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Updated: 1 hour 21 min ago

Picture story

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:10

Officials of Menjong Sorig Pharmaceuticals visit Lingzhi every year to collect and purchase medicinal herbs from the community. About 80 percent of high altitude medicinal plants to manufacture traditional medicines are collected from Lingzhi.

DANTAK to construct Nganglam-Dewathang highway

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:09

Project DANTAK will construct the 68-kilometer Nganglam-Dewathang highway, which was deferred indefinitely since 2015 by the former government.

Work on the detailed project report (DPR) is also already in the process according to the works and human settlement minister Dorji Tshering. Lyonpo said that in doing so, there will be some realignment and the DPR is expected to complete by the end of this fiscal year.

“The actual construction work could probably start by the end of this fiscal year. If everything goes as planned, completion of highway is targeted by the end of 12th Five-Year Plan.”

The road from the Dewathang side will start from Rishore village while from the Nganglam side it will commence from Choekorling gewog.

Earlier, the former government deferred the constructions of the ADB-financed highway for security reasons and an executive order to defer the construction was issued in March 2015.

The March 2 letter from the then cabinet secretariat’s officiating secretary, Dr Phuntsho Namgyel, to the former works and human settlement secretary, Dr Sonam Tenzin, stated that the government had already deliberated on the status of the road construction under South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation road connectivity project. 

“Mindful of the security situation, and its implementation of the externally funded project components, the government has decided to defer the road construction,” the letter had stated.

The ADB had also completed the project preparatory technical assistance (PPTA) worth USD 670,000 between 2011 and 2012.  The department of roads (DoR), in doing the detail design of the road, had already spent Nu 12.59M (million). Tender evaluations were also completed, and the department was evaluating the financial bids, when the cabinet issued the directive. Following which, DoR had returned the documents and bid securities to the contractors.

While people in Dewathang and Choekhorling gewogs welcomed the news of the construction, they say they are apprehensive of the long duration DANTAK takes in constructing roads. Some local people Kuensel talked to said that it would be a huge loss for the government where the work is again starting from scratch when government has already spent millions on the feasibility studies and design.

In August, during the Dzongkhag Tshogdu, Choekorling gup Tsheltrim Dorji requested the government to construct the highway by connecting existing farm roads since it would benefit the entire gewog.

“If they construct a new road, it would disturb the water supply and pose landslide risk,” he said. Having heard that that DANTAK would take the shortest route as possible, the gup said that he had raised the concerns of the people. “It would be a waste constructing new roads and we’ve informed DANTAK too,” he said. The DT resolved to write a letter to the DoR on this matter.

Lyonpo Dorji Tshering said that during the DPR preparation, if possible, they would probably include all the existing roads if it falls within the highway alignment.  

“We’ve also included in the Annual Performance Agreement only to monitor the construction but not as an activity,” Lyonpo said. “A total of Nu 400M budget is earmarked for the highway funded by the Government of India.”

Lyonpo added that it was too early to comment from which part of the existing roads the highway construction will start from both Dewathang and Nganglam for now, as it would be reflected in the final DPR.

The highway once constructed would benefit the people of Nganglam who otherwise get cut off during strikes in India. It will also cut short the journey without having to travel from Assam to go to Samdrupjongkhar or rest of eastern Bhutan.

Yangchen C Rinzin

Government uncertain to open tourist entry point in Gelephu

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:08

The government has stood by its decision to replace Zhemgang with Sarpang as one of the four dzongkhags in the tourism flagship programme despite objections from the National Council and the Opposition.

However, questions remain on whether or not the proposed tourism flagship programme in Sarpang will be implemented, as the government is uncertain about opening of a tourist entry point in Gelephu.

The programme is meant for implementation during the fiscal year 2019-20. Observers say it would make little or no sense to take the tourism programme to Sarpang in absence of a tourist entry point in Gelephu.

The government’s decision to shift the tourism flagship programme from Zhemgang to Sarpang had ignited hopes that the parliament’s resolution to open entry points for regional tourists in the southern border, at least in Gelephu, would be implemented.

The first session of the third parliament passed resolution to open entry and exit points for tourists at Samdrupjongkhar, Gelephu, Samtse, Nanglam and Panbang. Currently, Phuentsholing is the only entry point for regional tourists to travel into the country by road.

