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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 59 min ago

RC is an opportunity to rethink, redesign, and rewrite strategies: Sowa Lyonpo

Tue, 09/06/2022 - 11:12

Nima Wangdi 

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo, during the inaugural of the 75th session of the Regional Committee (RC) for the World Health Organisation (WHO) South-East Asia region in Paro yesterday, said that Covid-19 continues to test the resilience of Bhutan’s health systems at all levels.

“Health systems across the world continue to face challenges with shortage of human resources, difficulties in assessing essential medicines for routine services, managing the intricacies of securing the required therapeutics, and diagnostic for Covid-19,” Lyonpo said.

The Covid-19 pandemic was more than a health crisis, she said. “Countless vulnerable groups have been pushed into extreme poverty.”

These widening gaps slowed Bhutan’s collective momentum towards achieving our shared goals of universal health coverage according to Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo. “It continues to threaten our health and economic gains.”

The committee elected Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo as the chairperson for the session

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“Today is an opportunity for all to rethink, redesign, and rewrite strategies and interventions to accelerate and enhance equitable and quality health services in the South-East Asian region that is home to one-fourth of the global population,” Lyonpo said.

“While we continue to fight the pandemic, there is a surge of monkeypox virus. It is time that the leaders, experts, and partners, took stock of gaps in areas that need more attention in the context of our commitments to realise the triple billion targets and sustainable development goals,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo was also elected as the chairperson of the session.

A book titled “The People’s Pandemic” was also launched during the inaugural session. The book showcases how Bhutan fought the Covid-19 pandemic.

About 300 delegates from the member countries, including the health ministers, are participating in the session.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering attended the inaugural session at Paro College of Education yesterday. The meeting will continue at Hotel Le Meridian in Paro.

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This is the 3rd regional committee that Bhutan is hosting. The venue of the regional committee meeting is rotated among the 11 member countries of South-East Asia on an annual basis with the convening held in New Delhi, the headquarters of SEARO, once every five years.

The 75th Regional Committee will end on September 9.

Contractors worry about timely completion of work

Tue, 09/06/2022 - 11:11

Thukten Zangpo

Despite the finance ministry notifying to re-schedule the completion of the on-going construction works, contractors said that some procuring agencies are not adhering to the notification.

According to the ministry’s notification on June 21 this year, the procuring agencies were asked to review all on-going projects as per present situation and determine whether the existing duration is sufficient or insufficient to complete the work.

The projects also include any work re-scheduled earlier and projects that have entered liquidated period.

The construction works were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the import of construction materials and labourers was a challenging task, which led to delays in executing the projects.

The notification also stated that for the projects that are either not affected or the agreed duration is sufficient to complete the project, the contract duration shall be retained as per the existing contract signed.

However, the ministry asked the procuring agencies to reschedule the intended completion date for the on-going construction works and issue a new one-time intended completion date for construction works order for each project site for the projects that are affected by the pandemic or agreed on duration as per existing contract is insufficient to complete the project.

A contractor said that although the finance ministry has asked to reschedule the works, some dzongkhags and departments’ procuring agencies do not accept it.

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“Without the time extension, we will have to leave the on-going works and it would be a huge loss for the contractors as well as for the government,” he said.

A contractor said that the availability of raw materials such as cement, sand and bricks was still challenging.

To import raw materials from India, contractors have to hire Indian drivers paying them between Nu 1,000 to Nu 1,500 for a bolero, he said.

He added that the government allows only 35 vehicles for the transport of essential items and others in a day, which is not adequate for the transport of raw materials.

Another contractor said that there are no skilled workers in the country who can repair the parts of the heavy earth moving equipment and have to send it to India. “Earlier it took three days to bring back the repaired parts, but now it takes more than two weeks.”

A contractor also said that with bank guarantees closed by the banks, the contractors are not able to continue the works since their property is mortgaged with the banks.

The Construction Association of Bhutan’s Executive Director, Tshering Younten, said that the association has requested the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan and Bhutan

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Development Bank Limited for a bank guarantee.

He added that the association has also requested the financial institutions to accept the third- party collateral of immovable assets provided there is a legally binding document.

However, Tshering Younten said that the government has reduced the performance security from 10 percent to 5 percent of the quoted price.

As per existing practices, the performance security may be submitted either in the form of bank guarantee, cash warrant, demand draft, or online submission through any bank prior to formal signing of the contract agreement.

The contractors also requested the government to consider paying an additional 20 percent for cost escalation of the construction works and to do away with liquidated damage.

A contractor said that although Covid-19 has been relaxed and it has become normal, the situation in the construction sector has not improved.

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“Fuel price hike has cost us a lot, Nu 500,000 has to be spent for diesel now compared to Nu 250,000 earlier. Material costs have gone up by almost three times,” he said.

Annual jungle cutting hampers ICT classes

Tue, 09/06/2022 - 11:10

Tshering Namgyal | Silambi

The school management and teachers of Nagor Middle Secondary School in Silimbi, Mongar are worried if their computer classes would be covered in time due to a power supply shortage.

