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Financial constraints put a question mark on this ambitious but important project

A government objective of establishing community centres (CCs) in all gewogs by 2013 may not happen, it was revealed at the mid-term review of the ministry of information and communications (MoIC) on Wednesday.

The department of information technology and telecom (DITT) informed the government that Nu 256M more was needed to complete the objective. The department’s director, Phuntsho Namgay, called it a “serious constraint” and a financial requirement that would have to be fulfilled for the objective to be completed.

But the ministry of finance informed the prime minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley, and MoIC, that the possibility of providing more money did not exist. Finance pointed out that allocation of funds had already taken place, and that a budget deficit of Nu 4B already exists for this financial year alone. Finance suggested that not only MoIC but other agencies, who had requested for additional budget, re-prioritise how and where they allocate funds.

“It won’t be possible to receive additional funding for that purpose,” the prime minister told MoIC. He suggested looking at external sources for the required budget.

But the finance ministry was also instructed by the prime minister to re-examine the issue, given its importance towards achieving the government’s e-governance objectives. The only possibility of receiving additional budget would be re-allocating money from elsewhere, the finance ministry said.

“The decision may have to be, in the absence of resources, we may have to decide not to go ahead with this,” said the prime minister. “But we need to look at it very closely, because this is a very important service that we do want to provide,” he added.

Senior government officials urged the government to provide the additional financial requirement.

Health secretary, Dasho Gado Tshering, said that the digital divide phenomenon needed to be prevented in Bhutan, by providing rural areas with access to information communications technology (ICT). He said, with Bhutan embarking on creating this knowledge and access of ICT, it was the right time to provide necessary funds for establishment of CCs.

GNHC secretary, Karma Tshiteem, said that the provision of CCs in all 205 gewogs would be “critical” in achieving the government’s desire in bringing public services closer to citizens. He said the activity had to be prioritised and supported.

But the GNHC secretary also said that the costs had to be brought down. He suggested that the idea of providing entertainment services, such as screening movies in CCs be scrapped.

In response, the communications secretary, Dasho Kinley Dorji, said that investing in providing entertainment services would instead financially save the CC program. He referred to experiences elsewhere, such as India and the Philippines, where he said the CC program had failed. He added, that the entertainment aspect will be a “a saviour in the financial sense.”

CCs include a multipurpose hall, where locally produced movies can be screened. He pointed out that the concept of the one stop shop for public service had been evolved to also provide a centre for non-formal education (NFE) and rural education and development (READ) programs.

The communications ministry has committed itself to provide 109 CCs by June 2011. So far, more than 35 have been established. The budget to construct these 109 CCs was availed from the Chipen Rigpel project (Nu 115M) and Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) south Asia sub-regional economic cooperation (SASEC) project (US$ 3.1M).


What is a community centre (CC)?

Besides providing access to information communications technology (ICT), such as computers, xerox machines, cameras, fax and telephone, for obtaining public services, CCs also provide other services such as education and entertainment. For instance, a multipurpose hall is used to screen locally produced movies, serve as a venue for the non-formal education (NFE) and rural education and development (READ) programs.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Gyalsten K Dorji

Quelle/Source: Kuensel, Buhutan's National Newspaper, 18.12.2010

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