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Updated: 2 hours 20 min ago

Who is not campaigning?

Wed, 04/27/2022 - 11:23

The next parliamentary election is two years away, but politicking has already started even if electoral laws restrict it. So has the controversy with the next elections inching closer.

A senior forestry official who resigned to join a political party is accused, in the social media, for campaigning. She has tendered her resignation and will be relieved at the end of April. Her presence in her village- called constituency in political terms – is monitored closely after knowing her intentions.

The Election Commission of Bhutan has asked political parties to wait until the election period is announced before they start campaigning. The idea is to provide a level-playing field. Political parties outside the Parliament could use the period to do their groundwork. It is seen as a disadvantage for those in the government or opposition, as they cannot openly campaign.

But there is a thin line. Who is not campaigning?

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A serving minister on a constituency visit or a serving Member of Parliament attending a village tshechu is not considered as  campaigning. The presence of a member of a political party outside the Parliament in the village or a local festival is construed as one.

The ruling government has the upper hand. They could use their machinery to stop or punish those who are seen as helping politicians. Kuensel came to know that some civil servants were reprimanded for inviting or letting aspiring politicians attend official gatherings during the election period.

Nearly 15 years into politics, the change in our governance system has hardened our politicians and they know what to do, when and how to do it. Not long ago, when we were not used to open political campaigning, individuals were reluctant to declare political ambitions. This has changed, we are impatient for the race to begin.

The campaigning line is blurred when a serving minister attends, for instance, a Lhakhang consecration where the cost is adjusted from his hospitality and entertainment budget and the presence of a politician from another party attending a community gathering.

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We are still learning and trying to improve our legislation. What defines campaigning is an important issue we need to look into. Our election rules were passed without hindsight. What is happening on the ground is complicated and could circumvent election rules.

A good example is the president of the People’s Democratic Party. The president is a de-suup, a dedicated and hardworking one for that matter. As a former prime minister, he is respected among the “De-suup Nymros.” Some are already concerned if the president would win all the de-suup votes.

As we prepare for the fourth parliamentary elections, there are many things that needs to be ironed out. The level playing field that we are quick to remark on cannot be levelled if we do not make our regulations and legislations relevant.

Time is on our side and we need to iron out the wrinkles that could make us uncomfortable.

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Through 360-degree track in Tsirang

Wed, 04/27/2022 - 11:21

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

Popular among Bhutanese for its lush gardens, well-maintained footpaths, and green spaces, the nation’s organic dzongkhag will soon have its first nature trail.

The 360-degree track, which is five minutes’ drive away from Damphu Town, begins from below the Royal Guesthouse, along the Menchuna chiwog road in Kilkhorthang gewog.

Built to promote domestic tourism in the dzongkhag, the 3km track runs through deciduous forest amidst the songs and chirpings of various birds perching among tall trees, including some medicinal plants like Oroxylum indicum and Sapindus rarak. The plant and animal lives are diverse that to keen eyes, it could be called a nature lovers’ paradise.

Dophu Ney

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The trail which passes through Kilkhorthang and Tsholingkhar gewogs is wide and is developed as a bicycle track and a mild hiking trail. It provides a picturesque view of Rangthangling valley and terraces located below the Tsirang-Sarpang highway. It takes about an hour to complete the trail that has two stops—resting places and washrooms. A few workers are still seen completing the last construction works.

For the past eight months, about 15 workers have been developing the site. Metal railings were installed in steep areas. However, they said that lockdowns had hampered the work progress. The project was supposed to be complete two months ago.

While only a few local residents are aware about the trail, visitors, mostly outsiders, have started exploring the trail. “The mental peace from walking on this forest trail is healing,” one said.

The highlight of the trail is an important Hindhu-Buddhist landmark, Dho-Phu Ney or in its corrupted form called as Dombu Ney. The one-metre-deep cave, believed to be in the shape of an elephant is equally worshipped by Hindu and Buddhist locals as blessed sites of Guru Padmasambhava and the Lord Shiva. Some say that the cave is the local deity’s palace.

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According to an oral history, Damphu is the corrupted form of the site’s name Dra-Phug (cliff/cave) or Dho-Phu (stone cave).

