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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 31 min 53 sec ago

Each player wins a match at Chess Olympiad 

Wed, 08/10/2022 - 10:50

Thinley Namgay   

Team Bhutan concluded their last game at the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India with a win yesterday.

The men’s team defeated Comoros 3-1 and the women’s team won against Cape Verde 3-1.

Despite the lack of training, a master or rated players, the team’s performances were commendable in this major international tournament.

Both the teams played with 10 countries each. The women’s team defeated four countries while the men won from three.

Captain Palden said that Bhutanese players ended the tournament with their heads held high.  “Every member of the team won at least a match, which is an impressive feat in itself.”

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“At one point the men’s team was in the second position for the category E prize but after two consecutive losses, they lost  the opportunity.”

Palden said that Sonam Choden with eight wins and a draw achieved the Women’s Federation Master (WFM) norm but did not earn enough FIDE (International Chess Federation) rating to get the WFM title.

He also said Bhakta Monger from the men’s category won six matches and achieved the Candidate Master (CM) norm but again due to insufficient FIDE rating, he did not get the CM title.

“To have two members of the team almost achieve the Master level title in our first formal tournament is very impressive,” Palden said.

Team Bhutan made an impressive jump up in the ranking. The women’s team started at 149 and ended at 136 while the men’s team started at 183 and finished at 172.

The youngest players, Pema Yangsel and Lhundrup Namgyal Dorji also won a game each and became the youngest Bhutanese chess players to win at a Chess Olympiad.

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A 13-year-old Lhundrup Namgyal Dorji said he had been seriously playing chess for the last eight months and was glad to be qualified for the Chess Olympiad.

He won the first Olympiad game against Comoros after 72 moves spending over 3.5 hours. “I got the win after my opponent resigned as he had no options left in the end game,” Lhundrup Namgyal Dorji said.

Lhundrup Namgyal Dorji said that he enjoyed the competition but it was also challenging to play against many Master level title holders who have decades of chess experience.

“I made them take many hours to beat me. I know that if I make a continuous effort from now, I will be able to defeat a few of them next time,” he said, adding that he would participate in the next Olympiad and win more games.

Lhundrup Namgyal Dorji said the matches were held in one room and it was an opportunity to meet many Grand Masters such as Magnus Carlsen.

The tournament ended yesterday and the closing ceremony was held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

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Uzbekistan is the winner in the men’s category followed by Armenia and host India in second and third place, respectively.  In the women’s group, Ukraine is the winner, while Georgia stood second and India bagged the third position.

The 44th Chess Olympiad was a formal international chess competition for Bhutanese players after eight years since the chess federation became dormant.

Captain Palden said the impressive results achieved in a short time clearly show that, with regular structured support and some financial assistance, a lot could be achieved in chess by Bhutan.

Players were selected two months before the tournament. This is the second time Bhutan sent its players to the Chess Olympiad.  The first one was in 2014 in Norway.

The team comprising 10 chess players (five men and women each) and two team captains from the Bhutan Chess Federation has been in Chennai since July 27. The team will land in the country tomorrow.

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More than 2,000 players from 180 countries participated in the tournament.

Uncertainty over BKP’s participation in 2023 election 

Wed, 08/10/2022 - 10:49

MB Subba

Even as the fourth parliamentary elections are approaching, uncertainties loom large among party members on whether or not Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) will participate in the elections.

One of the main challenges, party members say, is the lack of state funding for election campaigns as the party failed to secure 10 percent of the total votes cast in the 2018 primaries.

The other major issue is uncertainty over who would lead the party in the elections, they say. BKP has not elected its president since its former president Dasho Neten Zangmo tendered her resignation in November 2018.

However, the party’s vice president, Sonam Tobgay, said that BKP was a registered political party and that it was looking forward to the 2023-24 parliamentary elections.

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“BKP is an independent political party and has not merged with any party or going-to-be party nor has any intention. We will strive on our own terms and values,” he said.

However, he did not substantiate his claims. Sources said that there were no activities being carried out in preparation for the upcoming elections that are about 18 months away.

Sources within the party said that the party had remained inactive for quite some time. It was learnt that given the challenges, members in a recent meeting proposed for dissolution of the party.

While the other registered political parties are identifying candidates, BKP has remained largely silent.

Some of the former candidates of BKP are in negotiations with other existing parties to join as their candidates, sources in the political circle said.

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BKP is one of the four registered political parties in the country.

However, there will be only three parties contesting the 2023 elections if BKP opts out of the race and Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) does not succeed in its attempts to get itself registered with the election commission.

One of the office bearers of DTT said that the party had fulfilled all the requirements as per the Election Act. However, the election commission has applied “high standards” for registration of the party, it was learnt.

“Given that we have fulfilled the requirements and submitted all the documents, we think our party will be registered,” he said, adding that the DTT was awaiting a response from the election commission.

It has been more than two months since the party submitted its registration documents on May 27.

The secretary general of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Kuenga Tashi, said that the party had selected all 47 candidates. “We are ready for the election,” he said.

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Likewise, the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) in June declared its candidate for the Tashicholing constituency, Namgay. DPT officials said that it has identified almost all the candidates.

The present government will complete its term in November next year.

