Kuensel Feed

Subscribe to Kuensel Feed feed
Bhutan's Daily Newspaper
ཡུ་ཨར་ཨེལ: https://kuenselonline.com
དུས་མཐུན་བཟོ་ཡོད: 2 hours 48 min གི་ཧེ་མ།

Budget constraints lead to 12th plan project cancellation

པ།, 06/23/2022 - 11:38

Dechen Dolkar

The government will not be able to carry out infrastructure projects in the financial year (FY) 2022-23 which were deferred due to the reprioritisation of 12th FYP last year due to time and budget constraints.

The government last year deferred several national infrastructure projects, including roads and bridges.

During the question hour at National Assembly yesterday, MP Lungten Namgyel from Nanong-Shumar questioned the Prime Minister on the status of those projects.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the government had to defer the projects that will not boost the economy in the country.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Lyonchhen said that since all the construction projects are dependent on Indians, the government decided to focus on projects that does not require labour import.

“Government deferred constructions of government offices for the budget of Nu 1.5B in 12th plan,” Lyonchhen said.

It includes the construction of the ministry of foreign affairs, education ministry, and agriculture and forest ministry offices.

Lyonchhen mentions that in some dzongkhags there is a need to construct a court and some offices, walls and gates. “Each will cost a minimum of Nu 500,000 to Nu 600,000.”

Lyonchhen said that the government also cancelled in-country training and construction of highways.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

However, Lyoncheen said: “If the projects are mentioned in the budget report for FY 2022-23, they will be constructed.”

The capital expenditure was spent in the construction of roads, drinking water supply and irrigation channels. The government has to spend an additional Nu 500M.  Currently, about 130 projects are underway.

The government also spent on the farm roads for granular sub-base (GSB).

Lyonchhen mentioned that out of 12,000km farm roads in the country, around 9000km need base course which will cost around Nu 16B.

Phase one of GSB has been completed with the budget of Nu 2.5B; in some gewogs, phase two has started and it would cost around Nu 3B.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

“Government is planning to complete the second phase GSB within one and a half years,” Lyonchhen said.

Lyonchhen said that money was also spent on the construction of a quarantine centre at the border areas to accommodate more than 3,000 people at the cost of around Nu 2.5B.

The government also constructed more than 15km of a wall at the border.

The cost of schooling children 

པ།, 06/23/2022 - 11:37

Tshering Namgyal | Lhuentse

It’s been almost three years since Tshomo from Goenpa Karpo village in remote Lhuentse has been living away from home in order to educate her children in Khoma.

Constructing a makeshift hut on a leased land cost her more than Nu 50,000. it has been her second home from which her children walks to school.

Khoma Lower Secondary School offered to take care of her three children in the hostel. However, she opted to keep the younger ones, studying in classes II and I, as day scholars. The eldest studying in class VII stays in the hostel.

Tshomo’s main duty is to cook meals, wash clothes and takes care of them. She is not alone.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

There are at least 10 parents who live temporary shacks adjacent to the school campus so that their children can continue going to school. As the children Parents leave the shacks and move to their villages after their children attend higher classes.

Tshomo says she was compelled to stay there because her children were too reluctant to stay in the hostel. Unlike in the past, she said the kids were too young to take care of themselves because of the early enrollment at five years.

“They are not able to eat properly and we are worried if they are kept in the school, although there are caregivers in the schools. Most of the time their belongings are missing but we can’t blame anyone.”

Khoma LSS is more than four-hour walk down from Goenpakarpo. The return journey takes almost day. Although the village was recently connected with a farm road, it is more than two-hour drive from Khoma. But there is hardly any vehicles and the fares are expensive.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

She said an extended classroom in the village could address the issue. It could also help those in the neighbouring villages like Nyalamdung, Drakteng and Lingdung villages. One of the remotest villages in Khoma gewog, Goenpakarpo village has around 23 households.

A day school at Baptong was closed recently. It made little difference to her children because they had to walk two hours through thick jungle to and from school. However, closure of the primary school has affected many other nearby residents.

They said they have raised the issue in various meetings.

Drimed Wangmo from Berpa village, less than an hour away from Baptong, has moved to Khoma to look after her niece studying in class I since her brother had to go for paddy cultivation. “Every day, I have to fight with her to get to school. Wondering how the school manages her.”

Another parent from Berpa walks to school every day with her daughter, a class II student.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

“We can take care better of our children at home and also do our farm work,” Pema Lhazom said.

According to sources, the closure of school depends on enrollment, and education policy mandates a minimum of 20 students to qualify for ECR and 25 and above students for a primary school.

At least 10 schools including two ECRs were closed down over the last 10 years in the dzongkhag. Kuensel learned that Lhuentse dzongkhag has three newly constructed ECCD centers that are non-operational without instructors.

FC Takin leads 2022 BPL qualifiers

པ།, 06/23/2022 - 11:37

Thinley Namgay    

FC Takin lead the ongoing 2022 Bhutan Premier League (BPL) qualifiers without losing a single game. FC Takin has secured 18 points from six games as of yesterday.    

The newly established Royal Thimphu College (RTC) FC are in second place with 13 points followed by Ugyen Academy FC and Paro Rinpung FC with 12 and 10 points, respectively.        

Eleven teams are competing for the six spots in the upcoming BPL 2022. 