Elders in the vicinity say that it was believed that three centuries ago, two bulls—white and black—would appear during paddy harvest season at the mouth of the cave on auspicious days. A peasant who followed the bulls observed that the black bull disappeared towards the southern side of the cave while the white bull vanished into the cave. Since then, it was believed that the white bull was an avatar of Shiva.

During full moons, Hindus perform deity rituals twice a year at the cave. Although the site received pilgrims in the past, the site maintenance and trail development is expected to attract more visitors in the area.

Despite the presence of diverse culture, tradition, and natural resources, reports show that Tsirang receives the least number of tourists after Dagana dzongkhag.

Community takes over children park in Phuentsholing

Wed, 04/27/2022 - 11:19

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Phuentsholing thromde handed over the children park in Kabreytar to the local community for better services and development yesterday.

Officials said it is also to engage the community members.

A Kabreytar resident, Hem Kumar Ghalley, said the local community will act like the caretaker.

“Children from other communities can come as well but it will be our duty to take care of the park,” he said, adding the community should come forward with such responsibility. “We may also use the park for other community activities.”

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The tshogpa, Sharmila Limbu, said people within the community can now participate in sharing ideas for the development and better services of the park.

“We will also explore ideas for its sustenance,” she said.

Thromde officials said that it is a pilot project and if it works out well, such facilities, including upcoming ones, in other communities will also be handed over to the people.

Phuentsholing thrompon, Uttar Kumar Rai, said that there are many other aspects they have considered while taking the initiative.

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“We have expansive local area plans (LAP) and are faced with shortage of manpower and sustainability issues,” he said, adding that the services will be more effective if communities are involved.

He claimed it is a localised solution.

The thrompon also said that the initiative has been carried out as per the Local Government Act.

“Engaging people will also bring about a sense of belongingness among themselves and get to know each other better.”

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He said all residents from the community such as the building owners and tenants can participate.

“We are giving them the authority on how to use it and how to develop it.”

According to the thrompon, thromde will also assist and support whenever necessary.

Vulture attack kills a bull

Wed, 04/27/2022 - 11:13

Nima Wangdi 

A young bull died after the vultures attacked it on April 20 at Phobjikha in Wangdue.

The bull was critically injured when a villager, who was on his way to check on his cattle in the locality, rescued it.

Lhawang Tshering, 49, from Gangtey, said three vultures were feeding on the injured bull; two stray dogs were waiting at a distance.

“When I shooed the vultures away, more came, about 25,” he said. He guarded the injured bull for a while and took it to the gewog centre for treatment. It did not survive.

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Lhawang said that he immediately made a short video and shared it on the villagers’ Wechat group asking them to identify the bull. “Nobody claimed it; it turned out to be a tshethar bull.”

He said the village reported some cases of stray dogs attacking calves but vultures attacking live animals was the first time.

“Usually the vultures are known to feed only on dead animals,” Lhawang said. “Now they are preying on live animals.”

District Livestock Officer, Ugyen, said that he was also in Phobjikha when the incident occurred. “The livestock team, who were working on the national accelerated dog population management and rabies control programme, tried to treat the bull.”

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He said that stray animals are posing danger to the livestock and tshethar animals. “When these animals die, stray dogs feed on them and they get addicted to meat. They then start attacking cattle.”

Starting from April 18, the team sterilised more than 200 stray dogs in Phobjikha; the programme will continue until May 1.

“There are many feral, semi-feral and stray dogs in the area,” Ugyen said.

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Enagic product distribution and promotion is pyramid scheme: OCP

Wed, 04/27/2022 - 11:09

 … directs promoters and distributors to immediately stop it

Phub Dem 

Both online and offline scheme in Bhutan that deals with Enagic machines or Kangen water filter is a pyramid scheme, according to the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP).

The office directed the existing promoters and distributors, whether operating online or offline, to immediately stop such business practices.

In a press release OCP issued yesterday afternoon, it stated that participating in a pyramid scheme is prohibited and will be dealt with as per the Consumer Protection Act of Bhutan 2012 and other relevant laws of the country.

It also stated that OCP holds the mode of business operation, online and offline, adopted by the promoters and distributors of Enagic Alkaline Ionizer and water filtration machines or Kangen Water machines as a pyramid scheme.

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The issue came to the limelight when some social media users alerted people to be cautious of the online digital business earlier this year.

According to the OCP, the scheme is primarily based on enticing individuals to purchase machines, claiming health benefits of the Kangen Water, which is not validated by any competent authority.