Picture story

Tue, 08/09/2022 - 11:10

Heavy rain and strong wind blew away roof of three houses and a temple in Wangphu gewog in Samdrupjongkhar at around 2am yesterday. Farmers reported damage to maize fields, and farm roads. 

Health ministry declares HFMD outbreak

Tue, 08/09/2022 - 11:09

Nima Wangdi

With 47 school children having been infected, the health ministry declared a hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) outbreak in the country. The cases were reported from schools under Wangdue, Punakha and Zhemgang dzongkhags.

Health ministry officials said that they don’t have a specific time of when the cases were diagnosed first as the cases were reported at different times. Infected children are advised to stay home to prevent spread.

Officiating director of the public health department, Rixin Jamtsho said that it is a disease that occurs at this time of the year. HFMD is also common among cattle.

He said the disease outbreak recurs about every three years. Children below five years are the vulnerable population.

He said there was an outbreak of HFMD in 2016, where 11 dzongkhags had reported an outbreak. “In 2019, there were a few cases but no outbreak as such.” 

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Officials said that the disease could be severe among people with comorbidities. 

HFMD is a highly contagious infection. Viruses from the Enterovirus genus, most commonly the coxsackievirus causes it.

The signs and symptoms comprise sore throat, feeling unwell, painful, red blister-like lesions on the tongue, gums and inside cheeks. Red rashes on the palms, soles and sometimes buttocks are some other symptoms. Infected people will also lose appetite. 

Children below five, especially males, who have poor hygiene and a high frequency of social contact are at high risk. The infection starts with a mild fever and runny nose. 

Health officials advise children to wash their hands frequently with soap and water, maintain hygiene and sanitation, wear face masks, avoid close contact, and avoid sharing cups or utensils with those infected. 

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PHPA-I wants to downsize, lays off 280 employees 

Tue, 08/09/2022 - 11:07

Dechen Dolkar 

With most works of the Punatshangchhu-I Hydroelectric Project Authority (PHPA-I) completed, the project, known for delays and cost escalation, will lay off 282 contract employees soon.

The authority has around 800 employees.

The contract period for these employees was extended several times, the latest was until the end of July this year.

According to the manpower rationalisation report prepared by an external committee, 525 employees would be the optimal size for the project and 293 employees would be excess manpower in the project.

The report states that the project has 78 excess helpers both working at the construction sites and in offices. It is the highest excess manpower as compared to other departments. Similarly, the committee found an excess of 48 work supervisors, 32 support staff (peons), 28 computer operators, 20 sweepers, 14 lower division and upper division clerks, and 10 assistant engineers.

The external committee consisting of members from labour and economic affairs ministries, and Druk Green Power Corporation reviewed the manpower requirement in December 2021. The management received a report in May this year.

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The PHPA-I office circular on August 7, stated that in keeping with the approved criteria for retrenchment, the list of employees to be retrenched has been prepared accordingly as part of the first-phase retrenchment.

The circular states that the list has been prepared primarily based on the employees’ annual confidential report (ARC) ratings for three consecutive years.

The PHPA-I management said that employees from almost all categories and from all departments are included in the retrenchment list in keeping with the manpower rationalization report.

According to the management,  the majority of the work was completed and some of the manpower has become redundant, thereby necessitating retrenchment.

Owing to the substantial completion of the works, the project management was directed in 2019 to monitor and evaluate human resources based on the succession plans in line with the Revised Cost Estimate (RCE) taking into consideration the works at hand.

However, the management said that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, employees were not retrenched on humanitarian grounds.

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According to the management, 87.49 percent of overall physical work is completed, 69.87 percent of dam, 99.35 percent of powerhouse, 97.61 percent of electro-mechanical works and 99.49 percent of transmission lines are completed.

The project completed the head race tunnel in 2015.

Meanwhile, some of the employees who were retrenched were not happy with the process.

One of the retrenched employees of PHPA-I said that there are discrepancies in rationalizing the committee’s report and the retrenchment plan. “The management is retaining a few officials without reference to the rationalisation report and they are retrenching employees who are not listed in the committee report,” he said.

The management said that the selection process has been carried out in an objective, fair, and transparent manner primarily based on the performance ratings of the last three years. “There is no way the management can devise an unfair process when all employees worked till now as a single family.”

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Retrenched employees will be entitled to payments in lieu of notice period in keeping with the service rules of PHPA-I. Additionally, they will also be entitled to regular terminal benefits as per service rules.

The committee recommended multitasking in order to optimize manpower and other resources. It is observed that some of the tasks can be performed easily by entrusting additional responsibilities, wherever the employees do not have adequate work in hand.

The report also recommended adopting cost-sharing mechanisms for common facilities maintained by PHPA-I and PHPA-II effecting the reduction of excess manpower.

The report also states that while there is excess manpower in most of the functional units, on the contrary, there are also few requirements in some offices. It recommended meeting the additional manpower requirements from the offices which have excess manpower through redeployment mechanisms.

Elephants back in  Khandrothang

Tue, 08/09/2022 - 11:07

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The elephants have returned to Khandrothang, Samtse gewog, causing destruction to crops like they did last year.

An elephant that had been causing destruction to the farms since the winter of 2021 has returned. The same elephant had destroyed areca nut trees and corn this year.

On the night of August 6, an elephant caused damage to areca nut trees and paddy fields in the gewog.