Power shortage has resulted due to jungle clearing work.

School’s IT teacher, Gyem Tshering, said there are three periods IT classes for classes VII to 10 and two for classes PP-VI, and the school missed 38 periods in a week. “IT is the main subject now and we will have to make adjustments to cover the classes on time. All IT classes have to be carried out in the lab.”

A teacher said: “Some of us are attending courses and meetings online. Teachers do lesson planning and assess students’ tasks online.”

A contractor said the absence of light has affected construction works at the school.

Power supply was temporarily restored on August 29 although the gewog would suffer erratic power supply until the jungle cutting work is completed.

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Bhutan Power Corporation Limited (BPCL) officials said the people of Silambi and Gongdue gewogs were affected due to plant shutdown for jungle clearing along the transmission lines in the gewogs.

Mongar’s BPC officials said jungle cutting is an annual activity that usually lasts for a month. However, the time has been shortened after the two feeders started supplying electricity in the region.

BPC’s Gyalpoizhing sub-divisional manager, Karma Gyaltshen, said the right of way clearing of bushes used to take about 45 days before and the whole six gewogs of Silambi, Gongue, Drepong, Saling, Kengkhar, and Jurmey gewogs would be affected throughout the execution of works along the 152-km transmission line.

However, he said it was mininised to five to 10 days at the most after the gewogs were connected with two feeders from Broksar sub-station and Kilihar sub-station.

BPC officials said the work would shift to Drepong feeder and only the customers in Kengkhar and Jurmey gewogs and some parts of Drepong will experience a power cut off during the day for about same duration while Silambi and Gongdue gewogs might experience occasional disruptions.

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Karma Gyaltshen said that 90 percent of line fault is due to trees along the transmission line while the rest is due to lightning, birds and animals striking the lines and the annual clearing works would address the issue.

Review: A journey replete with adventure

Tue, 09/06/2022 - 11:09

Chhimi Dema 

If you are looking for an adventure, here is Worlds of Wonder: Journey to the Floating Paradise I, a book by a 13-year-old.

A fantasy fiction, every page of the book unleashes magical and supernatural events.

Dremith Kuendhen, 12, sets off on a journey with his two best friends to find the Floating Paradise. Finding the paradise is the centre of the story that brings to light many events, some catastrophic and others heart-warming.

The characters face challenges and fight monsters and dragons as they continue to discover new places. It is also the journey that teaches them the values of friendship and life.

As they explore the magical and mysterious world around them, they find the truth about themselves and meet people dear to them from the past.

Dremith Kuendhen is courageous, strong, wise, and caring.

The characters are crafted with expert skills.

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Worlds of Wonder: Journey to the Floating Paradise I is a book offering young readers an exclusive world of fantasy.

The author, Pema Yangsel Dorji, 13, is a student at Dr Tobgyel School.

Pema said that she writes from her dreams and incidents in her real life. “The thing I like about writing is that I get to create my world and fill it with my ideas and stories.”

The book was launched on September 4.

Pema finished the second book and is currently working on the third book of the series.

Pema Yangsel is also the youngest chess player to represent Bhutan in the 44th Chess Olympiad held in August this year.

Title: Worlds of Wonder: Journey to the Floating Paradise I

Author: Pema Yangsel Dorji

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Nu. 199

ISBN: 978-99980-59-177 

BFF to take disciplinary action involving Rinpung players and referee

Tue, 09/06/2022 - 11:08

Thinley Namgay   

The Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) is yet to take disciplinary action regarding the recent confrontation between the players of Paro Rinpung FC and the referee during the game between Paro Rinpung FC and the Thimphu City FC at the ongoing BoB Bhutan Premier League at the Woochu Sports Arena in Paro.       

BFF’s competition officer, Kinley Dorji, said that the federation would take the action soon. “We are discussing the issue.”  

Although Thimphu City FC won the game 5-0, many questioned the City’s first two goals, sportsmanship of Rinpung players and the decision of the referee.  

The referee, AFC’s elite referees from Bhutan, refused to comment.   

The atmosphere at the ground changed in the 23rd minute of the game when City was awarded a penalty by the referee. Rinpung players confronted the referee stating that the decision was unfair. One of the Rinpung players was given the red card.

City’s Dawa Tshering scored the goal.    

Paro Rinpung FC’s president, Passang, said: “That penalty was unfair. People can watch the highlights of the game online.”

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Rinpung FC continued the game with 10 players. A confrontation occurred between the players of Rinpung FC and the referee again in the 32nd minute of the game when the City’s Adrian Garcia headed and scored the goal.

Rinpung players claimed that Adrian Garcia was offside. The disagreement resulted in a red card for another Rinpung player. 

Passang said the referee  should be professional. 

