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Lately, the Damchu-Chukha bypass has become an example to cite among those who are behind schedule and miss deadlines.

The cost of delayed projects

Lately, the Damchu-Chukha bypass has become an example to cite among those who are behind schedule and miss deadlines.

It may be said in jest and the authorities may not even find it humourous. Or perhaps, it is cited because the bypass happens to be a much-awaited project that promises to shorten the distance between the capital and the country’s biggest commercial hub.

Whichever way it is said, the complacency over chronic delays, which is quite common in our system, is clear.

The road construction, which started with much grandeur and hype, is yet to be completed. Seven years on, our authorities are unable to request Project DANTAK to complete the construction. Nor do we see progress in the construction of a bridge over the Amochhu River, which entered its eighth year.  It took us six years to complete building the 6.2km Thimphu- Babesa expressway.  That we took a year to complete a kilometre of road shows that delays in projects are a norm.

The issue is not confined to the construction industry. Judgments are delayed because our plan to set up a forensic laboratory at home where DNA samples could be sent remains on paper. We wait for forensic reports from abroad when we already have officials trained for the job. We should have done better, but we choose to wait instead.

It appears that we have institutionalised complacency with little regard to the costs incurred.  Nor we do seem to do a good job holding authorities accountable. Why we tolerate such practises when we know that roads and bridges are our lifelines or that a forensic lab has become a necessity is hard to understand.  And when we suffer from such chronic delays in the work we execute, in the work we are mandated to do and paid for, there is little room for us to blame outsiders for missing their deadlines.

For a landlocked country that requires to be reached by road, we should have done much better. The slow progress we see shows that it is either intentional or not at all a priority.

It is time we understood the reasons for calling the roads our lifelines. Besides connecting us, we depend on the roads for our developmental needs. Almost everything we buy is transported and distributed through land.  We build roads to take schools and hospitals to remote parts of the country. We started our journey of socioeconomic development with roads.

Despite such reliance roads and spending huge resources, we are unable to complete projects that have the potential to change the lives of communities at home. We pledge vehicles and fuel depots even before connecting communities with roads that are pliable.

There is a need for the authorities to intervene and address issues that delay important projects. We must explore avenues of taking over projects that are delayed for years and conduct thorough studies to understand the cause of delays. We must ensure that if deadlines are set, we must meet them.

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One comment

  1. To think the economics involved with road infrastructure and something like forensic science together is probably not an easy thing to do. And it’s true that application of science always makes things easier to understand and help us see the big picture.

    While talking a project like road infrastructure, both time and cost overrun are not desired. A road project in the hills also need severe maintenance during the construction phase; and that’s considering the fully or partly completed sections of the overall project planned.

    From a management point of view, probably it’s easier dealing with time overrun. But that usually demands more resources to be put to task or usage. And that’s largely unplanned consumption of the costs initially projected for the project. If it’s possible to accept it that way, it’s again going to cause some form of cost overrun. It’s just a layman’s view in my own opinion.

    Considering financial concepts like ‘annuity’ in calculations involving ‘time value of money’, it’s never an easy science to understand for those who are not qualified to understand the complex economics. To think ‘perpetuity’ along with ‘annuity’ is even more complicated.

    Thankfully, there is a definite end in the completion of the beginning of a road infrastructure project. We only expect the authorities responsible for management and the government to take appropriate measures ensuring timely completion of projects.

    If I am not wrong here, the mentioned Damchu-Chukha bypass project was planned as there were challenges in place maintaining the existing road, especially during the monsoon. Moreover, there were challenges in place in opting for widening of the existing road. But I am extremely sorry if I have got this information wrong. I hope that I can be corrected by default.

    And still, anything of a cost overrun is always costing a project time when things get calculated from the expected date of completion. To make things even worse, the same project also faces time overrun only adding to the overall project valuation and hence the additional costs to the economy at a rate for growth. That’s considering the deviations in costs from the ones initially projected and calculated.

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