A resident, Karma Wangzin said they have informed the gewog, but nothing had been done after taking a few pictures of the damage caused. Another resident, Mangal Singh said he thought of not cultivating paddy this year.

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“I don’t know what to do, as the elephant keeps on coming.”

Mangal Singh said the elephant comes during the day.

“We cannot scare them away because it attacks people,”  he said. The farmer said it is the same elephant that damaged paddy fields, and uprooted areca nut trees in Khandrothang last winter.

Forest officials had managed to collar the elephant with (GPS) tracking device recently. However, it has not helped prevent the elephant from causing damage.

One resident, Kiran Dhakal said the GPS collar had shown the elephant was across the border on Saturday, while it was destroying paddy in Khandrothang.

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“On Saturday, the elephant entered my paddy fields and trampled all my paddy. It grazed on one that had the most paddy,” he said.

Meanwhile, an official said that they have started constructing a wall to block the animal’s entry point at Dhakaltar. However, it is also the place where Dungkarling villagers take the cattle for grazing. Villagers have requested not to block the entire Dhakaltar.

Focusing on One Health can curb outbreaks

Tue, 08/09/2022 - 11:06

Even as we are dealing with sporadic cases of Covid-19 in seven dzongkhags, the health ministry declared an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease in schools of Punakha, Wangdue, and Zhemgang.

The highly infectious disease has infected 47 school children in these dzongkhags.

Health officials are not sure as to when the cases were first diagnosed as they were reported at different times. Infected children are advised to stay home to prevent spread. Children below five years are the vulnerable population and the infection could be severe among people with comorbidities.  

The disease, common among cattle, normally occurs around this time of the year and also recurs about every three years. A similar outbreak was reported in 11 dzongkhags in 2016. However, the number of cases in 2019 was low.

Children below five, especially males, with poor hygiene and  high frequency of social contact, are at high risk. The infection starts with a mild fever and runny nose.

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Children are advised to wash their hands frequently with soap and water, maintain hygiene and sanitation, wear face masks, avoid close contact, and avoid sharing cups or utensils with those infected.

The battle against Covid-19 to a certain extent has been used as an opportunity to meet our One Health targets. Despite the challenges, officials remain optimistic.

Almost 14 years after Bhutan joined the global One Health effort to avert zoonotic disease outbreaks, the Bhutan One Health secretariat office was launched at the Royal Centre for Disease Control (RCDC) in Thimphu.

One Health is an approach to prevent possible outbreaks of novel infectious diseases such as Covid-19, especially those with the zoonotic origin, diseases transmitted from animals to humans, through a multi-disciplinary collaboration.

However, the problem in most programmes that need multiple agencies to collaborate is the lack of collaboration between them.

Diseases are emerging and re-emerging mainly due to poor sanitation, close proximity of people to livestock, deforestation, porous borders, climate change, changes in human behaviour and unhygienic food preparation and consumption practices. If there is one lesson Covid-19 should have taught us is washing hands and ensuring safer spaces.

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We need to reinforce this message. If we can devote even a fraction of the amount of advocacy that Covid-19 enjoyed to such diseases as hand, foot and mouth disease then we might not have to lose precious lives to preventable diseases.

Studying dharma requires knowing oneself

Tue, 08/09/2022 - 11:05

Deriving wisdom from a 12th-century Zen master, Dogen, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche talked to more than 300 devotees, mostly millennials, in Thimphu last week on the importance of knowing and studying oneself.

Staff Reporter

To study dharma is to study oneself

To study oneself is to know there is no self

We think we know who we are. We have references to call ourselves as a father, a son, a friend, a Bhutanese and many other references that help construct an idea about ourselves, but it is important to study oneself, as we are the most important person in the whole world.

We are the centre of the world, yet we hardly study look inwards to understand ourselves. Curriculums in school have no ways to help us study about ourselves.

Buddha Maitreya, in a Mahayana text, stated that studying about self is giving up thinking that there is self. Sometimes, in order to qualify this is you, you think that you need to contribute, you need to add and you need to place something, but studying about self or a classic Buddhist understanding of studying self, is realising there is nothing to get rid off and nothing to adopt—the quintessential technique of Buddhism knowing there is nothing to abandon and nothing to adopt.

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When we refer to ourselves, we talk about four things: body, feeling, mind or cognizance, and reference. When you try to look like someone and diet or choose a dress or shampoo, the size of a car or your house because you compare yourself with someone. We are so busy subtracting or adding.

Having a reference makes us busy and we lose ourselves. We keep saying, “I want to be myself”. To be yourself, you have to first know who you are. But we keep worrying about how others would look at us. We have to know ourselves and understand ourselves and not care about what others think about us.

A big part of what defines self is work. The first thing people ask today is about our job, what we do, not whether we have had a good sleep, which essentially is like asking our worth or value. We are getting unnecessarily hijacked by the notion of work and its value.

The nature of the work and its value over the years changes over time. Unfortunately, in this fast-paced consumerist society, it is only going to become tough. Then we are talking about the age of Artificial Intelligence. Right now, we can say ‘I am a nurse, a doctor, police, a de-suup or a rinpoche’. In 50-60 years, AI will take over all of that, including a rinpoche’s job, which is easier and more convenient. When that happens, who will we become?