Picture story

Tue, 09/06/2022 - 11:08

The under-17 national football team lost to defending champions India 3-0 in the opening match of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) U-17 Championship 2022 in Sri Lanka yesterday.

What’s the quality of our life?

Tue, 09/06/2022 - 11:07

This year, as we spruce up the capital city, main highways, and human habitat, it is a good time to think about the overall quality of our urban centres. Basic infrastructure and services are critical for survival in a city, but Gross National Happiness demands more. 

In terms of broad aesthetics, the façade of our traditional architecture has given our towns an identity, although a superficial one. But it will always be a tussle as property owners try to build as high as possible. And our decision makers will need the resilience to withstand new pressures, including political pressure, as our political and socio-economic priorities change. If our hotels get bigger than our lhakhangs and dzongs and perch atop every hill, it will be the sad end of the Bhutanese landscape. 

Our habitat is rapidly changing from pristine villages to concrete towns and an estimated 200,000 Bhutanese people are already trying to live an urban life. If we miss the greens and other colours of foliage that we had in the rural setting, it is sad. But if we stop caring about it altogether, that will be tragic. As it is, foliage is not a priority in our towns. 

An even bigger irony is that we are breathing increasingly polluted air. We had 123,592 motor vehicles on our roads as of July this year and add to that a large variety of machines, all throwing up visible fumes and invisible gases into the air. If current trends are not stalled or reversed, we will be living in the heart of the most pristine country, breathing foul or even toxic air.  

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It is now obvious that a majority of Bhutanese families have been living in two-room apartments with a common toilet. The large space that characterised rural life has been traded for the comforts of city life, as it is represented by the acute shortage of space. What is not known is the psychological and social impact that this is having on us. Children growing up in two rooms will develop differently from those who have a valley to run around in.  

Why is a respiratory infection the biggest killer of children? Why is hypertension not a novelty anymore? What is causing an increasing number of mental health issues? The problems are emerging, fast and furious.  

We do not need the expertise for some basic conclusions. Parks and libraries, two symbols of a good quality of life, are a major scarcity in our urban centres. But we have thousands of bars. 

At this rate, our happiness is taking on a different meaning altogether.

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Hoteliers recommend exempting SDF for all border towns 

Tue, 09/06/2022 - 11:07

Dechen Dolkar  

Tourists visiting for a day or spending a night in the border towns could be exempted from paying the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF), according to the representatives of the hoteliers.

The recommendation was submitted at the consultation between the hoteliers and the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) yesterday.

According to draft tourism rules and regulations 2022, a day visitor spending a night within the border towns of Bhutan or travelling beyond the designated point will be subject to payment of applicable SDF.

The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) also met with representatives of the Guide Association of Bhutan (GAB) yesterday.

During the consultation meeting, the members from HRAB raised that SDF should be exempted in all border towns.

“Imposing SDF in the border towns will discourage tourists to halt in the border towns of Bhutan, encouraging travellers to stay a night across the border depriving the local border communities of Bhutan of revenue and tourism,” the hoteliers said.

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The hoteliers said that just Nu 6,000 to Nu 7,000 SDF tourists will stay at the border area. “This will have huge impacts on the hoteliers.”

The hoteliers said that from experience, the regional tourists usually come in large groups with family. They said that there should be a detailed procedure for the application of permits modality of procedure while applying for a visa or permit.

The draft rule states that a tourist will pay applicable SDF as per the procedure adopted by the Department of Immigration for applying for a visa or permit, whichever is applicable.

The hoteliers also recommended that the business bonds should be according to the category of the hotels, though they support on the providing business bonds.

The draft rules also state that the service provider will have to provide the business bond of  Nu 500,000 in the form of a Bank Guarantee drawn in favour of the TCB or any other agency identified for that purpose and payable at banks located in Thimphu.

The hoteliers said that since there are high bad debts among the service providers a dispute committee between service providers should be formed. However, the proposal was already submitted to the council.

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The hoteliers said that though the new tourism policy is for a level playing field for all the service providers, there is micromanagement at the ground level with many requirements.

The officials from TCB also said that the council is also working and revising the requirements and criteria of star ratings of hotels and hotels will be assessed again.

Meanwhile, the TCB has taken the feedback of the service providers on transportation. TCB is proposing that tourist vehicles should not be older than 12 years from the date of registration with the Road Safety and Transport Authority.

The draft rules also state that the Luxury SUVs should be above 1900cc and luxury buses above 2400cc.

The hoteliers said that the higher cc doesn’t mean a luxury vehicle. There is some higher cc which is not luxury.

The TCB officials also said that they are also proposing budget hotels to cater to tourists in some of the dzongkhags for the time being since there are no 3-star and above hotels.

They said that the government is also revising and working on the SDF exemption in some of the categories. Currently, there are 18 categories exempted from SDF.

The hoteliers said that there is no clarity on rules and regulations. They are confused. If the government could direct them properly so that they can upgrade the business or either prepare to exit the business.

