Yangchen C Rinzin
Royal Education Council will train 180 primary teachers on continuous formative assessment this winter. This is in preparation to do away with examinations for classes PP to III from the 2020 academic session.
The education conference last December resolved to do away with the examinations. The educationists at the conference also decided that teachers would be given professional development training for formative assessment.
REC director Kinga Dakpa said that the budget is approved and the training package is ready.
“Sixty teachers from each subject, English, Dzongkha and Mathematics would be trained this winter.” These trained teachers are then expected to train the other teachers.
“We’ve also reviewed curriculum to have formative assessment.”
Formative assessment is a competency-based assessment, which is an on-going process, about how the child progresses. It is also about listening, writing and social skills.
The director said that with the decision to do away with examinations, there is a need for alternative assessment system to assess the child.
“This is why the training will focus on continuous formative assessment.”
The education ministry will select the teachers for the training, both from public and private schools.
“It’ll depend on the ministry’s selection. However, we’re prepared and confident that we would definitely be able to implement the decision of doing away with the examination by next academic session.”
Of the many advantages of not having examinations, students would have less stress.
According to the annual education statistics 2019, there are 51,162 students enrolled in PP-III. As of 2019, there are 11,852 students enrolled in PP, which is a decrease of 1,892 students as compared to 2018.
The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa had pledged to do away with examinations at the primary level (PP-VI) to stop weighing children’s intelligence through grades. It was also to ensure all students are able to develop their cognitive, social, emotional, cultural and physical skills.
Earlier Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the government is guided by the experts and that it would remove the examinations in phases.
“We were told so and we found that reasonable to implement in phases,” he said. “We don’t want to bulldoze our decision to bring about changes to the system and will listen to experts’ views.”
Tshering Namgyal | Mongar
Local leaders in Mongar say that they can’t pursue urgent unplanned works in the gewogs as they don’t have authority to access the common minimum infrastructure (CMI) fund, in the absence of a separate budget.
“We have been unable to clear the roads damaged by last monsoon due to lack of budget. We can’t use the CMI for that either,” Tsamang gup, Sonam Darjay said.
Each gewog is entitled for CMI budget up to Nu 200 million for the five-year plan, apart from the annual block grant for planned activities.
Gewog administration prioritises the works and the dzongkhag administration release the budget accordingly.
“Save for planned activities, there is no separate budget for disaster restoration works which creates a lot of inconveniences for us,” Narang gup and the dzongkhag deputy chairperson, Tandin Wangchuk said.
The issue was also raised during the recent dzongkhag tshogdu.
“We have even written to the department of disaster management requesting budget for monsoon restoration works but there was no response,” Sheri Muhung gup, Ugyen said.
For this year, the dzongkhag finance committee has decided to allocate the CMI budget for monsoon restoration works, following which gewogs have prioritised works and started fixing the roads.
For Sheri Muhung gewog, gup Ugyen said the gewog has prioritised clearing the 17km farm road from Sershong to the base of Yarab village on the way to Aja Ney as the gewog prepares for the Bazaguru dungdrup next month.
He said many devotees would take this route and the dzongkhag finance committee has come at the right time.
Dzongkhag officials said that CMI guideline allows the fund to be used for infrastructures like urban road, footpath development in the town, and electrification and construction of new roads in the chiwogs with the priority on improving farm road.
Meanwhile, gewog officials are worried about the budget if a disaster occurs.
Dzongkhag planning officer, Thinlay, said gewogs could allocate a certain portion of budget for disaster management from the annual block grant at the time of planning if they feel there is a need.
“The other option is to reprioritise and reappropriate the budget at the time of disaster through gewog tshogde,” Thinlay said.
Former Trongsa dzongdag Lhab Dorji has appealed to the High Court against the judgment Trongsa dzongkhag court rendered in the illegal land acquisition case on November 15.
Claiming that it was not the dzongdag, drangpon and gup of Trongsa who colluded and misused authority, he said drangpon Ugyen Tenzin, who was also convicted for forgery, was not the Trongsa drangpon but a registrar general of High Court then.
Lhab Dorji said he appealed because the Trongsa court did not take his submissions into consideration.
The former dzongdag, who was convicted to 13 years imprisonment for forgery, official misconduct and execution of document by deception, but given a five years concurrent sentencing, said the court only based on ACC’s documents, in which two sisters, Sonam Choden and Yangchen claimed they never sold their land and never gave any authorisation. “Yangchen later gave in writing to ACC that she remembered telling her husband Ugyen Tenzin to sign on her behalf.”
He also said that he had instructed the land record officer (LRO) to delete eight plots of land from the two sisters’ thram, but the LRO did not do it, as it was just a copy of a letter sent to Sarpang dzongkhag and not sent to Trongsa dzongkhag directly.
He also claimed that he and his wife, Karma Tshetim Dolma, paid Nu 120,000 to the main complainant in the case, Gyalmo, and not 45,000 for the Nu 2.18 acres land. Both he and his wife said they did not have evidence of the claim, as they forgot to ask for receipt. “I asked her to sign in a diary but couldn’t locate it.”
Lhab Dorji said Gyalmo submitted three contradictory statements to ACC, but only the first statement was used, against him.
He said that a count of forgery pertains to an application submitted in the name of the complainant’s mother, Lhadon, to Trongsa dzongdag requesting for land substitute from Mengoenpa and Dhuthroe Thama of Nubi gewog.
“ACC could not prove that it was not Lhadon’s writing or thumb impression, as it is a photocopy and not the original writing,” Lhab Dorji said.
He claimed that the plaintiff showed him application in original and they concealed it before the Court to avoid finding the real owner of the handwriting and thumb impression through forensic examination, as it would prevent ACC from creating circumstantial evidence against him.
“As for my signature on the application, it was not signed on behalf of the applicant but as the dzongdag, and the remark to the land record officer was made in the official capacity of the dzongdag.”
However, the judgment stated that Lhadon expired when the application for land substitution was lodged.
Lhab Dorji said that he was charged for forging note sheet and writing to NLCS to reduce the number of people to be paid compensation from 23 to 13, and withholding the payment of compensation, to delay the land acquisition process until 2.77 acres of land belonging to Sonam Choden and Yangchen were transferred to his wife.