Besides, it states that the scheme entices buyers to register as members by promising compensation (commission) when they register new members. “To become a member, buying one of the products is mandatory, such practice violates section 38 (xiii) of the Consumer Protection Rules and Regulations 2015.”

The section states that establishing, operating or promoting a pyramid promotional scheme where a consumer receives compensation that is derived primarily from the introduction of other consumers into the scheme rather than from the sale or consumption of products is classified as unfair trade practice and illegal.

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OCP, however, ruled that importing and selling the machine through retail or online sales of Enagic products is permissible 

after obtaining a valid trade license or an e-commerce license to assure that they will not engage in scouting and registering new members.

The office asked the public to refrain from engaging in this scheme by becoming a member to promote the scheme further by introducing downline members.

Before advertising their products as having health benefits, the OCP asked the retailers or e-commerce businesses of these products are informed to seek prior approval from competent authorities, keeping in accord with the Medicines Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2003.

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OCP’s investigation

The Enagic business, both online and offline, started in Bhutan in 2019.

According to the OCP’s chief programme officer, Jigme Dorji, the online method that began in 2020 is operated and promoted by a business entity called “Digital Business” and uses the Enagic business model to sell the Enagic products and provide compensation to the members.

The prospective online members are first introduced to the “Digital Business” and encouraged to undergo activities such as attending webinar sessions, and pre-coaching, after paying USD 149.

Then a mentor and coach introduce the Enagic business models and the products involved (Enagic Alkaline Ionizer and Water Filtration Machine or Kangen Water Machine).

He said that in the offline method, the members do not have to undergo prescribed activities of “Digital Business”, and there is no requirement to pay a fee of USD149.

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The registered distributor promotes Enagic business, Enagic machines and Kangen Water. The distributors promote the prospect and benefits of Kangen water or alkaline water through product demonstration, face-to-face presentations, and focused group presentations using various platforms claiming health benefits, selling products and looking for prospective members to join as distributors and members.

Jigme Dorji said to participate in the scheme as a distributor or member and earn commissions, both methods require the members first to purchase the Enagic machines and register with the company using the referral code of the upline distributor or member.

According to him, the compensation or commission is paid on both direct and indirect sales based on the Patented 8-Point compensation system based on the ranks of the distributors and the model of the products. “For every sale, the commission is split into eight portions and is paid to eight upline distributors or members. To remain active in the scheme and earn a commission, the distributor must make direct sales within a specified time frame.”

It was found that the scheme emphasises the introduction of downline members and the commission is based on downline members, besides direct sales. “But the scheme also provides an option of direct sales to achieve certain ranks.”

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As per OCP’s findings, the scheme mandates the distributor to remain active or risk the deduction or non-receipt of the commission. The conditions include the distributor making direct sales within six months to receive full commission. If there is no direct sale within six months but makes a direct sale within two years, the distributor gets half of the commission. “The commission is not paid if there is no sale within two years. In such case, the distributorship gets terminated.”

Jigme Dorji said that it was mandatory to buy a product to become a registered distributor and participate in the scheme, adding that such practice has sustainability issues as the scheme requires the recruitment of downline members which will exhaust at one point of time in any given geographical location.

He said that the recent entrants, which form the major groups, will be affected the most if the scheme collapses.

“There is an affordability issue given that the Enagic products are expensive, which will limit the entry of new entrants or distributors.”

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According to OCP, the cost of Enagic products ranges between USD 2,890 and USD 5,980.

Jigme Dorji said a few entities had availed trade licenses to import and distribute Enagic products, notably the Kangen Water Machines and around 15 commodities sell bottled Kangen Water.

He said that more than 150 online members, including the Bhutanese living overseas in places such as Australia, the Middle East, USA and Canada, are selling Enagic products online without a valid e-commerce license.

Jigme Dorji said that the distributors and promoters were directed to immediately stop the sale and promotion of Enagic products through the pyramid scheme. “Non-compliance will lead to the imposition of penalty as per the Consumer Protection Act 2012, which will entail fines for the first violation and cancellation of business license and prosecution for repeat violations.”

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He said that the online promoters who do not possess a valid e-commerce license and continue to engage in the pyramid scheme should lead to penalties and prosecution for repeated violations as per the CPA 2012 and other laws.