Guide Association of Bhutan 

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The members from GAB also recommended that instead of categorising in different levels, the guides should be categorised as culture guides, specialised tour guides, senior guides and as tour leaders.

The members also recommended that as the beginner or culture guide, the guide should handle a small group maximum of six tourists.

The guide should have at least three years of experience in culture guide to be promoted to specialized guide. To become senior guides they should have at least five years of experience in the specialization.

It was recommended that the guides should undergo trekking training compulsory in specialization and in the senior guides. To become the tour leader the guide should have a minimum experience of five years as a senior guide. From culture guide to tour leader, the guide should have at least 13 years of experience.

The guides will be assessed on their competency. The guides will conduct tests to promote to the next level. If they fail to renew their license they will have to pay a penalty and be re-assessed.

“There are some senior guides who cannot explain to the tourists,” a GAB member said.

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The guides also proposed that they be provided with accommodation during the tour. The guide claims that some of the guides are not provided accommodation by the hotels and they struggle to find accommodations.

The draft rules and regulations and recommendations will be tabled in the council board meeting and finalised which will be held this week.

ECB calls NC aspiring candidates to register

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 11:45

MB Subba 

With the announcement of a seminar for aspiring candidates last week, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has started preparations for the upcoming National Council (NC) elections, which will be held early next year.

The registration of aspiring candidates for the seminar, which will be held in October, began on September 1.

The current NC was constituted on May 10, 2018. Accordingly, the five-year term of the third NC will end tentatively on May 9, 2023.

It implies that the NC has about eight months to complete its term. However, the elections have to be concluded to ensure that the fourth NC is reconstituted before the completion of the term, as the NC is a continuous House.

A parliamentary election process lasts about three months.

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The incumbent members can recontest without resigning, according to the NC Act. The Constitution states that NC should be re-constituted on the date of expiry of the term.

The ECB in its notification yesterday stated the seminar for aspiring candidates was aimed at making them conversant with electoral laws and helping them participate in the elections meaningfully.

The seminar is expected to orient them on the requirements for contesting elections and “deepen their understanding of the electoral processes, specifically related to the fourth NC elections”.

“Besides, the ECB wishes to use the seminar as the platform to respond to any query that the aspiring candidates may have regarding the election.”

The ECB has asked individuals with intentions to contest the elections to register either with the ECB head office in Thimphu or the nearest dzongkhag election office.

“The exact date, time and venue shall be communicated subsequently,” ECB stated.

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The 2018 NC elections were announced in February and the polls were held on April 20.

According to an aspiring candidate, the fourth NC elections are expected to see high numbers of candidates. Many aspiring candidates have already expressed their intentions with their family members and friends to contest the election, he said.

Another aspiring candidate who did not want to be named said that southern and eastern dzongkhags like Samtse, Sarpang, Mongar and Trashigang were expected to see an increase in the number of aspirants. “Voters will have more choices,” he said.

In an earlier notification, the commission notified government agencies, autonomous bodies, corporations, private offices, religious organisations, and the general public to organise programmes and activities that involve the public before the commencement of the election period.

The ECB stated that such programmes involving public gatherings during the election period would not be allowed.

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Inflation rises 6.61 percent in July 

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 11:42

Thukten Zangpo 

Consumers had to pay 6.61 percent more for the same goods in July this year than the same month last year.

This is according to the National Statistics Bureau’s (NSB) latest consumer price index (CPI), released on August 31.

For example, if a packet of milk was Nu 100 and the price increased by Nu 6.61 compared with a year earlier, then the milk’s inflation rate is 6.61 percent.

The CPI is the pace at which prices of goods and services are rising over a period of a given time.

The inflation rate as of July is still higher than the Royal Monetary Authority’s upper inflation threshold of 6 percent.

Food prices have become expensive by 5.82 percent in July this year and non-food prices by 7.29 percent over the past year.

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Non-food prices continue to have a higher contribution to the overall increase with 58 percent of the increase while food prices contributed 42 percent, according to the NSB.

Given the increase in fuel prices in recent months, transport continues to record the highest increase with 12.79 percent.

The transport sector is the second highest contributor with 29 percent to the overall increase in prices.

The prices of food and alcoholic beverages became expensive by 6.24 percent. 

Clothing and footwear became expensive by 8.21 percent. Health costs increased by 4.73 percent.

Similarly, the prices of housing and utilities rose by 5.29 percent and furnishings, household equipment and routine household maintenance by 5.48 percent.

Education expenses increased by 3.15 percent and restaurants and hotels bill saw up by 3.66 percent.

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Communication was the only sector that saw a drop in prices by 0.04 percent.

Comparing July’s inflation to the previous month, it saw an increase in prices of goods by 1.16 percent after it dropped in June.

Food and non-food saw an increase of 1.12 percent and 1.2 percent respectively.

Food and alcoholic beverages contributed to almost half of the overall increase followed by clothing and footwear, which rose 2.98 percent contributing to 23 percent of the overall increase.