He said that while the list of 23 landowners was submitted to the home ministry in 2002, the approval for compensation came only in 2004. “In the two years, the land required for Taktse College changed and landowners too. I was not involved in the routine acquisition process and note sheet is a way of ensuring due diligence in the internal operation of the office and cannot be considered forged as long as the signatures on the note sheet and the purpose is genuine.”
He also said that a dzongdag doesn’t go to the field for surveys, but he asked the land record officials to clarify on plot number 110 as mandated by Land Commission and surveyor Narayan Dangal verified and established plot 110 with 51 decimal belonged to thram 506 of Yangchen and plot 105 with 1.10 acres belonged to thram 495 of late Lhadon. “The findings were submitted to Land Commission’s joint director and the plot changes were approved by the then surveyor-general.”
He also said that the report was sent seven months before the execution of the sale deed and it is irrational to assume that surveyors were sent to increase the plot to allow my wife to buy it.
The court ruled that Narayan Dangal did not even visit the site and convicted him to two years for aiding and abetting the dzongdag and for official misconduct.
On the official misconducts, he said the Land Act 1979 ensured that a person could acquire land substitute from any gewog and it was an obligation for dzongkhag to help landowners get suitable land substitutes.
He also said the guidelines for land acquisition and satshab allotment 2005 mandates a committee comprising of officials from the forest and agriculture department, land record, finance and dzongkhag engineer to assess the land substitute and processing. “My wife was eligible for land substitute and it was not just her who availed the substitute in Nubi gewog.”
The former dzongdag said that he and his wife have never been substituted for the land they bought from Gyalmo until today.
He said that he took loans from financial institutions to construct the resort and courts, as a judicial entity also has the responsibility to look into financial losses.
Meanwhile, he said he is also appealing on the legality of the whole judicial process, as OAG dismissed the case and ACC does not have the legal standing to prosecute the case.
Rinchen Zangmo | Dagana
After the dzongkhag was identified as one of the dzongkhags for tourism flagship programme, about Nu 8 million (M) was approved for development of tourism in Dagana, including promotion of sites, homestays, and for the development of infrastructure and amenities in the dzongkhag.
Notwithstanding the many attractions, however, Dagana is among the dzongkhags that see very few tourists. The recent Dagap farm festival, which will now be an annual event, was initiated to improve the economy in the dzongkhag and the living standards of the people.
In the financial year, the dzongkhag saw less than 25 tourists arrive.
Dagana is also one of the dzongkhags with highest rate of poverty.
The dzongkhag’s economic development officer, Tshering Ngedup, said a team from Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) visited the dzongkhag identify tourist attraction sites.
Dzongkhag officials said that there were many historical sites in the dzongkhag, which also had potential for agro-based tourism, bird watching and that tourist arrival could be improved through the thousand-lake trek via the Dagala.
Poor road networks, lack of basic facilities and the location of the dzongkhag are some of the reasons that have contributed to poor tourist arrival in Dagana.
“We are looking at strengthening village homestays near Karmaling and Tsendagang gewogs. We can also strengthen river rafting services,” Tshering Ngedup said.
The flagship programme, he added, could also help create employment opportunities for the people of Dagana.
For the dzongkhag, however, initiating tourism promotion developmental activities must begin with infrastructural development.
Trongsa dzongkhag has found an exemplary way of taking the stray dog problem by its collar.
It is not impounding or shooting them dead.
Each of the household will adopt a stray, take care of them, vaccinate and sterilise them.
This appears like the most workable solution without offending the ‘Buddhists’ who are against killing, but don’t care when the stray dogs are suffering.
After decades of discussing our dog problem, we have not found a viable solution. We have done almost everything, but either the dogs are outsmarting their best friend or our implementations are going wrong.
The irony in the dog problem is that everybody agrees that it is a problem and that something must be done about it. But we have no results to show except the increasing number of dog bite cases, probably the only record about the stray dogs.
Every time there is a dog bite case, discussions on stray dog problem continues. But so does the problem. We have, it seems, run out of ideas.
In the meantime, stray dog is a common problem in all the dzongkhags. It is worse in the capital city. Children, especially students walking between home and school, are terrorised by stray dogs and those who take their early morning or evening walks are threatened by packs of dogs on almost every route they take.
One of the biggest problems in controlling the stray dog population is the misplaced compassion that people have for the animal.
Every time livestock officials organise a sterilisation programme or initiate more extreme measure, people go out of their way to protect the stray dogs.
Compassion is not viewed in the right perspective.
After hiding the dogs from the sterilisation team, they are left out in the cold, hungry and sick.
The most common “negative” feedback from visitors or tourists is on the dogs. It is not portraying a good image of the country even if our guides take pride in comforting the tourist about how Bhutanese are against killing.
The Trongsa idea is humane approach to the problem. We might not see the result immediately, but if each resident who adopt the dogs ensure that they are vaccinated and sterilised, we will soon reap the benefits of the initiatives.
Some residents and officials have already started adopting stray dogs. The idea is worth replicating in other dzongkhags and towns.
Going by the degree of problem, the capital city is the worst. Thimphu should be the first to adopt the idea and encourage its residents to follow suit.
Neten Dorji | Radhi
Paddy harvest is almost over in Radhi gewog, the rice bowl of eastern Bhutan. Not many farmers are seen threshing paddy on the terraces.
Usually, many farmers would be still threshing paddy around this time of the year. But this year has been an unusual season from the start.
Farmers said that their paddy fields remained parched for weeks in the absence of adequate irrigation or timely monsoon rain.
Tandin Wangchuk, 70, said because of water shortage paddy transplantation was delayed by more than a month. “With water sources remaining dry until May, we had to wait for the monsoon to arrive,” he said. This, he said was affecting the timely growth of paddy resulting in a poorer yield.
“Those who would harvest up to two metric tonnes (MT) of paddy every year have harvested about 1.5MT this year,” he said.
Most of the farmers in Radhi gewog depend on monsoon and sometimes they wait longer than a month to transplant.
A farmer, Ouchi said that except for Tongling chiwog, the remaining four chiwogs of Jonla, Pakaling, Kadam and Togshingmang harvested fewer paddies. “Tongling has a proper irrigation water supply, they enjoyed a better harvest,” she said.Shacha Wangmo (white) and a friend winnow paddy in Tshatse village
She said farmers have to depend mostly on monsoon during transplantation since most irrigation canals are washed away or have become defunct.