However, the doubts remain if the government will implement the parliament resolution. 

The government earlier cited security concerns on implementing the parliament resolution.

The first two and a half months of the current fiscal year has elapsed and the budget will go unused if the government does not implement the programme in the remaining months of the fiscal year.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering at the Friday Meet on September 13 said that the government was working on the issue. However, the government is not certain when the entry point would be opened.

He said that the parliament resolution does not specify when the gates should be opened. “We must have checks and balances in place. It’s being looked into on a daily basis.”

Asked if the government would open the proposed entry point in the current fiscal year the prime minister said, “When it comes to opening of southern gates for regional tourism, I don’t know whether it will be opened this year or not. But it will be looked into very seriously.”

The tourism flagship programme, he said, has been approved by the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC). He said that the Tourism Council of Bhutan would provide the details on the implementation status of the programme.

“The parliament discussion was to open the entry points or not. It’s also in our election pledge. Please watch us. We have four years to go. You have to be in doubt until we do it,” the prime minister said.

The parliament has passed the National Budget Report 2019-20, which allocated Nu 11 million each for Zhemgang, Lhuentse, Dagana and Gasa for the tourism flagship programme.

However, the government later replaced Zhemgang with Sarpang, saying that the decision was taken to ensure regional distribution in selection of the focus dzongkhags.

According to the parliament resolution on new tourist entry points, regional tourists coming to Bhutan should use local vehicles.

However, the government later said it would study the pros and cons before implementing the decision and that they would be opened on a need basis.

The resolution was passed to promote tourism for balanced regional development. In 2017, Bhutan recorded tourist arrival of 254,704, of which 183,287 were regional tourists.

The sector contributed USD 79,807 to the exchequer. However, direct benefits of the industry have not reached all the dzongkhags.

Paro had the highest number of international arrivals at 27.5 percent in 2017, followed by 26.4 percent in Thimphu and 23.1 percent in Punakha. Wangdue saw 7.9 percent arrivals while Bumthang received 5.1 percent of the arrivals.

The rest of the dzongkhags saw less than five percent of the total arrivals in the country. Pemagatshel, Tsirang, and Dagana did not receive any tourist in 2017.

MB Subba

BBSC denies allegations of manipulation and favouritism

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:07

Rebutting the allegations of manipulation and favouritism, the lawyer of Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation (BBSC) submitted to Trongsa dzongkhag court that the candidate dropped names when the selection procedure was ongoing.

During the hearing conducted on September 12, the lawyer also submitted that the plaintiff, after realising that he erred by dropping a name, visited BBSC’s human resource division office with his friend to apologise.

She said that he was not recruited based on section 7c of the Recruitment and Selection Regulation 2012 of labour ministry.

The defendant also submitted that the allegation against three staff of BBSC for forcing the plaintiff’s friends to sign statement is also baseless. “He should prove how we forced his friend,” the lawyer said.

She also submitted that although the plaintiff has lodged the complaint to Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the commission dropped the case based on the documents BBSC submitted.

The defendant submitted that as per the corporation’s procedure, the result for the written and audition was not uploaded on the website but only the names of the shortlisted candidates for viva exam. “The plaintiff misunderstood the shortlisted list on the website as the result and misinforming the public.”

She claimed that no one told the plaintiff that he was the standby candidate, but according to the marks he scored in the interviews, he stood third. “He stood first in written and fourth in audition and secured third after adding both results.”

The lawyer submitted that the candidate was allowed to crosscheck his results after he requested the managing director.

Meanwhile, the evidence hearing is scheduled on October 3.

Nim Dorji | Trongsa

Collective effort needed to stop dengue fever

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:06

Dengue fever cases in Sarpang and Gelephu is on the rise. From 186 positive cases recorded last week, the number has climbed to 200 as of September 14.

In an effort to address the growing number of the fever, a multi-sectorial meeting was held at the central regional referral hospital on Saturday. Sector heads from various departments and organisations took part in the daylong meeting.

During the meeting, lack of support and cooperation from the public was pointed put as one of the main reasons for failing to control the disease. Officials from the Vector-borne Disease Control Programme (VDCP) said that residents living in the border town areas were reluctant of the indoor residual spray (IRS).