Drug Regulatory Authority

The director of the Drug Regulatory Authority, Wangdi Gyeltshen, said that if the distributers claim the device has medicinal values, they should register with DRA as the equipment becomes a medicinal device.

He said that the DRA and distributor reached an understanding that if they claim medicinal values, they cannot sell the device and if they want to claim medicinal values, they must register with DRA. “The distributors agreed not to claim medicinal values and sell the device like any water filter. They have to remove the posters claiming that the machine has medicinal values.”

The director said that only technical authorised individuals such as pharmacists, technicians, and doctors certified by DRA could sell or distribute devices with medicinal values. “Any product that claims medicinal values can be sold by retail pharmacy and authorised suppliers only.”

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Govt. struggles to use capital budget

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 10:50

MB Subba 

Although the government relaxed the Covid-19 protocols, budgetary agencies struggled to utilise the capital budget in the fiscal year 2021-22.

Only 38 percent of the capital budget was utilised at the end of the third quarter of the fiscal year (March 31), according to data released by the Department of National Budget (DNB).

The low budget utilisation rate has been a concern for the government as it has ramped up government spending to offset the impact of the Covid-19.

Only Nu 16.288 billion (B) of the total capital budget of Nu 42.735B was utilised at the end of the third quarter. The fiscal year ends on June 30.

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Officials said that the recent lockdown and Covid-19 protocols were some of the major hurdles in the implementation of the activities.

However, according to finance ministry officials, the expenditure performance is expected to improve in the fourth quarter as the Covid-19 protocols were normalised.

The officials say that with the successful completion of the mid-year review of budget and Annual Performance Agreements (APAs), budgetary agencies are expected to speed up the implementation of activities.

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The government, according to the DNB, has pre-financed some of the donor-funded activities where the release has not been received from the development partners.

However, about 71 percent of the current budget was utilised as of the end of the third quarter of the fiscal year.

Officials said that the government had not faced issues when it came to implementing the current budget, which comprises operational expenditure of agencies.

Budgetary agencies utilised about Nu 25.298B of the total current budget of Nu 35.55B.

According to the DNB, the expenditure reported is less as compared to the release provided. However, it is expected that a portion of the release will be in the form of advances, which will be booked as expenditure when the bills are submitted for settlement.

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Although some portion of the release can be construed as expenditure, there could still be some that are not used indicating cash lying idle, according to DNB.

The current budget has decreased in recent years on account of rationalisation of the current budget in line with the revenue performance, which was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government has also decreased operations and management expenditure, according to the finance ministry.

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The most significant change in the current expenditure was in grants and subsidies, which decreased significantly.

Meanwhile, the government provided more than Nu 3B to various budgetary agencies for Covid-19 containment measures. Of the total, Nu 1.843B was transferred from the General Reserve.

During the fiscal year, Nu 5.7B was provisioned under the General Reserve in meeting the unforeseen expenditures.

170 bidders for 19 old Prados

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 10:49

Govt. recovers Nu 28.38 million in revenue  

Staff Reporter

If the virtual auction held on Saturday was any indication, Bhutanese craze for Toyota Prados, whether old or new, is still strong.

The  Department of National Properties put up 19 Prados (GX) that are all 14 years old. The old vehicles were recalled from the dzongkhags after serving as the “duty cars’ for the dzongdags. The dzongdags received new Toyota Fortuners as duty cars.

The auction announced a month ago saw hundreds of people coming to the DNP garage at Changzamtog where the vehicles were parked. More than 300 people bought the documents to take part in the auction. On Saturday, only 170 participated in the bidding.

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However, there were almost nine people competing to purchase an old Prado. At the end of the auction, 12 people bought the 19 Prados paying between Nu 1.3 million (M) and Nu 1.7M. The government received Nu 28.389M in revenue from the sale of the 2008-made Prados.

DNP officials refused to share the details of the winning bids, but Kuensel found that a few bidders bid for all the 19 Prados in the hope of winning at least one. A bidder, K T Wangyal said he bid  Nu 1.17 M and his friend bid Nu 1.25M for all the 19 Prados. The idea was to keep one and sell the rest at a profit.

Known for its performance, the SUV is in huge demand with people saying it is better to buy an old Toyota Prado than a new SUV made by other companies. Toyota Prado and Landcruiser, it is believed as a symbol of social status in the country.

