Transforming our towns

Last week, Bhutan Times reported that a model town will be built in Denchi, Pema Gatshel (A new town like no other; Bhutan Times; 11 February – I couldn’t find the article on BT’s unfriendly website, so please bear with the numerous quotations).

The article quoted our prime minister as announcing that Denchi “… will be a dream town structurally planned and aesthetically beautiful with all aspects of urbanity…” And that it “… will have facilities not incorporated in other towns like a town hall, a park, a promenade, a unique modern dzong and banking and postal services.”

Very good.

But our prime minister also announced that Professor Chistopher Beninger will “… develop the concept and come up with a conceptual plan”. He clarified that “…the contract has not been awarded to him yet, but an arrangement will be worked out if the government likes what the professor offers.”

Not good.

The government should also invite Bhutanese architects to develop and propose concepts for the new township. In fact, the government should encourage and support national architects to develop the conceptual plans. And, at the very least, our architects should be given the opportunity to compete for the lucrative government contract.

As it turns out, the government may be giving special privileges to Professor Beninger instead – Bhutan Observer features him already discussing the plan with the prime minister.

Our own architects have been sidelined. Some of them are truly capable. And all of them can articulate the history, culture and spirit of this country far more eloquently than most foreigners. But only if they are given the chance.

In the past, we ignored our traditional architects and carpenters. And look at where that has landed us. Our towns show complete disregard for Bhutanese traditions and culture. Instead, we live in concrete blocks pretending to be traditional Bhutanese houses simply because we coat them with fake Bhutanese paint.

Let’s learn from our mistakes. Let’s use our own architects. Let’s use traditional carpenters. Otherwise we risk spreading the shame that is Thimphu to our beautiful countryside. And that’s no way to build a “model town”.

(Photo from Bhutan Observer)

 

Facebook Comments:

Comments

  1. Your Honourable,
    It is great regarding this issue of PMs Decision to offer the Work to an foriegner.How and why?
    Is it that the town gona built in Americian style?

    ….or just wanted the money to flow out to developed country?

    Is it that Bhutanese Architects dont know about town planning or else?

    i feel that it is indirectly insult to we the Bhutanese architects.
    well done lynpo…. go ahead and ask why???? DPT—- wants a Foriegner to do that.

  2. Luis Portugal says:

    Hello
    It has a nice blog.
    Sorry not write more, but my English is bad writing.
    A hug from my country, Portugal

  3. BRAVO!

    p.s. what’s happened to competitive bidding …?

  4. Does the PM read your blogs? I wish he does!

    If not, can you go and tell him or will you raise it in the next session of the parliament?

    Issue is pertinent!

    regards

  5. Its good to know that our government is working towards the initiative to make our town look beautiful. Making the plan would not be that difficult but implementing it will be.
    I agree with the second point, we do have lots of capable Bhutanese architects who could easily take up the challenge. Another good thing about this would be that the money will be retained with Bhutanese. I don’t know why we have to rely so much on foreign consultant when we have our own people who can take up these works. Anyways it’s high time that our Government put more faith in our poll of human resource.

  6. Bhutanese Blogger says:

    Very timely post.

    I hold nothing against consultants. They bring in a lot of new ideas and perspectives. But we do need to take a step back and ask: are we going to be like this throughout? Always dependent on external experts.

    We should seriously develop our own experts…

  7. i am not surprised at all… are you?
    That Bhutanese want outsiders to do more work inside our own country than our own people.

    do we draft our own policies… we don’t ? do we do our own research…barely? Its all outsourced and we call it expertise?

    Are we building our skills… may be… but half of them either don’t use them ( mostly at higher level- don’t ahve the time because of meetings…) or the younger ones are not allowed to… both ways we can’t use it.

    I am once again not surprised at all…. and for those of you … to whom it came as a surpirse…… read our government documents… msot them are written by foreigners too..

  8. Am I not glad to see the issue of our dependence and trust on external consultants come up at last on this blog? I have been pained by this for a long time. I think it is sometimes our own choices that land us in the trap of dependence. We tend to mistrust our own. Haven’t we learnt enough already that many of our plans, programmes and activities have failed because they weren’t relevant to our needs and they did not take into account our local realities?

