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Updated: 32 min 23 sec ago

Lolay-a tradition to welcome New Year

Wed, 01/04/2023 - 11:13

KP Sharma

More than 500 students in Thimphu with support from de-suups participated in reciting lolay at Lhengye Densa and other parts of the city to welcome the New Year.

Winter Solstice or Nyilo is celebrated to welcome the New Year, especially by the people of Shar and Wang regions.

According to the Buddhist astrology, Nyilo is the day from which the duration of sunlight time increases, signifying the start of longer days until the Summer Solstice.

For farmers, longer days mean enough time to work in fields.

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Children were divided into groups and they went around the locality reciting lolay, wishing happy and prosperous new year.

On the first day, towards the evening, students undergoing the month-long orientation programme on Buddhism and culture under zhung dratshang in collaboration with de-suung nang choed programme visited Lhengye Densa and nearby places.

The other group, on the second day, included 15 students. They were welcomed by the prime minister and other cabinet members at their residences.

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The prime minister conveyed his appreciation and happiness to the groups for preserving the age-old culture.

Ngawang Thinley Dorji, a Class III student of Jungshina Primary School expressed his joy in getting to participate in singing lolay. “This is my first experience and I enjoyed going around singing lolay and wishing people a prosperous year ahead.” He was encouraged to join the programme by his mother.

Children are offered rice, salt, fruits, meat, butter, cheese and money by the head of the family once they complete singing lolay. At the end of the day, they gather together and use whatever they have collected for a party on the next day.

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“I first saw children singing lolay in one of the villages during the New Year celebration”, said Palden Rada Wangmo from Jungshina Primary School.

Coordinators said that the students were trained in reciting lolay in an effort to revive the dying culture.

People believe that the culture of reciting Lolay existed in Bhutan much before the arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel because the verses Lolay contains the description of traditional Bhutanese farmhouse, which existed before the arrival of Zhabdrung in 1616.

Health ministry to install CT scanners in two more hospitals

Wed, 01/04/2023 - 11:12

Nima Wangdi 

People in the remote areas, especially in the east and south will no longer have to travel to Mongar, Gelephu, or Thimphu for CT scan.

CT Scanners will be installed in Samtse, and Dewathang in Samdrupjongkhar.

The Ministry of Health said that two new CT scanner machines will be of the same capacity as the one at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH).

This is expected to decongest patient load and wait time at the existing hospitals with CT scanner services, especially Thimphu.

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As of now only JDWNRH, Central Regional Referral Hospital in Gelephu, and Eastern Regional Referral Hospital in Mongar have CT scanner services.

Officials said that the machines are being purchased from the Netherlands and the cost for the two would be around Nu 102 Million.

MoH is procuring the machines in collaboration with the World Health Organisation.

A refresher course will be organised for a few weeks to the people manning the machines. “We will do this once the infrastructure modification is completed.”

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The officials said that the ministry is creating these clusters to cater to people who have to travel far to avail the service.

The cases requiring CT scan services in both the regional referral hospitals are increasing and the patients at the JDWNRH have to wait for a longer time, according to the official.

A computed tomography scan (usually abbreviated to CT scan; formerly called computed axial tomography scan or CAT scan) is a medical imaging technique used to obtain detailed internal images of the body.

Picture story

Wed, 01/04/2023 - 11:10

Hundreds of devotees are attending the Peling Lama Norbu Gyatsho Drubchhen at Sangay Choeling Goenpa in Sherimuhung, Mongar. Presided over by Khentruel Vajra Guru along with 100 monks and lay monks from December 30, the eight-day drubchhen is conducted for the peace and wellbeing of the country.
Lama Norbu Gyatsho Drubchhen is considered one of the sacred ceremonies in the Peling tradition, Tertoen Pema Lingpa revealed the treasure of Lama Norbu Gyatsho from Mendo Drak Karpo in 1483.

Hand to mouth if not poor

Wed, 01/04/2023 - 11:09

The poverty analysis report found out that 80,614 Bhutanese are poor or living below the poverty line of Nu 6,204 per person per month. At 12.4 percent, the poverty rate is a cause of concern.

It is high and comes at a time when the country is said to be making rapid progress to graduate from the club of least developed countries to a middle-income level country by the end of this year. Although the criteria for graduation are Gross National Income per capita, Human Assets Index and Economic Vulnerability Index – meeting at least two of the thresholds in two consecutive triennial reviews, poverty is included among the last mile challenges identified with education and health.

Rapid socio-economic development in the past decades has contributed to poverty reduction with the World Bank even considering Bhutan as a development success story. We may not be challenged by extreme poverty, but the slowdown in the economy, high inflation and cost of living are becoming a growing concern.

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The poverty line of Nu 6,204 was derived by adding estimated food and non-food requirements of Nu 2,852 and Nu 3,352 respectively. Poverty rate is also higher among Bhutanese in rural areas.

However, judged by the money spent on both food and non-food items, we can safely surmise that Bhutanese in urban areas or the salaried who earn twice or thrice the poverty line are living hand to mouth if not poor. Bhutan has become so expensive that those visiting home from abroad carrying convertible currency find everything in Bhutan expensive.

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While we are still recovering from the impact of Covid-19 pandemic, the uncertainties caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, rise in fuel price and disruption of the global supply chain puts import-dependent countries like ours at a greater risk. Living in Thimphu or any other urban areas have become unsustainable. Unregulated cost of housing, price of commodities, many agree is making even the salaried live on borrowings. It is also the main reason many are looking for opportunities abroad even if they have a well-paid job here.

There have to be interventions. The prices of food and non-food items may be determined by market forces, but we cannot wash our hands off and wait for the market price to come down on its own and do nothing.

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That is where policy interventions come in. Regulating the price of goods and services, for instance, may not make one richer. But it could ease the burden. If meat and fish are luxury or expensive, there are, for instance, not many vegetables that cost lower than Nu 100 a kilogram.  Many complain of the ever-increasing house rent as some pay as much as 50 percent of their monthly salary in house rent. And there are other increasing costs that eat into the fixed monthly income.

Paro Women’s FC win 2022 WNL

Wed, 01/04/2023 - 11:08

Thinley Namgay  

Paro Women’s FC easily yesterday won Kelme Women’s National League (WNL)  2022 with 39 points from 14 games.