In a highly contested game yesterday, Terton FC drew Namlha FC 1-1. Namlha FC broke the deadlock at 44 minutes through Ajit Gurung and made it 1-0 before the first half. However, Yenten Phuntsho equalised for Terton FC in the 66th minute.

Terton FC have eight points, followed by BFF Academy FC and Tensung FC with six and five points, respectively. 

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Thimphu Raven FC and Namlha FC have four points each and Friends United FC earned three points. Gelser FC is yet to register a point after five matches. 

On June 21, FC Takin came from behind to beat Friends United FC 3-2. 

Friends United FC will face BFF Academy FC at 4pm, and Thimphu Raven FC will play against RTC FC at 7pm today.  

The BPL 2022 will begin on August 13 with 10 teams. Coronation Cup Champion Druk Lhayul FC, 2021 BPL Champion Paro FC, Thimphu City FC and Transport United FC have already booked their places in the league.  

The qualifiers organised by the Bhutan Football Federation tournament will end on July 5.   

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Bhutan defeated Bahrain by 63 runs

པ།, 06/23/2022 - 11:35

Bhutan defeated Bahrain by 63 runs yesterday in the last game of the ongoing Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Women’s T20 Championship 2022 in Malaysia. This is the first win for Bhutan in four games. 

Bhutan made 126 runs losing only two wickets in 20 overs. The opponent managed 63 runs at the cost of six wickets in 20 overs.  Dechen Wangmo, 29, who snatched 64 runs not out was declared the player of the match yesterday.

NC supports two money Bills

པ།, 06/23/2022 - 11:34

Thukten Zangpo 

National Council (NC) members supported the Fiscal Incentives (Amendment) Bill 2022 and the Goods and Services Tax (Amendment) Bill 2022 yesterday.

The Bills were forwarded to the NC after their adoption in the National Assembly (NA) on June 19. The NA adopted the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill deferring implementation to when the GST system is ready.

Introducing the GST Bill to the house yesterday, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering, said that the software component, Bhutan Integrated Taxation System (BITS) development was not ready.

The National Assembly yesterday continued with the third reading of the Forest and Nature Conservation Bill of Bhutan 2021 for the fifth day

He also said that International Monetary Fund and Singaporean experts said the BITS lacked the auditing and tax compliance system.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Lyonpo also added that it was unfavourable to implement GST when the economy was still recovering from the pandemic.

He added that the GST system was intended to fix tax leakages and double taxation.

Chukha NC member, Sangay Dorji said that the government had spent Nu 220 million (M) to develop BITS of the total budget of Nu 570M and of the total Nu 30M to Armenian developers.

He asked whether the BITS contract awarded to Thimphu TechPark Limited (TTPL) would continue the work and who would be held responsible for the failure to deliver.

Lyonpo said that the contract had been terminated temporarily as the TTPL could not deliver the required BITS solution.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

However, he said that the government was thinking about the re-engineering process and asked the TTPL’s opinion, and other international experts to chart the way forward.

He added that the contractual agreement was between the finance ministry and the TTPL, and Armenian developers partnered with TTPL.

The minister also said that they could employ about 40 graduates which contributed to knowledge transfer and capital formation.

 On the Fiscal Incentives (Amendment) Bill, the National Assembly endorsed repealing Section 56(1) of the Fiscal Incentives Act of Bhutan 2021 since it was redundant and covered by Section 51 of the Act.

The Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) in a letter to the finance ministry stated that the access to convertible currency was being governed by the Foreign Exchange Rules and Regulations as empowered by the RMA Act 2010 as opposed to the Fiscal Incentives Act of Bhutan.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

It means that the manufacturing units have to earn in convertible currencies from the export of their finished products to get full Sales Tax and Customs duty exemption on the import of raw materials from countries other than India.

However, the RMA asked the finance ministry to dismiss the convertible currency earning requirement as a precondition for exemption in March this year.

The Lyonpo also said that the Fiscal Incentives Act 2021 provided concessionary rates and investment allowance to make the economy stronger including reduced tax rate from 30 percent to 10 percent for the small, cottage, and micro-businesses located in border towns.

Bumthang NC member and chairperson of the good governance committee, Nima, said that the money Bills’ effective dates are not in conformity with the Public Finance Act 2012 and asked if the Act could be discussed in this session.

The effective dates of money Bills have been deferred despite Section 46B of the Act prescribing that such Bills shall be applied retroactively from the date it was initially tabled in the National Assembly. Lyonpo said that the Act is under review and almost ready.

