STAFF REPORTER | Thimphu
Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering met with the civil servants, the business communities, and the people of Samdrup Jongkhar and consoled them of the long and enduring lockdowns the district had to go through because of the pandemic.
The Prime Minister made a halt at Samdrup Jongkhar to engage with all the gewogs in the dzongkhag after gracing the Passing out Parade of Desuups at Dewathang.
Though representatives from Thimphu cannot meet as desired, the Prime Minister said that the government is connected via a chain of 20 dzongdas, 205 gups, mangmis and numerous tshogpas in the chiwogs who are representatives of His Majesty.
“Local government functionaries operate closest to the people. We all work towards a common national goal and towards making people’s lives as comfortable as possible,” Lyonchen said.
Coming out of the pandemic and as the nation progresses into the new normal era, Lyonchhen said we must change the way we think and do our work, shifting the roles and mandates at this critical juncture besides delivering the responsibilities efficiently and sincerely.
Lyonchhen said the planning system must also be effective and relevant to the changing times and needs, and decisions have to be evidence-based.
Meanwhile, he said planned activities will keep happening. Lyonchhen said it is the responsibility of the people to explore newer ideas and promote innovative programs that will contribute to the prosperity of the villages, gewogs, and the people. “It is time to strive for higher standards in whatever we do.”
Lyonchhen reiterated that block grants give space to invest in programs that are inventive, promote the local economy, and employ young people in the villages. While there are concerns about the low budget utilization rate in the LGs, the pandemic and the local election were the impediments. “But now, we have no time to waste.”
In addition to disruption by the pandemic in the lives of people for over two years, he said it was more agonizing for the people living in the border districts with repeated lockdowns and mandatory quarantine to travel within the country. Lyonchhen thanked and appreciated the patience and support of the public during the pandemic.
The prime minister said that His Majesty motivated people to give their best and not compromise resources or standards of operations when it came to his people’s lives in managing COVID-19.
Lyonchhen also shared that Bhutan is acknowledged in the international domain as one of the countries that managed the pandemic well. Although no death can be justified, Bhutan saw 21 deaths related to COVID-19, all with underlying conditions, while millions of lives were lost the world over.
No government would wish for such a pandemic during their tenure but the pandemic left us with no choice but to renegotiate some of our priorities. Lyonchhen also shared inevitable circumstances forced by the pandemic.
With a budget of Nu 2.6 billion, Lyonchhen informed that the first phase took off in September 2020. Since then, 161 farm roads have been improved and works are underway in 40 gewogs as of today.
Lyonchhen shared that with the success of phase one, it is already in the process of rolling out phase two. For accountability, subsequent phases will be awarded to gewogs only upon completion of the preceding farm roads.
The PM said the importance of a well-connected road network is paramount to the country’s economic development. “Particularly at this juncture, where the pandemic has greatly impacted our livelihood, these are the enabling factors for economic opportunities, reversing the pocket expenses of rural people as soon as possible,” Lyonchhen said.
He added that the government will closely monitor and make sure all the projects are completed in time and with the desired quality.
“Alongside, from no-road to farm road, to GSB laid roads, we will keep striving for advanced means of connectivity in keeping with time and resources as our nation progresses,” he said.