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Unfinished business

After getting accustomed to delayed projects, we have now begun to inaugurate incomplete projects.

The new Gelephu drungkhag office in Umling and the Tsirang hospital were still under construction even as they were inaugurated last year. The recently inaugurated eco-friendly treatment plant in Hejo is also incomplete.

While inaugurations for the former were reportedly rushed for political gains, weak coordination between the central and the local government agencies led to the opening of a treatment plant that had all but sewage to treat.

That these projects are meant to provide basic services to the people continue to delude our decision makers at the ministries and municipalities. Ceremonial gimmicks of incomplete works do not deliver, yet we continue to rush with inaugurations. From drinking water shortage to parking space constrains to meeting the basic needs of a city, the administration of Thimphu Thromde has shown yet again that it has excelled in not getting anything right. It did not connect the sewer lines from the houses to the treatment plant.

We unsee and normalise the growing problems of policy incoherence in governance and remain unabashed about it because accountability is a non-issue. The decentralisation of authority meant to enhance good governance becomes counterproductive when agencies do not meet their responsibilities. It is perhaps for these reasons and more that concerns are raised on the capacity of the local government to implement 12th Plan activities.

Some local government officials were reportedly offended when their capacity to implement the plan was questioned. There is, however, a difference between lack of capacity and an engineered lack of willingness to work.  In our case, it is clearly the latter.

Compound this with the lack of coordination among agencies and even within organisations and we have a perfect case of weak implementation of good strong policies. When the last government dissolved the committee of secretaries, coordination among government agencies snapped. The new government has reinstituted the committee but a coordinated approach on decision-making is not yet visible.

The implementation of a major policy change in education left students, teachers and parents scrambling for information. None had any clue as to where they should go to get details about their new school. If the last government inaugurated incomplete projects, the new government took it a notch up by implementing an incomplete policy.

It is time we understood and prioritised the society’s needs and worked together towards those targets. We have an ambitious plan to make the country shed its least developed status and an even more ambitious government to bring about change.

The complacency we are accustomed to is irrelevant for modern Bhutan just as incomplete inaugurations are.

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