Le Judre: The Law of Cause and Effect

ཕུར།, 06/22/2022 - 18:41

Le judre (ལས་རྒྱུ་འབྲས་) or the law of cause and effect is one of the most fundamental concepts in Buddhism. Predating Buddhism, it is a concept shared by other Indian religious traditions including Brahmanism and Jainism. However, the concept of karma in the Buddhist tradition differs from that of other religions or the oft-cited claim that what goes around comes around or every action has an equal reaction. The Buddhists consider the theory of karma to be a vast and abstruse topic (དོན་ཟབ་པ་དང་རྒྱ་ཆེ་བ་) so much so that only the omniscient Buddha can fully fathom it. A great number of Buddhist philosophical treatises deal with the theoretical analysis of karma in depth and detail while Buddhist literature such as the Jātakas also contain stories to illustrate the way karma works.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
The moral theory of karma arises as a corollary of the central Buddhist philosophy of tendrel or dependent arising. The philosophy of dependent arising or law of causation asserts that (1) things do not come of nothing but out of causes and conditions, (2) things do not come out of an eternal cause but causes and results are impermanent and subject to change, (3) and that causes and results correspond to each other. It is in the context of this philosophical theory of causation that the Buddhists espouse the moral theory of karma or le judre that all sentient experiences are outcomes of their causal actions committed beforehand. They do not come out of nothing or from an eternal cause such as a creator God but from the positive and negative actions committed in the past. In this respect, all actions, which are ethically charged, lead to resultant existential experiences. Good virtuous actions give rise to pleasant experiences and bad non-virtuous actions bring about unpleasant experiences of suffering. For example, compassion gives rise to peace both in this life and future lifetimes while aggression leads to violence and short life. Neutral actions, like sterile seeds, do not produce results.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
Like a single seed giving rise to numerous fruits, the actions do not just lead to an equal outcome but give rise to much greater results. Thus, a single homicide is believed to lead to being killed five hundred times and simple act of giving lead to great wealth in the future. Some ethically charged positive and negative actions are said to definitely bring about results while for others their process of maturation can be thwarted or suppressed by a counteractive force. For example, an action can be overcome through rituals of confession and reparation although what can be expiated differs from one Buddhist school to another. Vajrayāna Buddhist traditions in Bhutan claim that even most heinous actions such as matricide can be expiated through confession and purification. Some actions are said to bring about result in the current lifetime, others in the next or in the subsequent lifetimes.

What is positive or negative and right or wrong in the Buddhist theory of karma is determined by the state of one’s mind. The Buddha taught a voluntaristic theory of karma proclaiming karma to be primarily intention. Speaking against the Brahminical and Jain theories of karma as physical and material phenomena, he declared, “O Monks! Karma, I declare, is intention. Having intended, the body, speech and mind perform action” (Aṅguttaranikāya, iii, 415). It is virtuous, non-virtuous and neutral intentions, which make actions positive, negative and neutral. The three kinds of actions then bring respectively happiness, suffering or no results. An intention is negative when aroused by emotions such as attachment, greed, hatred, ignorance, arrogance and jealousy, and positive when inspired by calm, composed, clear, compassionate and righteous state of the mind.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});
This moral philosophy of karma with intention/volition at its heart forms the basis of the Buddhist soteriological and ethical system. Karma is not merely an intellectual topic broached by philosophers and scholars but a belief espoused by the devout masses. In Bhutan, le judre is a very popular religious concept used to explain the past and present state of being and also shape the future. It is the foundation of Bhutanese moral conscience, which guides people to good and avoid bad things.

His Holiness ordains 144 nuns

ཕུར།, 06/22/2022 - 11:15

Rinzin Wangchuk 

About 144 nuns from Bhutan and neighbouring countries received Gelongma vows from His Holiness the Je Khenpo at Ramthangkha, Paro yesterday.

Organised and registered by the Bhutan Nuns Foundation, His Holiness ordained the nuns for the first time in Bhutan.

Her Majesty Gyalyum Tshering Yangdoen Wangchuck, Dratshang’s Dorji Lopon, Tshogki Lopon and Laytshog Lopon attended the ordination ceremony.

Dratshang’s media focal person said that Ramthangkha is considered a sacred place where Gelongma Pelmo, who was an Indian princess and became an ordained nun, practised Nyungne or fasting ritual. The ordained monks or nuns have to abide by hundreds of vows like not to kill, not to steal, not commit sexual misconduct, not lie, and not consume intoxicants, etc.

His Holiness is considered as the only spiritual head with the unbroken transmission of high ordination (Ngyendzog Dompa) of the Drukpa Kagyu tradition. His Holiness ordained hundreds of monks at the Gyetshuel level (novitiate) and at the Ngyendzog (celibate) level from various religious institutions in the country since 1997 and also ordained hundreds of monks from outside Bhutan.

Several monks, including Khamtrul Rinpoche Shedrup Nima of the Tashijong Khampa Ghar Dratshang in Himachal Pradesh and Drupchen Khamchey Dratshang in Darjeeling, India, received both Gyetshuel and Ngyendzog Dompa from His Holiness.

Tourism Levy Bill not just about USD 200: Lyonchhen

ཕུར།, 06/22/2022 - 11:15

Phurpa Lhamo

The introduction of the Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022, which increases the Sustainable Development Fee (SDF) to USD 200 per night for a tourist would be used to reinvest into making Bhutan a high-end tourist destination. 

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said this was one of the major reasons why the sector needed reform when he appeared on national television on June 21. 

Lyonchhen said that moving forward, the plan is to invest in the sector and make Bhutan a high-end tourist destination. Investing and improving the sector would mean improving the guides, hygiene and sanitation, food services, and ensuring a safe society.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that with the amendment, the government with Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) would focus on promoting Bhutan as a tourist destination globally. 

With the Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022, the minimum daily package rate (MDPR), which includes the royalty of USD 65 would be removed. 

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

The purpose of removing the MDPR and introducing USD 200 SDF was to encourage and ensure tourists the luxury to choose and spend more daily.

On tourists spending an average of Nu 200 on a meal and around Nu 2,000 on lodging, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that the impact of making less money by the owners trickled down to the employees. 

He pointed out that currently, most employees in the service sector could not make a proper living. The target is to have tourists spend more in the country to benefit more people.