This “essentialist” us may be creeping into Bhutanese society where we felt useful until now. Anxiety and insecurity occupy vital spaces. The ancient values are being challenged by the new happenings of the world.


Why do you need to know or study oneself?

Classic Buddhist teachings require us to know that the truth and the truth can be only realised when one is true to oneself. That is to say that one should not identify oneself using references. Doing so makes us slaves to references.

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The philosophy of nothing to abandon and nothing to adopt can be achieved when we just relax and observe. Observe one’s feelings without judgment and one will gain authentic presence.

Studying oneself is questioning who you are without references and comparison. When you use too many references and comparisons, you abuse yourself.


How to observe or study?

You are drinking coffee and you just observe your 10 fingers for a minute. You are not thinking about whether it is good or not but just observe your fingers, legs, forehead and ears. That is it.

You will then get a gist of just observing without judgment. When you understand that, then you gain an authentic presence.

Buddhism, Rinpoche said, should be like a boat you use to cross over to the other shore. Once you reach the other shore, you have to leave it. If you cannot get rid of Buddhism and remain attached to it, you will not get enlightenment. That is why Dogen said ‘To study dharma is to study yourself’. Heart Sutra also emphasises that. That is why we have to get rid of all the ritualistic cultures we practice today.



Be happy and have fun. Be kind to yourself by being authentic and be kind to others. Explore infinitely.

Just observe, but don’t think you are observing. No conceptualisation, no comparison and no judgement.

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Bhutan-developed HR management software finds increasing market

Tue, 08/09/2022 - 11:04

Chhimi Dema

A human resource (HR) management system called HR Station, developed by a team of Bhutanese IT professionals, finds local and international markets.

The system, developed by Zealous Systems Private Limited, is being used by 10 local companies and an international company in Kenya, Africa.

The system was launched in 2019.

HR Station provides HR services such as employee profile; payroll and attendance; it captures travel and expense; leave and overtime management; project deadlines and appraisal management, among others.

It also generates reports based on the HR metrics and Key Performance Indicators.

 Another feature is software based on the company’s requirements. For example, Bhutan’s tax system is integrated with a local company.

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The team leader, Tashi Tobgay, said that the system caters to the HR management needs and is cost-effective since it is hosted on Cloud without having to procure system hardware.

There is also a mobile application for easy accessibility to the system.

Tashi Tobgay said that the HR Station digitalises the HR department in a company and records details from an employee’s recruitment to their salary and benefits when they retire. It also provides real-time information and business analytics instantly.

Tashi Tobgay said that the system helps in increasing efficiency and productivity in HR.

According to the team leader, the company is currently working with a Bangladeshi company to integrate the HR Station into their company. 

Zealous established a branch office in Bangladesh this year.

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Tashi Tobgay said that the team is going to Dubai next month to set up another branch.  “There are many opportunities for growth and innovation in the IT sector given we build a strong team and work hard.”

Tashi Tobgay said that Zealous has no access to the system. “The customer can lock the system and change the credentials based on their needs. Zealous provides only technical support remotely.”

Currently, the company is working on launching Buy and Sell BT, an online shopping platform.

Bhutan to play last game for Chess Olympiad today

Tue, 08/09/2022 - 11:03

Thinley Namgay    

The national women’s team won hearts of many Bhutanese and international audience as they thrashed South Sudan 4-0 yesterday in  one of the highly rated games. 

The men’s team suffered a 3.5: 0.5 loss against Mali. Ugyen Wangchuk managed a draw and fetched half a point for Bhutan. This is the third consecutive loss for the men’s team. 

Officials said that the games which began at 3pm lasted for more than five hours which showed the intense competition the team had undergone yesterday. 

The men’s team also lost to Gambia by 1:3 yesterday, and the women’s team  lost 1:3 against Palau. In the men’s category, Bhakta Bahadur Monger defeated his opponent Qusainou Garber who is a candidate master.  In the women’s team event, Sonam Choden defeated Rosemarie Wag-eyen.   

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Officials said the women’s team have been performing well and that there was a high possibility to face a strong team in their last game today.  

On August 7, both teams conceded defeat after a tough fight against seasoned and high-rated teams. The men’s team lost with a score of 0:4 against Malawi and the women’s team lost by 1:3 against Eswatini. Sonam Choden was the lone winner and it was her fifth consecutive win.   

Officials said that the men’s team had been consistently facing tough teams but they were working hard and trying their best so far.  

The team comprising 10 chess players and two team captains from the Bhutan Chess Federation is in Chennai since July 27.   

External debt servicing could hit Nu 9.34B

Tue, 08/09/2022 - 11:03

Thukten Zangpo

External debt servicing could cost Bhutan Nu 9.34 billion (B) in the fiscal year 2022-23, according to the finance ministry. This is including principal and interest repayment.

What this means is that the country’s debt servicing would increase by Nu 128.67 million (M) from 2021-22 fiscal year.

The debt service ratio is the ratio of debt service payments, principal, and interest of a country to that of its export earnings. This means that the lower the ratio, the healthier the economy because the low ratio is derived from the expansion of export earnings or less amount of loan repayment.

External debt service for exports of goods and services or debt service ratio was projected to decrease to 14.3 percent in the current fiscal year from the previous fiscal year’s 15.1 percent with expected growth of export of goods and services at Nu 65.41B from Nu 61.21B.

