Government to soon meet its helicopter, power tiller, gewog bank and service center promises: PM

The service center will also buy farm produce from farmers

One of the key points of the PDP’s manifesto that caught the imagination of the people, especially of the rural masses, was a promise of one power tiller per chiwog, two helicopters, a local bank for every gewog, and a service center.

The Prime Minister,Tshering Tobgay, during the Friday Meet-the-Press said that the government had already identified USD 5mn for buying two helicopters and also another USD 5mn to set up the whole system.

He said, “We can buy a Bell or Euro helicopter, each costing around USD 2.5 million.”

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said that though the money has been identified, the government has been negotiating with various donors to look at potential assistance. He said that the government has made the donors know of the importance of helicopters, required in the country for medical services, disaster relief, suppressing forest fires, as an immediate response when heritage sites like the Wangdiphodrang Dzong was in danger, and for government travel. He said several parties had given positive feedback, but there are no definite decisions as yet.

“If, by this time next year, unless donors give assistance, the government is prepared to purchase two helicopters, not because we promised it, but because the country really requires helicopters,” added the PM.

The government, in part with assistance from the Government of Japan, was in the process of getting in 1,400 power tillers, with one power tiller promised for every chiwog, according to the PM. He said that the Ministry of Agriculture has already received 400 power tillers.

Lyonchhen said that the government was in touch with the Kubota Company in Japan since most farmers preferred the quality and performance of Kubota power tillers. He said the government had invited the president of Kubota, and was already in negotiations on how low they could bring down the prices.

PM said that Kubota has an assembling and manufacturing plant in Thailand where the power tillers, while weighing the same, are more powerful and comes at a fraction of the current price being charged. The PM said some samples had been sent to Bhutan this month and they would start testing them.

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay pointed out that, in the past, the only way for Bhutan to get power tillers was through KR II grants, and private vendors that compromised on quality.  He said that the government would go in for high quality power tillers at reasonable prices, which could be further subsidized by the government. He said that the BOiC would provide farmers loans to buy these power tillers. PM promised that, by the same time next year, most farmers would have power tillers to use.

Every gewog would have a farmer service center with a variety of facilities which will be launched very soon, according to the PM. The service center would have a hiring unit for hiring out power tillers by the government at subsidized rates, and it would also have petroleum products to sell.

Not limited to that, the PM said that service center would be where the FCB would purchase maize, rice and others items from farmers, and through this central procurement system, these food items would be distributed to schools and other places.

Lyonchhen said that every gewog would have provisions to buy farm produce from farmers, as of now, the biggest constraints that farmers face is not having a market to sell their produce.

In a major announcement, PM said that the Cabinet had taken a decision to build a bank in every gewog. He said that this would be done by transferring the Community Information Centers (CIC) to the Bhutan Development Bank Limited (BDBL) as the CIC were underutilized right now. He said that the BDBL will provide all the services provided by the CIC, and at the same time, it will also upgrade each center into a branch bank.  According to the PM, the government will be launching the gewog banks very shortly.

The service centers will also provide and sell basic good quality amenities to farmers, like fertilizers, insecticides, seeds and farming implements. Lyonchhen said that the government, in its first year, had laid down the foundations in drafting the Five-Year Plan and securing the funding for it.

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