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Policy for senior citizens’ welfare to be launched this year

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:49

Yangyel Lhaden 

To improve the care and protection of senior citizens, the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) secretariat is working on formulating the National Policy for the Senior Citizens. It is expected to be launched in October.

Few available studies from National Statistics Bureau (NSB) 2017 show that senior citizens face financial problems, food insufficiency, landlessness, debt burden, abandonment, disrespect, discrimination, and social exclusion in some aspects.

According to NSB 2017 report 30 percent live in a poor shelter, 22 percent do not own land, 15 percent are debt-ridden, 26 percent of them face food insufficiency and 63 percent have a financial problem.

Senior Policy Researcher with GNHC, Karma Tshering Samdrup said that currently, there was no dedicated care for the older population because there was no specific legislation or financial support system, and there were policy gaps.

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Karma Tshering Samdrup said that as per the population projection of older people from the Population and Housing Census of Bhutan 2017 (PHCB) it is time to formulate a policy for senior citizens.

“The policy recommends productive ageing, health care and protection, safety and security, housing and age-friendly services, and welfare for our senior citizens,” he said.

He said that senior citizens programmes at the initial stage were limited to declaring October as Senior Citizens Day, integrated health care screening for elderly citizens, priority counters at health centres and banks, and elderly care programme under the health ministry.

The proportion of the elderly population, those who are 65 years and above, increased from 4.7 percent (29,745) to 5.9 percent (43,064) between 2005 and 2017.

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PHCB projection shows in 2022, the elderly population in Bhutan has 50,715 older people amounting to 6.7 percent of the population and it is expected to increase to 13.4 percent (118,650) by 2047 making the country an “aged” society.

Head of United Nations Population Fund, Phuntsho Wangyel said that according to UNFPA population projection, if 60 years is considered as cut off age for the elderly population, the elderly population would outnumber the children population by 2047.

“Declining fertility rates and longer life expectancy are causing unprecedented growth in the proportion of the older population,” he said.

He said, therefore, there are growing calls for senior citizens to be recognised as a distinct community deserving of special care and attention, rights, and an increased focus on the right of senior citizens.

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To guide policy formulation, GNHC in collaboration with the health ministry and the Royal Society for Senior Citizens with funding from UNFPA conducted a one-day meeting involving stakeholders from Zhung Dratshang, armed forces, non-government organisations, civil society organisations (CSO), Office of Attorney General, and senior representatives.

The representatives suggested introducing old age homes, incentives to care for the old, and universal basic income to senior citizens through the policy.

Pema Lhamo, a representative from a CSO said that an old age home should be one of the options to take care of the old. “Incentives to care for parents should be made available to children just like parents getting maternity and paternity leave.”

Leytshog Drungchen with Zhung Dratshang, Ugen Namgyal said that the policy should address ageing productively. “Pension should not only be limited to the civil servants, corporate employees, and private individuals which is only a small percent of the population.”

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He said that a policy recommendation and different schemes of pension should be made available to benefit the larger population. “I am hopeful the proposal I am working on pension for monks and nun under Zhung Dratshang would be able to take care of ageing population in monastic body.”

Sonam Tshewang, a retired civil servant, said that the policy should capture the whole ageing population of present and future, “Old people of my age are closed-minded but now there is emerging old, they are open-minded and future old people will be even more modern.”

Phuntsho Wangyel said that the policy intervention should ensure senior citizens remain healthy, active, and productive in their advanced years. “It should be comprehensive enough to take into consideration the diversity of situation and needs of the senior citizens.”

He said that the policy should also address eliminating age discrimination, promoting positive ageing, and securing their right to comprehensive and high-quality services.

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The GNHC secretariat is conducting a series of policy formulation workshops and focus group discussions and presentations to different sectors before the policy finalisation on September.

ECB spends Nu 254M in third LG elections

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:49

Dechen Dolkar 

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) spent about Nu 254 million (M) to conduct the third Local Government (LG) elections.

The expenses incurred include re-elections in both gewogs and thromdes. 

Records with the ECB show that the election expenses during the last LG election was lesser by about Nu 5M as ECB spent about Nu 259M in 2016.

During the elections, most expenses are made on travel allowance (TA) and daily allowance (DA) for the election officers. 

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ECB deployed more than 5,600 election officers during the third LG elections, including 50 returning officers (ROs) and 51 national observers (NOs).

There were 1,128 polling stations across the country and each polling station has an average of five election officers.

ECB’s spokesperson, Phub Dorji, said it takes about eight days for the officials to travel to the polling stations. 

“There are some places like Lunana and Lingzhi where it takes two weeks to go and return,” he said. 

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He said ROs and NOs are deployed for about two months during the election period. “They are deployed from the day the election is announced till the petition period ends.”

During the elections period, ROs and NOs are paid around Nu 130,000 to Nu 140,000. “ 

But ROs are overworked and underpaid. ROs have huge responsibilities and accountabilities during the elections,” Phub Dorji said.   

He also claimed that for the third LG election, they spent less due to cost-cutting measures despite the revision in the daily subsistence allowance for civil servants.

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He said that the commission has cut down the expenditure wherever possible, including car polling among the election officers. “We have weighed whether it is cheaper to hire a car, provide mileage or use government pool vehicles.” 

He, however, said during the third LG election, the commission incurred expenses on the mobile voting booth for physically challenged voters and elderly voters. “A team of election officers went to collect votes in the remotest area even if there was one voter.”

LG programmes must align with national priorities: PM

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:48

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

With a lot of Covid-19 protocols lifted and the nation progressing into a new normal era, people must change the way they think and do their work, according to the Prime Minister (PM).

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said this while meeting gewog officials in Samdrupjongkhar.

He spent a day each in every gewog in the dzongkhag.

Lyonchhen also said that since the local government (LG) officials work close to the people, it’s important to revisit the plans and programmes on the ground to ensure they align with the national priorities.

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He said the planning must be effective and relevant to the time and need and for that to happen, they need accurate data. “It’s only LG members who can give the authentic as well as real-time statistics.”

The Prime Minister said LG members are responsible to explore new ideas and promote innovative programmes that will contribute to the prosperity of the villages, gewogs and people.

He said block grants have been introduced to empower LG members so that they could invest in inventive programmes, promote the local economy and employ young people in the villages.

“While there are concerns on the low budget utilisation in the LGs, we know it was because of the pandemic and local government election,” he said. “But now, we cannot waste our time.”