The debt service ratio of 14.3 percent is lower than the annual external debt service ratio of 25 percent set by the public debt policy. The ratio was 11.5 percent in 2020-21.

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Bhutan’s domestic revenue is projected at Nu 41.28B in the current fiscal year, up by over 5 percent compared to the previous fiscal year.

As of June this year, the total external debt was Nu 229.52B, an increase of 3.3 percent or equivalent to Nu 7.4B from March this year because of the disbursement under programme borrowings from World Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and hydropower loans.

Similarly, domestic debt was Nu 28.06B, an increase of 9.7 percent or Nu 2.49B from March this year. The domestic debt increased because of the new issuance of government bonds for deficit-financing.

So an increase in both external and domestic debt pushed the national debt to Nu 257.58B, accounting for 133.6 percent of the fiscal year 2021-22’s gross domestic product (GDP) estimate of Nu 192.82B. It saw an increase by Nu 9.9B.

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The hydropower debt was reported at Nu 163.04B, 71 percent of the total external debt. The hydro-debt comprised the debt stock of six hydropower projects of Mangdechhu hydro-project authority, Puna-I, Puna-II, Nikachhu, Dagachhu, and Bashochhu.

Non-hydro debt stood at Nu 66.48B, which is 29 percent of the total external debt and 34.5 percent of the estimated GDP.

According to the ministry, the non-hydro debt to GDP ratio of 34.5 percent is within the 35 percent prescribed by the Public Debt Policy 2016.

Indian Rupee (INR) debt accounted for 67.7 percent of total external debt, of which 95.5 percent was hydropower debt at Nu 148.4B. The INR denominated debt, in June this year, increased marginally by INR 439.51M from March owing to disbursement for Puna-I.

At the same time, convertible currency debt (CC) stock stood at USD 937.65M, equivalent to Nu 74.12B, which accounts for 32.3 percent of the total external debt. The Ngultrum value of CC debt stock increased by Nu 6.86B from the total CC debt stock of Nu 67.2B (USD 884.19M) in March this year. The increase was mainly because of budgetary support loan disbursement from the World Bank and JICA and ongoing project loan disbursement.

Despite the rise in the national debt, the finance ministry said that the overall risk is manageable. External debt distress is considered moderate providing 91.5 percent of the debt is denominated in INR with no exchange rate risks.

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Picture story

Mon, 08/08/2022 - 10:54

New handwashing facilities installed along the footpath opposite Centenary Farmers’ Market and above the garment market remain without water 

RUB seeks legal counsel to appeal to Supreme Court

Mon, 08/08/2022 - 10:53

… after HC exonerated 10 staff of Taktse College of Language and Culture Studies  in sexual harassment case

Rinzin Wangchuk 

The authorities of the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) and Taktse College of Language and Culture Studies (CLCS) in Trongsa are seeking legal counsel from experts on whether there is ground for appeal to the Supreme Court in connection with a sexual harassment case.

The High Court on July 29 affirmed the Trongsa dzongkhag court’s ruling and exonerated 10 employees of CLCS who were charged with sexually harassing female students. The court ordered both RUB and CLCS to pay them their monthly salary in arrears from the day they were compulsorily retired on May 10, 2019, until the day HC passed the judgment.

“We are not only seeking legal advice but also reviewing how the appellate court overlooked the charges against 10 plaintiffs,” one RUB member said. “We feel that there is a strong ground to appeal against HC’s ruling.”

The HC stated that they were terminated without following due process and breached the Human Resource Rules and Regulation 2017 of the RUB. HC also ordered the university to reinstate them.

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The Trongsa court’s ruling on December 31, 2021, stated that the college did not issue a copy of the charge nor gave an opportunity to answer the charges but retired the lecturers compulsorily with the decision of the college management committee when the human resource committee should decide the retirement. It also stated there was no appellate body instituted.

HC summoned 13 members of the CLCS management committee for cross-examination during which they submitted that they were not aware of charges against the staff and how the decision was taken. In their statement to the court they submitted, “During the last meeting between the RUB and the staff and faculty (all), the Vice Chancellor expressed his concern regarding the issue. None of the members of the college was aware of the implicated faculty and staff. The CMC’s decision was made based on the survey and RUB team’s report on the issue”.

One of the CMC members also stated that he was not involved in pool development as well as administering the survey. Another member said that during the survey and investigation she wasn’t involved.

“With all these statements, it was evident that the staff were compulsorily retired based on a personal grudge by abusing power,” the HC stated in its judgment with a warning. “Rule of law is not an exception for RUB and Taktse College.”

Although both the RUB and college management committee were liable to pay the lawyer’s fees of the 10 plaintiffs to prevent such cases in future, HC decided to warn and order the college to follow the RUB’s Human Resource Manual 2017 henceforth to solve any disputes in the college.

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Nine lecturers and one supporting staff filed a civil suit against the management committee of CLCS and RUB after they were compulsorily retired. The police investigated the sexual harassment allegations made by 19 girls and dropped all charges against them.

Aggrieved by the lower court’s ruling to reinstate staff and pay their salaries in arrears, RUB and Taktse college appealed to the HC in early January this year.

Meanwhile, the HC also upheld the lower court’s ruling that sentenced three other lecturers between three months and nine months in prison for sexual harassment.

