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Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
Updated: 2 hours 37 min ago

Five companies declare dividends for 2021

Tue, 06/21/2022 - 10:27

Thukten Zangpo

Of the 19 companies listed with the Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan (RSEB), only five declared dividends for 2021.

The Bhutan Carbide and Chemicals Limited declared 110 percent dividends during its annual general meeting held on May 16 this year after two years.

While Druk Wang Alloys Limited (DWAL) declared a dividend of 35 percent, Bhutan Ferro Alloys Limited (BFAL) declared a 300 percent dividend on February 24. Druk Ferro Alloys Limited (DFAL) also declared an interim dividend of 30 percent during June closing last year. The State Trading Corporation of Bhutan declared a dividend of 25 percent on April 15.

Compared to 2020, the dividends declared by the companies in 2021 were better. In 2020, only DWAL and DFAL declared dividends of 65 percent and 6.5 percent respectively.

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An official from the RSEB said that a 100 percent dividend is equivalent to Nu 10 per share.

Observers said that despite the pandemic, the companies dealing with the export of ferrosilicon were doing well. However, the increasing price of raw materials, inadequate supply of labourers, and competitive markets in India were some of the challenges the companies pointed out.

The price of ferrosilicon that fetched Nu 325,000 per metric tonne in mid-2020 was reduced to Nu 130,000 to Nu 150,000 today.

According to the National Statistics Bureau, the import prices of goods were 18.05 percent higher in 2021 over the figure in the same quarter of the previous year.

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“The ferrous product was the main contributor to the increase in metal and metal articles while an increase in fuel prices led to the increase for the mineral group,” it stated.

Bhutan imported Nu 6.5 billion (B) worth of base metals and articles of base metal in 2021.

Meanwhile, the export prices of goods increased by 27.26 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year.

Ninety percent of the increase in export prices was dictated by the price of ferrosilicon.

According to the report, the ferrosilicon price increased by 123 percent in December last year, the highest since 2014. Similarly, the export prices for chemicals, plastics, textile, and apparel group recorded the second-highest increase by 41.96 percent.

Ferrosilicon is still the top commodity Bhutan exported in 2021 with Nu 15.28B.

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Bhutan and Nepal to sign bilateral trade agreement 

Tue, 06/21/2022 - 10:26

Dechen Dolkar

The governments of Bhutan and Nepal are expected to sign a formal bilateral trade agreement in three months to promote and strengthen trade and commerce.

So far, the two governments did not have any form of trade agreement arrangements.

The draft trade agreement, which was discussed during the virtual 4th trade talks on June 20, provides for an accord of preferential treatment to imports originating from the other country. Such an arrangement is expected to boost the export of not only mineral products but all export potential goods from Bhutan.

Director General (DG) of Trade, Sonam Tenzin said, “When we do not have an agreement, the goods were levied duties which makes very competitive in the market.”

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The DG said that with the agreement between the two countries, the goods would be provided exemption on duties.

The meeting finalised the text of the trade agreement and its protocol and the draft text on the rules of origin. The rules of origin state that both countries will give concession for the origin of the goods of the country.

Sonam Tenzin said that the revised list of goods for concessions was agreed to be updated by both the countries and shared shortly.

The bilateral trade between the two countries has grown steadily over the last decade with total trade in goods accounting for Nu 862M in 2021. This was an increase from Nu 398M in 2020 with Nepal being recorded as Bhutan’s fourth-largest export destination.

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Bhutan has been able to maintain a positive trade balance with Nepal since 2016 with exports increasing each year. Despite the non-existence of a formal trading arrangement, the trade record has been progressive.

Imports mainly comprised of slags, dross, scaling of iron or steel, statues, readymade garments, kitchen appliances, silk garments, mobile phones, religious articles and printing machinery.

Major exports to Nepal consisted of gypsum anhydrite and plaster of gypsum, collectively accounting for 97 percent of the total export. Other goods comprised tableware and kitchenware of wood, incense stick, soap, handmade paper and bamboo products.

The Bhutanese delegation was led by trade Director General Sonam Tenzin, and the Nepalese delegation was led by Dr Narayan Prasad Regmi, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies.

The third trade talk was held in Nepal in August 2019.

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GST implementation deferred until tax system is ready

Tue, 06/21/2022 - 10:25

Thukten Zangpo

The National Assembly yesterday adopted the Goods and Services Tax (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2022, but the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be implemented when the tax system is ready.

The GST Act 2020 will come into force from the day the Parliament approves for enforcement when the Goods and Services Tax system is ready.