Of the total 1,258.91 acres of wetland in the gewog, 1,238.16 acres are under paddy cultivation which has earned the gewog the title – ‘The Rice Bowl of the East’.
The farmers in the gewog are faced with acute irrigation water supply and increasing wild animal attacks on crops.
Another farmer, Kinzang Choden said the yield from her two-acre paddy field was comparatively lower this year.
“The dry spell followed by erratic heavy rainfall could be the reason for the poor yield,” she said. “Moreover, wild animals rummaging the crops had only worsened the situation and cost her almost 200Kg.”
Another villager, Shacha Wangmo, said that the problem of not having a proper source had been affecting them. “With funding from government, we tried to channel water from Yudiri in 2012 but flooding of the river damaged the irrigation channel.”
Apart from producing one of the largest quantity of rice in the east, Radhi is also known for the different varieties of rice it grows.
According to Shacha Wangmo the gewog produces nine varieties of which Sorbang and Sung-sung rice are much sought after across the country today.
Shacha Wangmo said the rice native to Radhi called Aassu is not grown in the gewog anymore. “My great grandfather used to offer Aassu to poen or high lama. Now Sorbang and Sung-Sung are the new native rice to Radhi,” she said.
Meanwhile, Radhi Gup Kulung, said they are going to come up with a stable source for irrigation water from Lingchen. “Dzongkhag administration has approved Nu 0.43 million budget from dzongkhag development grant to construct the canal.”
Gup Kulung said, the gewog administration is planning to draw water from Yudiri stream source in the next fiscal year to solve the irrigational water problem in four chiwogs. “Otherwise, the yield would completely depend on the arrival of monsoon.”
Pygmy hogs once foraged in the dense grasslands of the Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) and Jomotsangkha Wildlife Sanctuary (JWS). Not anymore.
Listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) is the smallest member of the pig family. It is one of the few mammals in the world that builds its own nest and is non-territorial.
The species, once found aplenty in the southern foothills of the country, is at the brink of extinction due to loss and degradation of habitat.
In 2004, IUCN indicated probable extinction of pygmy hog from Bhutan and Nepal.
Research on the population status of the pygmy hog in the aforementioned parks found that particularly in RMNP, the land use change—grassland to woody trees have caused the decline in the population. It was concluded that about 50 percent of the grasslands was lost over a period of three decades.
In JWS, the land use change, including the abandonment of the paddy fields in the 90s due to insurgency problems is thought to have contributed to the population loss. The species was also found to be threatened by fire and extreme climatic conditions.
Why is pygmy hog important?
Pygmy hogs are the indicator species and their survival reflects the health of their primary habitat.
Project director of pygmy hog conservation programme in Guwahati, Parag Jyoti Deka, said that survival of pygmy hogs was linked closely to the existence of the tall, wet grasslands of the region, which is crucial for the survival of a number of endangered species such as the great one-horned rhinoceros and the Royal Bengal tiger.
“The pygmy hog is one of the most useful indicators of current wildlife management practices in these habitats which still support some other species,” Parag Jyoti said.
Moreover, wet grasslands serve as buffer against floods during monsoons and maintain high groundwater level in the dry season, benefiting agriculture and farming communities.
Parag Jyoti said that some management practices, such as planting trees in the grasslands and indiscriminate use of fire to create openings to promote fresh growth of grass caused extensive damage to the habitats of the pygmy hog.
According to some reports, pygmy hog was last spotted in JWS about a decade ago. In RMNP, about six years ago, 20-something nests were found near the border.
Globally, the population size of the species is estimated to be fewer than 250 mature individuals.
The species is currently found in the few pockets of Manas Tiger Reserve in the wild and was reintroduced in Orang National Park, Sonai Rupai and Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuaries in north-western state of Assam.
In Bhutan, pygmy hog is listed under Schedule I of the Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan 1995.
The national waste inventory survey began yesterday in the country to quantify the daily solid waste generation and to identify the composition of waste and potentials of recycling, resourcing and recovering.
Deploying 40 enumerators and 10 supervisors, a month-long survey would cover six sectors including industries, medical facility units and private waste sectors in seven dzongkhags.
The seven dzongkhags are Thimphu, Samdrupjongkhar, Chukha, Paro, Trashiyangtse, Wangdue, and Sarpang. These dzongkhags were selected based on population size.
Deputy chief statistical officer with National Statistics Bureau (NSB) and the manager of the survey, Tashi Namgay, said that the survey would help understand people’s daily practices of waste management, awareness, attitude and challenges in proper waste management through perception questionnaires.
“Because of the absence of proper baseline data on waste at national level, there is a need for a survey,” he added.
The environment officer with the National Environment Commission (NEC), Ugyen Tshomo, said that the waste inventory survey would serve as a baseline for understanding waste scenarios in the country.
“As the output of the survey will allow us to understand the amount and composition of waste, it will help us solve the data gaps as reflected in the National Waste Management Strategy 2019,” she added.
Meantime, the last waste composition and analysis survey was carried out in 2008 by works and human settlement ministry, covering only municipalities and households in urban areas of the country.
The composition study found that organic waste constituted the largest fraction, about 58.05. Paper waste and plastics accounted for about 17 and 13 percent respectively.
Apart from municipal solid waste, the country today is confronted with challenges in managing the mounting waste from other sectors such as medical and industrial.
Medical waste and e-waste are issues in terms of management and treatment, owing to limited capacity, facilities and resources.
According to the environment officer with Thimphu Thromde, Tshering Yangzom, the outcome of the survey would help policy makers plan, design and implement effective treatment and waste management strategy, rules and regulations.
“The components of waste stream would also help us reflect whether our current approaches and initiatives taken on waste management are effective and, if not, what could be done to improve,” she added.
She said that the plastics composition would help indicate how effective the plastic ban had been. “The baseline data on waste would also help us calculate greenhouse emissions from the waste.”
Meanwhile, the households in the residential areas would be provided with sacks to collect samples for a week and for two days in other sectors such as industrial and institutional, among others.
To quantify the collected sample, the waste would be segregated into different types such as organic, glass, metals, textiles, plastic and PET, among others.
