Q and A session tackles LDC graduation, Kholongchu and Zhemgang Dzong

In the Question and Answer session of the Parliament on 28 June in response to a question to offset the possible impact of graduating from least developed countries (LDC) to a medium-income country by 2023, the Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji reported that the country is ready to graduate to a middle-income country by 2023.

 He also submitted that the international support would continue for the next three years as a transition phase. A transition strategy prepared by   Gross National Happiness Commission is ready and will be implemented in the 13th FYP. He also submitted that the World Bank and Asian Development Bank had been providing grant and preferential interest loans at par with Least Developed Countries and would continue despite graduation. Even though the official development assistance might be stopped, it has been just 5% of the gross domestic product (GDP) since 2017, so it might not have a huge impact. He also reported that the support from India would continue irrespective of graduation.  Japan and the European Union would also continue their support till 2027.

He also submitted that the support from the United Nation and related organizations might decrease but marginally. He submitted that we need not worry much till 2028. He also expressed his hope that the transformation initiatives would further pave the way for the country to become a high-income country.

The Minister for Economic Affairs Loknath Sharma was questioned on the government’s plans to compensate those people whose land falls under power lines and cannot undertake any construction works, the status of the Kholongchu Hydropower Project, the status of Nyera-Amari Hydropower Project, plans and policies to achieve energy security for the country and the Government’s plan to solve the issue of vehicles taking more than a year to arrive after making the advance payment.

The Minister for Economic Affairs agreed that it was indeed an issue for those people whose land falls under power lines but mentioned that it is now better with the Bhutan Electricity Authority’s Safety Code (Amendment) 2021. The Safety Code (Amendment) 2021 allows construction on the land that falls under the right-of-way power lines with vertical clearance. He also mentioned that the construction of electric transmission towers was carried out after seeking permission and payment of compensations. If the affected landowner didn’t have any other land then after verification by the Local Government, the National Land Commission provided land substitute. But the main issue arose due to the fragmentation of the land holdings. He reported that from now, the power lines and electric poles would be constructed only on the Government’s land and if private land cannot be avoided, the compensation would be provided as per the Land Act of Bhutan, 2007.

On the status of the Kholongchu Hydropower Project, the Minister said that the progress of the joint venture hydropower project had been stalled on account of some disagreement among the shareholders. Regarding the status of the Nyera-Amari Hydropower Project, the Minister reported that the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the project which was prepared in 2017-18 was reviewed and updated by Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC). The DGPC submitted the report to the Ministry two weeks ago but the commencement date of the construction is not finalized.

The Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs, on being questioned on the status of the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the Zhemgang Dzong renovation replied that the DPR started around March 2021 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022. He also reported that as the 12th FYP doesn’t have a budget provision for the renovation, it could be taken up during the 13th FYP.  

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