The House adopted the Bill with 41 ‘yes’ votes. While two members voted against it, one abstained from voting.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that the deferment was proposed because the software component, Bhutan Integrated Taxation System (BITS) developed did not meet the quality.

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BITS is one of the critical components for the successful implementation of the GST.

During the introduction of the Bill on June 8, Lyonpo also said that deferment was proposed given the country’s unfavourable economic situation and the operational readiness of the IT system, BITS.

He said that the economic situation in the country was badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent Russia-Ukraine war had further aggravated the economic situation.

The finance minister also said the BITS contract was awarded to Thimphu TechPark Limited, but the contract had to be terminated as it could not deliver the required BITS solution.

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The chairperson of the Legislative Committee, MP Tshewang Lhamo, earlier submitted the committee’s recommendation to defer the implementation date of the Bill from July 1, 2024, as proposed by the government ,to July 1, 2025, stating that the country might be much better and that the operational readiness of BITS would be ready.

The government had spent Nu 220 million (M) to develop BITS, of the total spent, Nu 30M was provided to Armenian developers. The total allocated budget was Nu 570M.

Similarly, the House also adopted the Fiscal Incentives (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2022 with all 44 members present and voting in favour of the Bill.

The House repealed Section 56(1) of the Fiscal Incentive Act of Bhutan 2021 since it was redundant and covered by Section 51 of the Act.

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“Concessionary customs duty rate of 3 percent on permissible raw material and primary packaging material,” it stated.

The Bills will be forwarded to the National Council as Money Bills for deliberation.

Picture story

Tue, 06/21/2022 - 10:24

Anyone with a complaint or grievance against and feedback or comments for the judiciary can now approach its grievance cell at the Supreme Court. The cell was inaugurated on June 19 and is led by the registrar general of the High Court.

Finding a new face

Tue, 06/21/2022 - 10:24

In what could perhaps be the most significant milestone in the life of the nation, the government of the day is introducing The Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022.

Many are asking why this Bill at this time? It is, therefore, important to put the Bill in the right perspective.

Tourism has been, and will, continue to be a major revenue earner for the country. How we are selling our country, however, has not changed in these many years since we opened to tourism in the early 1970s.

Let us leave the technicalities of the Bill aside for a while and consider the merit of the Bill itself. For a political government to introduce such a Bill is suicidal. What we must appreciate is the courage of the present government to face the headwind for the sake of the nation’s future.

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The nation is geared full-on towards rebooting itself. That means, in many ways, the Covid-19 pandemic gave us the space to recalibrate the jump we are making as a nation in this century. We are finally redefining ourselves in light of new opportunities that revolution in the field of technology and consummate development are bringing at our doors.

So, carpe diem!

But understanding our own stand on tourism is by far more important than the change itself. Policies, by nature of their birth, are both constrictive and repressive. It is helpless when those manning the officialdom take their responsibility for just another day of good sunshine.

We are all too familiar with the term “high value-low volume”. But what does it truly mean?  Even the officials and individuals working in the tourism sector, unfortunately, have no answer.

The Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022 is about change. It is about courage. It is about a nation looking far ahead into the future. It is about jobs creation. It is about quality education and services. It is about building a brand. It is about transforming Bhutan’s soul and outlook and the world’s image of Bhutan.

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Some tour operators will protest but even they are in agreement with the nation’s long-term vision. When guests come to Bhutan, we give them the value for money. When guests meet us, we make them feel not just comfortable but also give them a taste of the culture that is Bhutan and Bhutanese.

The Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022 is the policy that can change the face and minds of the Bhutanese. That is why there is a need to clear the path. In the process, whacking here and there can be painful.

Tourism is the nation’s wealth that every Bhutanese has an equal stake in. Change comes with a huge promise. If there has ever been one Bill with the scope to change the whole nation and its people, it is The Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022.

Bhutan discovers 17 new wasps species

Tue, 06/21/2022 - 10:23

Chhimi Dema 

The country recently recorded 17 new species of wasps, taking the total record of wasps species to 73.

The new species were found in Samdrupjongkhar, Pemagatshel, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Tsirang, and Thimphu.

The 17 new wasps species consist of Eumeninae (Potter wasp), Polistinae (Paper wasp) and Vespinae (hornets).

The new species recorded in Bhutan are Allorhynchium metallicum; Eumenes assamensis, atrophicus, and punctatus; Paraleptomenes darugiriensi; Stenodyneriellus guttulatus and nepalensis; Subancistrocerus sichelii; Symmorphus ambotretus, tukvarensis, and violaceipenni; Polistes (Polistella) dawnae, japonicus, and rubellus; Ropalidia nigrita and hongkongensis; and Vespula orbata.