Lyonchhen said that to date, “middlemen” had made more money despite tourists spending USD 500 or more. “The plan is to have the agents connect with the tourist directly.”

Hosting high-end tourists, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said would also ensure Bhutanese learn from the tourists. 

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

On the timing of the Bill, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that with international experts already forecasting that the tourism sector would take about three years to bounce back to the pre-pandemic level the bill wouldn’t affect the industry. 

To take advantage of the reform, Lyonchhen said that operators and those in the sector should be innovative and bring forth ideas. 

As for regional tourists, they would still only be imposed the SDF of Nu 1,200 per night. They would have to hire a guide and pay to bring their car or hire one.  

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that the new rules for regional tourists would be monitored for around three years and revised if they didn’t work.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

This reform is expected to bring opportunities for guides and drivers due to an increase in the number of tourist arrivals to around 300,000 from a mere 70,000 (international tourists) in the past. 

The Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022, Lyonchhen said was for the greater good of the country and the future generations and that the benefits from the tourism sector should not only go to those in the sector but to the country and its people. 

“Every Bhutanese is a stakeholder of the tourism sector.”  

Govt. building foundations for the economic road map

ཕུར།, 06/22/2022 - 11:13

Nima Wangdi 

The government is building foundations for the 21st century economic road map which is still a draft.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said this at the National Assembly answering MP Passang Dorji’s question on the economic road map.

Passang Dorji said: “Going by the economic road map draft, country should be able to have Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 10 billion (B) USD by 2030. But, going by the recent economic report, there were not many changes.”

He also said that if the country’s economy did not grow by more than five percent, the debt-GDP ratio could increase to about 200 percent.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Lyonchhen said: “The draft of the road map is available on the Gross National Happiness Comission (GNHC)’s website. We have a few pages on hydropower projects in the draft road map. We will not implement them as it requires gradual pursuance given the problems that we are still facing.”

Lyonchhen said that one of the projects in the road map is tourism development, the second highest revenue-earning sector in the country. “We are discussing this at the moment.”

Lyonchhen said: “People think that economic road map is about taking up activities and making good income immediately. It has to start with well-planned foundations and this is what we are focusing on currently.”

According to Lyonchhen, for the successful implementation of the economic road map, human capital is a crucial element. “We have to make our youth competent. We are skilling and reskilling our youth.”

He said that Nu 1.2B  was given to the education ministry for ICTisation. “We are also reforming all the nine colleges under the Royal University of Bhutan.”

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

“When we showed our road map draft to the international economists, they said it could cause many side effects while trying to increase GDP from Nu 2.5 B to 10 B in 10 years,” Lyonchhen said, adding that 11 institutions that are important for the economic roadmap have been reformed already.

Media literate LG for well-informed societies 

ཕུར།, 06/22/2022 - 11:13

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

To help local government (LG) leaders use social media productively and be smart consumers, 26 LG leaders from 12 gewogs in Tsirang attended a two-day media and democracy literacy training that ended recently.

An official from the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD), Kencho Tshering, said that Bhutanese were vulnerable as global social media introduced new values to unsuspecting Bhutanese society.

The country, he said, was seeing an increasing number of cases of online scams, frauds, defamation, fake news and malicious content. “It is becoming increasingly harder to discern what is real from what is fake.”

“The third local government election saw many new leaders take office, and it’s critical to equip them with media literacy skills,” he added.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Participants were trained on how to verify the news, use media as a tool for constructive feedback and discourse, and engage safely and responsibly on social media, among others.

A participant from Dunglagang gewog said that the training prepared the LGs working at the grassroots level with skills to consume media content critically. He said that with the introduction of smartphones and various social media platforms, people in the rural communities were empowered but were also exposed to misinformation.

Citing incidents that occurred during the pandemic, the mangmi said that it was challenging to obtain information from credible sources and communicate to people. “A strong and well-informed LG acted as a bridge during such times.”

Villagers, he said, now have access to social media platforms such as Facebook, Telegram, WeChat, and Messenger.

United Nations Democracy Fund supported the training.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Bhutan has enough foreign currency reserve: PM 

ཕུར།, 06/22/2022 - 11:12

Dechen Dolkar

The government maintains that there is foreign currency reserve to last for more than one and a half years.

As per the Constitution, a minimum foreign currency reserve adequate to meet the cost of not less than one year’s essential import must be maintained.

The budget report of FY2022-23 states that in FY 2020-21 reserve stood at USD 1,559.2M, which decreased to US$ 1,328.024M in FY 2021-22.

The convertible currency reserve stands at US$ 1157.408M and INR reserve stands at Rs 13,076.040M.

During the question hour at National Assembly yesterday, MP Tshering Chhoden of Khar-Yurung raised the concern.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

She said that there is more import than export and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and grants are decreasing every year.

Responding to the question, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that as per the central bank, the government has a foreign currency reserve to last for more than one and a half years.

Lyonchhen said that since Bhutan trades 95 percent with India, there is a need to have enough INR reserves. The maximum reserve government maintains is Rs 20B and minimum of Rs 10B.

As of now, INR reserves stand at Rs 12B.

Lyonchhen said that the government had to sell dollars to maintain the INR reserve.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

The government also gets  rupee from exporting the electricity and five-year plan grants. Lyonchhen said that with this, in total, the reserve stands between Rs 12B and Rs 15B.

Lyonchhen mentioned that the reserve was depleting since we could not export for more than two years and lack of revenue from the tourists in the country due to the pandemic.