Education recorded the highest monthly increase with 3.15 percent due to an increase in college fees.

With the increase in the price of goods in the economy, the purchasing power of Ngultrum as measured by CPI saw a drop of 6.2 percent.

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This means that Nu 100 in July this year is only worth Nu 60 as of December 2021 prices.

RCSC discontinue one-year PGD courses 

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 11:41

Dechen Dolkar  

The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) will do away with a one-year postgraduate diploma (PGD) course from the 2023 intake onwards.

According to RCSC the Post-Graduate Diploma in Public Administration (PGDPA) and Post-Graduate Diploma in Finance Management (PGDFM) will be replaced by training for civil servants throughout their careers in a very structured and strategic manner.

All BCSE-selected candidates will be placed directly, except for PGD in education. However, the PGD in National Law (PGDNL) will continue.

The official from the Commission said that in the future, a pool of lawyers would be from JSW School of Law where the PGDNL course is embedded.  However, those undergoing LLB outside of Bhutan will continue to undergo PGDNL course.

The BSCE-selected candidates will undergo the Foundational In-service Training (FIT) programme, followed by the service-specific or immersion programmes.

An official from the Commission said that FIT and service-specific or immersion programmes would emphasise entrenching civil service-wide and cross-cutting competencies as per the Leadership Capability Framework (LCF) and Competency-Based Framework (CBF).

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The official said that the programmes would be a journey of introspection, self-discovery, awareness, and assimilation supplemented with both asynchronous and synchronous learning paradigms and strategies.

In addition, the recruits will also be trained on the core functional or job-specific competencies by the respective agencies based on the requirements.

The place of posting will be based on BCSE merit ranking.

According to the Commission, the methodology of the training would also see a substantial change with synchronous and asynchronous learning in digital classrooms for optimal time utilisation.

“The time in a conventional classroom setting will be very limited with most learnings taking place independently,” the official said.

The official said that the capacity development programme would also have a component for assessment to spot and groom talents. “In this way, we hope that the training will be more purposeful and provide opportunities for our officers for lifelong learning and upskilling.”

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In view of creating a dynamic and agile civil service with cutting-edge competencies supplemented with progressive assessments, the RCSC decided that there has to be a fundamental shift in our training programmes from academic to core skills development aligned to the required workplace competencies.

Furthermore, in order to build a systemic approach toward enhancing leadership and management competencies at all position levels, the RCSC has introduced the Leadership Development and Assessment Programme wherein training will be conducted at both RIM and RIGSS for various position levels.

Ramjar to get year-round water for irrigation soon 

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 11:41

Neten Dorji | Doksum

Every year, farmers of Ramjar have to quarrel and even fight for water during the paddy cultivation season. They irrigate their fields in turns. Sometimes paddy fields dry up as the farmers wait for their turn to come.

Those difficult days are history now. The De-Suung national service irrigation water project handed over to the community an improved irrigation scheme yesterday.

Around 50 de-suups laid pipes and constructed three reservoirs in the past seven months working on the project that cost Nu 13.7 million.

The irrigation water project which was started on January 12 will reach 107 acres of dry land and 66 acres of wetland benefitting more than 333 households in Ramjar.

Farmers of Ramjar are happy and many are planning to cultivate more paddy and winter vegetables.

De-suups during the construction of the irrigation scheme

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Sangay Dema is one of the farmers with the biggest land holdings in the village. She said, “As of now, we mostly depend on rainwater to supplement the existing small stream and cultivation of paddy was difficult.”

She said the small irrigation water from Zamna which was serving the purpose in the olden days for a few households in farming was insufficient as it was also used for drinking.

The canal draws water from Lungdidrang under Tongmajangsa gewog about seven kilometres from Wangringmo.

With only one source for people who own land at Wangringmo, the water shortage was felt especially during paddy cultivation. “The same source was shared with more than 300 households,” said a villager, Pema Choden.

She said residents faced an acute shortage of irrigation water problems and that created disharmony in the community.

The villagers said they guard their fields at night and had to use water in turn. “But this was unfair for those who are at the end of the line because, by the time their turn comes, some seedlings die and hamper the yield,” said a villager.  

Most of the time, farmers depend on small irrigation water, but with time it has become insufficient. Some have given up and left their land fallow.

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“We tried to pump water from Drangmechu but it failed. All farmers were hopeless since, after so much hard work, the production dwindled,” said another villager, Dechen Wangmo.

She said with help of the De-Suung national service water project, their problems are over now.

Villagers said although 80 percent of the fields at Wangringmo is wetland, around half of it was left fallow due to water shortage.

A villager, Tenzin Dorji said, “We were in dire need of water and we are grateful to His Majesty The King for this project.”

Villagers have formed a group and appointed two caretakers to look after the water canal. “The government had invested a huge budget for irrigation. We have to take ownership of the irrigation canal and take care of it,” a villager said.