The research article on the new record was published in Zootaxa journal, a peer-reviewed scientific mega journal for animal taxonomists, this month.

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An author of the publication, Phurpa Dorji, said that wasps serve as pollinators and bio-pesticides in the ecosystem.

He said that most wasps help in pollination allowing flowering plants to reproduce and bear fruits and crops. “Wasps are also predators serving as a bio-pesticides controlling number of pests such as caterpillars.”

In many parts of the country, wasps commonly known as ‘jinggum’ are considered a delicacy.

Three out of four crops across the globe producing fruits or seeds for human use as food depend on pollinators, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

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“Improving pollinator density and diversity boosts crop yields. Pollinators affect 35 percent of global agricultural land, supporting the production of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide,” it stated.

Moths, flies, wasps, beetles, butterflies, and some animals in addition to wild bees pollinate plants.

Researchers attribute the lack of funds and difficulty in catching insects as challenges to the discovery of it.

Phurpa Dorji said lack of research funds is a major challenge for studying insects in the country. “Researchers have to go to the fields to collect specimens for study. A picture simply isn’t enough to study the insects.”

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International reports point out that data scarcity makes it difficult to draw general conclusions about the changes in populations of insect species and the factors driving biodiversity change.

Phurpa Dorji said that there is no previous wasps repository. “This batch will serve as the first repository.”

He said that the discovery of new species indicates a pristine environment and a healthy ecosystem.

Studies for the new records were conducted with support from Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation.

The research article was published by Phurpa Dorji, Tshering Nidup, Wim Klein, Cheten Dorji, Anthony Daglio, and Choki Gyeltshen.

KNC: A community-based organisation success story 

Tue, 06/21/2022 - 10:22

Tashi Dema 

Every summer, Thimphu residents relish organic and juicy watermelons of Khenrig Namsum Cooperative (KNC).

A successful community-based organisation (CBO) in the country, KNC not only prioritises marketing farm produces, but also revived 150 acres of arable land, which remained fallow and introduced commercial farming in Zhemgang.

Citing an example of how villagers in Zhemgang are now growing banana and watermelon on a commercial scale today, the founder and chairperson of the cooperative, Thinley Wangdi, said many assumed it was only possible in the plains of India before they ventured into it.

Started by a corporate employee, who had to leave his job and return to the village after his father made him promise he will not leave the ancestral home in remote Kheng Bardo a gungtong (empty household) and lands fallow, KNC has 230 members today.

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Sharing the journey of the cooperative, Thinley Wangdi said although formed in 2014, KNC started doing well only after 2018.

“Our unemployed youth are not in villages, but in urban areas,” he said.

According to Thinley, he has contact details of 80 youth from Zhemgang, who are registered with the labour ministry and called them to Thimphu for a meeting to start the cooperative. “Only five agreed then.”

He conducted a second meeting where 57 youth attended.  “Only then, I got 16 members to start the cooperative.”

He said the cooperative did not succeed as planned in the initial years. “Parents accused me of not allowing their children to look for jobs in urban areas. Some even chased me with knives.”

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Today, KNC is the face of successful CBO in the country.

They value add to farm produce and process them. They encourage farm mechanisation on sloppy terrain of Zhemgang and even supply seeds.

“We even focus on nursery development,” Thinley Wangdi said. “Cooperatives are a must in Zhemgang because of the remoteness and scattered settlement of the villages.”

He said KNC connects farm products to schools, monastic institutions, hospitals and other urban markets.

Sharing his concerns about how essentials in villages that were locally available were all replaced by imported goods, he said producing what is needed by villagers is important. “Villagers have to produce enough so that urban residents buy local produce.”

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He said KNC benefitted from the government’s self-sufficiency programme and policy, financial and technical support from the government and other agencies, expansion of schools, hospitals and towns, and good access to rural communities because of farm roads.

“But we also face the challenges of climate uncertainty, geographical terrain, lack of skills required in the farms, price control, society perception,” Thinley Wangdi said.

He cited the example of how their children are sent to school, not for education, but to get a job that could land them in problems. “Even when youth are willing to work on the farm, parents discourage them saying they have to work in an office. This perception should change.”

According to Thinley Wangdi, the lack of price control impacts them immensely.

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“When we sell our watermelon at a wholesale rate of Nu 40 a kg, middlemen sell it at Nu 70 a kg.  They explain it is for the loss they incur in damages.”

KNC received help from HELVETAS, UN organisations, and the Rotary Club. They are now planning to collaborate with other cooperatives in the country and change subsistence farming to commercial farming.

“We will also focus on mechanisation of farming and expansion of the market,” Thinley Wangdi said.

