New President of CAB says Bhutanese contractors can work beyond Bhutan

Trashi Wangyel, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rirab Constructions won the elections for the President, Construction Association of Bhutan (CAB). In this interview with The Journalist he speaks about His Majesty’s vision and roles of contractors, challenges confronted and opportunities ahead.  
What made you stand for the post?
Before I say anything else, as new President of CAB, on behalf of all contractors in the country, I convey my most humble wishes and prayers for Her Majesty’s peace, prosperity and long life. Additionally, I submit our gratitude to His Majesty the King for the generous Kidu we received in the form of loan interest waivers, which helped us immensely.
Coming to your question, I have been in the construction business since I was a child. During school holidays, I used to accompany my late father to construction sites. The Construction industry is like my second wife. I have been and I am in love with it. I have learned a lot of lessons from it; some which you will not learn in the most reputed universities of the world. Construction is about development and through my association with the industry, I have also come to know a little of the visions that His Majesty our King has for Bhutan and the significant role of the Construction industry. 
Having said this and coming to your question, though the Post of President, Construction Association of Bhutan (CAB), is one without any financial benefits, the President has a lot of responsibilities. Former Presidents have done their part. We cannot undermine their contributions. And this year, as the elections neared, there were several contractors who wanted me to contest for the post. If you receive one or two calls, it is a different matter. But when scores of people started to call me, I thought that perhaps I can do something. Though I cannot say that it was the call of the nation, it definitely was a call from people who knows me and believes that I can do something. And like I mentioned earlier, the Industry is my second wife. 
Were you confident of winning? What if you lost? 
I believe that no matter what post you are striving for or what you do, you have to be prepared to face any kind of circumstances. The other two contenders for President are seasoned contractors too, and perhaps more known than I am. However, call it destiny or the invisible hand, I had the positive vibe that I would win. But I definitely will not call it confidence.
Your second question is an interesting one and as said earlier, I was prepared to lose, too. And even if I had lost, my love affair with the industry would not have ended. I would have congratulated the winner, gone back to my site and in my own capacity assisted CAB and the elected President. It is not about an individual. It is about CAB and the nation.         
What are some of the challenges confronted by Bhutanese contractors and how would you go about solving it?
The construction industry has been plagued by challenges for a very long time. There are a combination of factors that work against us beginning from procurement laws to the weather. Just to cite an example. A contractors gets the work to construct a road. When it is time to blacktop, the monsoon begins. Though, we know that it will be loss of resources and a compromise of quality to work at such a time, due to the datelines to complete the work, contractors have to continue working. If not we are penalized and it happens at two levels – failure to complete the work in time and quality. Who do we blame – the monsoon. There are many incidences of the type.
I personally know the challenges, which have been augmented by the Pandemic. Nonetheless, there will be others with different challenges and this will differ between small, medium and large contractors. No one should be left behind. So, the first thing I will do is collect grievances of all contractors; study it properly; see if the submissions are genuine; work out what the government can do and after that take it to responsible agencies.
The government and CAB should work together, especially at this juncture when the focus is on revival of the economy. Contractors have a big role and stake here. Additionally, under His Majesty’s dynamic rule, there are several projects spread across the country, where contractors have important roles. We cannot afford to fail.
What will be your areas of focus?
There are many, but from all one will be the use of technology in all works that contractors undertake. We have to reap the benefits of technology. Yes! Contractors may need to invest in procuring but it will be of immense help. The time taken for work will reduce; quality will be ensured and the need for manual workers will decrease. Bhutanese workers will need to be skilled in taking up such works and thus there will be skills development. We are in the Industry 4 world today. Just like one cannot think of winning a war today with swords and shields, we cannot do tomorrow’s work with yesterday’s tools.
Further, I ardently believe that all three governments have not been able to communicate properly with Bhutanese contractors. By the same token, we, contractors have also not been able to convey our concerns. There is no going ahead if we are at logger-heads. We should be on the same wavelength. If there are issues such as alleged corruption, compromise in quality and others, it is because of this very factor – the inability of both parties to understand each other. Thus, one of the first things I want to do as President is to convey the concerns of all contractors. I am not talking about a wish list, but something that the government can and should do.
The other very important area, which some may call a dream or one that is very far-fetched is going beyond Bhutan. If we can export our products, why can’t we compete at the regional and international levels for works related to infrastructure development? Bhutan is a member of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), which has 1.73 billion people and a massive economy. Why are we not participating in development activities in this region? It is not because we cannot do it. To quote His Majesty, there is nothing that cannot be done. The question is if we are willing to do or not.  
As President, you will not be staying in Thimphu permanently. So how can you commit yourself?
I do not really know how the former presidents worked with the executive director and CAB as a whole. It is a digital world. During the pandemic the entire world used technology to work. Moreover, under His Majesty’s guidance, travel time in Bhutan has declined. There are domestic flights. So, wherever I may be, it is nothing different from being in Thimphu. 
Any other comments
I thank all members of CAB who participated in the elections; not just the ones who voted for me. We are a large family and so there will definitely be issues between individuals. But just like our forefathers, who despite differences came together whenever Bhutan was attacked, when the country needs us, we have to be united. Today, our country really needs us. It pierces my soul to see His Majesty taking all the pressure. Together with the government, we have to give our best. The time is Now.