The capital budget utilisation rate dropped in the first three quarters of the fiscal year 2020-21 although the actual expenditure saw a significant increase, according to the budget performance report for the third quarter.
The actual expenditure at the end of the third quarter was Nu 16.118 billion (B), which is 37 percent of the revised capital budget of Nu 43.984B. During the same period in the previous fiscal year, the actual capital expenditure stood at 46 percent.
However, the actual capital expenditure for the same period rose by 45 percent from Nu 11,133B. “The increase is because of incorporation of loan-funded programs, activities, repayment and additional equity injection under the National CSI Bank,” states the report published 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.
The most significant change in the capital expenditure was seen on the purchase of office furniture and equipment, which saw a 48 percent decrease. But the expenditure under the heads of “repayment” and “others” increased by 143 percent and 125 percent respectively.
The capital expenditures on “training and awareness” programmes and vehicles saw a decrease of 9 percent each. The actual expenditure on structure increased by 22 percent.
The capital budget utilisation as of the end of the second quarter of the fiscal year was 16 percent, according to the report for the first half of the fiscal year.
The report highlights the budget performance for the third quarter including domestic revenue and grants realized and loans contracted to finance the fiscal deficit.
Through the report the DNB seeks to inform the government, citizens and other stakeholders on the performance of the budget to enhance transparency in accordance with the global practices as well as the responsibility bestowed upon by the Public Finance Act.
The revised current expenditure as of March 31, 2021 was Nu 32.788B, while the actual current expenditure was Nu 35.525B.
Of the revised current expenditure, the actual expenditure for the third quarter was Nu 22.808B, which is a decline of 6 percent from the same period of the previous year.
According to the report, the decrease in current budget was mainly on the account of rationalisation of the current budget in line with the revenue performance, which was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The most significant change in the current expenditure was in grants and subsidies, which decreased by 40 percent. The operations and management expenditure also decreased by 23 percent.
“The decrease is because of rationalisation of current expenditure to reduce wasteful expenditure and allocating only in areas where it is absolutely necessary,” the report states.
However, interest payments increased by 202 percent, indicating a significant growth in borrowings.
Edited by Tshering Palden
Phub Dem | Paro
At the break of dawn, four yak herders of Chendugoenpa dashed down the long slippery mountain path to Paro for their second Covid-19 dose on July 27.
There was no time even to break for a quick meal for they feared missing the jab. The three women, 64-year-old Deki Pem and her two relatives walked almost 24 hours in the rain without food.
They walked through the thick forest, drenched in rain and sweat, and struggled on the slippery narrow trail.
However, 76-year-old Rinzin decided to seek shelter in a cave after failing to keep pace with the younger ones. He reached Doteng at 3pm the following day.
Deki Pem was bed-ridden the next day. Others attended a relative’s funeral. Four of them took the jab at the hospital yesterday.
The 13 yak herders of Chendugoenpa are currently dwelling at their summer grazing land at Tshodinkha, which is a three-day walk from Doteng in Paro.
The herders took turns to travel to Paro for the second dose. Earlier last week, eight herders received the vaccine and returned home so that other members could take their turn.
According to Deki Pem, it was sad to leave her husband, Rinzin, behind all alone in the jungle. “But we had to rush so that we don’t miss the vaccine.”
Deki and her husband decided to take the journey because it would be a burden on the health team to walk for days just to vaccinate the two of them.
However, given their age, the journey wasn’t easy. “My grandson suggested making Rinzin ride a horse, but it is too risky as the trails are steep and slippery in summer,” she said.
The herders learnt about the second nationwide vaccine rollout over the radio. They could not come for vaccination earlier as they were migrating to their summer pastureland.
If it wasn’t a downhill journey, they would not have made it, Tshering Lham said. “It is bearable for us, but the old ones suffered a lot.”
Deki Pem said that she was unaware of the door-to-door vaccination service. “If we had known of such services before, it would be convenient for us.”
“Our journey is nothing compared to what His Majesty The King does for us every day,” she said.
Chencho Zam said that they had to rush because they did not get clear information regarding vaccine availability after the vaccination period. “That’s why we took a three-day journey in one.”
While the herders have limited contact with outsiders, Chencho Zam said that it was essential to get the jab to avoid restrictions and protect themselves.
Some locals said it would be convenient if the health team visiting Yaktsa could vaccinate the herders on their way, adding that they were not aware of such facilities.