While records with the Department of Agriculture and Marketing Cooperatives state there are more than 665 CBO and 102 cooperatives, there are more than 2,000 CBOs, some of which are informal.

CBO is defined as an organisation for the community by the community to enhance the socio-economic development of community people and empower them.

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The Civil Society Organisation Act of Bhutan 2007, which is being amended, does not include cooperatives as a CSO.

According to the executive director of Bhutan Media Foundation, CBOs complement the development efforts of the government, build civic culture or engagement, sustain democratic culture, and ensure equity and social wellbeing.

BMF is conducting a workshop for media professionals on understanding CBOs, the grassroots changemakers.

Bypass for commuters to cross Baunijhora 

Tue, 06/21/2022 - 10:21

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Vehicle movement between Phuentsholing and Pasakha, which remained closed for the past few days following a flash flood on June 17, resumed after a temporary bypass opened yesterday. 

The bridge over the Baunijhora stream in Pasakha is still under the debris.

A flash flood caused by continuous and heavy rainfall submerged the 50ms multicellular bridge over the stream on June 17.

Despite efforts, traffic couldn’t be opened as debris kept piling up.

Department of Roads’ chief engineer in Phuentsholing, Karma Dorji, said the temporary route might also get blocked anytime.

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“Just now the road is open to all types of vehicles including industrial trucks, but rainfall and flash floods might block it again,” he said.

A private construction company, Rigsar Construction was allowed to clean the debris.

An official from Rigsar said they were able to open the traffic at around 10am yesterday.

“But the bridge is still submerged,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Ahalay Land Customs Station (ALCS) is still closed after floods severely hit the infrastructure and disrupted the customs and clearing documentation works, stranding over 100 industrial trucks.

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Without the customs station, incoming industrial trucks have not been able to reach Pasakha industrial estate. However, outbound industrial trucks have been allowed to exit from Phuentsholing gate.

Work to restore ALCS is ongoing.

Officials said it may take another day or two to fully open traffic for the industrial trucks.

Meanwhile, the 50ms multicellular bridge is an important link between Phuentsholing and Pasakha, including the industrial estate. The bridge was completed in May 2019. The bridge is one of the three South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) projects in Pasakha constructed to improve the Pasakha bypass road and connect the industrial estate.

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Over Nu 115 million have been invested in the bridge and a 1.3km road.

However, Baunijhora has always been a challenge for both Pasakha industrial estate and residents as flash floods keep disrupting the regular movements in monsoons.

Picture story

Tue, 06/21/2022 - 10:21

His Majesty’s Secretariat organised a  thousand butter lamps lighting ceremony yesterday in Thimphu in honour of the late former Foreign Minister of Denmark Uffe Ellemann-Jensen. 

Late  Ellemann-Jensen was the Foreign Minister at the time of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bhutan and Denmark and was primarily responsible for selecting Bhutan to become a Danish programme country. He was a leader of the Danish Liberal Party Venstre and President of European Liberals (ALDE) until 2000. The ceremony was attended by Foreign Minister, former Chief Justice Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, former MoIC Secretary Dasho Kinley Dorji and senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

His Majesty returns from tour of southern dzongkhags

Tue, 06/21/2022 - 10:20

His Majesty The King arrived in Thimphu yesterday, following a Royal tour of the Southern dzongkhags. During the tour, His Majesty visited Punakha, Wangduephodrang, Tsirang, Sarpang, Phuentsholing and Samtse. 

His Majesty granted Land Kidu to the people of Tsirang and Sarpang, the remaining two dzongkhags to receive Land Kidu under the NCRP. During the Tour, His Majesty also granted Audiences to the 50th Batch De-suung accelerated Programme trainees, and met de-suups participating in the different De-suung National Service projects and De-suung Skilling Programmes. 

While travelling to Samdrup Jongkhar on Saturday from Gelephu, the Royal Entourage turned back as roads leading to Samdrup Jongkhar were submerged and washed away by sudden rain and flood. His Majesty instead arrived in Phuentsholing in the early hours of the morning, and visited sites affected by the flooding, which claimed one life and caused damage in several areas.

During the tour which began on June 15, His Majesty The King granted land Kidu to the people in Tsirang and Sarpang. 

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This is part of a Royal Initiative to resolve people’s land issues once and for all. Since the start of the exercise, Land Kidu was granted in 18 dzongkhags in turn before the pandemic. 

With land Kidu now granted to the people of Tsirang and Sarpang, His Majesty has granted a total of 150 thousand acres of land as Kidu to nearly 150 thousand beneficiaries in all 205 gewogs of 20 dzongkhags in the country. Over total of 56 thousand beneficiaries received 74 thousand acres of land in Tsirang, and another 57 thousand beneficiaries received almost 900 acres in Sarpang Dzongkhag. As with all other dzongkhags, His Majesty also granted refunds and reprieve of fines, amounting to Nu 140 million in Tsirang and Sarpang. 