Led by the NSB, the survey is a part of the Waste and Climate Change (WWC) project of the NEC and the World Wildlife Fund, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.
The project is a part of International Climate Initiative.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
With the boulder business rocked by several problems in the last many months, the writing was on the wall for those in the transportation business.
Truckers are now defaulting loans they borrowed to buy heavy trucks with the export of boulder and riverbed materials not profitable anymore. Transporters said they are in a desperate situation
When the boulder export in Phuentsholing picked up in 2017 and 2018, many invested in trucks. There were more than 1,500 dumper trucks in Phuentsholing in early 2019.
One transporter in Phuentsholing, wishing anonymity, said he has defaulted more than Nu 4 million (M) in four different financial institutions. He has about 20 dumper trucks.
“If I cannot pay the banks by December, my vehicles and mortgaged assets would be seized,” the transporter said, adding he has not been able to pay for the last four to five months. “There simply is no business.”
The transporter said that the problem surfaced mainly due to problems trucks faced at Fulbari while ferrying boulders to Bangladesh.
Another transporter said he has to pay about Nu 800,000 to the bank.
“I have twice signed undertakings with the bank and I am worried,” he said.
The transporter attributed the problem to never ending problems at the India-Bangladesh border at Fulbari. Bhutanese trucks are facing problems, as the locals there do not allow overloaded vehicles to ferry into Bangladesh.
“Indian trucks also carry overload and enter into Phuentsholing, we do nothing,” he said.
In the boulder export business, the profit is made from volume.
Trucks with a load carrying capacity of 15 to 20 tonnes carried between 35 to 40 metric tonnes, some even carrying more.
The business was profitable even after paying a lot of informal toll taxes and fines and penalties to locals (gunda tax).
With the trucks not allowed to carry overloads, the business was not profiting, transporters and exporters have both expressed.
A transporter based in Gelephu said his four trucks were impounded yesterday by the police across the border en route to Fulbari.
“My trucks were carrying within the load capacity. It was for carrying just some extra load,” he said, adding that Bhutanese trucks are easy target for income.
“After impounding our vehicles, police seized mobile from the drivers and detained them. They were let free only during meal time.”
The transporter said the drivers and their families, suppliers, workshops and banks are after them.
“Truck dealers are threatening to take us to the court,” he said.
“I have already sold nine loan free six wheelers to pay off loans for my 10-wheeler trucks.”
The Gelephu transporter also said that he has sold his land to repay loans and other parties involved.
Those in the transportation business fear the worst if the business stays the same. They also warn of ripple effect starting from non-performing loans. A source said that a lot of trucks were bought with dubious strategies.
For instance, he said price of trucks were inflated almost by 100 percent to avail loans. “Banks will have difficult time recover their money even if they seize the trucks and auction them,” he said.
This is attributed to dealers inflating the cost of trucks to get the maximum loan even if banks avail only 50 percent of the cost of the truck.
Yangchen C Rinzin
The Opposition Party, last week, demanded the education ministry make the shareholders of Rigzom Academy, a private school in Paro, public.
The reason for the demand too is not made public, but the party is suspecting the ownership structure of the school and how the school benefitted from the government’s decision to do away with the Class X cut-off point and sponsoring students.
The party’s media spokesperson, Bartsham-Shongphu’s Member of Parliament, Passang Dorji, refused to elaborate on the reasons for the party’s demand.
It was learnt that the Party found the Academy received the highest number of students after the cut-off point was done away with. The party is convinced that the school is owned by members and supporters of the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa and that it has benefited from the cut-off point decision.
One on the suspect list is the secretary general of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), Phurba. However, the secretary general refuted the allegation and told Kuensel that he did not own any shares in the school although he knows the proprietor of the school.
Rigzom Academy, former Tenzin Higher Secondary School, according to the school’s website, is managed by a new team of highly professional educationists in a corporate style.
The promoter and shareholders of the Academy, the academy’s website states, comprise of a team of educationists. Kuensel learnt that the proprietor of the school approached her friends when she took over the Academy and couldn’t raise enough fund.
One shareholder told Kuensel that Tshering Pem approached her “close friends,” all educationists, to invest and help her raise the money. “Technically, it is not a shareholding. We just lent her money,” he said. “We got back our money months ago. The Academy has to be listed if we bought shares. We just lent money to a friend.”
Another shareholder said that Tshering Pem had approached them because of their background in education and sought advice. “We had verbally agreed to lend and receive interest.”
Kuensel could not independently verify this with the proprietor, Tshering Pem, as she is out of the country.
Meanwhile, education officials do not know who the shareholders of the Academy are.
The deputy chief of private school division, Kinley Gyeltshen said that the ministry went by the legal document and that Tshering Pem is reflected as the proprietor and promoter of the school.
He said according to the document, Tshering Pem leased the school from former owner Sonam Zangmo for seven years. “The agreement does not specify any other shareholders involved in the transaction.”
Rigzom Academy currently has 392 students in class XI.
Vice principal, Madhav P Dahal, said it was not true that the school received the highest number of students through internal adjustment.
He said in the beginning when the education ministry distributed the students, the school was supposed to receive only 340 students from the ministry, however, only 300 turned up.
“Later some of the students came seeking admission at our school and some opted based on the location of the school and boarding facilities,” he said. “This is why the number has increased and a few extra students are those who completed class X before 2018 and came to continue their studies.”
On the distribution of students, Kinley Gyeltshen, told Kuensel that there were no flaws in admission of class XI students in private schools. He said that establishment of a private school was guided by the private schools’ establishment and operational guidelines, which clearly specify requirements, procedures and implementation.
The deputy chief said placement of students to private higher secondary schools was made based on earlier notifications issued by the ministry. According to the notification, all the students were placed in most convenient private schools based on region, appropriateness and boarding facilities.
“Each private school was provided enrollment slots and those students who did not wish to study in the alloted schools, a choice was given to change. Those who could not find a school, the ministry facilitated the placement,” he said.
The enrollment capacity was based on the total number of intake, streams and boarding facilities. The schools were not allowed to admit more than the slots allocated.
“Some of the students had opted for other schools based on location and their convenience, which is why a few private schools had extra students,” Kinley Gyeltshen said. “A few schools admitted more slots than allocated but we couldn’t intervene since the students had already paid their fees, bought uniform and stationaries.”