Lyonchhen said that the government has plans if worse comes to worst. Firstly, import would be stopped.

The government has already identified which items to be stopped.

“Individuals should be responsible for what they consume and buy. If they buy only the necessary products and substitute with the local products, import will decrease,” Lyonchhen said.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

He said that in a year,  around Nu 10B was spent on the import of fuel, which is a necessity. In a year, around  Nu 5B is spent on importing rice and Nu 2.5B on importing meat items.

“DHI is coming up with two to three projects to earn the foreign reserve,” Lyonchhen said.

Every year the government uses US$ 300 M to 400M from reserves. In 2021, the government used US$ 600M from the reserve for Covid.

Sungjoen pledge falls through

ཕུར།, 06/22/2022 - 11:11

Phub Dem

While the government’s tenure is nearing completion, a major highlight of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s 25 pledges in 120 days, the development of Sungjoen app remains only on paper.

Provision of free Wi-Fi and developing a domestic social network application, Sungyoen will not come through this Plan.

In response to Tashichhoeling’s Member of Parliament Dil Maya Rai’s question on the possibility of developing the app within this Plan, Labour Minister Karma Dorji said that due to the requirement of significant budget, the government won’t be able to pursue the pledge in this term.

Dil Maya Rai said that people, especially youth are questioning the implementation of the app during every constituency visit.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

She added that while politicians make myriads of promises to get votes, she does not understand why most remain unfulfilled.

However, Lyonpo said that budget reprioritisation at the end of the Plan for essential sectors such as economic recovery, road and water connection, human resources development, and agriculture was deemed necessary.

“As there is no budget allotted for the Sungjoen app in the current financial year, the pledge won’t come through in this Plan,” he said.

Considering the importance of the application, he said that the government expects the next government to carry forward the pledge in the 13th plan.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Sungjoen app, according to Lyonpo will be a domestic social networking platform to secure confidential data and information within the country. “Data and information security are as important as national security.”

He said that most of the Bhutanese use various social media platforms to network, share information and essential official documents, and hold meetings. “We even share confidential documents through these platforms.”

For instance, he said that information shared via Wechat goes to China; internal information shared in Whatsapp, Telegram and Zoom meetings goes to the United State of America. “As Bhutan uses the internet through an optical fibre from India, much information goes to India too.”

He said that about 60 percent of the domestic internet is used on these social networking sites and if there is an internet blackout due to fibre issues in India, there won’t be any communication in the country.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

However, he said that if there is a domestic application like Sungyoen, there will be seamless communication. “If the app is not free, there won’t be people using it as people are already into prominent social media platforms, which is why the government promised to provide free Wifi to compliment the app.”

Woman detained for false reporting

ཕུར།, 06/22/2022 - 11:09

Staff Reporter 

Mongar police arrested and detained a 45-year-old woman for false reporting information in connection with the infant yesterday.

She is general service personnel with one of the government agencies. She allegedly told Mongar hospital staff while taking the infant for medical care that she found the boy abandoned at Changshingpeg. It is a few hundred metres away from Mongar town.

However, Police found that the information was wrong. The woman reportedly took the infant from a 29-year-old mother who is her neighbour after the baby was delivered at home on Sunday.

It was learned that it was a case of unwanted pregnancy.

The baby is currently in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with minimal respiratory support with her mother.

The case is still under investigation.

Let’s give reform a chance

ཕུར།, 06/22/2022 - 11:09

With  details emerging from the Tourism Levy Bill, 2022, there are concerns, recommendations, and even pleas to stop, rethink, and postpone revising the sustainable development fee (SDF) of USD 200 per tourist per day.

This was expected. Tourism and allied sector is a huge sector. The concern expressed is unanimous – that the proposed change would defeat its purpose because guides would become jobless, hotels would be locked, and tourism revenue would decline, derailing the economy. 

The concerns are convincing. But there is a purpose for the reform. With the Covid-19 pandemic almost over, the talk is about recovery and returning to normal. For the far-sighted and the visionary, it is not about returning to normal. It is about reforming or reinventing the future. It is about not losing the opportunities from the long-drawn impact of the pandemic.

At the heart of this discourse, what can be useful is knowing that any policy change or reform, no matter how wonderful it is, will be resisted. There will be a welcoming group and an unhappy one. We saw this recently after the implementation of the civil service reforms. 

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

The government is taking a bold decision, well aware of the political consequences. They have the political will to reform the sector for the benefit of “all Bhutanese” and not the regular stakeholders – travel companies, hotel industry, guides and drivers. Some are already rolling up their sleeves to “see” the government in 2023. 

After decades, there is a government that is risking public anger to bring in the much-needed reform in tourism. We had been talking about not having a tourism policy for years. There are rags-to-riches stories in the tourism sector, but it is only a handful. Numbers alone are not an indication of success. Only a dozen tour operators handle more than 50 percent of the total tourist arrivals. 

If the benefit of tourism can trickle down to every Bhutanese in whatever ways, we should give it a chance. If the reform is going to make Bhutan a truly “high-end” destination, we should support it; if the returns from the revised rates are going to be reinvested in infrastructure, we should welcome it. Infrastructure like improved roads, internet connectivity, and public amenities will benefit all Bhutanese. 

