DPR (Detail Project Report) are completed or either in the advanced stage.
The DHI and DGPC are exploring other hydro-projects outside the 10000 MW agreement. One is 126 MW Dagachu, to be completed by July. The go ahead has also been given to DGPC for Nikachu and then DGPC is also looking at another big project at Rotpashong and other projects in eastern Bhutan.