On the Royal Tour, His Majesty granted Audiences to de-suups training in the ongoing 50th batch at Tencholing in Wangduephodrang, Jigmeling and Pelrithang in Sarpang, and Tendruk and Tashicholing. 

While in Wangduephodrang, His Majesty visited the Sturgeon Fishery, which was initiated upon Royal Command to explore the potential of Sturgeon fish farming in Bhutan. 

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His Majesty also met with de-suups engaged with multiple De-suung initiatives. In Punakha, His Majesty met the de-suups in the Specialized Refresher Course, the De-suung for Gyalsung, which provides hands-on training in high-level infrastructure construction at Gyalsung Academies, de-suups of the Million Fruit Trees plantation and the Nationwide Accelerated Dog Population Management, and participants of the De-suung Skilling Programmes. 

While in Gelephu, His Majesty granted an Audience to the de-suups working at the Landmark Water Project for Gelephu Thromde.

Ask Mr Bhutan

Mon, 06/20/2022 - 12:28

Dear sir, 

What is the biggest obstacle to happiness?

The biggest obstacle to happiness is “IGNORANCE”

The ignorance of the fact that our “ATTACHMENT” is the root cause of all suffering.

Once we attach ourselves to a thought, a word or an action, we create an identity for ourselves, an “EGO” an identity that is separate from everything and everyone. an optical illusion, an identity that needs to be constantly fed and strengthened by the search, chase and possessions of people, things and experiences. It has an insatiable desire, which can only be momentarily content, constantly famished, dissatisfied, always seeking more, the “present” is never enough.

It thrives on division, the wider it separates itself from all else the safer and more powerful it feels.

Once you have created an “EGO” through attachments, suffering is inevitable, as everything in the external world is subject to change. The law of impermanence. A profitable business venture today will likely incur a loss tomorrow, a loving relationship can turn to hate over an insignificant argument, good health may turn to disease in an instance, a youthful and beautiful appearance over time transforms into an aged garb, all happiness derived from the external world carries a seed of sorrow waiting to express itself. Everything holds in it both good and bad.

In truly understanding this “ignorance” is the first necessary step towards experiencing lasting joy.

More than Nu 13B trade deficit in first quarter of 2022

Mon, 06/20/2022 - 11:20

MB Subba 

The country’s trade deficit in the first quarter of this year, including trade in electricity, has been estimated at Nu 13.122 billion (B).

This is a significant increase from that of the same period last year, which was Nu 10B.

A trade deficit is the amount by which the value of a country’s imports exceeds the value of its exports.

During the first quarter, Bhutan imported commodities worth more than Nu 22.874B, while the value of its exports (including electricity) amounted to Nu 9.75B, according to the provisional trade statistics released by the finance ministry.

The trade deficit, excluding trade in electricity, stood at Nu 13.844 billion.

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Excluding electricity, the value of the country’s exports and exports amounted to Nu 9B and Nu 22.873B respectively.

However, the trade deficit with India decreased to Nu 8.479B in the first quarter from Nu 9B in the same period last year.

The value of Bhutan’s exports to India was to Nu 7.558B, while it imported goods worth Nu 16B from the same country.

The statistics show a high dependence of the economy on electricity. The trade deficit with India without electricity amounted to more than Nu 9.2B.

Electricity generation in the first three of the year – January to March – is usually low.

The country exported electricity worth Nu 210M to India in the first quarter.

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The country’s major imports include fuel, contributing to deficits with India.

The overall trade deficit is expected to increase as the imports are expected to surge with the normalisation of the Covid-19 protocols.

The budget report 2022-23 states that trade is expected to remain on an increasing trend over the medium term owing to the recovery in the demand coupled with the revival in domestic activities.

The budget report projects that the overall exports and imports increase by 25.7 percent and 30.7 percent respectively in 2022, further widening the trade deficit.

“This is mainly due to decline in energy generation and lower hydro exports and significant increase in imports,” it states.

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Trade deficit is estimated to widen from 7.1 percent in fiscal year 2020-21 to 17.8 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2021-22.

However, the balance of trade is expected to improve with the commissioning of Punatsangchhu I and II, and Nikachhu hydropower projects.

Both exports and imports increased by 18.9 percent and 35.8 percent in 2021 compared to 2020.

In 2021, the overall nominal value of exports stood at Nu 58.25B, while the nominal value of imports amounted to Nu 90.323B.