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The Prime Minister also said since LG members are there to support people, they must come forward with ideas and proposals that are well researched and sustainable. “Access to finance as well as the market are some of the key areas we can work together.”

He claimed that he is not in the gewogs for ceremonies or sightseeing. “I am here to resolve issues immediately. I would also work with concerned agencies if there are broader issues that need review or consultation.” 

Meanwhile, LG leaders said they are happy that the Prime Minister is there to discuss issues in the gewogs at the start of their tenure.

They said gewogs could not implement many development activities because of a lack of budget and pandemic.

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“Since most of the gewog centre (GC) roads are damaged and are in bad conditions, we expect the government to support us with budget to maintain the GC roads and to carry out other developmental activities,” a gup said.

Picture story

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:47

Ambassador of Bhutan to Thailand, Kinzang Dorji received 10 volunteers from the Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA), under the aegis of the Friends from Thailand Programme. 

The volunteers, including Community and Tourism Development Specialist, Dairy Food Microbiologist, Dairy Technologist, Audio Visual Trainer, and Information Technology Communication Officer, have arrived here in Bhutan on May 17. They will be attached with various agencies for an initial period of one year.  

Fulfilling wishes of the old

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:46

Senior citizens at a consultation meeting to formulate a national policy this week spoke their minds out. What came out was the hypocrisy knowing that realities are dictating priorities of which caring for the old is forced to the background. That the Bhutanese culture and the respect and love for the old and the aged was exposed as many senior citizens – our parents and grandparents –  made it clear that there is neglect, forced by circumstances, if not deliberately.

Elderly citizens want old-age homes, in other words, care. This, they feel, could take care of them when their children and grandchildren are “busy” pursuing their careers and have no time to attend to the old and the vulnerable. It is not in our culture to send our parents or grandparents to an age-old care centre. The concept of sending away parents to a “shelter,” as it is known, means we are irresponsible or failing as children.

Responsibility, when it comes to taking care of the old, is different. Locking them inside flats or apartments, or making them babysit five days a week, is not caring. Many long to go back to their village, abandoned it may be, even if they have to take care of themselves.

Many senior citizens find joy and happiness at the Memorial Choeten in Thimphu, where they throng for a few hours. Times have changed, and, so have priorities. As we chase our dreams as civil servants, business people or corporate employees, we unconsciously neglect our parents and grandparents.  We cannot get up at 6 am to ensure a diabetic mother takes her pill. The rest of the day, he or she is alone. When the ballpen sketch of the medicine time disappears from the plastic medicine pouch, they are lost and abuse the prescribed medicine, unknowingly.

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Old-age care homes or centres usually are equipped with all the facilities that are missing when forced to stay with office-going children or grandchildren. They may not get the “love”, but they could have the needed attention and care when at old age centres. What is stopping us is the social pressure. Sending away a parent to even a professional care centre could be construed as not being responsible or a failure as sons and daughters. In today’s context where elderlies are locked inside apartments for about nine hours, it is a disgrace. Elderlies need not be forced to seek shelters in the care centres, if we have one. If their well-being can be looked after, if centres can provide better services, and if the elderlies are happy, why not fulfil the wishes of those in their twilight years.

There is a difference going by what the representatives of senior citizens said at the consultative meeting. They may not represent all senior citizens, but they feel that old age homes could be a solution. The tradition of respecting our elders has changed. The need for old-age homes has become a necessity. Changing the mindset will be easier if there is  strong backing from the government. All efforts, despite the so-called cultural or societal pressure, should result in improving the lives of the senior citizens. 

The wish is simple. Many want to spend their last few days in their village among the loved ones who have time. Dying alone in an urban flat and directly taken to the crematorium for the lack of space and time is what many senior citizens fear. Listening to their needs is granting their last wishes.

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The national interest must prevail over the institutional interest

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:46

The argument of constitutionality must not be used as a shield to justify the institutional interest and create confusion for the public. The recent news titled “ACC’s role of both investigation and prosecution flawed” creates more confusion than clarity. The news even quotes a judicial official who states that Supreme Court decisions are “not legally binding.” Such a statement poses a serious threat to the rule of law and the constitution itself. Article 1 (11) of the Constitution makes it clear that once Supreme Court decides, it is final and binding. In rare instances, the Supreme Court in future may nullify or modify such decisions in a different case with no bearing earlier case.

The constitutionality of ACC’s prosecuting authority has been long settled in the several cases. Article 27 (1) defines that the primary responsibility of ACC is to “prevent and combat corruption.” Article 27(5) imposes the duty on the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to prosecute corruption cases. Article 29 (1) and (8) states that the function of the OAG is to carry out legal matters assigned by the government including litigation and prosecution. Neither ACC nor OAG Act indicates that the entire prosecution power rest with the OAG alone.

Contrarily, the Constitution empowers the parliament to define the functions and authorities of both ACC and OAG through their statutes. Thus, foreseeing the importance of vigorous checks and balances between OAG and ACC, the Parliament authorized the ACC under very limited grounds with prosecuting authority in the interest of the nation.  

Article 10 (1) of the Constitution vest “all legislative powers” with the parliament. Thus, every law once passed by the Parliament is valid and constitutional as per Article 1(1). Only Supreme Court can declare any law as ultra vires or unconstitutional under Article 1(10) which is not the case in the present scenario.

The Supreme Court permitting the ACC to prosecute certain cases completely demystifies any doubt on the validity of Section 128 of the ACC Act. Further, Section 71 of the Royal Bhutan Police Act (RBP), 2009   authorizes the Police to prosecute any person for any criminal offence other than a misdemeanour and above. Article 28 (3), the primary responsibility of the police is to maintain law and order and prevention of crime, not prosecution. It is noteworthy that neither the OAG nor legal experts or judicial officials or any institution questioned such authority of police in prosecution in light of constitutionality though the police have broader powers compared to ACC for prosecution.

There are also similar examples in other democracies where one agency functions as both investigating and prosecuting institution. In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation carries out a not only investigation but also carries out its prosecution. Similarly in India, the Central Bureau of Investigation has had the authority to prosecute cases since the as early 1980s. In Thailand, the National Anti-corruption Commission (NAAC) is given similar prosecution powers. All these institutions are like ACC with the primary function of investigation.