An official from Trashiyangtse agriculture sector, Chhimi Drakpa said, “With the completion of the irrigation water project, it will help restore the uncultivated land. It will also help farmers increase chilli and paddy production.”

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National Council Chairperson, Tashi Dorji, and Members of Parliament from Trashiyangtse were present during the handing-taking ceremony.

The Wangringmo water project is the second De-Suung national service water project in Trashiyangtse.

Flu clinic reopens for JDWNRH

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 11:39

Nima Wangdi  

People suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) and flu-like symptoms will no longer be checked and treated at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH).

They will have to visit the flu clinic at the RBP ground below the hospital from today.

People coming to avail health services for these illnesses will be diverted to the flu clinic.

Officiating Director for the department of public health, Rixin Jamtsho said that it was being done to prevent the hospital from the risks of Covid-19 and TB. He said HIV, Hepatitis B, and syphilis would also be checked on a voluntary basis at the flu clinic.

“He said that besides the people coming to the hospital for health check-ups, there are also patients admitted in the hospital who are vulnerable to Covid-19 and TB,” he said.

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The flu clinic will remain open from 9 am to 3pm on weekdays. It will be open from 9 am till 1pm on Saturdays.

Individuals with cough, fever and other flu-like symptoms are asked to visit the flu clinic, not the outpatient department of the hospital.

Rixin Jamtsho said that the ministry encouraged other major hospitals in the country to do the same. They already have flu clinics and some are functional.

He said while the flu clinics in the other dzongkhags will focus on flu-like symptoms and TB, the ones in the Southern dzongkhags will have to focus on screening for Malaria and dengue as well.

Flu clinics were initially set up in 2019 to screen TB, which were later used for screening Covid-19.

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Picture story

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 11:39

The under-17 national football team will play against India in the  South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) U-17 Championship 2022 in Sri Lanka today. Bhutan is placed in group B with India and Nepal.  Bhutan will play Nepal on September 7.

Picture story

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 11:38

Tala Hydro Project V-FC beat Gedu College of Business Studies V-FC 1-0 to lift the Phuentsholing veterans football tournament trophy and take home Nu 100,000 cash prize yesterday.  The tournament organised by the Phuentsholing Sports Association (PSA) started on July 24 and had a total of 21 teams.  

Information gap and trouble

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 11:37

The radical changes happening at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) have left many people confused.

The confusion arises from the lack of true understanding of the shift that is being initiated.

People suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) and flu-like symptoms will no longer be checked and treated at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH). 

This is because the ministry of health, in collaboration with the JDWNRH, will start the flu clinic at the RBP ground, below the hospital. People coming for health services with flu-like symptoms will be diverted to the flu clinic.

Individuals with cough, fever and other flu-like symptoms are asked to visit the flu clinic, not the outpatient department of the hospital.

For the people, the awful lot of noise is about inconvenience. The same perhaps is for the hospital and the health ministry. Is it because of shooting HIV/AIDS figures in the country? Or is it because of the rising Covid-19 positive cases in neighbouring India?

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When the information flow is disturbed, for whatever reasons, such confusions are to be expected. More is yet to come, going by how every government agency is zipped up with heavy warnings from all quarters.

The officiating director for the department of public health, Rixin Jamtsho said that the ministry is encouraging all the major hospitals in the country to do the same.

Why, though, is still not being answered.

Covid-19 threats are still around. In fact, in some countries, the cases are rising. New variants of the virus are making preparedness difficult for most health systems around the world.

In Bhutan, the general feeling is the same. Covid-19 is gone many seem to think. However, according to health reports, positive cases are on the rise.

As winter approaches, we may be in for a much more difficult position to deal with the virus that seems to proliferate in such right conditions.

What the health sector has done so far deserves praise, but we need to do more. Information flow would help. We are just beginning to walk out of the shadow of the virus and there are a lot of things that we need to fix.

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The merger or possible merger of traditional medicine services with JDWNRH is a hot topic today. Why? Because of lack of information from the ministry and explanation.

Lack of funding impedes MFIs

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 11:34

Thukten Zangpo 

Lack of source of funding and restrictive external commercial borrowings are impeding the growth of the micro-finance institutions (MFIs) in the country, according to representatives of these institutions.

The MFIs in the country provide credit delivery in rural areas for agriculture, small businesses, farms, and machinery, which help to uplift the rural economy.

However, the MFIs lending rates are relatively high compared to the conventional banks because of the high operation costs. The MFIs provide loans at interest rates from 15 percent to 22 percent per annum. As per the Royal Monetary Authority, the MFIs can lend up to Nu 0.5 million (M).

Chief executive officer (CEO) of the Tarayana Micro-finance Private Limited (TMF), Karma Thinley Dorji said that there are two types of sources of funding-grants and soft lending from banks.

TMF is owned 75 percent by the Tarayana Foundation and 25 percent by the two FDI investors. TMF provides an interest rate of 15 percent. Currently, there are 350 clients with Nu 40M loans disbursed.