In terms of trade with India, both exports and imports increased due to the revival of demand and the resumption of productive activities.

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Lhamoidzingkha drungkhag cut off again 

Mon, 06/20/2022 - 11:19

Choki Wangmo | Dagana

For the three gewogs of Lhamoidzingkhag drungkhag in Dagana, monsoon season not only wreaks infrastructural havoc but cuts off the region from other parts of the country for weeks.

The erratic rainfall in the past few days had completely cut off the drungkhag with reports of several roadblocks along Manitar-Lhamoidzingkha and Dagapela-Lhamoidzingkha primary national highways (PNH).

As of yesterday, according to the Department of Roads (DoR), the 13-km roadblock at Lamalameney and 13.7km block at Chunaikhola along Lhamoidzingkha-Raidak could not be cleared.

“There is major destruction at Lhamoidzingkha-Raidak PNH. A 7-metre culvert has been washed away by the flash flood due to heavy rainfall. The road is closed and the field engineer is exploring possibilities of a bypass construction,” the notification from the DoR stated.

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Roads in Lhamoidzingkha have been blocked at various points

Roadblocks were also reported at Kelzari, Shawja, Alay, and Sonamjha along Jumja-Raidak road. However, the road till Kelzari was open for a single lane commute.

Sonamjha has always been a problem with erosion washing portions of the road every year.

The swollen streams along Lhamoidzingkha-Dalbari secondary national highway washed away temporary bridges, creating blocks at various stretches.

Nichula Gup Nima Wangchuk Sherpa said that the gewog centre is cut off from other chiwogs due to landslides and fallen trees.

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He said that although heavy rain is expected in the next few days as forecasted by the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology, the administration was planning to clear the roadblocks so that students and commuters can use the road.

“We are worried about the expenses as we would need a budget for such activities and the budget activities are closed for this financial year,” he said, adding that the gewog was hopeful about getting assistance from the dzongkhag administration.

The gewog administration submitted a draft disaster report to disaster focal in the dzongkhag and the drungkhag administration.

For the gewog residents, without a motorable road connection, it has become challenging to get essential items. The gewog is only connected with a suspension bridge.

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In such situations, the gup said that with the nearest Basic Health Unit, health sub-post, and hospital located 10km-18km away from the gewog, it would be challenging in case of health emergencies.  

The situation is expected to worsen during the peak monsoon season from July to September.

Some residents living nearby Sunkosh river in Lhamoidzingkha gewog are also worried as they live in fear of flash floods from the swollen river without a sturdy retention wall.

Residents said that they sought interventions to reduce risks but to no avail.

However, residents said that they have stocked up essential items to last at least a few weeks in case the roadblocks couldn’t be cleared any sooner.

NCDs in focus

Mon, 06/20/2022 - 11:18

Gayleena Pradhan | Intern

Youth Development Fund (YDF) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and World Health Organization (WHO) on June 18 observed Walk the Talk event.

Walk The Talk is an annual event organised coinciding with the world health assembly every year to create awareness on important public health issues.

Her Majesty Gyalyum Tseyring Pem Wangchuck was the chief guest at the event.

The theme of the event was “Reduce salt, beat non-communicable diseases (NCD)”.

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Globally, 40 million deaths occur due to NCDs; in Bhutan 70 percent of the deaths are attributed to NCDs. Majority of our population is suffer from hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.

An average Bhutanese consumes 8.3 grams of salt per day, which is 5 grams more than recommended by WHO. Over consumption of salt can cause raised blood pressure, stroke, and kidney failures.

NCDs can be prevented with healthy diet, regular exercises, avoiding alcohol and tobacco.

YDF mobilised youth volunteers in action in 20 districts to create awareness on NCDs since youth are agents of change.

The day was marked by a tree-kilometre walk from MOH to YDF centre  and mass health screening.

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Five religious organisations recognised for promoting social welfare

Mon, 06/20/2022 - 11:17

Thinley Namgay 

The Chhoedey Lhentshog under the home ministry recognised five registered religious organisations on June 18 for their contribution towards promoting social cohesion and harmony.

Pema Lingpa Foundation, Sangay Minjurling Choetshog, Druk Nyo Foundation, Longchen Tiney, and Tshoki Dorji Foundation are the five awardees.

The organisations were awarded Nu 20,000 and a certificate each for contributing to social welfare besides usual religious obligation amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chief Programme Officer at the Commission for Religious Organisations, Sangay Dendup, said the recognition is to encourage religious organisations to work for social benefits and benefit the citizens, especially the disadvantaged ones.