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Although the claims couldn’t be independently verified, some bidders said that some of the Prados were sold a few minutes after the auction with a huge profit margin. “I wanted to repair it, change the colour and sell it for a huge profit,” said one bidder who said he bid for the Tsirang dzongdag’s Prado. “We can easily make at least Nu 300,000 in profit within an hour if we won,” he said regretting not increasing the bid. He was short on Nu 70,000 of the minimum bid of Nu 1.3M.

Another bidder also bid for all the 19 Prados. The old SUV were in running condition, some with new tyres. This time as the vehicles were called to DNP suddenly, vehicle components or parts were not removed or replaced.

  Some bidders bid for all the 19 Prados

Farmers resort to selling birds as egg cost slumps

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 10:48

Nima | Gelephu

Farmers in Sarpang have started selling poultry birds as increased cost of production and lack of stable market for local eggs worsen poultry business.

A poultry farmer from Shompangkha, Nima Lama, said he sold more than 500 poultry birds.  Other farmers have stopped poultry farming in the gewog.

According to Nima Lama, selling birds was a better choice than getting into debt. “The cost of production per egg is Nu 10.5. The farm gate price today is Nu 7.8. We have to bear Nu 2 loss per egg, approximately.”

He said the cost per egg is Nu 10.5 for farmers using Samrat feeds. “At the current farm gate price, farmers have to bear almost Nu 500 losses per carton.”

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Nima Lama said farmers were accused of hoarding for the current increase in the supply of eggs. “There were no records of hoarding. The import of eggs coincided with poultry farms picking up the production. The poultry farms were affected by feeds and when the production increased, the market was filled with eggs.”

According to the record Department of Livestock (DoL) maintained, 2,000 cartons of eggs were imported in February and another 1,000 cartons in March.

The import was allowed only to Bhutan Livestock Development Corporation (BLDC) for the egg deficient dzongkhags to ensure there was no rampant supply of eggs in the market.

DoL’s media focal person, Towchu Rabgay, said the cost of production for the government hatchery farmers is Nu 8.6 per egg. “This is relatively higher than the rate in private farms. In government farms, we include staff payment and have many field staff. Farmers’ cost would be lower.”

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He said that the feeds price would be the main cause of cost escalation. “The cost of production differs from dzongkhag to dzongkhag. But, it will not exceed more than Nu 8.6 at private farms.”

The department also provides day-old chicks at a subsidised rate. “Farmers won’t incur a loss for now. We are also encouraging private firms to start feed mills. This will set competition within the feed industry and the price would go down,” Towchu Rabgay said.

He said farmers in Sarpang had market areas such as quarantine centres during the lockdown. “The market is expected to improve with the start of the school feeding programme.”

However, Nima Lama said that the import of 3,000 cartons was the surplus by two weeks.

The market is expected to return to normal only after three months.

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“We would run in loss if we don’t sell the birds. Farmers have to pay Nu 500,000 until birds start laying eggs in the sixth month for 1,000 birds,” Nima Lama said.

Farmers said feeds price need proper regulation. The feeds prices have never decreased since 2016. At Nu 2,500 per 50kgs, feeds price is at the highest today.

Officials from the National Poultry Research and Development Centre (NPRDC) in Sarpang said the farm gate price should be at least Nu 2,000 per carton.

“If farmers sell below 2,000 they would incur losses. Farmers are selling eggs at Nu 1,600 and Nu 1,700 per carton in desperation. That is too bad,” an official said.

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NPRDC’s programme director, SB Chamling Rai (PhD), said the cost per egg in September, months before a disease outbreak in Sarpang, was Nu 8.5. “The cost of production fluctuates daily. Farmers were trained to calculate their own cost of production.”

He said that the cost of production would increase further if the farmers buy day-old chicks from private farms.

The centre is also studying the current market situation facing the farmers in the dzongkhag.

Sources said the cost of almost all commodities has increased in recent months. “The cost of production would also increase. Farmers expect the egg price to go up but it’s the other way round. The egg price is coming down,” an official said.

Officials from the dzongkhag livestock sector said there was no supply of imported eggs in Sarpang. “The eggs were imported for the egg deficient dzongkhags,” an official said.

All students deserve equal support

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 10:46

The overall Class X examinations result of the 2021 academic year was the lowest in the past 11 years. Dropped by 26.45 percent than 2020 academic year, the pass percentage was 70.12 percent.