He said that the micro-finance institutions could not borrow money from local banks because of high-interest rates. “We cannot borrow at an interest rate lower than 9 percent from the local banks, if we borrow at 9 percent and give to the clients at 15 percent, we would not be able to manage with high costs of operation.”

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Karma Thinley Dorji also said that the finance ministry has restricted external commercial borrowings (ECB). “ECB guidelines could be reviewed and revised to facilitate access to finance.”

He said that the ECB is available at a low-interest rate of 1 percent to 2 percent.

ECB refers to commercial loans in the form of bank loans and suppliers’ credit availed from non-resident lenders. The government put a hold on the ECB to safeguard the country’s foreign currency reserves.

The only incorporated companies registered under the Companies Act of Bhutan, but excluding financial institutions, individuals, trusts, Non-Governmental Organisations and cooperatives are eligible borrowers, according to the ECB guidelines.

Karma Thinley Dorji also said that the government could also look into providing funds to MFIs at a lower interest rate.

“With lack of funding, the MFIs loan portfolio remains the same and is not able to grow,” he said.

Tarayana Micro-finance Private Limited usually looks for donor funding that is project-based.

Bhutan Micro-finance Private Limited’s (BMPL) CEO, Ugyen Dorji said that if the MFIs get low-interest funding, their interest rate could be reduced. “Although there is more demand, we lack funding.”

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He added that the BMPL pays the depositors an interest rate of 10 percent to 10.5 percent.

He also said that if the MFIs were also allowed to float initial public offerings in the share market, the MFIs could see growth.

BMPL provides agriculture, housing loans and micro-enterprise or small business loans at 18 percent, 18.5 percent and 19.5 percent respectively.

There are 345 borrowers: 180 in agriculture, 68 in housing, and 53 in micro-enterprise or small business with total loan disbursement of Nu 65M.

Ugyen Dorji also said that a loan ceiling of Nu 0.5M is not adequate to build a decent house because the cost of the materials has gone up.

The CEO of TMF also said that the microfinance institution is coming with the digital payment system integrated with the Bank of Bhutan’s Mbob expected to launch in September. “This would reduce the operational costs.”

Renew Micro-finance Private Limited’s CEO, Tshering Dema said that they provide loans at 15 percent to 22 percent which are high because of high transactional and operational costs including the company’s large infrastructure and strength of employees.

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“High operational cost is the nature of MFIs and it would be wrong to compare with the conventional banks. Geographical terrain is also a challenge,” Tshering Dema said.

She said that the break-even interest rate is at 19 percent. “Clients want to reduce the interest rate, however, we also have to look for our sustainability,” Tshering Dema said. “Responsible borrowers would be incentivised with the variable interest rate to encourage and motivate them. The interest rate could go as low as 15 percent.”

To reduce interest rates, she said that Renew Microfinance is coming up with innovative mechanisms of doing business like digital banking that will bring down the operational cost.

However, Tshering Dema said that since most of the clients are illiterate, digital banking would be expensive. “If we want to come up with an app we really have to customise it, it would be even more expensive.”

There are currently 26,000 clients and have disbursed Nu 242M. Most of the defaulters are in the agriculture sector. Tshering Dema said that they are also coming up with crop insurance for clients with the help of the World Food Planet. The company’s non-performing loan rate stands at 6 percent.

Renew Micro-finance also plans to start green finance, namely biogas, and solar panels. Tshering Dema said that solar panels are expensive and subsidies from the government would be helpful to the clients.

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Focus point

Sat, 09/03/2022 - 16:21

25 percent bond deposit must to appeal in monetary cases

Sat, 09/03/2022 - 16:21

Rinzin Wangchuk 

Some litigants dissatisfied with lower court’s rulings could not appeal to the High Court (HC) on August 24 after they were asked to deposit 25 percent of the amount involved in the case.

“We were shocked to hear that the appellate court wouldn’t accept an appeal without the appeal bond deposit,” one of the litigants said. “We would have taken the money if the judiciary notified the public about the new rule.”

The Supreme Court’s Guidelines on Appeal 2022 came into effect on August 22.

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The guidelines do not allow the affected parties or a party to a case including any other person directly affected by the court’s judgment to appeal without the appeal bond.

The judiciary came up with the new guidelines, according to HC’s officials, to secure the plaintiff’s or judgment creditor’s interest or discourage frivolous delays or prevent unnecessary harassment to a plaintiff or judgment creditor.   

According to the guidelines, the appellate court, under appropriate circumstances, may order the appellant to furnish an appeal bond as a precondition to an appeal in accordance with Section 109.3 of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code.

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The guidelines stated that the bond amount or the value of the bond amount shall not be less than 25 percent of the amount payable to the judgment creditor according to the subordinate court’s judgment.