The team still has two games in hand.  The remaining playoffs are against Gelser Women’s FC on January 10, and Ugyen Academy Women’s FC on January 14.

Paro would likely win against Gelser considering a 22-0 win in the first leg. However, it would be challenging to face Ugyen Academy as Paro lost 1-0 earlier. 

Ugyen Academy is the only team which defeated Paro this season.

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Paro Women’s FC’s coach,Tandin Bidha, 24, said, “Our win could be due to the teamwork, which is paramount in the tournament.   My girls worked hard. As a coach, I feel proud.”

She said the players were trained well and training facilities are commendable in Paro FC. “We have players from Royal Thimphu College, Norbuling Rigter College, and Rigzom Academy.”

Tandin Bidha said the team will not compromise their next two matches. “We will play as usual with determination and high team spirit.” 

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Paro is followed by the defending champion Thimphu Women’s FC with 33 points from 15 games.  On January 7, Thimphu Women’s FC will face Gelser Women’s FC in their last game of the season at the Changlimithang Stadium.

Now the battle for the second position is between Thimphu Women’s FC and Ugyen Academy.

Ugyen Academy Women’s FC is in third place as of yesterday with 32 points from 14 games.  Ugyen Academy will play their second last game on January 8 against Samtse Women’s FC in Samtse.

If Ugyen Academy defeats Gelser and maintains at least a draw against Paro, Ugyen Academy will likely stand in the second position.

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Organised by the Bhutan Football Federation, nine top teams from across the country are competing  in the second edition tournament which began on August 13.

The tournament ends on January 14.

Dzongkha newspapers vanishing from the scene

Wed, 01/04/2023 - 11:08

… to help private newspapers, the govt. lifted the mandatory requirement of Dzongkha edition for private newspapers

Rinzin Wangchuk 

The Prime Minister’s Office recently took a bold decision to do away with the Dzongkha insert for private newspapers, after the newspapers repeatedly requested successive governments for more than a decade now.

This is one of the major milestones for the five private newspapers, Bhutan Times, Bhutan Today, Business Bhutan, The Bhutanese and The Journalist, since they are not required to prepare, print and deliver their publications in Dzongkha.

The decision was implemented immediately after the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) issued a notification of discontinuation of Dzongkha insert on December 23 last year.

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Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering during the meeting with the stakeholders said that the government was ready to lift the mandatory publication of Dzongkha edition if it was not serving its purpose.

How Dzongkha edition became an insert?

It is mandatory for the English newspapers in the country to publish a Dzongkha edition, and one of the policy directives of the BICMA while issuing a license to the newspapers and magazines.

BICMA issued licenses to the private newspapers on the condition that the English newspapers must publish a Dzongkha edition with an independent Dzongkha editorial team.  

Bhutan Observer (Druk Nyelug), one of the first private newspapers, started its publication with an equal number of a team for both Dzongkha and English in 2006. However, they had to discontinue the Dzongkha edition as it was too expensive to publish a separate edition with only a few buyers and very less advertisements.

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BICMA issued a warning letter to Bhutan Observer to revoke the license if the proprietor discontinues the Dzongkha edition after the paper suspended it for two months in 2007. They resumed publishing Dzongkha edition with lesser pages and lesser staff till 2011. The edition was then reduced into inserts and finally shut down.

By then, four independent Dzongkha newspapers, Druk Nyetshul, Druk Yoedzer, Gyalchi Sarshog and Druk Melong were in the market competing with each other for sustainability. However, except Gyalchi Sarshog and Kuensel, all Dzongkha newspapers shut down one after another over the last 10 years.

Why the decision took long?

The mandate to have an equivalent Dzongkha edition in English publication had become a huge financial burden and impacted the sustainability of media houses. And they were not helping in promoting the national language, they resorted to publishing a Namthar (biography) or Driglam Namzha (Bhutanese Etiquette) written by scholars as insert breaching the licensing requirement of a Dzongkha edition.

“Which is why we had been requesting the government, Ministry of Information and Communications, and BICMA to do away than have a poor quality of Dzongkha inserts since 2011,” a private newspaper proprietor said.

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In their proposal submitted to BICMA in 2011, they requested the licensing authority that English-language newspapers should be freed of the obligation to come up with their Dzongkha editions.

“More than helping Dzongkha to improve its standard, it is harming the national language,” they stated in their submission. They argued that due to the lack of a professional Dzongkha news team, many Dzongkha words were misspelt, sentences were wrongly structured, often deviating from acceptable grammatical norms, and creating confusion rather than clarity.

BICMA on April 18, 2011, wrote to the media houses stating that they received the directive from the government that stopping the Dzongkha editions of the English newspapers at this stage would be tantamount to revoking the policy decisions of the parliament as well as that of the government.

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So BICMA asked all newspapers to continue publishing the Dzongkha editions and have the responsibility to publish Dzongkha editions. In its earlier statement to the media houses, BICMA said its licensing requirement of a Dzongkha edition was based on the decision of the 281st Council of Cabinet Ministers (CCM), which was held on November 27, 2005, and on the resolution of the 87th session of the National Assembly (NA) in June 2007.

The NA had resolved that based on the contents of the Royal Kasho and the resolutions of the past NA sessions, “…efforts should be made to publish notification in our national language and the contents and quality of both the Dzongkha and English language newspapers should be same”.

Because of this standing decision, the successive governments and MoIC could not entertain the proposals to do away with the Dzongkha editions from private media houses.

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“It is a great relief for us,” proprietors and editors from private newspapers said during the meeting with the prime minister. “The requirement to publish the Dzongkha edition was an additional burden to the ailing media houses.”

In order to offset possible negative effects of this decision, one editor also suggested that the government should provide subsidies to those newspapers that are being published in Dzongkha only. “The special subsidies be provided either as a special programme of content creation funding facility (CCFF) subsidizing their content production or as a regular annual grant distributed directly to the newspapers like seven private newspapers are receiving a grant of Nu 4.3 million annually today as subsidies to sustain them,” he said.

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Lyonchhen said that both Kuensel and Gyalchi Sarshog to come up with a comprehensive proposal on how the government could help sustain Dzongkha editions and promote the national language.

The Department of Kuensel in 1965 started the first Dzongkha news bulletin and named it Kuensel.

The insert was reduced from four pages to a single page. However, there was no objection from the monitoring authorities.

For better or worse?