Education officials attributed the decrease in the pass percentage to the new assessment criteria that required students to score 40 percent in both continuous assessment and examination to pass each subject. They also said the questions and curriculum last year were competency-based.

Besides the change in the assessment criteria,  the pandemic also played a role. It not only disrupted their classes, but also their examination schedule. Most of the students were either tested positive for Covid-19 or were primary and secondary contacts when they sat for the exam. So making through the academic year, with or without the desired percentage, should be considered a success.

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Unlike in the past, where class 10 examination result could change many students’ fate, student can now repeat in the same class or be absorbed in government or private schools on government scholarship.

This is not to set any complacency among students, but to encourage the 3,749 students, who could not get through the examination, to return to schools or seek other vocational training.

While all schools share photos of their academic toppers, it is equally important to understand the problems of students who failed and render them support.

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Initially, the board examination is to screen students from high school. It helps maintain academic uniformity throughout the country and acts as a checkpoint for schools, teachers and students now.

With the system of examination considered obsolete in advanced countries, the new assessment criteria is welcome. We have always questioned the accuracy of evaluating students based on a single examination. Many believe that a single examination at the end of an academic year is not an accurate evaluation of a student.

Our education system is evolving and efforts are being made to make it relevant.

Although we could not adopt a national education policy, 17 textbooks were revised last year besides the new normal curriculum frameworks and new assessment system. Financial literacy was included in many schools.

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Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) labs were established in many schools. Desktops and laptops were distributed. His Majesty The King’s gift to the children of Bhutan, The CodeMonkey, is helping students develop scientific curiosity.

Many educationists are pinning hope on the Royal Kasho that commanded the establishment of a time-bound Council for Education Reform to prepare a visionary and workable roadmap for education and Bhutan Baccalaureate system.

It is also time we invest in education where students find solutions to local problems. Our real strengths lie in education and innovation.  

Australia Awards trains 20 Bhutanese entrepreneurs

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 10:45

The short course helps participants scale up their products

Thukten Zangpo

Twenty Bhutanese start-ups and established business owners participated in the Australia Awards’ short course on business acceleration for entrepreneurs.

Started from November last year to April 22 this year, entrepreneurs learnt business expansion strategies and diversification skills.

Participants also conducted mentoring conversations with 20 successful Australian entrepreneurs, including women-owned, disability-focused, and indigenous entrepreneurs.

The course also facilitated participants to develop linkages online.

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The participants also practised the use of practical scaling up tools like the one-page strategic plan, vision statement, and team performance sheet.

They also developed their vision statements, their unique selling propositions, strategic goals and key performance indicators, cash flow strategy, and strategies for their businesses linking their return to work plans (RWPs) to their strategic goals.

The course coordinator from Queensland University of Technology, Nelson Salangsang, said, the participant’s RWPs reflect how they applied their knowledge and skills gained from the course.

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A participant, Jigme Tenzin, who is the founder of housing.bt, said the course would help them scale up their businesses, re-strategize long-term goals and diversify their products.

He said although there are initial funding supports for start-ups in the country, there is a lack of support on how to sustain and thrive the businesses after availing of funding which could have led to the non-performing loans.

Jigme Tenzin also said that diversifying the products requires market research, testing, trying the products, and industrial experts.

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Another participant, Karma Chime, who is the founder of Bhutan Mountain Coffee,  said that the course has given them the motivation to expand their business and they now have sound knowledge on cash management, maintaining human resources, checking the goals, coffee branding, packaging, and meeting the international standards while exporting the product.

The Australian government, in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, supported the programme. Queensland University of Technology, in cooperation with AB Ventures and Royal Institute for Management Studies, delivered the programme.

Lhuentse town development work delays

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 10:44

Contractor rushes to finish the work in the extended time

Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

Road widening and infrastructure development work of Lhuentse town, which was scheduled to complete by January 2022, is delayed.

The work package includes the construction of footpath, streetlight, stormwater drainage, and flood protection wall besides widening and blacktopping of 2.5kms double lane town road.

The contractor, Karma, said about 80 percent of the work has been already completed so far.

He said that the flood protection wall along the Lekpagangchhu stream before reaching the dzong parking area is complete. “Only streetlight wire connection is left. The poles were already erected.”

