Why I voted against the Education City Bill!

Today the National Council passed the Education City Bill with some important amendments. The Bill will therefore, go for joint sitting in the 10th session of Parliament. I respect the decision of the National Council.

After I published my article ‘Education City as an Economic Project’ last week, I took time to converse further with some of my colleagues. I have also benefitted from those of you who commented, supported, disagreed and even criticized my position on my website. I would like to thank you all. After reflecting on all these views, I decided to vote today against the bill.

Some of the major arguments that influenced how I decide to vote have already been posted in my earlier article. I will not repeat them here. Two additional reasons that reinforced my decision to vote against the bill are as follows.

A consortium of two Indian business entities had submitted the bid and had been selected as the concessionaire or ‘developer’ of the Education City. In other words, there was a single bidder. The very fact that there was a single ‘consortium’ bidder as opposed to earlier expectations for more bidders after publicizing all the merits of Education City became a cause of concern for me. If indeed the Education City in Bhutan is seen as attractive as has been publicized, I thought that there would at least be a few credible bidders. This is not to suggest that the present bidder is third-rate. Some significant potential bidders such as Tata which expressed interest earlier however, did not even participate in the bid. This is one reason why I have reservations about the attractiveness of our Education City.

From the Education City Bill and DHI presentations, I understand that the onus of bringing in ‘high quality’ institutes into Education City is on the concessionaire. The government could help promote and the Board of Education City can ensure that institutes and colleges setting up campuses in the City are really ‘high quality.’ But what if the ‘high quality’ institutes and colleges are not interested? One friend whose view I sought last week shared with me that, “Experience around the world is demonstrating over and over again, particularly in the present economic climate, which is predicted to last for a long time now, that academic institutions of any merit whatsoever simply do not have the financial resources to invest in such a project.” It is therefore, highly possible that the concessionaire may have to bring in some institutes and colleges so that there is a return on their investments.

They can’t make money from empty structures and facilities. This could possibly result in inviting colleges and institutes whose quality in any sense would not match with what the Education City Bill envisages. Certainly, we do not want academic institutions that are only business entities.

The evidence so far suggests that there is really no strong interest abroad to come into our Education City. Only a few institutes have signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with us. These MoUs are however, not actual commitment whatsoever to establish campuses or knowledge centres. The best of these MoUs is only an indication that they may consider to come in later. Of course DHI reasons that even to get MoU from these few reputed institutes is a success compared to other countries in the region which have not even succeeded to get such MoUs. My reservation however, stems from the fact that we are launching a huge economic project drawing confidence from such things as MoUs which are only indications and not actual commitments.

It is for these reasons that I voted against the Education City Bill. I would be very glad to be proven wrong after fifteen years because the implications for our national society otherwise are very huge.

The writer is the Deputy-Chairperson of the National Council (Sonam Kinga)

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  1. I predict that the best college to show interest in Ed City will be the Lovely Professional University, followed by the Fabulous Extraordinary College.

    Good job for rejecting this very shady bill!

  2. eggzatly this is what i raised issue when DHI was planning all high/big fancy projects like medical tourism, IT city, Education city, mining investments, etc.. This are all bullshits and immature thinking at present. This clearly indicates the level of thinking this DHI employees have. I have mentioned many times in online that this big players or so called international investors just nod their head to please our people, come to our country to see scenery and culture and go and never to return. 

    So, I have also mentioned that the whole purpose of DHI is zero, does not contribute anything to us… They are just middle man of govt owned corporations and work by getting money from this corporations and giving it to govt. They just spend money to go abroad in the name of looking for investors, god knows who will get investors in egypt, turkey, when many things are happening there. If ACC or reporters does some study the employees of DHI from the time of its inception must be traveled all around the globe,, this i am sure coz i have seen them.

  3. Our planners like to think of themselves as ‘big thinkers’ not realizing that thinking big requires big brainpower as well. They like to think big but don’t realize that these things require a lot of study and analysis. In Bhutan they just jump directly into things and assume they will work out.

    The CEO of DHI Infra himself still hasn’t understood what he’s doing. In one breath he is saying that Ed City will bring in lots of money due to having lots of foreign students while at the same time saying Ed City will give Bhutanese students the opportunity to study in world class universities in Bhutan itself.

    This is a contradiction in terms because these two ‘markets’ are at different paying capacity levels. 

    It is also extremely stupid because even when the world economy was good, there was never a duplication of Harvard or MIT or Columbia or even not well known colleges in other countries. There is still one Harvard and one MIT and there will always be only one. Only some fool must have come up with the notion that MIT will duplicate itself in Bhutan!

  4. I would not just vote against the bill but terminate the project completely. It is simply rediculous and overly ambitious to develop such project. When Singapore or India have functional education city, it does not mean that we have the potential to have one. How on earth can we compare to other countries? When our education system is sub standard, especially tertiary education is one of the hopeless system in the world. Look at our educated lots. Most of us have master degrees in economics, administration, engineering yet we are not able to conduct even basic statistical analysis. Every time we have to hire consultancies. In the back drop of such grim realities, the so-called brilliant DHI Infra CEO comes up with a mega plans to develop a education system. The propose project estimates that the project will bring in about 12000 students and about 5 billion ngultrum revenue after the development. How on earth they computed these numbers? Study the reality. Just because one can build number of buildings does not mean that people will come to Bhutan to study. First of all, who will come to Bhutan to study when they have better education system in their own countries. I just don’t get this frivolous plans to waste more public resources and it will only destroy the natural environment in Wangsisisna. I think DHI is only wasting our resources for the interest of few people. Lets scrap this project. It will never succeed because the reality is completely different from our dreams. We are day dreaming to much.

  5. i too would vote against such a bill………………simply because we have so many other priorities for the poor ………personally I have no problem with such a concept but why the hurry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!………………….dhi think tank need to spend a few months in rural bhutan to capture the real essence of our people needs before they come up with such mega proposals.

  6. Bhutan will definitely save some  foreign exchange  after the development of education city by  stopping  flight of students to the west. I am sure we can invite some good universities. I think educational consultants operating in Bhutan can be of some help. 

    • The question is: When colleges like the RTC, which are privately built and operated and financed, expand and grow in numbers, and improve in their quality, won’t that ALSO ‘save some foreign exchange’ and of course rupees?

      This special act for this special project effectively crushes other opportunities of local origin because they are giving too many incentives only to this project. All other college proposals will have to survive under the bureaucratic yoke of the RUB and their petty regulations.

  7. Your voice will be heard in 2013 election!

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