Even with the possible delisting of few companies and suspension of trading of few stocks, market capitalization (M-Cap) has crossed Nu 51B.
M-Cap is the value of shares at prevailing market price. This is derived by multiplying number of existing shares by current market prices, meaning that an increase in either the number or the prices of stock will contribute to M-Cap.
The M-Cap saw an increase of about Nu 20B between 2018 and 2019. However, local economist said the entire worth of the listed companies has not seen such an unprecedented growth within a year.
This has come at a time when the Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan Limited (RSEBL) has notified the BFAL and BCCL on the possible delisting if the public shareholding of companies are not increased to 25 percent or more. The fate of the three listed mining companies remain uncertain after their lease period expired and could also possibly be delisted.
The Druk Satair Corporation Limited (DSCL) has approved buyback of 25 percent of the total paid up capital by the company from its shareholders at Nu 80 per share in January this year. Likewise, 40 percent of Jigme Mining Corporation Ltd. (JMCL’s) share has been approved for buyback at Nu 200 per share. Jigme Mining Corporation Limited (JMCL) has declared 500 percent dividend in 2018.
A buyback occurs when the issuing company pays shareholders the market value per share and re-absorbs that portion of its ownership that was previously distributed among public and private investors.
Officials from the RSEBL said that the increase in M-Cap is due to the new IPO of Sherza Ventures and also the increase in market price of shares.
In monetary terms, Sherza floated 19M shares amounting to Nu 247M, which has been added to the market capitalization. However further analysis found that certain stocks of companies like Kuensel and Bhutan Tourism Corporation, which stagnated for the last few years has suddenly started to spike. For instance, Kuensel shares did not show any signs of improvement from Nu 12 a share until this year and, as of yesterday it has reached Nu 63. This is not an isolated case.
This could be attributed to the short-supply of shares when the demand is soaring. Earnings per share of the listed companies has not seen much growth, but market value are increasing manifolds and in some cases, overnight.
While the stock exchange has created online platform, increased the trading days and enhanced advocacy programmes, there isn’t much avenues for public investment. The market forces are driving the prices rather than the performance of companies, thus creating an artificial stock price in the market.
Government, academia, CSOs and private sector representatives reviewed the draft findings of the ‘Mainstreaming Gender in Climate Action’ study at Punakha from November 14 to 15. The ongoing study by National Commission of Women and Children and National Environment Commission with support from UNDP is to assess the in-depth linkages between gender and climate change in Bhutan. The study findings will help Bhutan in coming up with inclusive, gender-responsive climate change mitigation and adaptation interventions. The final report is expected to be out early next year.
More than three months after the dengue outbreak in Phuentsholing, health ministry is yet to declare the outbreak as contained.
While the number of dengue fever cases in Phuentsholing hospital dropped drastically, the hospital continues to see about three to five cases daily. Until last month, the hospital recorded more than 20 positive cases almost every day.
Since the July 5 outbreak in Phuentsholing, 4,300 dengue positive cases were reported as of yesterday. This includes two maternal deaths and six more deaths.
Except for Lhuentse, all dzongkhags reported dengue cases.
The health ministry’s chief programme officer with communicable disease division, Rixin Jamtsho, said the cases reported from other districts were imported from Phuentsholing and other endemic places because the patients reported having travelled to these places before getting ill.
About 77 percent of the total cases were reported from Phuentsholing hospital. This excludes the tests conducted by a few private diagnostic centres in the drungkhag.
With intervention from the Dzongkhag Health Rapid Response Team (DHRRT) with support from drungkhag, institutions, and communities in Phuentsholing, he said the outbreak was brought under control much ahead of the end of dengue season which is towards the end of November.
The DHRRT was inactivated from mid-October after the number of cases significantly reduced.
The cross-border contamination was one of the main challenges the team and the health ministry faced. He said about 32 percent of the reported cases were from the Indian border town, Jaigaon.
While the ministry and DHRRT continued to create awareness, there was poor support and compliance by the public.
“Public’s poor response for awareness and self-protection, and the limited manpower capacity and human resources at the hospitals were the other challenges,” Rixin Jamtsho said.
The ministry’s surveillance report showed that 56 percent of the respondents have empty containers, barrels, and tyres with stagnant water in their surroundings.
About 53 percent responded that they do not use mosquito nets, while 88 percent said they wear short pants and shirts with short sleeves.
He said that more than 50 percent of the respondents with flower pots in their balcony was unaware that it was important to inspect the pots for mosquito larvae.
About 35 percent of the dengue mosquitoes were seen breeding in the domestic refrigerator and barrel drums. About 58 and 16 percent of the dengue breeding places were tyres and flower pots respectively.
To prevent such massive outbreak in future, the ministry has come up with numerous measures.
Rixin Jamtsho said almost half of them are in place and many are underway.
Measures include developing structured advocacy and risk communication plan, activating National Health Rapid Response Team, development of dengue operational plan for source reduction and destruction much ahead of rainy seasons, strengthening the cross-border collaboration, allocation of a separate budget for dengue management, and dengue outbreak response.
Capacity building of health workers in dengue management and outbreak response are the other measures because poor reporting of dengue challenged preventing, controlling and containing the outbreak this year.
Bhutan has seen progress in health facilities, equipment and human resources, which have contributed in saving preterm babies. But today, about 56 percent of under-five deaths are contributed by preterm deaths.
Premature birth is a serious public health concern where one in 10 babies are born premature, accounting for about 1,300 preterm births in a year.Tshegho: The garment of life, an initiative began in 2014, knits preemie octopus and small hats for preterm survivors
Calling attention to the burden of under-five-years child deaths from preterm birth as well as disability and the pain that preterm birth causes, Bhutan joined the global community in observing the World Prematurity Day yesterday in Thimphu.
The theme this year was “Born too Soon: Providing the right care, at the right time, in the right place,” that stressed on the quality of care provided to preterm babies.
Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan (KGUMSB) President, Dr Kinzang P Tshering said, “With improved communication and transport system we can provide the right care at the right place and right time.”
However, he said that challenges remain. The president said it is crucial that the focus and commitment towards investment in women, maternal health and care during birth continue.