If the high value is not being achieved, we should question the decision makers and look for better alternatives. Bhutan is still sold as a high-end destination. If a group of tourists arrive tomorrow, we will be embarrassed. We have not done anything during the time the pandemic has provided us. The complaint will start with our roads that are riddled with potholes. Itinerary would be forced to change as all major highways are blocked at several places. The joke – we do it in nature (nature call) will not always remain funny. 

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

The government should convince people how Bhutan would be a high-end destination or how we will achieve high value. Every guide, waiter or waitress, a farmer or a made in Bhutan “baby yak” scarf  seller  at Dochula should be convinced as to how the policy would benefit them. For all this to fall into place, there is the need for time. 

Nipping the policy in the bud is not a good alternative. From the comments and concerns, not many are against the policy. Most want to defer the SDF revision because many had not cancelled their pre-Covid bookings.  A one-time consideration sounds reasonable.  

If the reform can make tourism an industry that promotes growth, it is high time we gave it the wind.

Barnyard Bhutan: A safe haven for stray and abandoned animals

ཕུར།, 06/22/2022 - 11:07

Phub Dem

With his dark eyes reflecting peace and excitement, a big black local dog, with three legs barked and lunges towards the sheds.

“Sit, Captain!” a woman says gently, and he quickly drops into compliance, waiting in attention.

At Barnyard Bhutan in Paro, every animal coming to live at the rescue facility gets a name. At least the founder and the executive director of the Civil Society Organisation, Jamie Vaughan, make sure to name one. She says it is difficult to name them all. Currently, there are approximately 550 animals living here.

Jamie is an American who came to Bhutan in 2007.

Initially, the facility was called Maya Foundation, after the name of the first rescued horse. It was in 2011 that Jamie rescued an injured horse that survived against tremendous odds. But Maya died later from a condition that was treatable with technology and expertise but was not available in Bhutan.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Land of the strays, the barnyard was founded to provide rescue, care, treatment, and sanctuary to all animals in need. Today, there are 340 dogs, 41 cats, 63 horses and mules, 53 cattle, 30 goats, 20 pigs including wild boars, and 10 birds.

Located about 15 minutes-drive towards Taktsang from Paro town proper, the two-acre shelter houses scores of animals that stroll, frolic, and race alongside human visitors and shelter employees.

For the animals, Barnyard Bhutan is a haven. Most of them are sick, injured, or old. Common rescues include animals hit by cars, bitten by larger animals, stabbed, abandoned, wire-trapped.

When she first came to Bhutan sometime in 2006, Jamie encountered animals hit by cars. She took them to Bhutan Animal Rescue and Care but soon realised it was too much for them too.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Then she began taking animals, and things grew quickly after people knew she was taking in cows. “It was never intended. Things started happening.”

At that time there was no animal rescue facility or intensive care unit for big animals in Paro.

Jamie Vaughan began taking in strays from the streets of Paro 15 years ago. When the number of dogs in the her small backyard increased, she began the process of establishing a rescue shelter.

Running the facility has not been without challenges. After an arduous process, Barnyard Bhutan finally became an official CSO in 2020.

The barnyard faces the daunting reality of feeding and housing the ever-increasing number of animals. Food alone cost Nu 350,000 per month, and that doesn’t include treatment supplies or staffing.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Animals occupy Jamie’s bedroom, toilet, cupboard, sofa, and even her bed.

Jamie never gets peaceful sleep, having to attend to the injured ones, checking on the animals in the yard, feeding kittens and emergency rescues at odd hours. “There are too many emergencies. We receive at least a call at night.”

Twenty individuals were manning the farm, but half left recently. Jamie handles emergencies late into the night most times. With many animals crowding the farm, she cannot go out to treat animals.

The CSO has plans to move the Barnyard to a larger area as the current place is running short of space. Jamie said that the place was never meant for animals’ shelter. She kept on building structures as animals came. “We will have purpose-built facilities, a free space for the animals to roam freely. We will have space for vet and surgeries.”

As dusk sets in, the shelter employees call the animals for dinner.

Tourism Development: Looking beyond SDF

ཕུར།, 06/22/2022 - 11:05

The last few weeks have been very unsettling for those engaged in the tourism business, caused in large part by the rumors that were doing the rounds that the government is contemplating policy changes at a structural level. Upon tabling the Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022 in the Parliament, on June 20, to the dismay of many, the rumors were proven to be true.

While much has already been written and spoken in various media channels surrounding the proposed changes, me and my colleagues at the Bhutan Sustainable Tourism Society (BSTS), a society consisting of voluntary members would also like to contribute to the discourse. It is hoped that doing so would contribute to a well-rounded and properly thought out transformation initiative that has been undertaken by the government in this most vitally important industry.

First and foremost before any change or systemic overhaul is contemplated, it is critical to understand if a change is really necessary; the pertinent question to ask is: is something going wrong? Particularly when one is dealing with an industry that accounts for the highest foreign exchange inflow, and accrual of multifarious benefits that encompass the entire strata of the Bhutanese society, the government needs to exercise extreme caution – before it embarks on an exercise that could very well imperil a system that is perceived to be working.

We need some serious thinking on the matter – what exactly is it that we are trying to fix? Are we in a tourism crisis or are we creating one?

