Despite the government decision to cancel the Education City project over land legality issues discussion on the issue refused to die down on the airwaves.
The Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay along with the Home Minister Damcho Dorji and Finance Minister
Namgay Dorji all asserted that the project was a closed chapter and that the government would not reconsider its decision on the issue.
The PM said, “The Land Commission made it very clear that land cannot be transferred to BEC for subleasing to investors and we had earlier
requested the Land Commission to reconsider but they stuck to their decision to not provide land and the cabinet decided to support the Land Commission.”
The PM said that the concession agreement signed with the developers went beyond the Land Act 2007 and the Constitution by giving a provision of renewing land for 90 years with two automatic renewals.
Lyonchhen said that land was a precious commodity in Bhutan and it could not be given illegally to foreign entities for 90 years. He said it could also have a bearing on the country’s security and sovereignty.
The detailed project report of the Education City talked of the developers planning to build 699 luxury villas of 50 decimals to an acre each to be sold to rich tourists and foreigners. This hardly left any land for the actual Education City.
Commenting on this the PM said, “Three months ago when the investors came to meet me I asked them about the luxury villas and commercial buildings. They told me that it would subsidize the project. My own observation is that we shouldn’t do business to subsidize the Education City. One can do an independent business to make money but not with the excuse to subsidize the Education City.”
He said that if the Education City project itself was not viable then they should have looked for other strategies. The PM raised questions on what the luxury villas are for and for whom is the Education City being established?
Lyonchhen said that all of the above did not matter now as the project was a closed chapter.
In response to a question the PM said that since the access road and bridge had been built and since useable land was very scarce in Bhutan the 1,000 acre land would be put to some issue. “From A for Army to Z for Zoo there is a host of possibilities,” he added.
The PM said that he was quite alarmed with the course of the discussions on Education City and in particular with the Bhutan Broadcasting Service which he said was guiding it out of context.
The Finance Minister appealed to journalists to ask all issue and do their homework before claiming to be ‘confused’ or clueless.
Those PM was at pains to again stress that those responsible for the Education City project would be held accountable through the RAA.
The Home Minister said that apart from the 90 year issue the Land Commission had also stated that land cannot be sub-lease which the developers planned to do.