“If the appellant fails to comply with the appellate court’s order, the appellate court may dismiss the appeal and order the subordinate court to enforce its judgment,” it stated.

HC’s officials said that the amount deposited as appeal bond will be returned to the appellant or paid to the creditor based on the appellate court’s judgment.

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The guidelines also stated that all awards for damages and other settlements related to the subordinate court’s judgment shall be held in abeyance and any injunction or temporary restraining order shall be maintained pending appeal.

When it comes to exemption from the appeal bond, the guidelines stated that if the appellant has a genuine ground of appeal as prescribed in the guidelines, but is not able to furnish the appeal bond, he/she may approach the Supreme Court which shall convene and deliberate on the matter and issue an order accordingly.

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Grounds of appeal

The litigants, however, cannot appeal even if they are ready to deposit 25 percent of the total amount without grounds of appeal.

The guidelines stated that the appellant in his/her appeal must present to the appellate court only that portion of the judgment and his/her challenge to that portion, which should include at least one or more of the grounds, that the court made a factual error or an error of law; admitted erroneous or excluded evidence, which otherwise would have changed the outcome of the case.

The other grounds of appeal should also include that the court did not allow the production of relevant evidence; not declare a conflict of interest after parties submitted concrete grounds of conflict of interest; did not follow due process; erroneously assumed jurisdiction; erroneously decided locus standi; and awarded sentence on insufficient evidence; or failed to consider the criminal defendants’ allegation about fetching confession by torture or coercion.

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However, parties cannot appeal against judgments rendered based on negotiated settlements; summary judgments; default judgments; reasoned dismissal orders; withdrawn judgments; time extension regarding judgment enforcement as the only ground of appeal; or an appeal regarding his/her conviction if the defendant pleaded guilty to the offence that he/she was charged for in the subordinate court. However, he/she may appeal regarding the gravity of the sentence.

Appeal cost 

The appeal bond of 25 percent will also apply to the litigants appealing to the Supreme Court (SC) along with litigation cost deposit of Nu 45,000.

The appellate court may assign costs on the appellant to be paid to the respondent in civil cases, if the appeal is dismissed, like Nu 45,000 in the case of appeals to the SC if the appellant is the sole party to the case that has appealed from the trial court up to the SC; and the appeal is dismissed or if the judgment of the HC is affirmed by the SC.

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The guideline also stated that in cases where the judgment is partially or fully reversed, the appeal cost shall be reimbursed to the appellant.

Notwithstanding anything mentioned above, the appellate court may order reasonable costs to be paid by the appellant based on the outcome of the case keeping in mind the costs and other expenses related to the suit in accordance with the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code of Bhutan 2001 as amended in 2011.

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The costs and expenses related to the suit may include cost of transportation; cost of lodge and food; income loss suffered by the respondent/defendant due to court proceedings; appropriate damages for mental distress and trauma suffered by the respondent/defendant; or fees paid by the respondent/defendant to the lawyer to defend his/her case.

Appeals from tribunals or administrative dispute settlement bodies or similar bodies shall be treated as the first instance of appeal, and the appeal cost shall be applied accordingly.

Thimphu Thromde introduces hefty penalties for illegal activities  

Sat, 09/03/2022 - 16:19

Chhimi Dema  

Thimphu thromde will impose Nu 45,000 on those who park vehicles on footpaths or let their water tanks overflow. 

Thimphu Thromde office issued the notification on July 29 and gave residents a month from the notice date to make necessary changes.

The notification stated that it will levy hefty fines for illegal water supply connections, bypassing water meters, tampering or mishandling water meters, digging blacktopped road, damage and blockage of drains, and damage to footpaths, among others.

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A thromde official said that the office came up with the fines for “overall improvement of Thimphu Thromde infrastructure” and was in response to increased sewer overflow and lack of water-treatment plant capacities.

The thromde official said that sewer overflowing was the most prominent issue during the monsoon. “It  was a clear indication that the public has connected their gutter to the sewer lines.”

During other seasons, thromde noted that apart from a few blocks, there were no cases of sewer overflowing.

Thromde found that blockage­–such as flushing of sanitary pads, condoms, sacks, cloth pieces, debris from surface runoff, and sludge from fats, oil and grease from kitchen waste– caused the manhole chamber to overflow.

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“Most of the treatment plants across the capital are sewer treatment plants and their capacities are also small so they cannot treat kitchen waste,” said the thromde official.

Thromde expects that the pressure on sewer lines will reduce by removing the gutter connections and kitchen waste lines.

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Thromde recorded that the most common illegal practices seen around Thimphu are gutter lines connected to the sewer lines; constructing access roads to private plots and not maintaining continuity of the drains or placing small pipes in the drains which lack capacity.

Thromde previously did not have fines for these activities.

Some Thimphu residents appreciated the thromde’s move. “This will allow people who pay to get improved services,” a house owner said.

Others said that thromde should first notify the defaulters before penalising them. “If they do not rectify in a given time then they should be penalised.”