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Pema Lingpa Foundation in Bumthang was recognised for engaging in cleaning campaigns, planting fruit trees, managing water sources, and for starting a green house for agriculture activities.

Foundation also encouraged pedagogy training and helped the needy and provided employment for 12 people.

Chukha’s Sangay Minjurling Choetshog fed 45 people and also cared for their medical expenses for further referral. Sangay Minjurling Choetshog helped 33 young boys to learn English and religious practices.

Moreover, the Choetshog assisted desuups by lending their Bolero pick-up truck for free and also donated essential commodities for 55 people.

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Druk Nyo Foundation in Bumthang helped 13 villagers in the vicinity with Nu 0. 956 million (M) to build farmhouses, and Nu 1.27M to purchase water pipes and farm equipment. The foundation also helped nuns to procure sanitary pads and provided relevant health training, among others.

Longchen Tiney engaged 30 youth during the vacations in religious activities and Buddhist grammar.  Representative Ngedup Dorji said that these five institutions are not only the ones contributing to society. “I want to contribute the cash amount for the Nyingma Kutshab Office.”

Tshoki Dorji Foundation in Bumthang contributed Nu 1M to the government to fight the pandemic and provided Maha Guru Sungma to the frontline workers in 2019. The foundation also provided traditional medicine services and also helped Kidney patients.

Home Minister Ugyen Dorji attended the award ceremony, coinciding with the sixth annual meeting with the religious organisations.

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Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji said that he felt good that religious institutions are adopting modern practices to benefit communities and it is setting a good example.  “It doesn’t mean that other religious entity is not contributing to the society. It is a matter of registration and report.”

There are 139 registered religious organsations in the country.

Police detains eight people for alleged smuggling of contraband substances

Mon, 06/20/2022 - 11:16

Chhimi Dema 

Police in Gedu and Thimphu detained eight people for allegedly trafficking controlled substances and seized 35,584 capsules of spasmo proxyvon plus (SP+) and 470 N10 tablets.

According to police sources, Gedu Police seized 17,400 SP+ capsules and 470 N10 tablets in a black plastic bag, which was hidden inside a new water tank on a vehicle bound for Thimphu during a surprise inspection on June 14.

Police arrested the three men and a woman involved in this case and even published their photos on their Facebook page.

Following the drug bust, Thimphu police seized 18,184 SP+ capsules in two suitcases from Jungshina and arrested four people including two women. Their photos were, however, not published.

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Police sources said the persons involved in the two cases are aged between 22 to 56 years.

Kuensel learnt that one of the men arrested from Jungshina is one of the main dealers, who had absconded the country.

Police are investigating the case.

A tall story

Mon, 06/20/2022 - 11:15

When nature strikes back at us in any form, there is not much we can do. All we can do is find a reason to blame or a scapegoat. Some blame our fate, some on our actions and others find better reasons – pointing fingers.

It is monsoon. Rising river levels, flash floods, and landslides are common features of monsoon in our part of the world. The monsoon arrived on time and some parts of the country are already feeling the heat of the wet season. Several roadblocks are reported from across the country, particularly from the eastern and southern parts of Bhutan. Landslides and flash floods are washing away roads or bridges, even claiming lives.

In neighbouring Assam, it is worse. Dozens of lives were lost in the floods, hundreds of hectares of agricultural land are inundated, and infrastructure, some new, is being ripped apart by landslides and floods. Guwahati, Assam’s capital city was water-logged for days. The Himalayan foothills experience torrential rainfall every summer. Some years can be pretty bad. This year is one such year. 

Some Indian media are blaming Bhutan for the floods. One popular newspaper was blatant when it stated that the flood situation “ accentuated in districts such as Nalbari, Baksa and Udalguri due to the release of high volumes of water from the Kurichhu dam in Bhutan upstream.”

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Meanwhile, in Kurichhu, Mongar, officials confirmed that while it rained in the past few days, the excess water discharged was way below the danger level. Kurichhu has a capacity to store 15.7 million cubic metres of water. The excess water this year was not much, according to officials. The maximum they discharged was 800 cubic metres, way below the danger level – to trigger a flood. 

Cognizant of the risks of flooding, there is an arrangement. Officials of Kurichhu report or inform their counterparts in India when they discharge water that is above 1,000 cubic metres. This year, it has never crossed 800 cubic metres. Bhutan’s hydropower projects are all run-off the river scheme. This means that excess water has to be discharged as they have no control over the increasing level. The best they could do is inform those in the lowlands as early warning information.

 Every time there is a flood in Assam, Kurichhu is blamed. The Gongri river is bigger and with incessant rain in Arunachal Pradesh, water level in Gongri increased. There is no dam on Gongri river. One Indian newspaper said that the matter, release of excess water from Kurichhu, would be taken up at the Chief Minister level for further communication. Kurichhu project officials brush it off as a far-fetched report. There is no water released to “accentuate the floods.”