    I once had the wonderful opportunity to work with a reform team (all Bhutanese). However, I soon realized that the bulk of the money was actually being pumped into ‘external’ experts, who did not even prove to be more competent. I came up with two possible reasons for doing this: 1)either because we trust external consultants can do a better job (which could be true in some instances); or 2)we have a ‘hidden agenda’.

    Of course, some ideas could be totally new to Bhutan, therefore the need for external experts. However, our stance has always been ‘adaption’ rather than ‘adoption’ for a unique result. So, even if we must have external consultants, I would imagine a local consultant also involved to help bring out the best unique result.

    Unless, of course, our objective is to bring about total transformation through adoption for a change …

  9. Bhutanese Blogger says:

    This was a post that I did in September on my blog:

    Trust our Bhutanese consultants!

    The famous story about a yak consultant who asked, ‘what is that?’, on seeing a yak may be an urban legend.

    But many external consultants sometimes make this story seem true.

    Go to any Government department – you will find many cookie-cutter reports full of half-baked ideas gathering dust on bookshelves and file racks. Some recommendations await implementation long after the consultant has returned to his country. In the process resources are expended but not much value is added, which is a problem.

    I was wondering why Bhutanese consultants are not recruited. There are many qualified individuals capable of delivering results and there are clear benefits in recruiting them:

    1. They are familiar with the way things work in Bhutan and it is easier for them to understand the problems/issues at hand.

    2. They belong to the society and have their practices established in Bhutan. The quality of work they deliver has implications for them as citizens and business, and thus have incentives and motivations to do a good job.

    3. Being locally based, they are cheaper and easily accessible during and after the assignment.

    4. You do not have to host them in hotels, provide them a guide to teach Bhutan history and take them for sight-seeing. They will be more focused on the assignment.

    They definitely sound a better value for our money.

    But this demands a change in the attitude of those who procure these services. They must realise that ‘external’ isn’t necessarily ‘quality and efficiency’. They should trust the capability of our local consultants and encourage them to engage with the Government.

  10. Force India says:

    Hello. Your blog is very good. I have a blog and I would you visit the blog, please. Bhutan is a very beautiful place. My blog is http://www.polepositionforceindia.blogspot.com Sorry for my bad English, jajaja. Greeting from Spain.

  11. Here all seem to be talking about the goodness of our local consultants in Bhutan as opposed to the outside consultants. I am also for one a believer of giving work to our own Bhutanese consultants as long as it is all done in a professional manner. many of us have come across work done by our own Bhutanese consultants but they are not done well as we know but the work is normally accepted and the bill passed because the government officer who award the work is involved in it and gets a piece of pie along with the completion. Even the Finance controller gets a share in many cases and it is an ugly scenario.

    So, I am a believer of joint work between foreign consultants and local consultants in order to get a good work done and not end up with a half boiled egg on the plate when we desire for a fully boiled egg. The outside consultants also should not be awarded full authority of the work as they get paid all the money and they do get all their information through us Bhutanese anyway and they only seem to be doing a compiling job. The problem with this format is that they donot even take the trouble of interviewing the right people and come up with mistakes again.

    I respect what ever is said here, but I believe in a team effort between the two and we cannot go wrong.

  12. I happened to raise this same issue during my orientation in 2003 to the then Minster of Works and Human Settlement.
    I don’t know remember the answer, but it was then, hopefully now things are different!

  13. As much as I do empathize with local consultants (having joined as a member of this family), I do also feel uncomfortable that some resort to corruptive measures (bribery) to win the bid. It is either through some amount to the government project manager under the table or illegal recruitment of a government employee as a consultant by the firm. In both these cases, the winner is assured in advance so there’s no competition really.

    Aren’t we ourselves then showing that we are not confident of our competence to compete honourably?

    What do we celebrate then? VICTORY of having won cleverly or SUCCESS in selling our conscience?

    Or, are we to accept these as clever tricks of the business world that is advisable for all to learn in order to survive? (YES, some do give this advice) Your learning, knowledge, skills have no value otherwise. Is this what we must resort to teaching our children and youth?