There were minimal participations from the community during mass cleaning campaigns and other preventive measures. Uncontrolled movement along the border areas and reluctance to remain under mosquito nets, especially among the infected parents also contributed to the growing number, according to officials.

 

Need to call a local public health emergency?

Of the total positive cases detected in the dzongkhag, almost 90 percent were imported, with patients having history of travelling to dengue endemic areas like Phuentsholing and Doksum in Trashiyangtse.

It was learnt that there is no restriction and monitoring practices put in place for travellers in the border areas.

Health officials said dengue patients moved casually in public transportation despite instructions from hospitals to maintain complete rest during the time of infection.

“There were two infected patients travelling in a bus from Phuntsholing to Gelephu last week,” said one of the participants. “They were reluctant to cover their bodies which posed threat to the other passengers in the bus.”

It was learnt that with the presence of the primary and secondary vectors Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the border towns of Gelephu, Phuentsholing, Samdrupjongkhar and Samtse, the risk of transmission increased when an infected patient is allowed to travel in public transportation.

For example, if there is a single aedes mosquito in a public bus, introducing of a host (infected patient) inside the bus would put the rest of the passengers at risk of getting infected.

A single aedes mosquito can bite around 1,000 people in a day.

Should a local public health emergency be put in place, adequate measures including deployment of health officials and timely travel advisory would be made possible, according to the participant.

Delay in reporting cases were also found to be another reason for the outbreak of the infection in places like Phuentsholing.

Officials said that the first case of dengue positive patient in Phuentsholing was detected in April. However, containment efforts were carried out towards late June and early July months.

 

A collective effort 

Despite the overwhelming number of dengue cases, health officials said that they have managed to control the infection from escalating into an outbreak in the dzongkhag.

Of the 200 positive cases recorded in the dzongkhag, 20 were identified as indigenous with no travel histories among the patients.

Preventative measures such as destroying breeding sites, constant monitoring of infected patients, distribution of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLIN), introducing insect growth regulator (IGR) and spraying of IRS are still being continued.

However, health officials said that the ministry alone couldn’t help reduce the numbers from increasing.

A collective effort involving multi-sectorial coordination was called upon to reduce the infection rate during the meeting.

Staff sensitisation in their respective organisations was the first thing participants were asked to carry out. Weekly cleaning campaign to destroy mosquito breeding sites in their respective areas was also advised.

A monitoring committee comprising five to six agencies including health officials will be formed. The committee is expected to work along with associations (taxies, truckers, business establishments) and carry out preventative measures.

The VDCP were asked to step up their vector surveillances and initiate measures even before the onset of the breeding season.

Public awareness through posters and radio jingles and travel advisories to both drivers and passengers were asked to be carried out in consultation with the regional Road Safety and Transport Authority.

The dzongkhag and thromde administration assured their support in both financial and administrative areas.

Younten Tshedup | Gelephu

Six-weeks-old baby died of severe pneumonia: PM

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:05

The six-week-old baby, who died of pneumonia in Lajab gewog last month before the ambulance of Tsirang hospital reached Lajab basic health unit, could not be airlifted because of many requests for airlift service.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said this during the Friday meet.

He said there was miscommunication between the local health care centre, 112 service centre and the health specialist.

The Prime Minister explained the process to avail airlift service. “The affected family should report to a hospital, health officials should call 112 and officials will consult with concerned specialist of health care providers of dzongkhags or JDWNRH to finalise the airlift.”

He claimed that all health officials tried to save the baby.

Lyonchhen said that the ambulance was not without fuel,  but there were mismanagement and miscommunication. “We need to fix the lapses in our system.”

He said that while the case is under investigation, doctors in Tsirang could not have saved the baby if the ambulance reached on time, as the baby needed ventilation or artificial respiration and Tsirang hospital did not have the equipment.

It was learnt that when the baby died, the ambulance from Tsirang hospital reached Kompa, which is about 23kms away from Lajab gewog.