The senior officials including the chairperson or Commissions of ACC must refrain from appearing in the court during the judgment hearings in selected cases unless required by law. Otherwise, the public will see ACC as a biased institution with vengeance. Every case must be treated equally. The current issue is not of constitutionality but of institutional interest. The national interest must override every other interest.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.

Quarantine charges collected despite NC19TF order

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:45

Nima Wangdi 

A few people, who were returning from India after biometrics were quarantined in one of the hotels in Paro on April 29; they were made to pay quarantine fees.

They have paid Nu 6,300 each, which includes Nu 1,500 for the Covid-19 test upon completion of the five-day-quarantine.

It was two days later that the complainants learned that there is an order from the National Covid-19 Taskforce (NC19TF), which exempts them from paying the quarantine fees.

The order was issued on April 6.

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The order stated that in addition to the existing considerations for regular students, quarantine charges will be waived for travels undertaken for biometrics, visa interviews; IELTS, TOEFL, medical treatment, and similar test related to studies. “Students also include monks and nuns enrolled in formal institutions.”

“However, travellers should continue to bear all quarantine and testing requirements if the travel is related to businesses and private purposes,” the order stated.

The order also stated: “This order should supersede the earlier order and the regional Covid-19 Task Forces are requested to implement the directives and ensure due diligence before approving the waiver.”

Complainants said that they contacted the de-suups at the hotel immediately after they found the order and asked for refund.

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According to one of the complainants, de-suups told them that they had not received the order during the time they completed quarantine term. Complainants were asked to write to the finance ministry since the money had already gone in to the national Covid-19 response fund account.

Complainants said the order was issued on April 6 and the officials at the hotel claimed to have not received it even in almost a month. The complainants were discharged on May 5.

The person said they paid everything as they had agreed to do it in the travel clearance. “We were unaware of the order from the NC19TF until some people informed them.”

“We started to doubt if they were made to pay intentionally despite the order or if the order was fake,” a complainant said.

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Officials the Kuensel talked to confirmed that they had not received the order by then and the people were made to pay going by the practice. They said that it was not easy to refund the amount since it goes to the Covid-19 response fund account. “It could have been easily refunded if it was paid to the hotel or any personal account.”

Paro dzongdag declined to comment and asked for written questions.  He said that he was occupied with his other duties. However, Kuensel did not receive his response when the paper was sent to press.

Labour ministry launches improved labour online systems

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:44

Yangyel Lhaden 

A new online system, MoLHR- Management Information Systems (MIS) has replaced the labour ministry’s existing online systems such as the job portal and LabourNet. It was launched yesterday. 

Layog Lyonpo (Labour Minister) Karma Dorji said that the new system was integrated with other systems to gather data from the source to get accurate data to make informed and evidence-based decisions. “We’re hopeful the new system will help us in providing services faster, efficiently, and effectively.”

Lyonpo Karma Dorji said that the system could show the actual number of jobseekers, and track TVET and skills development trainees until they get employed. “The ministry is going to soon introduce compulsory job seeker ID to get any job in Bhutan to know the actual number of unemployed.”

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MoLHR-MIS has four major systems: employment system, foreign workers management system, labour administration system, and  Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)-MIS.

Employment System is designed to manage the entire job search in one place; a new marketplace for job seekers and employers. 

Job seekers once registered will be able to access hundreds of job listings and apply for jobs right away, it also enables them to build their curriculum vitae (CV) which will be matched with the jobs advertised.

For employers, they can post job openings with required details and the system allows the employers to scan for available talents on the portal, check CVs, and shortlist the candidates for job interviews. 

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The job seekers and employers through integrated MIS can also apply for various engagement and training schemes with the labour ministry.

The Foreign Workers Management System replaces the LabourNet and allows collection of foreign workers’ details at the time of submitting the foreign workers application form, which can be accessed by both the Department of Immigration and Department of Labour. 

The employers can track applications and will also receive notifications.

Lyonpo Karma Dorji said, “It will help create a robust human resources management in the country through our newly created Department of National Human Resource Development.”

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Labour Administration System allows the enterprises and individuals to file complaints about contraventions in working conditions and working environment, and carry out self-inspection. 

Layog Lyonpo said that this system would ensure workplace safety and allows update of employer and employee data from the field. 


Layog Lyonpo said that the system would make it possible for all job seekers to apply for skilling programmes and training available, shortlisting, selecting, and informing the applicants. “The system will also cater to tracer studies of the trainees and thus, enable after training support and necessary interventions.”

This system would also effectively manage the overseas employment of our workforce, Layog Lyonpo said.

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A labour ministry official said that the system would improve transparency by minimising face-to-face interactions between the service providers and clients which would reduce bureaucratic discretion.  

“There will also be an audit trail to ensure accountability on the approving officers by keeping track of the applications if anything goes wrong,” the official said.     

The system was developed through the Skills Training and Education Pathways Upgradation Project (STEP-UP) funded by the Asian Development Bank.  

The STEM Connect!

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:44

That we live in a tech-driven era is a given.  In his address to the Royal University of Bhutan in 2019, His Majesty the King of Bhutan had underscored the importance of leveraging technology for education, job creation, public service delivery and good governance. Similarly at a webinar on Technology-Enabled Development in March 2022, the Prime Minister of India had emphasized the critical role of technology as a medium to empower the people of the country for achieving the goal of ‘Atmanirbharta’ or self-reliance. 

It isn’t a coincidence that our leaders have articulated similar views, echoing the importance of technology in human life.

This spirit of engagement with a focus on new and emerging technologies was also evident in the summer of August 2019 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had paid a state visit to Bhutan. While the visit had witnessed several milestones, the signature of  MOUs in the area of STEM between the Royal University of Bhutan and the Indian Institutes of Technology at Delhi, Bombay and Kanpur had signalled an intent to move the friendship into newer areas, thereby adding a fresh dimension to the relationship.

In follow-up, a record 12 Bhutanese youth have been placed in M.Tech programmes at different Indian Institutes of Technology over the last two years, without the requirement of submission of a GATE score, which is ordinarily a mandatory pre-requisite for admission to M.Tech programmes in Indian institutions.

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On 21 February 2020, coinciding with the 40th birth anniversary of His Majesty the King, the Prime Minister of India had also introduced the annual India-Bhutan Friendship Scholarship for three students at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. A total of five Bhutanese students have been awarded this prestigious Scholarship to pursue M. Tech programmes at IIT Kanpur in 2020 and 2021. Three more are in the wings for the Academic Year 2022-23.