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For the footpath, Karma said only the top slab is left. “We left this to be done only after the blacktopping of the 2.5kms double lane road widening from BPC colony gate to dzong.”

He said he recently got approval for 13 imported labourers, mainly technical workers from India to execute the blacktopping work. “I am processing for their quarantine. If the labourers reach the site the blacktopping work would complete in three weeks.”

The contractor is confident the work would complete in the extended time.

Lhuentse dzongkhag administration gave a time extension of six months from the initial deadline of January 2022 until July because of the pandemic.

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Karma said the work mainly got delayed due to additional work and rectification work on the damages caused during construction besides labour shortage.

Meanwhile, residents of Lhuentse, who have been complaining of the narrow, muddy and dusty road, are eagerly waiting to ply on the smooth blacktopped road as the work nears completion.

The urban infrastructures would also give facelift to the developing Phaling town.

The work is worth Nu 90M.

First batch of 31 laid-off drayang employees complete entrepreneurship training

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 10:42

Yangyel Lhaden

Kunzang Dema, a drayang employee who lost her job after the closure of the drayangs in the country, started driving taxi.

She applied for an entrepreneurship development programme with labour ministry. She was skeptical when she received a call from the ministry confirming her registration.

“I parked my taxi and thought for a while … I decided to give it a try,” Kunzang Dema said.

Today, after completion of training, Kunzang Dema is confident. She is ready to commercialise her mushroom farm—KD Mushroom—which started as a passion on a small scale at her home.

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Thimphu TechPark Limited in collaboration with Entrepreneurship Promotion Division of the labour ministry completed a 15-day basic entrepreneur course for 31 laid-off drayang employees yesterday.

Labour ministry has been providing skilling, upskilling, self-employment, and engagement opportunities to laid-off drayang employees after the closure of drayangs on January 7.

The ministry received 515 applications from laid-off drayang employees for the programmes; 110 applied for the entrepreneurship development programme. However, only 58 confirmed their registration.

Kinley Dorji with Entrepreneurship Promotion Division said that out of 58, 46 participants were in Thimphu. Upon reconfirmation, only 31 registered and completed their training. “We are taking the training to their places; for the remaining 12 the training will be conducted in Paro and Chukha.”

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In entrepreneurship training, the participants were taught basic business bookkeeping, marketing strategies, business plan and pitching business proposals, among others.

The participants came up with 19 business ideas ranging from electronic commerce (one), service sector (seven), manufacturing and production (three) to food and liquor (eight).

Choden, head of human resource and administration with Thimphu TechPark Limited, said that during the first days of training, most of the participants wanted to start bar. “ It was very hard to change their mindset to explore new avenues.”

She said that as the training came to a close the participants were able to think of other business ideas.

As part of the course, eight top business ideas were selected through multiple rounds of idea-pitching competition and were presented to a panel of judges who chose the top four and awarded a cash prize of Nu 50,000 to help them start their businesses.

The participants came up with 19 business ideas

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The top four business ideas were KD mushroom; Dechen Homestay in Nobgang, Punakha; KT Handicraft; and Dawa’s Fruit Cocktail.

Phub Dema’s dream is to make her home in Nobgang a homestay. Before the pandemic, she worked in the tourism sector during the day and at drayang by night.

She said that she worked two jobs to save enough so that she could go back to her mother who is the only one looking after the ancestral home. “ I had saved Nu 500,000, but during the pandemic, after losing both the jobs, I lost more than half the money I had saved.”

Phub Dema said that if she gets support, she would like to go back home and her experience in the tourism sector would come in handy in her homestay. “ During the off-season, a special local rate will also be introduced.”

The Department of Employment and Entrepreneurship’s director-general, Kunzang Lhamu, said that labour ministry would continue to encourage individuals wishing to avail further skills training to start their business.

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Tshering Yangdon and Pema Lhamo Sherpa want to start a bakery in Chamgang. They are looking forward to learning baking with labour ministry.

Pema Lhamo Sherpa said that she learned baking from YouTube and wanted to up-scale her skills. “ After learning about the entrepreneurship skills and attending baking class, we are confident that our business will make us independent.”

Kinley Dorji said that participants should come forward for continued support. “ We will help you to make and pitch business proposals, and facilitate your proposals to banks for loans.”