Prime Minister said that even if the ambulance from Drujeygang picked up the baby and reached Tsirang within an hour, the baby could have died, as she was suffering from severe pneumonia. “Pneumonia is a respiratory disorder and due to severe respiratory problem, the baby needed high generation antibiotics to put her to deep sleep and connect to the respirator. If the baby didn’t receive these treatments, the baby would not have survived.”

He said that there was no way the baby could have reached Thimphu where there are all the life-saving machines.

He said that while every life is precious and he felt for the family members of the baby, there is no evidence that the baby could have survived.

He also said that the biggest component of the health care system is people’s confidence in it. “That confidence should come from the good quality care from care providers, health ministry and the government.”

Thinley Namgay

Bhutan and SDGs

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:04

The Sustainable Development Report 2019, launched last week, has observed that four years after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGD) and the Paris Agreement no country in the world is anywhere near meeting the goals.

While this observation may be spot on the mark for many countries around the world, it does not quite hold true for Bhutan. In fact, come 2030, Bhutan could be the only country that has achieved all the goals.

Cynics and seek-sorrows abound and they will of course want to brush aside Bhutan’s optimism as overweening and unrealistic. Some ways this view about Bhutan is understandable and ignorance can be forgiven. We are often not heard or seen because of our size and influence on the global stage.

So, the question is: where then does Bhutan’s confidence come from?

Long before the world began to take note of and see the wisdom in our development approach we declaimed and practised sustainable development. There was the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) so, which only now the wider world is giving the raves and trying to adopt as an alternative to GDP-led unsustainable development approach.

GNH is a development philosophy within which all the 17 SDGs and more, much more, are contained. Our five-year plans, which are carefully guided by GNH, have long laid importance on and prioritised the United Nations’ 2015-2030 agenda.

Here are some encouraging snapshots of Bhutan’s progress in relation to some of the SDGs. In the course of a decade’s socioeconomic development, Bhutan has reduced income poverty from 23.2 per cent to 8.2 per cent and multidimensional poverty from 12.7 per cent to 5.8 per cent.

The nation’s economy has grown at an average of 7.5 per cent and income inequality has remained minimal. The share of the industry to total GDP has increased to well over 40 per cent. Unemployment is, according to government reports, under 2.5 per cent.

In the same vein, about 99.5 per cent of the Bhutanese have access improved water sources and food sufficiency level is above 97 per cent. Net primary enrolment rate is 98.8 per cent and gender parity has been achieved at the higher secondary level. About 99.9 per cent of people have access to electricity and life expectancy has increased to over 70 years. Environmentally, Bhutan is today the global leader—Bhutan is the only carbon-negative country in the world.

But we are also acutely aware that there are challenges to be confronted in our march with progress. Poverty is still very high in rural parts of the country; quality education is a growing concern; at the tertiary education level, there is a visible gender gap; drying water sources and shortage of water for drinking and agriculture is growing; and unemployment among youth continues to rise.

As prime minister recently said, we are well on track to achieving the global agenda 2015-2030. But complacency remains our greatest challenge. Any sign of it should be cut, root and branch. 

Civil servants pave the way for people to surrender subsidised LPG

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:03

Last month, about 135 non-subsidised cooking gas including new connections and refills have been recorded with the fuel depot in Tsirang.

About 95 subsidised cooking gas were surrendered. There were 40 new connections. It is a huge increase within two months after the initiative began in February last year.

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Eight-year-old girl dies in fire

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:02

An eight- year- physically challenged girl died in a fire that razed down a two-storied traditional house in Kakaneywog village, Bidung on September 14.

According to sources, the fire started around 11:30am and the child was alone when the incident happened.

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Integrated bus terminal plan put on hold

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:01

After years of delay and controversies, the Thimphu thromde resolved the issue surrounding the much-awaited integrated bus terminal at Olakha last year. However, there is another bottleneck.

The Cabinet has recently asked the Thimphu thromde to review their plan. Finance minister, Namgay Tshering said that comprehensive discussions were made in Cabinet and it was found that the viability of the area was not suitable since it is located near Olarongchu.

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Chukha wins first Korean Ambassador Cup

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 16:00

By acquiring 67 points in the tournament, Chukha dzongkhag won the first Korean Ambassador Cup Taekwondo Championship held at the Taekwondo Training Centre at Thimphu.

