Getting the basics right

One of the most key factors for any country hoping to attract serious investment or even achieve good and sustained economic growth, is a good infrastructure system.

While Bhutan may be upping the ante in its drive to achieve economic self-sufficiency a lot of the targets cannot be achieved without good infrastructure in even basic areas.

For a country hoping to go it clean and green in its development, the growth of a knowledge industry is critical.

However, Bhutan’s internet and telecommunication infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired. There is an ongoing national frustration at the slow speed and connectivity issues of the internet and also issues over the quality of mobile connectivity.

B-mobile, in forcing people to jump from 2-G to 3-G data cards after paying hefty fees, assured customers faster speed and better service, but the reality has been equally slow speed and service.

Apart from issues like service delivery and consumers rights, poor telecommunication connectivity adds to the economic cost of doing business in Bhutan and hugely affects efficiency in many sectors of the economy from the government to the private sector.

For a country hoping to achieve agricultural self-sufficiency the main issue of reliable irrigation water has been hampered with inadequate investments in the sector. Bhutanese agriculture, even in the region receives among the lowest investments from the state.

Health is an important national priority, but this has been hampered especially in rural areas with drinking water shortages. Clean drinking water is an issue in both rural and urban areas.

Bhutan’s major urban centers like Thimphu and Phuntsholing are at a crisis point with public infrastructure like sewage, water, garbage being unable to keep with the number of new buildings coming up.

Despite several efforts and exercises in the past it is still difficult to do business in Bhutan with a large amount of red tape and resistance from the system. The system is still the same and the same people are running it in the same way.

Even in the private sector nothing much has changed with many just going through the motions.

One basic requirement to attract business in Bhutan is an Industrial zone or park, especially along the borders areas, but that too is absent at the moment.

Our Education system though good in producing large numbers of literate students every year still suffers from quality issues.

The Health system is hugely overburdened with a small number of professionals managing large numbers of patients leading to even mistakes at times.

Connectivity and transport is important but though a chunk of our budget has been consumed in farm and feeder roads most of them have been of poor quality becoming unusable during the monsoon months.

Our experience with hydro projects shows that if only some basic homework and better research had been done on certain areas we could have avoided additional costs and time delays. Not everything can be equated to a geological surprise.

While our urban foot print expands there is very little public space which also hampers our budding sports and athletic talents.

Bhutan at the end of the day needs to get the basics right before jumping onto to grand plans and visions. It is only by taking care of basic and simple issues that bigger plans and programs can succeed.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
Confucius

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