Mon, 01/02/2023 - 13:55

… more journalists leave the profession after the pandemic 

Chhimi Dema 

Newsrooms in the country are stretched to their limits with only a few seniors or experienced journalists, and recruits leaving the profession within a few months.

Although no study has been conducted so far to see the numbers of how many journalists left the profession, many journalists like employees in the civil service and corporate sectors are leaving the profession for opportunities in Australia, Canada, and the USA.

Low salary, poor working environment and heavy workload are seen as factors influencing journalists to find other career alternatives.

From Business Bhutan, two reporters left the newspaper this year.

Business Bhutan’s editor, Ugyen Tenzin, said that the attrition rate of journalists is influenced by the “Australian Rush” currently. “The number of journalists leaving Bhutan is higher than ever experienced before.”

A lot of senior journalists left journalism to work or study in Australia, he said. “Factors such as inflation and high living standard is influencing journalists to find other options. Salary and incentives reporters in the private newspapers get are not at par with their job responsibilities.”

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The biggest loss when a senior reporter leaves is news sources for information, Ugyen Tenzin said. “Public relations cannot be bought.”

Ugyen Tenzin said that the editorial team has submitted a proposal to the management to increase the pay and incentives of the reporters as a measure to retain them. “We are hopeful that the management would consider the proposal.”

Editor-in-chief of The Bhutanese, Tenzing Lamsang, said that the newspaper hasn’t seen many leaving the paper. One reporter left the newspaper this year.

The general observation of attrition rate in the mainstream media has been high because it is a challenging profession, Tenzing Lamsang said. “In this profession, there are more risks than rewards.”

He said that there is no career path in the profession. “For how long can one remain to do the same work?”

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He added that the market is too small that it can support only a few media houses to sustain themselves through advertisements.

About 60 employees consisting of news reporters, producers, camerapersons, and editors left in one year and nine months from BBS. Some left for Australia to study and work and others are planning to go there.

BBS recruited six reporters this year and would recruit graphic designers, IT personnel, reporters, and television and radio producers next year.

BBS’ chief executive officer, Kaka Tshering, said that the management is recruiting and conducting in-house training to fill the human resource gap.

He said that the management would not attend to resignation next year. “In the middle of the parliamentary elections, we cannot have people leaving BBS.”

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According to the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority, there are seven newspapers  – Bhutan Times, Bhutan Today, Business Bhutan, Gyalchi Sarshog, Kuensel, The Bhutanese, and The Journalist –  in the country today.

The only television broadcasting station is Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS).

There are five FM radio stations (BBS Radio, Centennial Radio, Kuzoo FM, Radio Valley, and Yiga Radio).

Three reporters left Bhutan Times this year. The newspaper’s senior reporter, Sonam Penjor, said that it is difficult to work in the newsroom with only a few reporters. “We cannot bring diversity to our news stories,” he said.

He said that many are choosing to leave for better opportunities. “Reporters look for better pay and a good working environment to work in the profession for long.”

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A news reporter who left the profession recently said that the workload was too much.

“I had to work as a reporter and a marketing officer and the salary was very less compared to the work I had to do,” the reporter said.

Reporters are not sent for training and there is poor management of financial accounts, the reporter added.

A total of 12 newsroom employees, a mix of newly recruited experienced journalists, resigned from Kuensel in the past 12 months.

Getting Australia visa becoming easier and faster

Mon, 01/02/2023 - 13:53

Dechen Dolkar 

Visa granted within 12 hours! Claims a visa grant notice shared on Facebook. 

The consultancy verified the claim saying that duration depended on the quality of application. However, many who are Australia bound agree that visas are granted faster compared to the past. This is attributed to the change in the process of international student visa application. 

The chairman of the Association of Bhutanese Education Consultancies, Palden Tshering, said the visa processing time of about 90 working days in the past has now come down to six to eight weeks.

“The processing time will be quicker and it has already started to become quicker. Few students even got their visa within two to three days after the process was streamlined,” the chairman said.

Palden Tshering said that the higher rejection of visas in the past was mainly because the consultancies didn’t filter the candidates. Recently, officials from the Australian High Commission from New Delhi conducted a seminar – ‘Bhutanese Student Visa Program’ with all the education consultancy and placement firms (ECPF) and training consultancy and placement firms (TCPF) registered with the education and labour ministry.

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To clear the backlog the High Commission has recruited more people. The chairman said that Australian High Commission officials asked the ECPF to be the frontline for them, filtering the candidates.

He said that students applying should have a good profile, meaning good documentation evidence and a good score on the English test. He said that the High Commission made sure that consultancies have a responsibility to students that are applying for the visa are quality students because it helps with the visa grants and also helps with speeding up the process. 

“Documents submitted should be genuine. The High Commission asked the consultancies to check the visa application twice and submit documents once,” said Palden Tshering. “The ‘cut and paste’ Statement of Purpose (SOP) leads to visa rejections. 

Meanwhile, it was reaffirmed that applicants can apply for student visas on their own and not necessarily through an agent. 

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Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said the visit of officials from the Australian High Commission was an opportunity for better coordination and understanding between both governments and the ECPF dealing with Australian universities. They said changes were made related to recent student visa policy announcements, updates on student arrivals, visa grants, visa processing times, and changes with student visa processes. 

Officials also said that consultancies were also made aware that there were no arbitrary objections from the Australian government on any categories of visas (such as diploma applicants) or a fixed cooling period after which applicants should reapply for visas once rejected. Instead, as long as quality applications are submitted, there are minimal chances of visa refusals.

Meanwhile, the Australian officials visited the Mongar and Gelephu hospitals with the purpose of empaneling more physicians and hospitals.

This will address two issues – to provide greater access to any application required to fulfill an Australian medical check for visa purposes and to ease the burden on the JDWNRH.

Bilateral discussions between the two governments have acknowledged the difficulties applicants face in traveling long distances to Thimphu for medical checks and the backlog presently being experienced in Thimphu. 

Residents complain of inflation 

Mon, 01/02/2023 - 13:52

… OCP warns businesses against inflating prices 

YK Poudel

Despite the recent measures, many residents complain that after the pandemic, goods and services prices have been soaring, forcing them to compromise on their consumption.

The enactment of the Tax Act of Bhutan, 2022 last month, sales tax and customs duty of close to 142 goods have been reduced. Taxes were reduced with the aim of easing inflationary pressure in the market.

The Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) on December 28, issued a public notification saying that as a result of the legislation, market prices of different types of cereals, pulses, cooking oil, milk powder, agricultural spare parts, and seeds are expected to decrease correspondingly.

A resident of Thimphu, Sangay Dema said that the cost of basic consumer products has hiked over time. “The consumers in countries like Bhutan, where the major essential products are imported, face the problem of high prices.”

She said that the products, which are in shortage, would gradually have higher prices over time. “Majority of the residents do not complain regarding the price hike because they don’t know where to complain,” she said.

Probin Ghalley, a corporate employee, said that the situation could possibly be due to the prolonged global pandemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine, which broke the major supply chain.

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“Although a notice has been passed the price has increased already all over the country. This would mean no decrease in the price,” he said.

“Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s net exporters of agricultural produce. The war has affected the overall trade all over the world because of an increase in the fuel price leading to transportation charges,” he said.

The increase in prices of various goods and services has led to lesser choice and preference for the purchase of goods for many families.

Sonam Dorji, a resident in Thimphu said that the increase in the prices of goods has led to the lesser purchase of goods and services. “After the rapid hike in the price of goods, I purchase only the essential goods at the cost of other commodities,” he said.

On average, the rate of goods such as eggs per tray has hiked the highest from Nu 250 to Nu 380, Horlicks to Nu 275 from Nu 240, and baby diapers to Nu 100 from Nu 70, among others.

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Shopkeepers said that transport cost remains one of the main drivers of inflation.

The prices of goods and services as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 4.89 percent in October 2022 compared to the price of October last year. Non-food products with 6.63 percent increase were the main contributor to the overall inflation with 72 percent contribution to the overall increase. Food prices increased by 2.87 percent in the past 12 months.

The purchasing power of Ngultrum as measured by CPI is Nu 60 as of October 2022 compared to December 2012.

Even after the consumer protection office issued the notification, residents said that the prices of goods and services have not changed.

The OCP asked businesses to refrain from unjustifiably inflating prices. The office called on the consumers to report to the OCP in the event of any unethical business practices. A total of 200 complaints were registered between 2021 and 2022.

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The business entities found violating consumer protection rules or engaging in unfair trade practices were directed to either rectify or were fined as per the Consumer Protection Act of Bhutan 2012.

Altogether, Nu 0.24 million were imposed as fines from 40 business entities; while a total of Nu 1.96 million was refunded to aggrieved consumers from as many as 39 business entities.

Nyilo – a fading tradition?

Mon, 01/02/2023 - 13:49

On the heels of Gregorian New Year celebrations was Nyilo, the new year of the Shar and Wang region. If the New Year was celebrated with dinners, live musical shows and disco dancing until the wee hours, Nyilo, once a much-celebrated new year’s eve was muted.

Apart from a few groups of children singing the Lolay (wish-fulfilling song) in the capital, organised by Nangchoed – a non-profit organisation, the eve of Nyilo was subdued if not overshadowed by the New year celebrations that are still continuing.

Nyilo literally means the return of the sun. It is the day from which the duration of sunlight time increases, signifying the start of longer days. Scientifically, it is the winter solstice when days start becoming longer. It is a day of celebrations. Longer days mean more time in the fields and more work done. For farmers in the Wang region, it is a long break (Nyilo holidays last from three days to a week), before they prepare for another busy year in their fields. Nyilo follows the Nyenpa Gunzom, also known as the Sharchop Losar. It is perhaps for the same reason – a break to prepare for a new work cycle.

On the eve of Nyilo, children and even adults go around their village singing the Lolay song to wish families a good year ahead. The lyrics are evidence of the priorities –

… let the granary be filled with grains,

Let the stores be filled with meat, butter and cheese,

Let the cattle shed be filled with cattle…

As an agrarian society, the Lolay song depicts the priorities then. From rice to meat to even wishing for a healthy population (probably for more pairs of hands in the fields). However, Nyilo and the celebrations related to it are relegated to a sumptuous lunch. But for the organized groups, the tradition of Lolay singing is disappearing. This is evident from the few lucky ones who heartily welcomed children at their door singing Lolay. It is a rare moment.

It is believed that welcoming the Lolay group brings good luck and a prosperous year ahead. That’s why in the villages, even if farmers have little to spare, they are generous with their donations to the Lolay group. In urban places like Thimphu where young people at the doorstep are seen as irritants, the singing group reminds of a tradition that is under threat.

Children, even if they are interested in keeping the tradition alive, have to manoeuvre traffic and watch out for the pack of stray dogs as they go around singing Lolay.

As Bhutan modernises and urbanises, a lot of the traditions that were a part of our life and culture will change. Some can be preserved and promoted, some like the Lolay can be organised, but the authenticity will be lost.

Kudos to the Nangchoed group who are trying to preserve the tradition even if the lyrics of Lolay had become irrelevant or if children taking part are not understanding that a rich tradition is now under threat from modernisation and urbanisation.

Promoting Sustainable Native Fish Population

Mon, 01/02/2023 - 13:48

Bhutan may not compete with big fishing industries around the globe but we do have unique and relatively unexplored river aquatic ecosystems. High-end opportunities such as the caviar food industry and recreational fishing are a few of the potential opportunities which are being currently explored. We do not want our river and stream networks to be altered before realizing the true potential of their contribution to the Bhutanese economy and culture.

Potential threats to native fish populations in Bhutan’s major river basins include the construction of dams, artificial noise, heavy metals pollution, the introduction of non-native fishes, and micro-plastic contents. There is no clear understanding of trends in the population of native fish across rivers and stream networks in Bhutan. Similarly, the effects of potential threats and their interactive effects on overall aquatic ecosystem functioning are unclear. The article explores and proposes a way forward for improving our knowledge of the native fish populations beyond the species inventory explorations.

Minimizing alteration of river flow regime –  Major civil works such as the construction and development of hydropower stations along the narrow river valley such as in Bhutan significantly change the river ecosystem and the rest of the biogeochemistry of the area. Except for a few, the flow in almost all the major rivers across the country is altered. However, to date, we do not have any research data to aid our decision-making for sustainable management of those rivers and associated ecosystems. The so-called “fish ladder” at the hydropower dams is often the most trusted passage for fish migration, but its effectiveness is being argued, and suitability to the migratory fishes found in the region is questionable.