Going by what is being discussed on the floor of the Parliament, it is obvious that the major change that the government hopes to implement borders around what is euphemistically termed: Sustainable Development Fee (SDF). The SDF is basically the daily tax that will be levied on the dollar-paying tourists. The government is proposing to increase this levy from the current level of US$65 to the proposed rate of US$200 per person per night halt. The government justifies that there needs to be an investment in the tourism sector and, it is their hope that the increased revenue generated from the increased SDF will help them achieve this end, by ploughing back the revenue thus earned, into the tourism sector.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

At most, this is idealistic – in fact even improbable. And, by the way, this is not a new idea. Some years back the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) deducted from the tour operators’ earnings a levy called the Tourism Development Fund (TDF). For the creation of this Fund, the TCB deducted US$10.00 per tourist per visit, including 20% of the FIT Surcharge. Over the years the amount of TDF collected was very, very substantial. Sadly, this Fund was never ploughed back into the industry. To this day we are clueless as to what happened to the Fund.

As a developing country, we have many other priority sectors such as agriculture, health, education etc., for which the government needs funds. As the past has proven, we do not believe that the government will deliver on their promise that they would plough back the SDF money into tourism – it is unlikely to happen.

To be fair it is not only the government of Bhutan that is in default – it happens in the most developed economies as well. To quote an example, when I was working with the US National Parks they had this constant battle with their government – over millions of dollars generated by the Parks that never got ploughed back into the upkeep of the Parks. In a similar vein, it is unbelievable that the Royal Government of Bhutan would invest the SDF fund into tourism – they have no past record of having done so. Thus offering the justification that they are increasing the SDF to such a high level so that they can plough it back into the industry will find no acceptance among the industry and the people of Bhutan.

To achieve this objective the government needs to rethink their policies. They also need to realize that this is a role in which the private sector can offer able support. However, the private sector can only help when the government promulgates policies and regulations that are conducive and enables vibrant business activity. We should draw inspiration from what Thailand did. A few years ago, when they were trying to revive their economy, the Thai government took the courageous step of waiving the Visa Fee. This amounted to a loss of millions of Baht in revenue to the government. But as far as the Thai government was concerned, it was not about revenue gain or loss – it was about creating enabling regulations to support the people. The waiver of the Visa Fee encouraged transit passengers to go out to the city and spend. The street vendors, transporters and businesses benefitted from this regulation. As far as the Thai government was concerned, they believed that they benefitted much more by foregoing the visa fee. The government’s endeavor at increasing the SDF achieves just the opposite – it strangulates business opportunities and throttles a vital industry.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

The government further claims that the existing Minimum Daily Package Rate (MDPR) has outlived its usefulness and that it is now redundant – conveniently forgetting that the MDPR has been in place from the day the tourism policy of ‘High Value Low Volume’ was conceived and set into motion. There is no other country in the world that has done this. Basically it is a tool to support our private sector to improve our services and products. When we all know that we have not achieved these improvements to add high value to our products and services, how could we be so adamant to discard this tool, at this stage in our growth? No system is perfect and likewise the pricing system does have its flaws but the fact is that the pros far outweigh the cons. We need to work on addressing the loopholes in the system but not at the cost of dismantling it. We will all become losers as a consequence of this drastic and unimaginative move that is contemplated by the government. This tool makes us the masters of our own tourism growth. Do we want to now hand over the reins to the tourist – empowering them to dictate the price for our services? The MDPR is not written in stone and should be removed only when our products and services have achieved a certain level of quality. I am afraid that the time is not now.

Our visionary and benevolent monarchs have steered the country through thick and thin – the development and progress that we have seen is unprecedented. Their Majesties, the pride and treasure of our country, continue to strive tirelessly for the welfare of the Bhutanese people. Unfortunately, it is becoming a habit for every new government to test and experiment their ill-thought-out ideas and ill-conceived plans. For the size of our economy and population, we cannot afford to make mistakes, especially in areas where the consequences will be extremely damaging. Tourism is a dynamic industry and change is inevitable but we should not change for the sake of changing, and for the better.

How far are the proposed changes likely to address our current woes? Will they? Issues such as offsetting seasonality, taking tourism to the east and the south, promoting longer durations for trekking and bird watching, promoting our niche in ecotourism, and generating more revenue for our hotels and other service providers – these are at the core of our endeavors.

No one can contest that the government’s proposed policy changes are happening too fast, too early. Clearly, there is no depth and proper understanding of the dynamics of tourism – it is evident from the timing of the proposed change. We urge and plead with the Royal Government of Bhutan to please take the time to rethink and give due consideration to the concerns of the people.

Contributed by 

Karma Tshering (PhD)

Sustainable Tourism Specialist 

Founder – Bhutan Sustainable Tourism Society

Embankment to protect Lhamoidzingkha

ཕུར།, 06/22/2022 - 11:05

Chhimi Dema  

With incessant rain, Lhamoidzingkha drungkhag has been cut off from other parts of the country in the past few days. This has been the situation the residents face every monsoon.

However, Works and Human Settlement Minister, Dorji Tshering, said the three gewogs of the drungkhag can travel without any inconvenience once the construction of the Sunkosh and Lhamoidzingkha river embankments is complete. The ministry has plans to construct the embankment.

Lyonpo, during the National Assembly Question Hour session yesterday, said that experts have studied and mapped the area for embankment construction. The embankment prevents the river from overflowing.

Lhamoidzingkha-Tashiding Member of Parliament (MP) Hemant Gurung said that Lhamoidzingkha drungkhag is located between two rivers, Sunkosh and Lhamoidzingkha rivers.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

He said: “With the arrival of monsoon, the swollen Sunkosh river pose threat to the people of Lhamoizingkha Yenlag Throm, Hawajorji, and Kuendrelthang.”