One lecturer was sentenced to nine months in prison for kissing and asking a student to sleep and marry him. Two other lecturers were sentenced to three months each in prison for kissing a student and touching a girl improperly respectively. They can, however, pay in lieu of the prison term.

Snake bite kills a student

Mon, 08/08/2022 - 10:53

A Class 10 student of Tangmachu Central School in Lhuentse died of a snake bite on August 6 morning. 

The deceased was reportedly bitten by a snake at the basketball court at around 8.30pm on August 5.

Thimphu roads, a nightmare for students and pedestrians 

Mon, 08/08/2022 - 10:52

There are no safe footpath, say students

Chhimi Dema 

7:50 am,  Thursday, Thimphu.

In 20 minutes, the assembly bell will ring and students will have to be in the assembly line. Pema and Sonam (name changed) are getting late. They cannot cross the road to get to the bridge at Lungtenzampa.

The two girls and five others donning the same school uniform have perched on the road divider on the busy Thimphu-Babesa expressway. They will rush when there is enough space between two rushing vehicles. One misstep and they could be run over by the drivers who are also rushing. The students literally fight for space to get to the other side.

Near the Bhutan Oil Distributor at Lungtenzampa, another group of students – both to get to the bridge and to the school inside the Royal Bhutan Police headquarters are keeping an eye on the police who will signal them to cross. The motorists are inconsiderate, perhaps they have children getting late for school in their vehicles. When it is time for the students to cross, the traffic becomes a mess.

“The road needs an expansion and the fuel station should be relocated,” says a student who told Kuensel that it is risky getting to school every morning. “Soon it will be summer vacation and we will forget it,” she says. “Madam, if you can, tell the government to change the road alignment.”

Commuting to school in the capital city is a challenge. Every morning, students as young as seven risk their life to get to school on time. While many drive by in vehicles, including government vehicles, many have to fight the increasing number of vehicles and decreasing walkways or safe footpaths to go to school.

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Below the fly-over at Changbandu, a group of students – some with parents –  keep their eyes on the broad two-lane expressway. The Bazam provides the shortest route to the school at Changjiji. Getting to it is risky. “Some drivers are considerate and give way, some even eyeball us when we try to cross,” said a student waiting to cross the road.

Bhutan’s capital city is not pedestrian-friendly.  Students say it is the most difficult part of school life.

At Changzamtog, along the hospital road, there is a building being constructed at one end of the zebra crossing. The construction has eaten up a lot of space. Student traffic personnel are confused during rush hours. There is no space for students to wait to cross the road.

“It is an accident waiting to happen,” says Ugyen, a father of two children who takes the road every morning. “What are our town planners and policymakers doing? They should come out at 8 am and drive around the city,” he said, sounding frustrated at the scene.

The capital city’s road infrastructure has not changed much or is not able to keep up with the change. There are at least a few hundred vehicles added to the road every month, but the road network has not expanded to accommodate the traffic. This hampers pedestrians.

Apart from school children rushing for space, others are also finding the city congested and risky.

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Lham, 25, who regularly jogs in the morning, said that the footpaths are mostly narrow and unstable.  “The footpath ends in the middle or has holes in them. At night, it is risky to walk on the footpaths,” she added.

There are always risks of getting hit by vehicles while walking on narrow footpaths in the city. The footpath near the Changzamtog Middle Secondary School, for example, is highly risky for pedestrians.

There are no figures indicating how many students were injured while on their way to school or home. According to a 2020 police report, every month, on average, eight people are killed and 37 are injured in traffic accidents across the country.

Not many report minor accidents to police, says a parent when asked if students are at risk going to school or home. “Police are alerted or cases lodged only when serious accidents happen. But the situation now is a big accident waiting to happen.”

Many say that with the capital city’s roads in bad condition (pothole-ridden) motorists trying to avoid holes could hit pedestrians. “How will we encourage walking when walking is unsafe,” says a parent, Tshering Pelden.

Study recommends establishing CSI markets abroad

Mon, 08/08/2022 - 10:51

Dechen Dolkar

Limited access to markets is one of the major barriers to the growth of Cottage and Small Industries (CSIs) in the country, according to a Department of Cottage and Small Industries study.

The study, which was carried out in May, states that CSIs in the country are relatively unprepared and lack resources when it comes to taking their products to international markets. “There is an imminent need to establish a dedicated market outside Bhutan to gain access to global markets,” it states.

The feasibility of establishing CSI markets in countries that have imported substantial volumes of Bhutanese products has been studied, it states.

The study showed that it was feasible to establish CSI markets in Thailand, Bangladesh, the United States of America and Australia. The markets have been identified based on the value and types of CSI products exported to the countries in the last three years and the country’s diplomatic ties with them.

The study recommends selecting interested CSIs and establishing two CSI markets outside Bhutan within the 12th Plan.

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Promoters of CSI products that have not been certified have been recommended to liaise with relevant agencies to get their products certified to be eligible for export in the international CSI markets.

The department is expected to bear the rental and hiring charges for the first six months, the cost of basic furnishings of the marketplace and the cost of shipment for establishing CSIs outside Bhutan in the beginning.