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Mitigating and managing physical barriers to fish migration – Physical barriers to natural river flow affect the aquatic ecosystem by changing the nutrient cycle, altering the biological and physical properties of rivers and floodplains, and fragmenting the continuity of rivers. Consequently, these impacts block critical fish migration routes that connect the downstream floodplains and upstream tributaries. Research in similar mountainous regions like Bhutan reports significant changes upstream and downstream of the dams due to physical obstruction which is a direct result of impeding and delays in both migration and spawning.

Reducing nutrient load and temperature alterations along the river – The spawning of fish in the river augments the biodiversity in and around the river and also influences the nutrient cycle. The change in flow and reduced water quantity due to physical barriers such as dams are attributed to creating temperature differences before and after the dam. For example,  researchers recorded mean water temperature below the Xinanjiang and Danjiangkou dams decreased from 19.0oC to 13.5oC. The decrease in temperature led to delayed fish spawning by 20-60 days.

Establishing buffers along and around aquatic habitats – In the recent past, in addition to the major hydropower projects, the stress on aquatic ecosystems increased due to development of urban centers, and the construction of roads and bridges resulting in increased artificial noise near the critical sections of rivers. A rise in artificial noise levels underwater is known to negatively affect populations. For example, the very loud noise of relatively short exposure produced by pile driving and explosion can harm nearby fish. Similarly, moderate underwater noises of longer duration such as those produced by public transport, fishing, and recreational activities could also potentially impact a larger number of fish species. Such observation highlights the need to have a safe buffer zone between critical sections of the river or stream networks from major civil and construction projects.

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Gathering data on hazardous pollutants like heavy metals – Anthropogenic activities along the river basin are the main sources for the accumulation of heavy metals in the freshwater ecosystems. The sources include the dumping of sewage effluents, hospital wastes, and religious activities and offerings into water bodies. In addition, heavy metals may enter the aquatic system through ore-bearing rocks, windblown dust, and forest fires. The effects of heavy metal pollution can be felt beyond the fish population – the accumulation of heavy metals in fish could kill predator bird species feeding on fish, while a reduction in predator bird species can see growth in the population of pest birds and rodents. The fact that there is limited data on heavy metal pollution in our river and stream networks shows that we do not understand the magnitude of such risk – both to ecosystems and public health. Currently, the fish caught for consumption from urban rivers in Bhutan may contain these pollutants. Further, all the pollution in our rivers accumulates in the bay of Bengal – the main source of favorite Bhutanese delicacy, the “dried fish”.

Reducing the threat of micro-plastic pollution – The National Environment Commission of Bhutan initiated numerous strategies to reduce plastic usage in the country in recent years, although its usage can still be ubiquitously seen. Plastic polymers have detrimental effects on aquatic ecosystems. The science on emerging pollutants such as micro-plastic pollution is recent with too many unknowns regarding its long-term risk to the ecosystem and public health. Research revealed a high amount of ingestion of microplastics by the fishes such as Atlantic silversides, European flounder, and others. Plastic filaments and films of a mean length of 2.2 mm were found to be ingested by mesopelagic fish species. There is no information on such threats to public health and the native fish population in Bhutan.

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Improving our understanding of introduced species – The diversity and distribution of non-native fishes are also anticipated to be one of the major drivers affecting the native fish population, although the research and data remain deficient for Bhutan. An adequate understanding of the ecological risks associated with fish introductions is indispensable. Non-native fishes like brown trout are suspected to have negatively affected the native fishes due to their carnivorous nature when adult. The rate at which non-native freshwater fishes have been introduced worldwide was reported to be doubled in the span of the past 30 years, mainly for aquaculture (39%) and the improvement of wild stocks (17%). It is commonly cited as one of the key challenges to native fish diversity after habitat alteration. Non-native species affect the population of native fishes through predation, hybridization, competition for food, habitat modification, and the introduction of new diseases. The introduced species also compete for spawning ground and could lead to the extirpation of native species. The release of ‘tshethar’ fishes and escape of ornamental fishes from homes and recreational parks to the natural river system also needs urgent risk assessment and management for Bhutan.

The article does not advocate for banning or restricting development in every section of rivers or lakes. We are hopeful that the article promotes evidence-based decision-making through high-quality research, which in long run would identify key challenges and critical water ecosystems which need higher levels of protection with the hope to provide sustainable ecology and economic services to Bhutan and millions of population living downstream.

The article is published based on personal experiences and observations by a group of water researchers from Bhutan. The group can be contacted at waterresearchbhutan@gmail.com

Picture story

Mon, 01/02/2023 - 13:46

  The three-day annual Sarpang tshechu ended with the unfurling of Guru Tshengyed Thongdrol yesterday

About 80,614 Bhutanese are poor

Mon, 01/02/2023 - 13:45

… the gap between rich and poor reduces 

Thukten Zangpo 

About 80,614 Bhutanese people are found poor or are living below the poverty line at Nu 6,204 per person per month. This means 12 out of every 100 people in the country are poor.

The total estimated population in the country was 650,118 in 2022.

The poverty rate estimated at 12.4 percent, according to the National Statistics Bureau’s (NSB) Poverty Analysis report 2022 released on December 31 last year, was higher than 8.21 percent in 2017 and 12 percent in 2012. About 56,865 Bhutanese were poor in 2017.

The poverty line at Nu 6,204 per person per month represents the level of consumption needed to secure the necessities of life. It is obtained by adding estimated food and non-food requirements of Nu 2,852 and Nu 3,352 respectively.

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Subsistence poor, which means people belonging to households with per capita consumption below food requirements of Nu 2,852 per month, was reported at 0.4 percent of the population.

The population residing in rural areas recorded a high poverty rate at 17.5 percent while for urban areas it is low at 4.2 percent, the report stated.

Zhemgang (41.4 percent), Samdrupjongkhar (24.7 percent), Samtse (21.9 percent) and Trongsa (21.7 percent) have the highest poverty compared to other dzongkhags. Thimphu at 1.5 percent and Punakha at 2.9 percent have the least poverty.

Four thromdes-Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Samdrupjongkhar, and Gelephu show the poverty rates consistently below 10 percent.

Bhutan has an average household size of four members while poor households have larger with 5.5 individuals. “The share of individuals in poverty is under 1 percent among households of only one member, and reaches 40.2 percent among households with nine members or more.”