In addition, Hemant Gurung said, that the Lhamoidzingkha river flooded villages before and the same threat continues today.  “Each year, people are losing part of their land and have to live under constant threat [of flooding].”

Lyonpo Dorji Tshering said that the government in the past five years invested Nu 100 million in the construction of the Sunkosh river embankment.

He said that Google Earth shows that in recent years the river has deviated from the drungkhag to its course a decade ago.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

“This is attributed to the embankment works,” he said.

Lyonpo said that the interested individuals were urged to start stone dredging but they did not see dredging as economically viable in the Lhamoidzingkha river.

“Hence the government prepared detailed engineering and drawings to construct embankments along the river, which would be implemented soon,” he said.

Bhutan to face Bahrain today in their last game

ཕུར།, 06/22/2022 - 11:04

Thinley Namgay  

The senior national women’s cricket team will play their last game against Bahrain today in the ongoing Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Women’s T20 Championship 2022 in Malaysia.

Bhutan lost three consecutive games against Nepal, Hong Kong, and Kuwait.

In their third appearance yesterday, the girls lost to Kuwait by three wickets.

In the game of 20 overs, Bhutan snatched 112 runs in 19.4 overs, but the opponent achieved 116 runs in 19 overs.

On June 18, Hong Kong beat Bhutan by 14 runs.  Bhutan made 88 runs with the fall of seven wickets in 20 overs. Hong Kong got 102 runs despite losing eight wickets in 20 overs.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

Bhutan conceived a major defeat against Nepal by 50 runs in the opening game on June 17. Nepal grabbed 94 runs with the fall of nine wickets in 20 overs.

Chief Executive Officer of Bhutan Cricket, Damber S Gurung, said the performances could have been better had there been enough training time.

“The training was not enough due to the pandemic, and some quality players couldn’t be part of the team due to personal reasons,” Damber S Gurung, said.

The girls reached Malaysia on June 14.

The ongoing competition is the second major international tournament for the senior national women’s cricket team amid the pandemic after the 2021 International Cricket Council’s T20 World Cup Asia Qualifiers in Dubai, UAE, in November.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

The two groups are playing a single round-robin, where the top two teams from each group will qualify for the semi-finals and the final.

UAE is leading group A with five points, and Hong Kong is at the top of group B with six points.

The current championship resumed after a hiatus of over nine years.

The final will take place on  June 25.

Picture story

ཕུར།, 06/22/2022 - 11:03

More than 300 yoga practitioners and enthusiasts gathered at the Clock Tower square in Thimphu yesterday to mark the International Day of Yoga. The Yoga session was conducted by the Yoga Guru of the Culture Centre of the Embassy of India in Thimphu KVSSN Murthy from 8am.

Tourism Levy Bill proposes USD 200 a day in SDF

ལྷག, 06/21/2022 - 10:30

NA committee to present recommendations on Tourism Levy Bill tomorrow

Phurpa Lhamo 

Tourists visiting Bhutan shall be liable to pay a sustainable development fund (SDF) of USD 200 per night.

This is the major change proposed in the Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022,  which the Finance Minister, Namgay Tshering proposed when tabling the Bill to the National Assembly yesterday. Introducing the Bill as a money Bill, the member in charge of the Bill, Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said that the increase in SDF and the removal of the minimum daily package rate (MDPR) were some of the major amendments in the Bill.

Tourists visiting Bhutan currently pay USD 65 as royalty per night.

Chapter 2, section 7 of the Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022 states, “A tourist shall be liable to pay a tourism levy known as the SDF of USD 200 per night, which may be revised by the Competent Authority from time to time.”

Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said that the SDF of USD 65 was introduced in 1991 and it has not been revised for more than three decades. The decision, he said, was arrived at after consulting experts.

The increase in the SDF, he said, was also in line with Bhutan’s ‘High Value, Low Volume’ tourism policy. The SDF, however, has exemption on day tourists, who do not travel beyond the first designated point, five-year-olds and below, and children between six and 12 years would receive the concessionary levy rate of 50 percent.

Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said that SDF of USD 65 was part of the MDPR, USD 250 per day in the past. With the new Bill, the MDPR will be removed.

This change, he added, would also benefit tourists, in terms of flexibility in changing their itineraries.

Lamgong-Wangchang Member of Parliament (MP) Ugyen Tshering said that those in the tourism sector while welcoming the move had asked for an extension on the implementation of the Bill for smooth transitioning. He proposed delaying the implementation of the Bill by around six months.

While welcoming the new amendments, Bartsham-Shongphu MP Passang Dorji questioned if a proper study on the consequence of the Bill on tourists’ arrival and on the income of those working in the tourism sector was conducted.

He said that Bill’s sections 7 and 8 give the authority to revise, exempt or provide concessionary levy rate on applicable SDF to a competent authority. This, he added, could contradict the Constitution. He cited section one of Article 14 of the Constitution, which states that taxes, fees and other forms of levies shall not be imposed or altered except by law.

After the deliberation, the Bill was referred to the Economic and Finance Committee for further review and consultation.

Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi also suggested that the committee look into the long-term benefits of the amendment in the Bill as a statement of objectives and reason wasn’t presented in the National Assembly.

The committee will report back to the House with its findings and recommendations on June 22.