Others said that it was unrealistic to ask for such facilities considering the small population and substantial financial burden to the government. It is an opportunity for the herders to meet their school-going children and stock up essential items.
Phooshar Tshogpa Tshering said that the herders were given options, but some chose to come down for the vaccination insisting that they have work in the village.
In the meantime, the vaccination of far-flung highlanders is underway, and it is expected to complete on August 2.
Edited by Tshering Palden
Choki Wangmo | Dagana
After more than a month of onion marketing challenges, the farmers of Dagana thought that they found a solution with the support of the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC). For many farmers, though, it was not the kind of support they were looking forward to.
The vendors from Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) in Thimphu recently met with farmers in Dagana, through DAMC’s facilitation, to negotiate the price of onions. The vendors offered Nu 32 per kg. Farmers were unhappy and could not come to an agreement.
Farmers were then given a week to decide on the offer.
Bhim Bahadur Tamang from lower Tshendagang said that at Nu 32 per kg, he did not even get half the investment he made on the farm. “It is a total loss.”
Farmers, he said, expected Nu 40 per kg to recover the expenses. “Officials said that it was due to market forces but that logic doesn’t work.”
He has 2,000kg of onions stored in his curing barn. Onions are cured for at least two to three weeks.
With 47 households involved in onion cultivation, Tshendagang Gewog produced 45MT of onions. Only nine farmers in Tsendagang and four in Tashiding received subsidies for curing barns.
Many farmers without curing barns were compelled to sell the harvest at CFM’s rate.
Sha Bahadur Ghalley, a farmer, said the farmers deserved more. “Because we grow onions without chemicals, it has a shorter shelf life. I am afraid I would run into losses.”
Karna Bahadur Bal, another farmer, cultivated onions on his 50-decimal land. He has already lost 10 percent of the harvest. He said that if vendors do not grade the onions, he would sell them at Nu 32.
Vendors prefer onions that are above 3.5cm.
In September last year, more than 200 farmers from the 12 gewogs in the dzongkhag took up onion cultivation. The agriculture ministry encouraged the farmers to cultivate onion and tomato to address the shortage of onion in the country.
What could happen?
Farmers are now planning to sell their harvest at Nu 50 at Dagapela vegetable market.
“We do not have storage facilities to preserve onions for winter,” said Bhim Bahadur Tamang.
The government, he said, should look into controlling imports to benefit local farmers.
CFM tshogpa, Dendup, said that although people worked hard, onions were not up to the standard.
On July 25, the vendors procured 37 bags of onions (2,000kg) from Dagana farmers.
“We have agreed to pay Nu 35 per kg if they bear the transportation cost and Nu 32 if vendors bring the produce,” Dendup said. “Farmers are demanding Nu 40 per kg”.
Last year, the Dagana agriculture sector identified more than 176-acre land to grow onion and tomato. As part of the economic contingency plan, Dagana received about Nu 11.7 million. Under the plan, farmers were provided seeds, subsidies, and technical assistance.
Earlier this month, DAMC officials said the agriculture ministry had plans to work on a compensation modality if the pandemic situation persists and farmers suffer loss.
Edited by Jigme Wangchuk
To educate youth on environmental and climate change issues, UN Bhutan is organising the UN50 Change-markers Roadshow at the College of Natural Resources in Punakha that begins today.
The roadshow also aims to educate the young on how their voices can be amplified by encouraging them to become environmental change-markers.
A total of 35 students from the Environment and Climate Studies department will participate in the roadshow.
According to a press release from UN Bhutan, the roadshow will include presentations on the fundamental understanding of climate change, hands-on group work on discussing climate issues and ideas.
“At the end of the three-day roadshow, students will present pitch ideas for projects they would like to undertake which are eco-friendly and create a safer and sustainable environment,” the press release added.
The roadshow was designed by UN Bhutan in collaboration with Global Shapers Thimphu Hub–a group of young leaders engaging with the community for significant positive change.
UN Bhutan’s resident coordinator, Gerald Daly, said that there is a wave of optimism through the Change-makers Roadshow.
“We want the youth of Bhutan to have the opportunity to play the role that they must play in a modern world in which we live, and especially in the world, we are trying to build. We are here to listen,” he said.
The roadshow is part of the year-long activities to commemorate Bhutan’s 50th anniversary as a member state of the UN.
Edited by Tshering Palden