The department will also bear expenses on CSIs’ participation at trade fairs, trial marketing, standardisation and certification of products with Bhutan Standard Bureau and Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority, among other activities.

Agro-based products constitute 45 percent of the total CSI products exported from the country. Forest-based products, mineral-based products and handicrafts constitute 41 percent, 8 percent and 6 percent of the total exports respectively.

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The study has identified kiwi juices, kombucha, yacon, sea buckthorns, yellow docks, alcoholic beverages, coffee, candies, local flours, handmade paper, shilajit, souvenirs and books as potential exports.

“The initial focus is on CSI products but the coverage may be widened to include all Bhutanese products based on demand, scale and quality in the near future. This would help diversify the visibility of authentic Bhutanese products in the global market,” the report states.

The report states that amid challenges at the domestic and international levels, the government has been making efforts to help CSIs enter international markets to reap the benefits of the global economy.

CSIs account for about 95 percent of the total industries in Bhutan. As of 15 June 2022, there were 26,945 active licensed CSIs in the country.

On roads again

Mon, 08/08/2022 - 10:50

“A modern, efficient highway system is essential to meet the needs of our growing population, our expanding economy, and our national security.”

This is US President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955. And he went on to say: “We had a traffic jam back in those days. It is not surprising, then, that congestion today is no longer a jam. In and near most industrial areas, traffic amounts practically to a blockade.”

Bhutan is facing this reality today in bigger towns. In places far away from the thromdes, the problem takes on a different, desperate dimension.

Bad roads is one; being in the heart of the Himalayas, we have the very idea of connectivity to set it right. We have not been able to harness the power of road connectivity.

While forgetting the usefulness of roads for the nation’s economic development, our focus has largely been on reducing road accidents and fatalities by 50 percent by 2030. This is not a bad goal considering the increasing number of fatalities related to roads per year.

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It’s the management of highway, city and feeder roads that is the problem.

In Thimphu and Phuentsholing, children waiting to cross a busy road is a sobering sight. When our roads can’t handle the rapidly increasing traffic, properties and lives are at risk.

Between 2010 and 2021, road accidents claimed 1,151 lives. Human error remains the leading cause of motor vehicle accidents. This finding is not surprising. What is more concerning is how we are putting up with the same reports that dish out the same findings year after year.

The decade’s goal for the Road Transport and Safety Authority is to reduce the number of road-related deaths and injuries. The goal can be more focused. “While motor vehicle accidents are unpredictable, most road crashes are preventable.”

Safety regulations, sensitisation and awareness regularly will be key for the Authority is preparing to roll out. But then, it will have to do more.

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Monsoon is here. Most roads in villages and places far away from the capital are in bad condition. This issue is being discussed in gewog and dzongkhag meetings.

Among the many interventions that are likely to come include enhancing traffic signages, road markings and early warning of road conditions in collaboration with the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, Royal Bhutan Police and the local governments. Such collaboration can certainly bring marked improvement in safety standards and driving discipline.

The fact is that roads are important; the better the road, the better. What is clearly lacking is the vision that recognises the significance of road to a nation like Bhutan in terms of safety and easy connectivity.

Bhutan’s energy likely to be costly in Indian market

Mon, 08/08/2022 - 10:50

In the wake of the increasing cost of building hydropower projects and huge deviation from initial estimation, the power tariff of Bhutanese electricity is bound to increase.

This will impact both domestic users and importers on the Indian side.

Power tariff is determined on cost plus modality, which means all costs incurred during the construction of hydropower including its financing costs,  operation and maintenance charges, and depreciation are taken into account. In addition, a return on equity is provisioned.

According to a journal published by the Center for Bhutan Studies titled ‘Export price of electricity in Bhutan,’ taking the case of Mangdechhu Project, the journal pointed out that electricity should be priced at a competitive rate in order to secure a comparative advantage and for the economy to gain.

The study also stated that local industries, especially power-intensive industries, who are already paying higher than the export tariff, may barely break even while a few may even run at a loss if domestic price runs high.

Cost escalation of hydropower is a cause of concern, among policymakers in Bhutan. The first mega hydropower plant, Chhukha (336 MW) suffered a cost escalation of 197 percent, an increase from Nu 831 million (M) in 1974 to about Nu 2.5 billion (B) in 1988. The 1,020MW Tala has also experienced a cost escalation of 193 percent, an increase of almost Nu 27 billion. However, the tariff for these two plants is still the lowest in the region giving Bhutanese electricity a competitive edge in the Indian market.

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On the other hand, the two projects of Punatshangchhu I and II have already crossed 100 percent cost overrun as of 2017. The Bhutan Electricity Authority (BEA), in its review of cost overruns of hydropower projects, explained that cost overruns and delays are largely on account of inflation is not considered in the initial cost estimates to get the project approved, geological surprises, design changes, increase in installed capacity and construction of additional infrastructures such as roads, hospitals and other amenities which is, in turn, accounted into the tariff.

It is estimated that the final export tariff for Punatshangchhu II will cross Nu 6 a unit of electricity in consideration of the existing cost of construction. It is also projected that the total cost will increase by at least 13M for each day of delay. Consequently, the tariff is likely to increase further.

Comparing that to the power tariff in the Indian market, it is relatively higher. Power tariff in India is falling due to the addition of solar and wind renewables, but the baseload demand has to be continued to be met by conventional forms of energy like coal.