As part of the post-training opportunity, the labour ministry will provide critical skills training under the business acceleration programme and, under Youth Employment and Livelihood Programme, participants who start their businesses would be provided with Nu 5,000 with other facilitation supports.

Picture story

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 10:41

Progress: Project Dantak has completed constructing approach roads to the new bridge site at Damchhu from both sides. A 60-metre bailey bridge will be constructed over the Wangchhu to connect the Damchhu-Haa road.  

Nu 32B trade deficit in 2021 highest in the last five years

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 10:41

Dechen Dolkar  

Bhutan’s trade deficit last year was Nu 32.23B, the highest in the last five years, according to Bhutan Trade Statistics (BTS) 2021.

A trade deficit is an economic measure of a negative balance of trade, where imports exceed exports and a country’s import value is greater than its export.

The country exported goods worth Nu 57.99B and imported goods worth Nu 90.22B in 2021.

A trade deficit is the largest component of the current account deficit as it includes both trade balance and balance of payments, which is the sum of all transactions between a nation and all of its international trading partners.

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The import value increased drastically from Nu 66.63B in 2020 to Nu 90.22B last year.

Imports from India increased by 39.13 percent and other countries by 24.47 percent as compared to 2020.

Officials from the finance ministry claimed the increase in imports last year could be a sign of economy recovery where there is an increase in import of raw materials, equipment and consumables.

“It could also be because of regulated imports,” an official said. “Before the pandemic, due to porous borders and free movement across the border, there were imports that were not declared to customs.”

The official explained that all imports are now regulated through the mini dry port, irrespective of value or size.

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Officials also said that it could be because of better coordination and facilitation of imports at the point of entries in 2021 as compared to 2020 as they learnt to adapt to the new normal.

They said processing units and storage units by the ICT sector, fossil fuels (Petrol and Diesel), raw materials for Pasakha industries and pharmaceutical products are some of the items that caused the increase in imports value.

Bhutan imported diesel worth Nu 6.38B and petroleum worth Nu 2B last year.

Record also showed rice was one of the top ten import commodities, amounting to about Nu 2.18B expenditure.

Most of the items were imported from India, China, Singapore, Thailand and Bangladesh last year.

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According to the report, the export figure has also increased gradually over the years. Export for 2021 has increased by 61.85 percent than 2020.

Ferrosilicon is still the top commodity Bhutan exported in 2021 with Nu 15.28B. The export value of ferrosilicon has increased over the years. In 2020, Nu 7.44B worth was exported and in 2019, its export was worth Nu 9.78B.

Finance ministry officials said there was more than 100 percent increase in export of ferrosilicon last year with an increase in terms of quantity exported as well as an increase in price of ferrosilicon.

The average unit price for 1kg of ferrosilicon increased from Nu 76.81 in 2020 to Nu 122.13 last year.

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Officials said there was also an increase in export of ferrosilicon manganese from Nu 106M in 2020 to Nu 2.27B in 2021.

“There was also an increase in export of mineral products from Nu 6.70B in 2020 to Nu 9.86B in 2021 showing an increase of 47.16 percent,” an official said.

Boulder was the second most exported Bhutanese product in 2021 with the value of Nu 2.48B. However, the boulder export has decreased from 2019. In 2020, Bhutan exported boulders worth Nu 1.87B and Nu 4.97B in 2019.

Last year, there was an increase in export of cardamom from Nu 1.01B in 2020 to Nu 1.71B.

Meanwhile, electricity export played a crucial role in narrowing the trade deficit, according to the report.

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It stated that had it not been for electricity export, the country’s trade deficit could hover around Nu 56.67B in the red.

“Bhutan’s trade balance with India is Nu 20.39B. It imported Nu 71.23B worth of goods from India and exported Nu 50.84B last year including electricity,” the report stated.

Energy export last year was 8,075.50 million unit (MU) and earned Nu 24.43B compared to that of 9,206.58MU and earning of Nu 27.52B in 2020.

India, Bangladesh, Italy, Nepal and China were the top export destinations.

Exporters said they could not export as usual in 2020 due to a prolonged lockdown in Bhutan as well as in India.

”The export couldn’t begin as expected and the pandemic disrupted the trade,” an official said.

They also said they were not able to export for six months last year and they exported only when the containment mode was started.

In 2020 and 2021, boulder export was halted several times due to lockdown in the border areas.