The Indian Institutes of Technology are amongst the global best in tech knowledge, practices, techniques and research. Admission is intensely competitive for both the B.Tech and M.Tech programmes, several IIT alumni head the world’s top tech companies in testimony to this excellence. Sundar Pichai from IIT Kharagpur – Google; Arvind Krishna from IIT Kanpur – IBM; Nikesh Arora from IIT BHU – Palo Alto Networks, and Parag Agarwal from IIT Bombay – Twitter, vividly showcase the strength of our IITs as alma maters to engineering and technology wizards. 

And just how do the IITs measure up to other engineering institutions? Several amongst them have been listed by the QS World Rankings within the top 200 of all engineering institutions across the globe including IIT Bombay (49), IIT Delhi (54), IIT Kanpur (107) and IIT Roorkee (176), where Bhutanese students are studying at present. No mean feat!

Incidentally, and starting 2022, we have facilitated an increase in the number of ICCR Undergraduate Scholarships available for Bhutanese engineering aspirants from 20 to 25 at some of our leading tech institutions across the country.

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Youth engagement has been another focus of our engagement with Bhutan. 

While His Majesty the King has stated that youth involvement and support is needed to build on Bhutan’s achievements, the Indian Prime Minister has spoken to the ‘Can Do’ spirit of Indian youth. “It is because of India’s demographic dividend that India has charted global heights in terms of digital payments.”

In sync with this vision of our top leadership, Youth Visit Programmes have been formulated, starting with a batch of students from schools and colleges across Bhutan in September 2019, at the invitation of the Prime Minister of India. This group was exposed to some of our finest tech institutions: ISTRAC, Bengaluru; TERI, Delhi; IIT, Delhi; Infosys and the Nehru Planetarium, both in Bengaluru. Likewise, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi called in four Bhutanese youth leaders in November 2021, as part of a ‘Gen-Next Democratic Network Programme’ alongside youth from Sweden, Jamaica, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Poland and Uzbekistan. 

The latest in this series is the St. Stephen’s College Young Leaders – Fellowship Programme fully sponsored by the Ministry of External Affairs that commenced on 1 March 2022. Bhutanese youth along with their peers from Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar Nepal and Sri Lanka have embarked on this 3-month residential programme which has as thrust areas: Leadership and Administration, Public Policy and Law, Education, Environment and Energy. 

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STEM linkages and Youth connections reflect our commitment to further enhance people-to-people ties between India and Bhutan. We look forward to working closely with the Royal Government and its various institutions, agencies and groups to progress this new area of activity in the bilateral sphere. Importantly, this is not the end but rather a beginning. We remain ready to welcome many more of our Bhutanese friends to study at our top tech institutions across India!

Contributed by 

Ruchira Kamboj

Ambassador of India to Bhutan

Comprehending the Complexity of Countries: The Way Ahead

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:43

Geopolitics is the game of strategists figuring out how countries behave. The Ukraine war has shown how assumptions about countries or the behavior of their leaders are wrong, plunging the world into what Henry Kissinger has called a “totally new era”.  

Hans Kuijper, a retired Dutch diplomat and exceptional Sinologist, has written an indispensable guide to understanding where country studies have gone wrong, and how we can use systems thinking and computers (ICT) to unravel the quagmire of flawed country studies. His book is a tour de force into the philosophy of social science, drawing on his incredible reading of ancient Chinese and Western philosophy, science and current country studies.   

The thesis of this book is quite simple: country studies have an explanandum (something, i.e. a country to be explained), but so-called country experts do not have an explanans, a tested or testable theory that not only explains, but stands out from other scientific theories in different disciplines such as geography, demography, ecology, politics, economics, sociology, linguistics, or anthropology. Thus, “China experts” unjustifiably claim to explain China, even when basing their writings on a single discipline, as if they are knowledgeable about everything concerning the country. As the saying goes, “No ant can see the pattern of the whole carpet.”  

Kuijper has identified a fundamental gap in conventional country studies. If you study a country (part) without taking a crude look at the world (whole) and not considering how interaction affects simultaneously the parts and the whole, that is to say, only making conjectures without a testable theory, you are only practicing pseudo-science, not science. For science is more than expressing opinions.  

Comprehending the Complexity of Countries is a monumental contribution to deep thinking about countries as complex and dynamic systems. In chapters 1-7, the author methodically and relentlessly exposes the enduring confusion, building step-by-step his thesis, examining theories and models, clarifying the concept of country (as distinct form area), showing how cities and countries have much in common, and exploring the scientific and technical feasibility of collaborative country studies. 

The author moves essentially from a multi-disciplinary to an inter-disciplinary approach, to the higher order of a trans-disciplinary way of thinking about the development of countries as adaptive complex dynamic systems. He examines how countries comprise both spontaneous and man-made systems, interacting both exogenously and endogenously (Chapter 6). The ancient Chinese recognized that empires rise and fall from both “external invasions and internal corrosion”. Chapter 7 delves deeply into the issue how modern scientific tools such as artificial intelligence, big data analysis and computer simulation could aid country studies.  Science fiction assumes that if we put all available information about one subject into a supercomputer, the subject would be replicated as a hologram, thus helping us predict its behavior. Whether we have sufficient information and computing power is only a matter of political will and imagination. Kuijper uses the example of networked digital libraries to substantiate his view that the study of a country could be greatly improved by deploying electronically available information about countries and regions. 

Having conceptualized the model for studying countries, Kuijper examines its profound implications for higher education, arguing for “connecting the dots” (Chapter 8). He is most original when he argues that ancient Greek and Chinese thought are alike in thinking about the organic whole, whereas the specialization of Western science caused the divergence between Western and Chinese ways of research.  The modern university, originally created to truly educate (bring up children) and spiritually elevate, became more and more specialized in less and less, making graduates complexity-illiterate. Students do not learn to connect the dots, to see the whole. The author argues for tearing down intellectual walls and mental silos to see the grand order of man and nature. Since each and every country has emergent properties irreducible to the properties of its constituent parts, we have to make use of the science of complex (not: complicated) and dynamic (not: linearly changing) systems in order to really comprehend the country.  

An example of not connecting the dots is the fact that it took years for development economists to realize that lifting a country out of poverty involves more than economic factors.  Similarly, ecologists took decades to realize that more scientific data on global warming is not going to change policy when economists (influencing the policymakers) habitually assume that markets can solve the problem of global warming in total defiance of the fact that it will take a combination of state and market to change human behavior.