Food poverty rates, less than food requirements of Nu 2,852 per person per month, are virtually zero for one-person households and reach 3.7 percent among the largest households (nine members or more).

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The report also found that female-headed households are observed to be less poor than male-headed households.

Additionally, poverty rates are highest among households with very young heads (under 25 years of age) and for those with heads over 65, 13.3 percent and 20.9 percent respectively.

The report also found that the literacy rates among the poor are lower than for the rest of the population. “More than 7 out of 10 non-poor individuals are literate, among the poor the rate is less than 60 percent.”

Also, it added that the literacy rate is higher in urban areas both for poor (72 percent) and non-poor (83.2 percent) in comparison to rural areas (57.6 percent and 64.3 percent).

The report also stated that the non-poor population declared higher levels of sickness. “On average, while 20.3 percent of the poor population declared to have been sick in 2021, almost 29 percent among the non-poor stated to have suffered some illness.”

Irrespective of poverty status, the percentage of households with access to improved water sources was 100 percent.

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At least 99.2 percent of households have access to improved sanitation; between poor and non-poor households, both in urban and rural areas, the disparity is around 1 percent.

Among the non-poor households, 99.8 percent have at least one mobile phone, compared to only 98.6 percent among poor households.

At the national level, only 43 percent of poor households have television, compared to 76.7 percent of non-poor households.


Gap between rich and poor 

The Gini index, which measures inequality, is at 0.285 at the national level (0.29 for rural and 0.26 for urban). The Gini index saw a decline from 0.38 in 2017. Gini index was reported at 0.42 in 2003, 0.35 in 2007 but increased slightly to 0.36 in 2012.

On average the top 20 percent of the national population, equivalent to 37.3 percent consumes four times more than that of a person in the bottom 20 percent of the population (8.8 percent).

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The Gini index ranges between 0 and 1, 0 expresses perfect equality, meaning every household has equal wealth possession. A Gini index of 1 (or 100 percent) expresses perfect inequality, meaning one household holds all the wealth.

The report was published by the NSB with support from World Bank experts.


Can banks lower lending rate on housing loans?

Sat, 12/31/2022 - 09:15

Thukten Zangpo 

Bhutanese in rented houses residing in urban areas are facing an increasing rent burden.

Most of the building owners say that lowering the interest rate on housing loans could lead to reduction of the house rents.

According to the National Housing Policy 2020, 58 percent of Bhutanese reside in rented houses, paying more than 40 percent of their monthly income in house rent.

Internationally, a baseline of 30 percent of the household income is taken as the maximum proportion of income available for payment towards housing rent.

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A building owner can increase the house rent by 10 percent every two years, as per the Tenancy Act of Bhutan.

At the current situation, most of the building owners in Thimphu borrow Nu 24 million (M) to Nu 30M for the period of 30 years to construct five-storied buildings.

Suppose, a building owner has borrowed Nu 30M from the Bank of Bhutan (BoB) at the lending interest rate of 8.93 percent per annum for the commercial housing loans, he or she would be paying Nu 2,39,877 as an equated monthly installment.

However, a flat with a rent of Nu 15,000 would get him or her an income of Nu 150,000 every month for 10 flats.

The lending rate for the housing loans differs from bank to bank. The BoB provides the lowest lending rate at 7.98 percent per annum for the non-commercial and 8.93 percent per annum for the commercial housing loans.

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Bhutan National Bank (BNB) and Tashi Bank (T-Bank) provide a lending rate of 10 percent per annum for the commercial housing loan. BNB provides home loan at 9 percent per annum and T-Bank at 9.75 percent per annum.

Druk Punjab Bank provides the commercial housing loan at 9.5 percent and home loan at 8 percent. The Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan has the highest lending rate at 12 percent per annum for both the commercial and home loans.

For the commercial housing loan, all the banks provide a loan of 80 percent of building estimates and 70 percent of the building estimates that exceed Nu 50M.

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For non-commercial, the banks provide 90 percent of building estimates for the non-commercial and 50 percent of the renovation cost for the renovation of the building.

An official from BoB said that the lending rates are derived from the minimum-lending rate (MLR) set by the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA).

The MLR are determined on three parameters-marginal cost of funds, negative carry charges on cash reserve ratio and operating cost of the banks.

Adding these parameters, individual banks come up with an MLR and the average of which is considered the national MLR.

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Based on the figures from the banks, the current MLR is derived at 7.16 percent. This means it is not viable for any bank to lend below this rate. The MLR is reviewed after every six months.

However, the final lending rate the banks charge to its clients takes into consideration the credit risk premium, which depends on credit worthiness of the banks, tenor risk and businesses’ strategies. These factors determine the profit margin of the banks.

“We have offered the lowest lending rate, I do not think we can go lower than that because the deposit rate should equally go down,” an official from BoB said, adding that if we lower the deposit rate and the other banks do not, the BoB will not get the deposits.

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The BoB provides deposit’s interest rate of 5 percent to 7.25 percent per annum for recurring interest rate depending on the loan terms from 91 days to 2 years and above. The bank also provides different deposit rates for savings and fixed deposits.

BNB’s director of banking operations, Hem Kumar Acharya, said that the banks have no plan to reduce the interest rate soon. However, in future, if only the cost of funds (interest paid on fixed deposit and savings) comes down or the bank’s performance improves.

He added that the housing loans term is for 30 years, and the bank has to look into the risk if in case the loan is not able to recover.

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Hem Kumar Acharya also said that loan interest rate depends on the deposit interest rate. “Depositors expect some interest to be paid and when we pay more interest, we have to charge more interest to the loan clients.”

The difference between the interest rate a bank pays to depositors and interest rate it receives from loans reflects the efficiency of the financial system in the country.

The banks in the United States of America, Japan and Singapore, do not give interest on the deposits. “When there are no interest rates on deposits, they can also lend at much lower rates than us,” said Hem Kumar Acharya.

In Japan, he said that if the deposits exceed the certain prescribed limits, the depositors have to pay interest to the bank. Bhutan and India have similar lending rates.

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Hem Kumar Acharya added that the banks were equally hit by the Covid-19 because the banks were not able to lend as much and the economy is rebounding from the impact of the Covid-19.

The BoB reduced the interest rate on savings to 4.5 percent from 5 percent earlier to meet the bank’s cost.  Other banks could follow suit on lowering the deposit rates.