According to the recent energy trading data available from Power Trading Corporation of India, renewables like wind and solar are the cheapest forms of power available priced at INR 3 per unit on average. Even thermal plants such as Jindal India Thermal Power Limited sell at INR 4.2 a unit, which is only slightly higher than Mangdechhu. However, power from hydro projects in Himachal is priced between INR 3 to 6 a unit.

The case in point is that as the generation cost from the Bhutanese projects increase, it will become unviable for both India and Bhutan to invest in bigger projects. Thus, other modalities of building hydropower projects must be explored to bring down the cost. As such the Joint Venture and Public Private Partnership models are being pursued and the question of cost escalation remains to be answered.

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While the Domestic Tariff Determination Policy states that the domestic load has to be met from the plants with the lowest generation cost, domestic demand has to be completed from plants with higher generation costs if the domestic load increases as projected. This can potentially impact the domestic tariff as well. For instance, in the last tariff revision, three percent of power from Mangdechu was provisioned for domestic use.

Another impact of cost escalation is on the country’s debt. Hydropower debt constituted 73 percent of the total external debt at Nu 162.48B as of December 2021.

Although the Bhutanese government has been stressing that hydropower debts are self-liquidating, the Royal Audit Authority pointed out various risks associated with repayment of the loans due to susceptibility to time and cost overruns. This results in revenue loss and a mounting debt burden. There are also hydrological risks associated with hydropower projects.

It was also noted that the terms of financing from the Indian government changed over time with a reduction in grants and an increase in the loan component.

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Contributed by

Tshering Dorji

The story is being covered by the Institute of Happiness for a research conducted on the effects of cross-border energy trade.

Picture story

Mon, 08/08/2022 - 10:49

The winners of BoB Premier League, Paro FC have signed Chencho Gyeltshen for yet another season.

Air transport gears for change

Mon, 08/08/2022 - 10:44

Bathpalathang airport is getting extended, a masterplan for Gelephu ready

Nima Wangdi

Wondered why Druk Air’s smaller aircraft fly at half capacity to Bumthang while they refuse tickets to passengers?

The airport runway is too short for the plane, the ATRs used for domestic flights, to fly at full capacity. However, the national airline is hopeful to be able to fly at full capacity with the airport being extended. Today, the ATRs could carry only about 15 passengers during the hot seasons, which is about half of their capacity of 40.

The airport at Bathpalathang in Bumthang is getting extended by 500 metres.

Director General of the Department of Air Transport Authority, Karma Wangchuk said that the present 1,200-metre runway is being extended by 500 metres towards Tamzhing. The work is on track. “An extension by 100 metres is expected to help increase passenger load of the aircraft by about five persons. Once the runway is extended to 1,700 metres, the ATRs can carry almost full passenger loads,” Karma Wangchuk said.

The airport would also have a runway end safety area (RESA), which is absent at present.

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RESA is an area symmetrical about the extended runway centre line and adjacent to the end of the strip to reduce the risk of damage to an aeroplane undershooting or overrunning the runway.

Bathpalathang airport

The whole stretch of the runway is also being resurfaced and river protection works are being carried out. The project worth Nu 250 million which began in April is expected to be completed in six months.

A massive terminal building was also built through the Asian Development Grant (ADB) keeping in mind future prospects to upgrade Bathpalathang into an international airport. Karma Wangchuk said with the change in the tourism policy and if the market does well, people might want to fly to regional airports like Kolkata, Kathmandu, Bangladesh and Guwahati from Bathpalathang. “We would not have to construct all over when the need comes with commercial viability. We are planning and being ahead of the demand.”

Yonphula, the most viable domestic airport is also being extended towards the hill creating RESA by cutting the hill. “Today, if the aircraft overruns, the strip would hit the cliff. We are extending it by about 150-200 metres.”

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Karma Wangchuk said that the excavation work started in June. The 59M worth of government-funded project is expected to be completed by next June.

He said that at this time of the year, flights couldn’t land at Yonphula most of the time due to bad weather. He said the flights have to return to Paro if they can’t land in Yonphula. “Otherwise it is the most economically viable airport among other domestic airports.”

“Bathpalathang airport used to do well because of tourists in the past, but now Yonphula airport is doing better because of the locals flying.”

Meanwhile, the master plan to upgrade Gelephu airport to an international airport is readied. The master plan was done under the ADB grant.

Karma Wangchuk said Gelephu airport will be an alternate international airport in the future should there be a need. “If Paro Airport reaches its capacity or if it gets damaged by natural calamities like earthquake, we should have an alternative.” The airport will be designed for landing big aircraft.

The department is also looking for provisions to protect the area around the airport so that developmental activities could be restricted for upgrading of the airport in future.

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There is no flight service to Gelephu for now since there are no people flying.

During the Prime Minister’s visit to Bumthang last month, a businessman asked if Bathpalathang airport could be upgraded to a regional airport. Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said the relevant agencies are studying the matter.

Karma Wangchuk said that the department was asked to study if the airport could be upgraded to an international airport. “We are ready with the terminal and runway extension but it now will depend on the airline and the government.”

He said, in doing this, Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority has to certify. “If it gets certified, we only need to add two counters for immigration and Bhutan agriculture and food Regulatory Authority.”