I consider Kuijper’s discussion of reductionism versus holism (Chapter 9) a huge contribution to moving beyond the quagmire of Western exclusive/antithetical versus Chinese inclusive/correlative thinking. The reduction to atomistic parts of free individuals creates blinkers. Western scientists draw ever more distinctions, but tend to miss the whole (from which they are apart and of which they are a part) and how the whole changes with the parts. The whole is not a matter of either-or but of both-and, meaning that reductionism and holism are complementary rather than contradictory to each other. 

The book is the amazing achievement of an independent, determined scholar reading thoroughly in depth to find out that we need complexity thinking to understand complex phenomena, resisting the ingrained habit of simplistic reductionism, the default way of human understanding. It took at least four centuries to convince doctors to give up the idea of blood-letting as a solution to sickness.  So, it is not surprising that pseudo-scientists still think that they can pass as country experts without the help of many collaborating disciplinary-experts, using big data analytical tools.

Kuijper helps us navigate this complex subject by using a short abstract for each chapter, backed by key references.  General conclusions are drawn in Chapter 10.  He then draws his very practical and very useful recommendations with the last chapter distilling his key insights. 

This is a wonderful book, not just for sinologists, but for all who consider themselves to be country experts. It gives insight into the question of how we have got ourselves in a terrible mess over the current geopolitical path to conflict. This book speaks truth to power, but whether those in power will listen, is the big and urgent question to which there seems to be no simple, straight answer.   

Contributed by 

Andrew Sheng 

Asia News Network

Netizens show concerns over Foreign Minister’s WeChat comment

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:41

Thukten Zangpo

Many netizens expressed concern over Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji’s WeChat voice message about the government’s inability to control the rising fuel prices and possible fuel shortage.

He also talked about the increase in fuel prices in India and the world has an impact on Bhutan. “The government is discussing with the Indian government on the fuel price difference of about Nu 8 and Nu 9 between India and Bhutan.”

According to the voice message, there is an increase in fuel prices now, but after two to three months, there could be a shortage of fuel supply. “Not only fuel prices could hike three times in a month but could hike thrice in a week.”

The minister also claimed that the government is waiting for their tenure to complete or is ready to hand over the governance to a new government.

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It was learnt that the minister said it in a group chat of his constituency on May 18, but it was screen recorded and circulated in all social media platforms.

A netizen said that everyone is aware of the Ukraine-Russia crisis and this challenging time is to act instead of talking and creating fear in people.

He said people do not expect the government to surrender, but citizens will make a decision during the election.

Some even said that the foreign minister should resolve the high fuel price difference between India and Bhutan.

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Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji told Kuensel that there is a shortage of fuel supply globally because of the conflict in Europe. “We all have to stock up because the conflict is real.”

He also said there might be a time Bhutan might face a shortage of fuel if the conflict keeps going. “Everybody has to ration fuel. People are intelligent enough to know what happened.”

The minister said that his voice message went viral because of his statement about the government’s willingness to hand over governance to the next government. “People of my constituency have asked the question and I responded as a representative of them. But people have spread the message as a foreign minister. It is very different.”

Meanwhile, it was learnt that the people rushed to the Damchen Petroleum Distributors in Khuruthang, Punakha, to refuel their cars, and people were found stocking fuel in jerry cans on May 19.

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A source said that about 1,800 litres of petrol are sold on usual days but the fuel depot sold 3,700 litres on May 19.

He also said most people came to refuel or stock because of the rumours of fuel price hikes and supply shortage in the coming months. “People were refuelling car’s full tanks and people were even stocking 50 to 60 litres in jerry cans. This is unusual as people refuel for Nu 500 mostly.”

He added that a villager also takes 50 to 80 litres of diesel in jerry cans unlike only 20 litres before. “About 80 to 90 people rushed on May 19 to fill their jerry cans,” the source said.

Villagers take diesel to use in the power tillers for the paddy plantation and plantation in Punakha begins early next month.

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According to the source, he informed the people that there would be a change in the fuel prices since Bhutan import from India, but there would not be a shortage in supply.

ASE to equip adolescents with 21st century skills

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:40

Phurpa Lhamo  

To equip adolescents and young people with 21st century skills from an early age, the Adolescents Skills and Employability (ASE) Bhutan project was launched yesterday.

Her Royal Highness Princess Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck, the Vice President of Bhutan Youth Development Fund, launched the project along with representatives from the UN, the government agencies, and CSOs.

Through the implementation of the project in 64 schools and 10 youth centres, around 10,000 children between the ages of 10 and 24 are expected to be involved in the project.

In the one-year project, mini-bootcamp challenges, national bootcamp and awards, and workshops would be held for the students. The students can pitch their ideas.

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Soon, the implementing agency, the education ministry, will be holding orientation for focal persons by the master trainer.

According UNICEF Bhutan representative, Will Parks, said that the master trainers and focal persons would roll out ASE Bhutan through two platforms—UPSHIFT, a youth social innovation and social entrepreneurship programme that supports adolescents and young people to identify problems in their communities and design solutions to tackle those problems; and UNISOLVE, a digital platform that helps young people develop the critical skills they need. “The ASE Project, UPSHIFT and UNISOLVE form part of the Generation Unlimited platform, a global multi-sector partnership that enables the largest generation of 1.8 billion young people to become productive and engaged members of society.”

The 64 identified schools are from primary to high schools across Bhutan.

An education official said a few private schools were also identified and the schools were evenly distributed among rural and urban areas, and among 20 dzongkhags. A minimum of 50 students from each school is expected to take part in the project.

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Officiating education secretary, Karma Galay, said that ASE Bhutan project complements the on-going reform initiatives in the education sector including the Bhutan Baccalaureate, which has been adopted as the main platform for school education reforms emphasizes equipping the students with technological and other 21st century skills.

Will Parks said that besides foundational, digital and job-specific skills, young people need 21st Century skills to do well in school, life and work.

He added that also known as transferable skills or life skills, 21st century skills allow young people to become agile learners and global citizens equipped to navigate personal, social, academic and economic challenges. “The ASE Bhutan is an initiative that builds on the development in an adolescent’s first decade of life, to help them navigate risks and vulnerabilities in their second decade of life, and to set them on the path to fulfilling their  potential.”