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Hem Kumar Acharya said that the BNB cost of funds are high compared to the BoB since the government deposits go by default to the BoB.

Statistics from RMA shows, the housing and construction sector loan was Nu 51.8 billion (B) as of September this year from Nu 45.53B as of September last year. This is an increase of 13.84 percent. The sector comprises 27 percent of the total loan portfolio.

Civil Service Reform Act comes into effect

Sat, 12/31/2022 - 09:13

… Cabinet yet to decide on which minister will step down 

Dechen Dolkar  

The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) implemented the Civil Service Reform Act of Bhutan 2022 yesterday, reorganising civil service into nine ministries. 

The implementation of the new ministries was held with a simple ceremony yesterday. Some of the ministries also posted pictures of ceremonies marking the new beginning.

However, the Cabinet has not yet decided on which minister will step down from the ministerial post and reshuffle the ministers. An official from the Prime Minister’s Office said that it has not decided on the reshuffling of ministers and who will step down.

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The Civil Service Reform Act was passed during the winter session of the parliament that ended earlier this month.

According to the Civil Service Reform Act of Bhutan 2022, there are nine ministries: Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock,  Ministry of Education and Skills Development, Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources,  Ministry of Finance;  Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade,  Ministry of Health,  Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment, and  Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport.   

During the first reading of the Civil Service Reform Bill at the last parliament session, the Member of the Parliament (MP) Ugyen Wangdi asked if the government has decided which minister would step down since the Bill proposed to reduce the number of ministries to nine.

In response, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that if the reform benefits the country, two to three ministers are ready to step down from the ministerial post immediately.

Lyonchhen had said that he has even asked RCSC to bring it down to eight or increase more than 10 if it benefits the country. “I asked RCSC to review it independently.”

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The nine ministries

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests has been renamed the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. The ministry has four Departments with Department of Agriculture (DoA), Department of Livestock (DoL), Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC) and National Biodiversity Center (NBC).

The Ministry of Education has been renamed the Ministry of Education and Skills Development. The National Commission for Women and Children Secretariat has been subsumed under the ministry and will serve as the secretariat of the commission.

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The functions of Bhutan Medical and Health Council, Department of Occupational Standard of MoLHR, Quality Assurance and Accreditation Division and Higher Education and Planning Division of the former MoE, Engineering Council of Bhutan, and Bhutan Board for Certified Counsellors (BBCC) have been subsumed under the newly created Bhutan Qualification and Professional Certification Authority (BQPCA).

A new Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MoENR) has been created with five departments, the Department of Energy and Department of Geology and Mines transferred from the former Ministry of Economic Affairs.

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The Department of Forests and Park Services moved from former Ministry of Agriculture and Forests. A new Department of Water consolidates the water resources management mandates from various agencies.

The National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS) has been reconstituted as the Department of Environment and Climate Change. The department will function as the secretariat to the National Environment Commission. Bhutan Electricity Authority is renamed the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA).

The Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority, Bhutan Narcotic Control Authority and Drug Regulatory Authority have been merged as the Bhutan Food and Drug Authority and placed under the health ministry.

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The Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs is renamed Ministry of Home Affairs. The Department of Culture has been renamed as Department of Culture and Dzongkha Development after subsuming Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC). The department will be the secretariat to the Dzongkha Development Commission.

The ministry’s Department of Local Governance and Department of Disaster Management has been merged to form the new Department of Local Governance and Disaster Management.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs is now Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment with five departments.

Department of Industry and Department of Trade have been transferred from the former MoEA. The Department of Employment and Entrepreneurship and the Department of Labour, has been transferred from the former MoLHR.

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The Department of Information and Media has been merged with the Department of Intellectual Property and renamed the Department of Media, Creative Industry and Intellectual Property.

The former Tourism Council of Bhutan has been subsumed under the MoICE as the Department of Tourism and will function as the secretariat to the Tourism Commission.

The Office of Consumer Protection has been renamed the Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority is moved under MoICE. The Bhutan Standards Bureau is under MoICE.

The Media Council of Bhutan and the National Film Commission have been merged with the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA). BICMA will be under MoICE.

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The Ministry of Works and Human Settlements is renamed the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport with four departments: Department of Air Transport, Department of Human Settlement, Department of Infrastructure Development, and Department of Surface Transport.

The ministry also has two affiliated authorities viz. Bhutan Construction and Transport Authority (BCTA), and Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA). The Road Safety and Transport Authority and the Department of Roads have been merged as the Department of Surface Transport.

The regulatory functions under the Department of Roads, Road Safety and Transport Authority, and Construction Development Board have been subsumed under the new Bhutan Construction and Transport Authority (BCTA).

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The finance ministry has five departments. Department of Macroeconomic Affairs (DMEA) being renamed as the Department of Macro-fiscal and Development Finance.

The Department of Macro-fiscal and Development Finance will be the nodal agency for development finance (aid coordination) and debt management function in the country and hence, all matters relating to development finance and debt management will berouted through the Department of Macro-fiscal and Development Finance.

The Department of National Budget is now the Department of Planning, Budget and Performance (DPBP), the Department of Public Accounts is the Department of Treasury and Accounts.

The Department of National Properties is renamed as the Department of Procurement and Properties and Department of Revenue and Custom.

JDWNRH starts total knee replacement surgery

Sat, 12/31/2022 - 09:13

Nima Wangdi  

The successful total knee replacement surgery of 66-year-old Tshering Lhamo from Lunana, Gasa yesterday marked the launch of the service in the country. A team led by Dr Kuenzang Wangdi, Head of the  Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, completed the surgery in an hour and a half.

This means those requiring knee joint replacement hereafter will no longer need to be referred abroad.

According to the officials from the hospital, total joint replacement is a surgical procedure where a damaged or arthritic joint is removed and replaced with a prosthesis (metal, plastic, or ceramic).

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“The most commonly replaced joints in our body are the knee and hip joints. Other joints like the shoulder, elbow, and ankle are also replaced but very rarely,” an official said.

Currently, the hospital’s orthopaedic department sees a huge number of patients with severe osteoarthritis of the knee joint every day. They are treated with pain medication and intra-articular steroid injections

Patients with severe joint arthritis especially the knee and hip are referred abroad for joint replacement according to hospital officials.

A press release from JDWNRH stated that around 70 patients are referred abroad for joint replacement surgeries. It has huge financial implications for the government while the patients also have to undergo inconveniences.