While the exact cause of preterm birth is not known, the president said that the multiple factors associated with prematurity such as anemia, lack of family planning, cervical insufficiency, low socio-economic factors give us the opportunity to take preventive measures and provide quality care to preterm babies.
“And all these can be done without much cost. All we need are loving parents, compassionate doctors and nurses, empathetic policy makers and a caring society,” the president added.
Given that about 85 percent of preterm babies are born at 32 to 37 weeks and do not require highly specialised care, three feasible solutions were recommended to prevent preterm baby deaths and promote growth and brain development.
UNICEF’s deputy representative Juliette Haenni said, “Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) will ensure that the preterm baby has the entire warmth that he or she needs to grow optimally.”
Early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding until two years and beyond, with appropriate complementary feeding were other recommendations.
“Currently, it is at 78 percent of babies born in the country who receives this vital first breast milk and it is important to ensure that 100 percent receives,” she said.
While breastfeeding practice among Bhutanese mothers has reached 99.3 percent of mothers with children less than two years ever breastfed, the 2015 National Nutrition Survey showed exclusive breastfeeding at only 51.4 percent.
To improve and sustain the nutrition and health of both mother and baby, health ministry in collaboration with UNICEF and WHO, has initiated Baby Friendly Health Facility Initiative (MBFHI), an adaption of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative introduced in the 1990s. The initiative was piloted in Phuentsholing hospital and Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH).
“An assessment of the pilot project shows overall improvement in the MBFHI indicators, which are early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact, adding that MBFHI can be scaled up in other hospitals,” an official said.
The country today has screening of risk factors, preconception care packages, treatment of chronic hypertension and point of care quality improvement in place to prevent preterm birth and death.
UNICEF’s State of the World Children’s Report on Children, Food and Nutrition was also launched at the event. The report warns that an alarmingly high number of children are suffering the consequences of poor diet.
Meanwhile, the event was a joint collaboration between health ministry and UNICEF.
Efforts to prevent dengue fever, particularly in the south of the country, have at best been tentative. More than three months after the dengue outbreak in Phuentsholing, the health ministry is yet to declare that the outbreak has been successfully contained.
Phuentsholing hospital continues to get new cases every day although the numbers are not so overwhelming as they have been in the preceding months.
Six people succumbed to fever this year. It could have been worse; more than 4,000 positive cases have been reported so far.
There have been commendable interventions by the District Health Rapid Response Team (DHRRT) and support from the drungkhag administration, thromde, schools and educational institutes and the communities have been effective in controlling the spread of the fever.
But we are still only in the middle of November and that means our communities are still very much vulnerable. Blaming it on the “poor public response” is not enough. Lack of manpower or human resource at the hospitals is almost always the reason to cover up our failure to deal with such challenges.
This must stop. The ministry’s response stands testimony to our concerns or the lack of it. It took the ministry almost a month to react to the outbreak of the disease.
Crossborder contamination is always a threat when such outbreaks occur but the government and people of both sides did not address this threat adequately. Sometimes, there is only so much advocacy and awareness programmes can achieve. Looking beyond advocacy and awareness campaigns can be helpful so.
The cases may have declined over the months but that does not give us the reason to not do more. In fact, we must reinforce our advocacy and education campaigns until such a time that the people on both sides of the border begin to take hygiene seriously and take every precaution against such outbreaks.
The ministry finally seems to have come up with some kind of a plan to tackle the fever in the future.
Developing structured advocacy and risk communication plan, activating National Health Rapid Response Team, development of dengue operational plan for source reduction and destruction much ahead of rainy seasons, strengthening the cross-border collaboration, allocation of a budget for dengue management and outbreak response are included in the plan.
Capacity development of health workers is also being given due importance. Although it came a little too late, it is good news.
What is critically important is that these are not shelved up like most of our plans. We will be overwhelmed when the next season arrives.
The government has not awarded a contract for the Digital Drukyul flagship programme, according to officials from the information and communications ministry.
In a press release issued on November 12, the Opposition sought name of the firm and its proprietor who had been awarded the contract to execute the Flagship Programme, Digital Drukyul, for the sake of transparency.
The Opposition also asked the government to make public the shareholders of Rigzom Academy, a private school in Paro, and the names of proprietors of firms that have been licensed to deal in electric cars.
Information and Communications Minister Karma Donnen Wangdi said that it was not true if the opposition felt that the project has been awarded to any of the ruling party workers.
He said that all would be able to see who gets the work when the time came.
A total of Nu 2.5 billion has been earmarked for the flagship programme in the 12th Plan.
There is no specific time on when the flagship programme will be officially launched.
“It does not happen by just installing a software. It will take some time as it’s a huge multi-component project that involves all ministries and agencies,” he said.
He said all the ministries and agencies will be involved in the project.
He said that there were redundancies and duplications of works. The programme, he said, would not only improve services but also link the whole country.
The ministry had earlier this year called tenders to develop the Digital Drukyul programme.
A few bidders had applied, but did not meet the criteria and the tender was cancelled, it was said.
“The initiative, with blessings of His Majesty The King in transforming the society into a digitally competitive and competent one, has been the government’s focus for the last one year,” the minister said.
In the first volume of the government’s annual magazine, The Executive, the government stated that with the information and communications ministry taking lead, it (Digital Drukyul) is going to be a ‘whole of government’ approach that will integrate different systems.
The flagship programme aims to remove the existing digital gap and ensure ICT relevance to all Bhutanese and standardize data quality, while enhancing its security and privacy components.
The programme is also aimed at improving ease of doing business, promote integrated public services and Improve access and quality of teaching and learning, according to the ministry.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
It is noon at Toribari, Phuentsholing. Kezang Choden baths her four-year-old son out in the open.
The water from the pipe, she uses, is from a stream about two km away from the affordable housing colony at Toribari.
The housing colony’s committee has arranged the water because the colony has been without water for the past one month. There are 17 buildings with 102 (families) units. Residents are desperate.
“It is more than a month without water supply in our homes,” said the mother.
Before moving to Toribari, after winning a lucky draw pick last year, Kezang Choden, a housewife, lived at Triveni Toll, across the border. Her family paid Nu 2,500 as monthly rent. And water was not an issue.