The ASE Bhutan project is implemented by the education ministry in partnership with Bhutan Youth Development Fund, Loden Foundation, and UNICEF.

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From Damphu to Lhamoidzingkha

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:39

Choki Wangmo | Dagana

There is certain euphoria in travelling to new places. Lhamoidzingkha, as I saw on social media, was filled with colours and geological wonders.

I used to believe that the place was part of Phuentsholing being close to the border. It is also one of the oldest towns in the country in Dagana.

I heard that the town can be accessed from Gedu in Chukha. However, there is an alternate route along Dagapela-Dalbari road.

Until Gesarling in Dagana, it seems like one is travelling among human settlements. From there, the journey is long and ridden with risks. There are only a few clustered settlements. Otherwise, the endless winding road looks like a highway to uncertainty.

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The primary national highway that connects Dagapela to Dalbari in Lhamoidzingkha is still incomplete. There are four major bridge constructions that are in various phases of development. Some workers, who told me to drive quickly through a road that passes along a long cliff, said that the work would be completed by next month.

Scenes along the way

Till then, travellers have to drive through four streams that swell and are a risk during monsoon. A temporary bridge built over Samarchu was damaged from one end.

A few workers were there building side drains and clearing debris. Without proper drains, they said that the blacktop is quickly washed away by the heavy rain.

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There are no vehicles plying on the road. I saw only a few Boleros on the way. The journey through tall, humid, and thick forests is silent. As fog rises through these trees, filling the air with earthy aroma, like that of a tilled soil.

If not for the wide and deep scars in certain stretches caused by excavation, one can feel what it means to live in one of the carbon negative countries in the world. At different locations, formidable ridges surround the place.

Although it is one of the most remote dzongkhags in the country, with the highest rate of poverty and alcoholism, Dagana is a virgin dzongkhag—one is bound to spot rare species in random—which some enthusiasts take years to catch a glimpse even.

A lone Rufuous-necked hornbill, a golden languar, and hordes of butterflies, for example.

The road passes amid the calls of various birds.

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Settlements are not many. There are a few houses in the middle of thick forests—making one wonder about the status of human-wildlife conflict that is rampant in the region. There were rumours that the residents of Nichula gewog are looking for more resettlers with the hope that more humans would drive away wild animals.

The drungkhag is known for the increased incidents of conflict with elephants.

After passing Deorali, it is a steep descent. I had no sense of direction. I met a man on the roadside who told me that I was in Karmaling. Deorali stands on a hilltop.

There is a feeling of exuberance, like you are finally completing the 150-km-journey. The blacktopped road ends abruptly. There is a diversion without signboards. I took the road that appeared to be blacktopped but like looks can be deceiving, ended in potholes and cracks. I was on the wrong road—Karmaling gewog centre road.

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The road to Lhamoidzingkha town is no better. It is not blacktopped and one has to drive on gravel. Before reaching the town, there are four streams to cross, each bigger than the other. The road is only for Boleros trucks.

The stream is differently coloured—purplish—almost. The pebbles are green, red, and purple. Lhamoidzingkha or Kalikhola, thus named after a female deity Palden Lhamo or Maha Kali, is considered to be blessed. There are different coloured ridges like a mandala at Lama Lamini and the deity’s lake.

After more than 4km drive, I reached Lhamoidzingkha town. Huge acres of areca nut orchards line by the roadside. The whole landscape is a “doma tshang”. The old town was dismantled and was in ruins.

Residents said that the town development was put to halt as the Sunkosh project might end their problems. The project never came and the residents are paying the price. They go without power for days.

Thimphu thromde to construct sanitary landfill next fiscal year

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:37

Yangyel Lhaden 

Thimphu thromde would construct a sanitary landfill to replace the open dump yard in Memeylakha next fiscal year.

The landfill construction would be carried out through the National Waste Management Flagship Programme (NWMFP) where 48.7 acres of land is identified to construct an integrated waste management facility with recycling plant, stockyard, compost or biogas, construction and demolition plant, and incineration plant

The old landfill in Memeylakha was built in 1993 to last for 10 years and it expired its life span 18 years ago.

An official from Thimphu thromde said the sanitary landfill is an engineered landfill while the old landfill was an open dump yard. “The design of the landfill has been finalised and we are calculating the cost estimate.”

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Thimphu have nine waste drop-off centres

The official said that the current base scenario estimate shows that the sanitary landfill could last between 22 to 29 years. “The lifespan of the new sanitary landfill would depend entirely on the segregation and recycling of waste.”

In Thimphu, waste disposed to the landfill increased by about 4,800 metric tonnes (MT) in 2021 compared with 2019. In 2019, about 14,824.8MT of waste was disposed in landfill and last year 19,717.5MT was disposed in landfill.

According to the official, the construction of the first trace along with leachate collection tank for sanitary landfill is expected to take about one and half year.

Meanwhile, the flagship programme is introducing waste segregation, collection, transportation, treatment, recovery, and disposal facilities throughout the country in a phased manner starting with Thimphu.

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Thimphu thromde has constructed nine drop-off centres, Thimphu dzongkhag has constructed 25 waste collection facilities in its five gewogs, and received nine electric waste collection vehicles.

Drop-off centres and waste collection facilities are disposal site in designated areas so that people could drop off their waste if they miss the waste collection vehicles.

To improve waste collection and support the flagship programme, the government and the people of Japan also provided 28 compactor trucks, three dumper placers, two backhoe loaders, an excavator and a bulldozer, and 24 containers worth Nu 330 million to four thromdes.

The flagship programme aims is achieve zero waste in the country, which means 80 percent of waste going to the landfill is reduced to less than 15 percent by the year 2030.

Lhamoidzingkha drunkhag residents tired of erratic power supply

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:36

Choki Wangmo | Dagana

As dusk falls, residents of Lhamoidzingkha drungkhag ready their candles and switch on the solar bulbs.

It is no coincidence, but a way of life for the residents of Karmaling, Lhamoidzingkha, and Nichula gewogs.

Every monsoon, they adjust their lives according to the erratic power supply in the area.

Residents also claimed erratic power supply has hampered service delivery.

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A gewog official said that without constant power supply, it was challenging to provide services as these services are mostly online. “When there is no power supply, we just waste our time waiting for it.”

Another official said when the light is restored, internet is down. “Sometimes, work done in a day is zero.”

A restaurant owner in Lhamoidzingkha town said that she always keeps a supply of LPG gas at home, which has become more expensive in recent months.