    And, after having entered the world of consultancy, I’ve also come to realize that the ethics and quality of work assigned to local consultants (not generalized) are questionable. I have heard of local firms being blacklisted for not having visited the field, yet having compiled field data. I have come across a local consultant rewriting a report done by another local consultant that the hiring agency was not happy with. (What a waste!) I even had a government project manager remark, “Really? That local firm got awarded again? But, frankly, they did such a bad job for us last time.” So, yes, the issue of quality of work done by some local consultants/firms is not unfounded. However, we must bear in mind that the blame goes partly back to the system for encouraging poor quality work by awarding work on the basis of ‘connections’ and ‘personal gains’. This corruption, isn’t it? With a system of awarding consultancy works fairly on the basis of well thought out criteria (example below) there should be no complaints about the quality of work. In fact, all individual consultants and firms will be more careful and improve upon their work ethics when faced with real competition. The point here is to acknowledge and recognize the deserving local consultants (at par with external consultants), not really to award consultancy work to any local person who CLAIMS to be a consultant. (Yes, we have uncontrollably increasing number of claimants)

    SELECTION CRITERIA (just an example from a hiring agency):

    1. 30% weightage to financial bid
    2. 70% weightage to technical bid,
    evaluated as follows:

    a. 10% to experience (focus on
    project relevant experience)
    b. 20% to work plan and
    approach (understanding of
    objectives; quality of
    methodology; work plan)
    c. 70% to personnel (team
    leader; qualification and
    experience of team
    members)

    To me, it makes sense to share the criteria in advance and also the results after evaluation. This would be TRANSPARENCY, wouldn’t it? I think further that presentation by the shortlisted individuals/firms would also be fair and helpful.

    We talk of corporate social responsibility. Perhaps, we need to talk of ‘moral responsibility’ as well. Many unpleasantries of life and systems are internally driven, yet we blame them on external factors.

  14. Christoper Benniger leads a white collar, highly organized organized corruption in Bhutan. Thimphu Structural Plan and Supreme Court desgins are both failure (not able to deliver on time and costing huge). In the case of Supreme Court plan, Christoper Benninger makes contractor required to buy for example, CGI sheets from India but has to root through Singapore (making it seem like from Singapore) and a Minister approves it (many ministers it seems indirectly). Why? Commission, commission, huge commission. Commission like that is a white collar corruption. Also openly discussed at http://www.kuzuzangpo.com and http://www.bhutantimes.com

    https://www.bhutantimes.com/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=1270&forum=10&post_id=12095#forumpost12095

    PM talks about learning from past mistakes. Why rewarding past mistakes? Or is even PM involve in this white collar corruption? Bhutanese society is not stupid.

    Opposition Leader, please do something about it. Only you have the boldness and courage to face the PM. I don't like you personally but I admire your courage for the good of the country. I may not like you but my children will appreciate you for making their future clean. I voted for DPT and supported PM but now I am losing faith in him.

    Do something!

  15. My Greetings to you

    This is something that has been going on for years and the Prime Minister blatantly continues to ignore people’s disgust at the way this illegal firm is awarded contracts after contracts without even going through the tendering process.

    I see that Your Excellency too sees this as something not good. My question then is: Why have you refrained from raising this issue in the Parliament? You know, I know and the whole country knows that this issue is big enough for you to question the Prime Minister in the Parliament.

    We the people look on helplessly as the DPT government adn the Prime Minister in particular goes about doing things as if it where his personal affair. We cant do anything but make noise which we are doing. That some how has made no difference. The Prime Minister and the DPT government continues to pay scant regard to our feelings. But you are in a place where you can question and make a difference. Will you please do that?

  16. This is really sad and I think the bhutanese people should not accept such decisions by some people which leads to discrimination of our own local experts. This is criminal and we need to vioce it out.

    Something like this had happened a few years ago. A lover of dogs who lives in Bhutan and claims to be a vet without a license or a certificate. The Vets in Bhutan under the MoA had brought this out to the government. The govt. did what was right and ethical and issued a letter to this person and asked her to stop her practice. The person was mad and hates the PM then who was LSN. The question is isn’t it unethical to practice without a certificate or a license? How come she is still practicing and is being supported by our PM who awarded her with a medal early last year after the DPT won (very dissapointing). How come this is also being violiated? isn’t it a crime and shouldn’t this person be behind bars…. or is anything OK in Bhutan? Doesn’t our govt respect professionalism, why, why, why? Please comment whether this is right.
    This lady speaks so badly about our people and accuse us for being bad to dogs… but she herself who has learnt the trait from our vets here have killed many dogs while experimenting! is it right again…. She is minting money in Bhutan in the name of our dogs….. does anyone know about her donors and how to verify it.

Leave a Reply