Such misinformation could create misunderstanding at the government level while it is important that the truth is known by the people of both countries. As a close neighbour and friend, Bhutan has all the best intentions for the people of Assam. we could feel the pain of our friends in Assam. We could only pray for the lives and properties lost in the floods and hope for the best.

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Landslides kill four in Samdrupjoingkhar, injure more 

Mon, 06/20/2022 - 11:14

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

A search party is still looking for a man washed away by a flash flood at Domphu along the Dewathang-Samdrupchholing highway, Samdrupjongkhar at around 1:30pm on June 18.

The rescue team consisting of armed force personnel, foresters, de-suups, villagers, officials from the Department of Road (DoR),  dzongkhag and gewogs evacuated four passengers, including a one-year-old child to Dewathang hospital from Domphu.

The Project DANTAK team rescued passengers and a bolero buried by a landslide

Since the road was blocked by a landslide before reaching Dewathang, the rescue team had to trans-shift the evacuees to reach the hospital.

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The team also recovered the body of the 31-year-old man and handed it over to his wife and relatives on the same day. The deceased was a tshogpa in one of the chiwogs in Pemathang gewog.

The chief engineer of DoR regional office in Samdrupjongkhar, Kinzang Wangchuk said the rescue team used an excavator yesterday and will continue today.

The four passengers are in stable condition undergoing treatment at the Dewathang hospital.

One of passengers, Sherab Zam said they came to Samdrupjongkhar to obtain a license for a restaurant on June 17 from Samdrupchholing, adding that they went back to Samdrupchoeling on June 18.

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“But we came back from Duemola and stayed at Ashikhar because the swollen Duemola river had washed away the bailey bridge,” she said.

She said they waited at the flood site because there was a block. Some passengers were out of the vehicle and planning to return to Samdropchoeling via the Indian highway.

“But the sudden flash flood washed two boleros and an alto car and six passengers, including a child. There were six vehicles and 19 passengers travelling that day,” Sherab Zam said.

Meanwhile, the rescue team recovered the bodies of the 63-year-old woman and her 21-year-old daughter at around 2pm on June 18. They were buried in a landslide when it submerged their shop at Tshothang in Lauri gewog early morning on the same day.

The bodies have been handed over to the deceased’s father and husband on the same day. The gewog officials, villagers, monks and de-suups helped to recover the bodies.

Major Narphung blocks cleared

Mon, 06/20/2022 - 11:08

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

The blocks along the Samdrupjongkhar-Trashigang highway were cleared and the highway opened to traffic at around 1pm yesterday.

The Project DANTAK executed the clearing work until late night on June 18 and early morning yesterday.

More than 20 vehicles were stranded at the block for about two nights.

Poor weather and continuous slide hampered clearing efforts

The stranded commuters said they got stuck at around 3pm on June 17 above Narphung;  more than 20 vehicles were stranded at the block. They were travelling to Samdrupjongkhar from Trashigang.

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They said they contacted the relevant officials immediately and were assured that the block would be cleared on the same day.

“But not an excavator arrived and we spent the night in the car without food,” one of the commuters said.

The commuters said the authorities concerned should think about women, children and the sick stranded without food for days.

They said there are also risks of the stranded vehicles getting hit by the falling boulders or being submerged by the landslides. “It would help if the authorities such as the dzongkhag could provide food and accommodation during such situations.”

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“It would help if the authorities concerned such as the DANTAK could hire machines from the private sectors and government and deploy excavators with rubber tyres,” a commuter said.

According to sources, the Project DANTAK executed the clearing work but it took almost 24 hours to reach a block at 63 kilometres (km) because the machines cleared all 10 slides between Narphung and 63km.

Owing to the threat to the commuters due to the continuous falling boulders and incessant rain, the Project DANTAK evacuated all the stranded passengers, including the women, children and elderly people to the DANTAK camp and Narphung village at around 11:45pm on June 18.

Sources said that the DANTAK carried out immediate medical check-ups for the needy and provided accommodation; the villagers provided the food while the Project DANTAK catered the breakfast and lunch yesterday.

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Chencho Tshering said that the Project DANTAK had been helpful to them as they provided food and medical check-ups because the safety of the stranded passengers is important. He was travelling to Samdrupjongkhar from Trashiyangtse.

“I am thankful to the DANTAK for the timely support and help and also for risking their lives to evacuate the stranded travellers,” he said.

Focus point

Sat, 06/18/2022 - 13:34