“We don’t have much choice. When we complain to relevant authorities, they have excuses,” she said.

A Nichula resident, Bhim Nath Kafley, said power supply issue is serious in the gewog.

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Located in the extreme south of the country, the temperatures in these gewogs during summers are as high as 40 degree Celsius.

Elephants, mithuns, and snakes roam the night in the plains filled with thickets and undergrowth.  People use torchlights to chase away elephants.

“If our town is sufficiently lighted, these preys will keep away,” a resident said.

Lhamoidzingkha gup Surja Bahadur Limbu said that in the past, the power blackout lasted for weeks.

He, however, said that after transmission of 400kV was temporarily used from Dagachu substation, the problem was resolved for some years.

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Currently, these three gewogs use power supply from Gedu substation.

“We were told that there were technical issues in transmission line,” he said, adding that the line from Gedu substation was not reliable.

On May 18, there was outage for half-day and a night. The power was restored yesterday but was erratic.

The problem, according to Bhutan Power Corporation officials in Lhamoidzingkha was a result of rain and windstorms in Gedu.

An official said that the power supply for Lhamoidzingkha drungkhag was drawn from Gedu substation, as the power from Dagachu was required in other projects.

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“The substation in Gedu cannot supply to all three gewogs. There are plans to install more substations,” he said, adding that the drunkhag’s distance from the Gedu substation also disrupted the supply in the region.

Last month, windstorm affected the power supply in the drunkhag. It took three days to restore.

Japan’s USD 30M soft loan essential for Bhutan’s economic recovery

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:36

Dechen Dolkar

The government of Japan has approved USD 30 million as a Covid-19 crisis emergency support loan to Bhutan.

The government of Japan will extend the Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan of Japanese Yen 3.3B (Nu 2.33 billion at the existing exchange rate yesterday).

The loan, which is provided at a concessional rate and favourable terms of repayment, will help in Bhutan’s economic recovery efforts after the pandemic.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that the interest rate is 0.1 percent for the tenure of 15 years with a grace period of four years.

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Lyonpo said that the government has looked into the favourable terms and conditions while borrowing.  “Government is prudential in terms of any borrowing,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo said that the borrowings will build up convertible currency reserves and for economic recovery, the country needs a good reserve.

He also said that the borrowings will be pumped in as viable investments which will have good returns.

“For economic recovery, any country would require additional financing,” Lyonpo said.

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Lyonpo said that if we worry about the debt situation, our economy will never recover.

Ambassador of Bhutan to Japan V. Namgyel and Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. of the Embassy of Japan in New Delhi Kawazu Kunihiko signed the exchange of notes for Covid-19 crisis emergency support loan yesterday.

According to the press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during the signing ceremony, Ambassador V. Namgyel said that under the leadership of His Majesty The King, Bhutan’s management of the pandemic has been exemplary.

“Now the priority of the Royal Government is to strengthen the economy which has suffered very seriously from the effect of the pandemic,” the Ambassador said.

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He said that Japan’s ODA loan will be of immense help to Bhutan’s economic recovery efforts.

Kawazu Kunihiko expressed the hope that the Covid-19 crisis emergency support loan from Japan will have a synergic effect on Bhutan’s development along with other forms of development and technical cooperation between Japan and Bhutan.

Ambassador V Namgyel conveyed the deep appreciation of the government and people of Bhutan to the government and the people of Japan for their steadfast and generous support to Bhutan’s socio-economic development for many years, including during the pandemic and for Japan’s assurances of continued support to Bhutan in the years ahead.

Monkeypox outbreaks reported in 11 countries 

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:35

…officials say no need to panic 

Nima Wangdi 

As the world recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, Monkeypox, another viral disease, has been reported in 11 countries recently.

The government is closely following the situation. People are urged not to panic as officials would inform the nation on time of any development.

A PMO official said the country is still fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and the new risks are emerging. “For now, precautions and following Covid-19 norms are all that needs to be done.”

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the Monkeypox virus. It leads to rash and flu-like symptoms. Like the better-known virus that causes smallpox, it is classified as an orthopoxvirus.

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According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), since 1970, human cases of Monkeypox have been reported from 11 African countries – Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan.

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA, Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘Monkeypox.’ The first human case of Monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox.

“Since then Monkeypox has been reported in humans in other central and western African countries,” CDC

Going by the International media reports, the leaders of the WHO would be holding an emergency meeting on Monkeypox fearing an international outbreak.

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Eleven countries reported Monkeypox as of yesterday according to the reports. The countries are Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US. Germany and Belgium reported Monkeypox cases yesterday.

The Indian government yesterday began surveillance at all international entry points.  

Meanwhile, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo has left for Geneva for the upcoming Work Health Assembly (WHA). Lyonpo is expected to interact with global experts on various topics including Covid-19 and Monkeypox.

Lyonpo will also be handing over the chair to her successor after a one-year tenure as a President of WHA.

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Is economy at jeopardy?

Sat, 05/21/2022 - 15:34

MB Subba 

Even as the Covid-19 protocol has been normalised, some quarters express concerns as to whether the country is in a financial jeopardy.

One of the major and immediate challenges amid the pandemic has been meeting the current expenditure from the domestic revenue, which has dwindled drastically, although the capital expenditure is being financed through borrowings.

According to a source, the parliamentary budget could be slashed significantly in view of the limited domestic revenue, which must cover all the current expenditure.

Reference was also made to the prime minister and the entourage in Samdrupjongkhar carrying their packed lunch to save the expenditure, according to the source.

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However, an official from Prime Minister’s Office said that their decision to carry their packed lunch was not a “desperate” cost-cutting measure. The official added that the measure would save time and avoid the inconveniences.

As part of its cost cutting measures, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) on May 16 decided to do away with daily subsistence allowance (DSA) for RCSC-administered in-country short-term training (STT) programmes, which is paid at the rate of Nu 2,000 per day.

The government disbursed Nu 94.624 million for SST in the fiscal year 2020-21.

Such measures, the source said, indicated that the economy was in “jeopardy”.

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However, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that doing away with the DSA was the RCSC’s “stand-alone decision”, which the government was not involved in. The RCSC’s decision would not apply to all the public sectors.

He said that ideally the government’s consensus was required in such budgetary decisions.

The finance minister, however, said that there was no financial crisis but that certain issues needed to be corrected. “We will be in a crisis only if we are not able to finance the current and capital activities, which is not the case,” he said, adding that the government would apply prudence.

Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said that there would be no austerity measures although he did not reveal the priorities of the upcoming annual budget.

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However, certain cost-cutting measures including the postponement of the activation of salary indexation and transfer of civil servants without transfer benefits are being implemented. The option to monetise the vehicle quota also remains suspended.

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said that the parliamentary budget should not be decreased, as doing so would affect the institution’s functions and the quality of debates.

“However, I have not seen whether or not the budget would decrease,” he said, adding that the lunch for MPs during the session would be modest.

The Speaker said that the 21-day cap on the DSA of MPs still remained in force and parliament was facing budget shortages.

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The tax revenue decreased by almost 24 percent in the past three years, according to official data.

According to some officials, some of the fiscal measures, including the reduction in the customs duty in the summer session, came at a “wrong time”.

According to the finance ministry’s estimates, about 89 percent of the 12th Plan capital budget would be exhausted by the end of the current fiscal year. This means that not many Plan activities would be left for the fiscal year 2022-23.

The finance minister on BBS on May 19 said that the government was projecting GDP for 2021 will increase to four percent.

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Lyonpo said that the country’s economy was recovering; the agriculture and construction sectors had played a major role to offset the impact of the pandemic.

However, some observers say the challenges of meeting both capital and current expenditures would remain due to the high rates of inflation.

Private school teachers fear losing their job

Fri, 05/20/2022 - 10:37

There are 554 teachers in secondary private schools

Phurpa Lhamo

Sonam (name changed) in central Bhutan is the lone bread earner in a family of five siblings.

Her father is a retired personnel and her sister, who worked abroad, returned home because of the pandemic.

Sonam, 26, is worried.

With the closure of the government scholarship scheme to private schools this year, many private schools across Bhutan are on the verge of closing.

She said that while the school management or the proprietor has not conveyed such indications, she said there was no new admission in class XI in the school this year.

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“I am very stressed. If the school shuts, I will have to go to the village to my parents,” Sonam said. Her other four siblings are also with her parents.

Another teacher in the south is looking for a job but in futile.

He said he has a family to feed and poor parents to serve. “When I think too much about school closure, it makes me sick.”

In 2019, the government decided to remove cut-off points and enrol all class XI students in government schools. However, due to the lack of infrastructure in government schools, the government sent 2,088 students to private schools under government scholarships in 2020. In 2021, more than 2,250 students were sent to private schools.

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This year, the government decided to stop the enrollment of students in private schools under government scholarship as the government schools could absorb all class XI students.   

While there are 10,254 seats in public schools, only 8,797 class X students passed in the 2021 academic year.

Another private school teacher said with decreasing number of students in the private school he worked, the school management removed five teachers in 2020.

However, when the government provided private schools with students under government scholarship, a few teachers were recruited.

“There is no job security at all,” the teacher said.

He added that the school might soon issue notice about closing the school. “My wife is a housewife and I have two children.”

Education statistics 2021 stated that there are 554 teachers in secondary private schools. There are 21 private secondary and middle secondary schools in Bhutan.

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In an earlier interview, a proprietor of a private school in Thimphu said that the number of students in private schools had dropped from around 11,000 about five years ago to about 4,500 in 2021.

In a private school, there are 90 class XII students this academic year. This is a decrease from around 300 before the removal of the cut-off points and the government’s decision to enrol all students in government schools.

The proprietor of the school said that a few teachers will have to be laid off to manage expenses.

Another proprietor said that he did not decide on a way forward for the teachers and the closure of the school.

He added that he was waiting for more repeaters in class XII to retain all teachers in the school.

With only around 120 students, the proprietor said that there was excess staff currently.

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Private school proprietors pointed out that private schools were encouraged when the government didn’t have enough schools or when students left for aboard to pursue education.

A proprietor said that opening a private school in rural areas was encouraged by the previous government to also help rural-urban migration.

However, one of the private schools in Trashigang operated only for two years before it was closed due to lack of enrollment.

Another proprietor said that after the private schools supported the education system for years, the government was deserting the private sector. “If this was the plan, then a proper phase-out plan should have been in place and private school owners should have been informed in the very beginning. No one would have built these schools in that case.”

A proprietor said that if the school close down, it would be nice if the government could take the teachers. “We have many experienced and trained teachers.”

KOICA supports Bhutanese film industry 

Fri, 05/20/2022 - 10:36

Chhimi Dema

Bhutanese filmmakers and actors are attending two weeks training on film planning, shooting, and post-production.

This is for the growth of the film industry as the National Film Policy stated that the film industry’s growth remained quantitative without substantial improvement in the craft of filmmaking and storytelling.

The policy, which was framed in 2011, mostly remained on paper, according to those in the industry.

A film producer, Dorji Wangchuk, said that there is room for improvement in Bhutanese films. “The industry today is meeting the international technical standards but the storytelling and its relevance to the setting is still a challenge.”

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He said that training like this will help those in the industry professionalise in the field.

Dorji Wangchuk said the industry has to change or grow with time. “One will not simply watch a Bhutanese film because of their cultural sentiments. We have to match up with the pace of international content.”

He said they are learning from the best in the industry, the South Korean film industry.

According to him, few individuals who attended the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) training before using the tools and techniques learned from the training in the field and it has brought immense change to how they tell stories.

Meanwhile, the training with 20 participants will end on May 27.

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The participants are taught film directing, storytelling, cinematography techniques, post-production editing, management and scheduling.

An actor attending the training said that the industry is run by self-taught individuals. “Most artists in the field learn through experience and by observing others. This does not build professionalism.”

She cited the example of how an individual who gets a role appears on the shooting site the next day without studying the character.

She also said the content and role in the film industry are repetitive. “In such case, the actors cannot explore their potential and repetitive content bore the viewers.”

The actor said that KOICA’s training looks deep into creating a world around the characters. “The instructors so far taught us how to give life to the character whether they are protagonist or antagonist.”

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The training is being initiated and funded by KOICA and implemented by KOICS (Korea International Cooperation Services) in collaboration with National Film Commission (NFC).

KOICA provided technical and financial assistance to the Bhutanese film industry since 2010. KOICA gave the grant to procure film equipment, trained Bhutanese filmmakers in Korea and provided a workshop on marketing strategy, pre-production and scriptwriting.

The agency also assisted the Department of Information and Media to set up the film commission.