Today, her husband, a driver pays a rent Nu 3,957 for a two-bedroom apartment at the colony. With the daily burden of fetching water, Kezang Choden says living in Jaigaon was better.
“Initially, I felt better here, but it is getting difficult by the day,” she said.
In December 22, 2018, the National Housing Development Corporation Limited (NHDCL) allotted 506 affordable flats to Bhutanese living across the border. Although more than 1,200 people had registered for the facility, only 725 turned up at the lucky draw to contest for the 506 apartments.
The housing project started in July 2016 to address the acute shortage of affordable houses in Phuentsholing. Government spent about Nu 890 million (M) for the project. The houses were available to only those Bhutanese living across the border.
Under the project, 62 buildings were constructed in 10 different locations. Toribari has the highest number of affordable flats.
At Toribari, tenants have identified a member each from a building to form a support group called Toribari Housing Group (THG).
The representative of the committee, Pema Wangda said the water problem existed since day one.
Pema Wangda said that they have written to Phuentsholing Thromde. Thromde officials said that the colony is not within the thromde, he added. However, thromde accepted to supply drinking water.
Residents said thromde supplies 6,000 to 12,000 litres every alternate days from a tanker.
Colony residents said that there is confusion whether the colony is with the thromde or NHDCL.
“NHDCL say it is under thromde; thromde say it is not under them,” Pema Wangda said.
Tenants also said basic amenities should be the top priority at housing colonies.
THG committee has brought water from a nearby stream. People use it for washing. The committee purchased pipes from money members contributed. It has been about two weeks these pipes were connected to bring water at the colony. There are three connections.
Meanwhile, there are other problems that are of concern to the tenants at the housing colony.
Tenants said that the colony falls in a rural area. However, they pay utility bills as per the thromde rules.
A tenant, Karma Chedup said people are confused.
“We fall in rural category but we pay utility bills like electricity and water as per the thromde norms,” he said.
Tenant also said the rent they paid was no different from those in the town area. The highest a tenant paid at Toribari is Nu 6,770 per month.
Tenants said it was necessary to understand that Toribari is seven km away from Phuentsholing town. Travelling expenses should be considered.
A tenant, Sangay said he pays Nu 140 in taxi fair commuting between Toribari and Phuentsholing. It is Nu 30 using a city bus.
Tenants also submitted an appeal to the finance minister on May 15 regarding the monthly rent. There was no reply.
THG committee representative Pema Wangda said tenants were told the affordable housing units would be provided at Nu 3,000 and Nu 4,500 when the project commenced.
Meanwhile, waste is another problem. There is no waste management facility at the colony. Wastes are disposed openly at one identified location in the colony area.
“We don’t have a single dustbin here,” Pema Wangda said.
Pema Wangda said thromde truck lifts the waste twice or thrice every month, which has helped. But there should be some permanent solution, he said.
The 2019 ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit and the 1st Mekong-Republic of Korea Summit will be held in Korea, from November 25-27.
In particular, since my hometown Busan will play host to the events, I am very much looking forward to them – as if I have invited valued guests to my home. I send early greetings and a warm welcome to the heads of state and government as well as to the Secretary-General of ASEAN.
The Republic of Korea was ASEAN’s first dialogue partner to establish an ASEAN Culture House. Koreans love ASEAN so much that the National ASEAN Recreation Forest was created complete with cabins modeled after the various traditional housing styles of the 10 ASEAN member states.
After I took office, I sent a special envoy to ASEAN out of profound interest in and affection for the region. I have also visited all 10 ASEAN member states within a little over two years of my inauguration, becoming the first Korean President to do so. ASEAN’s dynamism and the smiles of its people are still fresh in my memory.
The people of ASEAN live in harmony with a diversity of ethnicities, religions and cultures knitted into their everyday lives. The Korean people feel very close to ASEAN because ASEAN and Korea bear a resemblance to each other in prizing decorum and communities. We share the values of Asia. ASEAN is special to Koreans because the region ensures equal participation and opportunities through the “ASEAN Way” despite different economic statuses and political systems among its 10 member states. ASEAN’s growth through an inclusiveness that does not exclude nature, any person or nation will indeed be the future of the global community.
The year 1989 when ASEAN and Korea established Dialogue Relations was a tumultuous period. The ideological confrontation that had persisted over decades since the start of the Cold War began to dissipate. Rapid technological developments helped draw countries around the world even closer than before, leaving them easily affected by one another. In that era of transition, ASEAN and Korea became friends. Over the three decades since then, we’ve steadily built our friendship while jointly responding to the new times and corresponding changes. In 2018, the number of visitors traveling between Korea and ASEAN surpassed 11 million, and bilateral trade reached the all-time high of US$160 billion.
The world now faces new challenges such as protectionism and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Non-conventional security threats, including natural disasters, transnational crimes and cybercrime, rise with each passing day. Building on 30 years of cooperation, we need to jointly respond to these challenges and put forth a new future vision. The ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit will serve as a venue for both sides to put our heads together to seek ways for a more prosperous and peaceful future under the banner of “Partnership for Peace, Prosperity for People.”
ASEAN is the world’s youngest and most dynamic economic community. To transform its infinite potential into sustainable prosperity, it is crucial to increase connectivity in the region and cooperate in high-tech industries. If we enhance cooperation in transport infrastructure, smart cities and advanced science and technology – Korea’s strengths – we could jointly nurture innovative capabilities to respond to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Using free trade to expand commerce, fostering small and medium-sized enterprises for an inclusive economy, and promoting green growth, such as an eco-friendly bio-industry – these are also areas where Korea and ASEAN can work together.
I ask you to pay special attention to the inaugural Mekong-ROK Summit. The Mekong countries are achieving high annual growth of more than 6 percent while pursuing sustainable development, through which people can live in harmony with nature. They are also ushering in a new future for the global community through the Asian spirit defined by sharing and mutual respect.
In the belief that the Mekong countries’ development will translate into Korea’s as well, I have unveiled the Republic of Korea-Mekong Vision. Korea will help promote connectivity among Mekong countries by supporting infrastructure construction, including roads, bridges, railroads and ports, and will join forces to promote regional progress. Mekong countries’ pride and potential are embodied by Angkor Wat, Bagan and Vat Phou. The spirit of Korea’s Saemaul Undong – expressed in the phrase “We can do it, too” – will inspire confidence in the region’s farming villages and help usher in a “future of common prosperity.”
