New terminal, bandwidth, public transport, domestic air services, satellite etc : MoIC during the 11th plan

As of April 2018, the revised capital budget allocation for Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC) during the 11th Five Year Plan (FYP) was reported to be Nu 4,345.512 mn, of which Nu 3,406.028 mn has been spent, showing an overall financial achievement of 78.38 percent, according to the report on 11th FYP prepared by MoIC.

Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT)

MoIC report states that DITT received a budget of Nu 1,582.25 mn during the 11th plan. Of which the department spent Nu 1,548.265 mn.

Over 200 Community Center (CCs) established across the country, of which 198 CCs are connected with internet and provide online G2C services.

Under Druk Research and Education network (DrukREN) project, the department established Internet Exchange Point (IXP) to keep the local Internet traffic local, established DrukREN Infrastructure Services, connected 7 Colleges including the Office of Vice Chancellor, RUB, to DrukREN and connected 10 hospitals such as, Paro, Gedu, Phuentsholing, Punakha, Trongsa, Bumthang, Pemagatshel, Mongar, Kanglung, Samdrup Jongkhar to DrukREN.

Thimphu’s network capacity was upgraded to reduce network redundancy, and to meet the growing bandwidth demand and provide high speed accessibility to services hosted in the Government Data Center.

Bhutan launched its first satellite into the space. BHUTAN-1 was launched at 3:42 pm on Friday, 29th June 2018 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, United States of America. It was on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with other payload being sent to the International Space Station (ISS), the launch took place together with the BIRDS-2 CubeSats of the Philippines and Malaysia MAYA-1 and UiTMST-1.

Department of Information and Media (DoIM)

Out of Nu 119.869 mn allotted for DoIM, Nu 102.89 mn was spent on various activities, according to the report.

DoIM endorsed the National Film Policy, Social Media Policy, Regulation Governing Community and Campus Radio, and establishment of a Media Council. The department submitted the Information and Media Policy and National Broadcasting Policy to Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC). The department also supported establishment and activities of Journalist Association of Bhutan (JAB) and funded activities and equipment to the Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF) to create an enabling environment for the media.

More than 1,371 students and over 500 teachers were introduced to the concept of Media and Information Literacy (MIL).  In addition, 255 final year students of different colleges have been trained in MIL.

The department in collaboration with the Royal Education Council has carried out workshops and sensitization programmes in high schools, colleges, institutes and the general public.

Land has been granted for the construction of a Film Studio in Thimphu, and cinema halls in Wangdue, Tsirang, Trashigang, Samtse and Samdrupjongkhar. Construction of the Film Studio and five cinema halls was awarded to the Construction Development Corporation Limited. Land title certificate has been issued by Land Commission to Royal Office of Media, and with user rights to the Film Association of Bhutan. The cost of each cinema hall is estimated at Nu 30 mn for civil works alone while that of the Film Studio the estimated cost is Nu 80 mn.

Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA)

Out of total budget allocation of Nu 130.239 mn, the expenditure of Nu 105.584 mn was incurred in RSTA during the 11th plan.

The report states that total number of vehicles in the country, as of December 2017, reached 92,008 compared to 84,297 vehicles in 2016, which is 9.15 percent increase over the last one year.  As the March 2018, the figure stands at 94,073.

As of date, 148 gewogs are connected with passenger transport services. The public transport fleet comprises 234 buses against 209 at the beginning of the 11th FYP. These are operated by some 85 operators.

Eighteen additional buses have been introduced in Thimphu since 17 December 2016 to help in decongesting the traffic and improve urban transport system. Transport within Thimphu and surrounding localities is provided by Bhutan Post, and three private operators who collectively own five buses. Similarly, Bhutan Post has deployed two buses in the Phuntsholing city. Urban transport service in Samdrupjongkhar has been introduced to cover Deothang area, 11th plan report says.

To ensure accessibility to public transport by rural and remote communities, the report says four non-profitable routes are being provided with subsidy in the form of interest on 60 percent loan for procurement of buses. Loans on these routes have been cleared and no more subsidies are provided for these routes. Currently, Thimphu to Gasa route is being provided subsidy in the form of payment of interest for 50 percent loan taken by the operator from RICBL.

As part of this important public service delivery mandate, RSTA offices processed registration of 24,082 over a period of five years between 2013 and 2017. Similarly, 103,023 ordinary driving licenses and 17,127 professional driving licenses or a total of 120,150 driving licenses were processed during the same period.

Department of Air Transport (DoAT)

Nu 2,055.992 mn has been allotted for DoAT and Nu 1,474.446 mn has been spent according to the 11th plan report.

The Department of Air Transport received one of the highest budgetary allocations during the 11th FYP. Paro International Airport (PIA) caters to both the international and domestic air passengers. The national airline Drukair and the country’s first privately owned airline Tashi Air together carried 322,961 international air passengers. The total number of passengers handled by PIA during the five year period covering 2013 to 2017 totaled to 1,284,482.

The department constructed a new arrival terminal, new cargo complex, additional car parking and parallel taxiway. The department also modified the departure terminal in Paro International Airport, air force element complex at Paro Airport and power substation.

Domestic air service in Bhutan started on 17 December 2011 with flights to Bumthang and Yonphula followed by Gelephu on 25 October 2012. Currently, Drukair is the only domestic air service provider. Three domestic airports handled a total of 30,410 passengers over a period of six years between 2012 and 2017.

Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority (BCCA)

For BCCA, the total budget allotted was Nu 37.338 mn and total expenditure was Nu 31.035 mn.

According to the report, Civil Aviation Act and Bhutan Information, Communication and Media Act were revised to address new issues. The Department of Civil Aviation was bifurcated into Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority and the Department of Air Transport since April 2015, providing a clear delineation of regulatory and airport services responsibility between the two. The bifurcation has also avoided conflict of interest within the same institution.

The Authority has, through various regulatory interventions, addressed the lack of effective implementation from 63.5 percent at the beginning of 11FYP to 50 percent now. This is considered to be a drastic improvement in safety rating of Bhutan’s aviation sector.

BCAA has instituted regulatory frameworks and testing procedures for prevention of problematic use of alcohol and psychoactive substance. BCAA has also carried out testing for all aviation document holders, together with BNCA and DoAT, the report says.

Launching of helicopter services on 5 November 2015 has proven extremely beneficial and saved many lives and forests from fire. Resumption of domestic air services reduced travel time and distance.

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