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Health Minister Dechen Wangmo, during the launching of the service, said that besides a significant cut down on referral costs to the government, the introduction of the service in the country will make it convenient for patients as they need not have to travel abroad.

“The services itself will be able to bring about change in the quality of life of many who have mobility issues due to knee pain and age,” she said.

Dr Kuenzang Wangdi was trained in the procedure at Medica Specialty hospital in India recently. 

Handicraft dealers struggle to find buyers

Sat, 12/31/2022 - 09:12

KP Sharma 

Handicraft shops in the country are struggling to keep their business afloat.

Since the opening of the international border on September 23, only 16,520 international visitors or tourists have visited Bhutan.

Without a large influx of tourists, handicraft shops are virtually out of business.

According to Chorten Dorji, executive director of the Handicraft Association of Bhutan, the indigenous handicraft industry is experiencing the biggest hurdle.

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“Some shops have already closed and a few are trying to sustain with a very low income,” Chorten Dorji said.

The Bhutanese handicraft sector is largely dependent on the import of handicraft items from neighboring countries like India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

He said that handicraft shops should try to diversify products and enhance innovation to improve the quality. “Upgrading the skills and innovation has been prioritised.”

But then, the lack of business for handicraft shops is principally because of fewer international tourists.

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Cheki Dorji of Agency for Promotion of Indigenous Crafts (APIC) said that there is a need to promote indigenous crafts by discouraging imports. “We are in touch with relevant agencies like the Department of Revenue and Customs to limit the import of handicraft items.”

According to him, one way to limit the import is through tax. He said that when imported items dominate the market, it discourages local artists.

Bhutanese do not buy locally-produced handicraft items because of a huge difference in the price of the products. The production of handicraft items is labour-intensive and, so, costly in Bhutan.

Deki, a handicraft dealer in Thimphu, said that handicraft shops are not getting business as they did before Covid-19 hit the country.

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Options, therefore?

Most handicraft shops have taken up tailoring and, sometimes, even tailoring can be a cumbersome engagement when there are no buyers.

 “We would be grateful if the agencies concerned helped us explore the market,” said Namgay, a handicraft dealer in Thimphu.

Dechen, a handicraft dealer, said that tourists are not interested in products that are not made locally. “Only people travelling to Australia or to other countries and some offices come to buy gifts from our shops.”

ECB reviewing new political heat 

Sat, 12/31/2022 - 09:12

… Peldruk Pelbar Facebook has been taken down 

Dechen Dolkar 

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) is reviewing social media posts made by the former National Council Chairperson, Dasho Sonam Kinga (PhD) on his decision to explore possibilities of contesting the 2023 elections.

Dasho Sonam Kinga posted on the social media page called ‘Peldruk Pelbar’ his intention of contesting elections in three languages with videos, last week.

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However, the page has been removed five days after the first post was made. He also made a second post on Tuesday claiming that the social media page name ‘Peldruk Pelbar’ is not the political party name but a political movement. He also responded to several most frequently asked questions.

According to the ECB Social Media rules and regulations, any communication via telephone means including individual or bulk SMS, or the internet including Telegram, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google Plus, blogs, websites, personal or official, individual or entity, textual or graphics, video or voice shall be determined as political advertising if the content pertains to elections, political views or positions, or in any way can be understood to be in support or against a candidate or party contesting elections.

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In the post, he said that the intention is to ultimately bring out a manifesto based on the views, feedback and contributions of the public, and also asked interested candidates to step forward.

According to the Election Act, the party is allowed to talk about the manifesto only after registration with the Election Commission of Bhutan and when ECB makes an announcement for the elections.

The election officials told Kuensel that the case was forwarded to the commission, and is being reviewed.

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When Kuensel called the commission’s spokesperson, the reporter was directed to contact officials at the headquarters as he was away. Kuensel called the Chief Election Commissioner who redirected the reporter to the spokesperson and asked the reporter not to call him again.

Dasho Sonam Kinga did not respond to Kuensel’s request for information.

DoR adds more machines to keep roads clear 

Sat, 12/31/2022 - 09:11

Staff Reporter  

The Department of Roads (DoR) procured a Toyota Hilux, Toyota Hiace bus, three JCB wheel loaders, and six mini hand-held rollers worth Nu 29.82 million (M) with Asian Development Bank (ADB) funding through SASEC Road Connectivity Project.

According to DoR, the Toyota bus will be customised to fit Road Measurement Data Acquisition System equipment. ROMDAS equipment shall collect asset and pavement information using locally-sourced road survey vehicles.

The JCB Wheel Loader will be fitted with a dozer blade and will be used as a snow-clearing machine during the winter season at Dochula, Pelela, and Thrumshingla, among others.

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“It shall be used as a payloader to clear slip clearance and landslides during other seasons,” said the DoR press release. JCB Wheel Loader will be handed over to three regional offices.

“The snow-clearing machines shall be of significant use in keeping these road stretches open to commuters this winter,” DoR’s press release stated.

For the routine maintenance and pothole repairs works across the country, DoR says they would use mini hand-held rollers. It shall be handed over to six regional offices.

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The supplier, Ugen Auto, handed over the machines and vehicles to the department yesterday.

The SASEC Road Connectivity Project also funded Pasakha Access Road, Northern Bypass Road, Allay Land Custom Station and Mini Dry Port at Phuentsholing.

A couple burned alive

Sat, 12/31/2022 - 09:10

Staff Reporter  

An elderly couple was burnt alive in the house they were living in on December 29 at Tsertsa under Trong gewog in Zhemgang. The couple is suspected to have fallen asleep while the fire broke out.

The man was 73 and the woman was 81 years old.

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The daughter of the deceased who lives in Trong   village above Zhemgang town said that her parents were living with her sister at Tsertsa. The sister was away when the incident happened.

Tsertsa is 50 kilometers from Zhemgang town, on the way to Panbang.

The daughter said that the house was not electrified and there was firewood stacked beneath the floor of the one-storeyed semi-permanent house. There was no houses close to their house.

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She said one of the neighbours saw the fire when he stepped out of his home to go to the toilet. The neighbours rushed to the place and tried to extinguish the fire but failed.

“When I got to the site around 8:30pm, everything was finished,” the daughter said.

The fire is suspected to have started at around 7pm while the cause is unknown.