Considering the growth potential and geopolitical importance of ASEAN, many countries are announcing regional cooperation initiatives to strengthen partnerships with ASEAN. The ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which ASEAN member states agreed to in June, is a great vision that can contribute to regional peace and prosperity. The principles of cooperation proposed by ASEAN, including ASEAN centrality, openness, transparency, inclusivity and respect for international law, are in line with Korea’s New Southern Policy. As a responsible nation in the region, Korea will further expand regional cooperation with ASEAN, holding up mutual benefit as the most important value.
People are the starting point for the development of all relations. To strengthen cooperation, we need to understand each other better. To make mutual visits less constrained, the rules related to people-to-people exchanges will be improved, for instance, by streamlining visa issuance procedures and introducing a policy of open skies. Drawing on Korea’s experience of achieving growth through the nurturing of talented individuals, we will provide support to help ASEAN’s future generations grow in all sectors to reduce development gaps within ASEAN.
ASEAN’s basic principle – consensus through dialogue and consultation – provides many lessons for Korea in particular. The two North Korea-United States summits held in ASEAN member states helped restart dialogue over peace on the Korean Peninsula. The ASEAN Regional Forum, in which North Korea participates, also contributes to peace on the Peninsula.
There still remain critical junctures for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Since peace on the Peninsula is closely related to stability throughout East Asia, I believe ASEAN member states that have actively helped advance peace through dialogue and mutual understanding over the past decades will also join in the journey toward establishing permanent peace on the Peninsula as reliable friends and advisers. I am looking forward to in-depth discussions about peace on the Peninsula and in East Asia taking place at the upcoming summits as well.
Busan, which will host the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit and the 1st Mekong-ROK Summit and is Korea’s largest port city, is the gateway from which sea routes to ASEAN start. I look forward to Korea and ASEAN’s wisdom to achieve common prosperity and peace coming together in Busan, a city that connects the continent and ocean. I hope that the interest and support of ASEAN citizens will also stretch across the sea to reach Busan.
President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in
Younten Tshedup | Zhemgang
One of the star attractions during the recent bird festival in Tingtibi, Zhemgang was the exhibition of various locally-produced cane and bamboo products.
From crockeries to hats, bags, purses, baskets, decoration items and bangchungs (traditional Bhutanese dishware) among others, the best of Zhemgang’s tshazo (bamboo-craft) culture, were for display during the three-day festival.Some of the products on display at the Bird Festival
However, a new item on display during the festival that garnered much attention was the bamboo furniture.
Tshering from Goshing gewog spent about 10 days to produce a bamboo couch. Along with the couch, a pair of stool, a table and a chair made of bamboo was up for sale at the festival.
“It’s harder than it looks and without a machine everything has to be done manually,” he said. “The time taken is more and the cost of production also increases.”
Lately, men and women in Zhemgang are venturing into furniture-making business from bamboo.
This has been made possible with support from Tarayana Foundation who supported eight men from the dzongkhag to undergo a month-long training in India last month.
With focus on furniture-building using bamboo and cane, Tshering said, the training was mostly done using machines. “It was easy with the machines but here we have to use hands,” he said. “The work would be much easier if we could get the machines.”
He said that given the intensive labour involved and the time consumed, the cost of construction was currently high. “Many were interested to buy these furniture but the price was comparatively higher for them.”
He added that he could not come down on the prices because it was a quality product and he didn’t want to dilute the market for the products that would soon reach the commercial centres of the country.
The bamboo furniture, according to Tshering, are more durable and convenient while transporting given its weight.
The bamboo tradition
Tshazo is one of the chief sources of income for communities in Zhemgang.
In the past, a majority of the bamboo products were produced only in Bjoka gewog. Today, however, most parts of the dzongkhag practice the craft.
Karma from Bjoka said that it was what enabled families to send their children to schools.
Mewongang tshogpa in Goshing, Drakpa, said that traditionally the community’s source of livelihood was purely agri-based. “We have around six different species of bamboo in our area but we didn’t know how to use it in the past.”
He said that when officials from Tarayana Foundation came to the village to provide awareness on the financial prospects involved in tshazo, the villagers invited the initiative with open arms.
With financial support from the SAARC Development Fund (SDF), the foundation has been providing hands-on training on bamboo harvesting and post harvesting practices, seasoning, storage, grading and sorting in Goshing, Bjoka and Ngangla gewogs.
Tarayana also provides technical assistance and helps in the marketing of products.
With most of the villages producing similar products, marketing remains a major challenge.
During festivals and exhibitions, villagers said that business did not do well.
“Not many Bhutanese buy our products. It is only the tourists who take a few,” said a villager.
Although bamboo items like baskets and bags have the potential to replace plastic usage, many don’t opt for the alternative.
“Many have expressed that bamboo products are only for decorations,” said a Phangkhar gewog resident.
She said that the baskets were heavy-duty, woven using the best quality cane and bamboo.
Transportation is another challenge.
Drakpa said that since most of the weaving communities were located in far-flung villages, it was difficult to ferry the products to urban centres where most of the customers are.
He said that it costs more than Nu 18,000 to reach the products from Goshing gewog centre to Thimphu. “Since there are no roads connecting some of the villages, people ferry the products on their back.”
The Nairobi Summit on the International Conference on Population and Development drew a clear path forward to transform the world for women and girls.
The three-day Summit, which ended on November 14, deliberated and sought commitments on the achievement of three transformative results of zero maternal deaths, zero unmet needs for family planning and zero gender based violence and harmful practices.
During the Summit, Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck delivered a statement at the high-level session on Women Leaders Dialogue which focused on the achievements and challenges related to the promotion of the rights of women and girls in Bhutan including those related to sexual and reproductive health.
Other notable speakers at the high-level session were HRH Princess Angelika of Tonga, H.E. Margarat Kenyatta, First Lady of the Republic of Kenya and the First Ladies of Rwanda and Belize.
A highlight of the Summit was the recognition of UNFPA Global Champions. Her Majesty along with the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund awarded prizes to 10 UNFPA global champions. The Summit was attended by more than 9,000 delegates including royalties, heads of states and governments.