A total of 160 taekwondo enthusiasts from Trongsa, Chukha, Paro, Thimphu, Samtse, Tsirang, Sarpang, Wangduephodrang, and Punakha took part in the three days tournament. The tournament that began on September 13 was organised by the Bhutan Taekwondo Federation (BTF) and sponsored by the Korean Embassy.

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Focus point

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 15:02

Moratorium lifted to accept applications only: PM

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 15:01

The government will not issue new licences for mines and quarries until the enactment of a new mines and minerals Act, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said at the Friday Meet yesterday.

The Department of Mines and Geology on September 10 issued a notification calling interested members of the public to apply to the department for lease of mines or quarries.

Following the lifting of the moratorium by the government, the National Council (NC) through a letter addressed to the prime minister on September 12 called on the government to revoke the notification. The moratorium on new mines and quarries was issued on February 17, 2014.

The NC stated that the moratorium should be imposed until the Mines and Minerals Management Act 1995 is amended.   

However, the prime minister clarified that the government would only accept applications until the new law came into effect. Calling applications now, he said, would enable the applicants to obtain sectoral clearances while the law was being enacted.

The Prime Minister thanked the NC for showing the concern as part of its role in maintaining a check and balance.

“There is a difference between allowing/issuing permits and accepting applications. We removed the moratorium now to accept applications. We are not issuing licenses,” he said.

“If the concern of the NC is about the issuance of licenses not being in keeping with the country’s laws, then I fully agree with that concern. We have not decided to issue any licence,” he said.

He said that there was no issue and that he would soon reply to the NC’s letter

The NC has said that the government’s decision has come despite the economic affairs minister having assured the House that the issuance and renewal of licenses would be suspended until the Mines and Minerals Management Act 1995 (Amendment Bill) is passed by the parliament. The minister had specifically mentioned that the moratorium would not be lifted until the Bill was passed, it added.

“The abrogation of the government’s assurance and commitment made to the National Council during the Question Time is a matter of grave concern,” the NC stated.

Signed by NC Chairperson, the letter states that considering that the parliament was reviewing the mines and minerals Bill, the lifting of the moratorium at the juncture not only preempted the decision of the parliament but also directly undermined the supremacy of the Parliament.

The NC also stated that the government on 21 August 2019 had extended the lease of Eastern Bhutan Coal Company till December 31, 2019 in contradiction to its assurance given to the NC. “Such a decision of directly allocating high value strategic mineral resource to a private entity could undermine the principles of fairness, transparency and propriety.”

However, the prime minister said that renewal of old licenses was taking place as the Mines and Minerals Policy came into effect about 10 months ago. He justified that the moratorium was regarding acceptance and issuance of new licences only.

The NC stated that the moratorium on issuance of new licenses was imposed from 2104 till 2019 to enable the revision of the Mineral Development Policy. “It is logical that law must be amended to enable the revised policy to take effect. Hence, it is only logical for the moratorium to continue till the law is amended.”

The National Assembly’s Economic and Finance Committee is currently reviewing the new mines and minerals Bill for deliberation in the winter session of the Parliament. Following that it will be tabled in the next session of the NC.

The government had plans to pass the Bill as an urgent Bill. But it could not fulfil the criteria of an urgent Bill.

Both Houses must agree on an urgent Bill, which shall be passed in the same session.

MB Subba

Govt. will not take any action on home minister

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 15:01

Until the Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen’s case is over and the government cannot take any formal stand or take any action against the minister, according to Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering.

Thimphu dzongkhag court’s criminal bench I convicted the home minister to two months in prison for claiming false vehicle insurance worth Nu 226,546 on August 27. The minister had appealed to the High Court where the case is still pending.

During the 30th Friday Meet yesterday, Lyonchhen said that he would ensure the government’s noninterference in the judicial proceedings concerning home minister’s case.

The prime minister was reminded about Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s (DNT) stand as a party outside the Parliament in the former Foreign Minister Rinzin Dorji’s case in 2015, as both were serving cabinet ministers with charges of corruption in the court.

DNT then had appreciated the former government when it took action against Rinzin Dorji who was removed from the ministerial post when he was implicated in the Lhakhang Karpo corruption case in 2015. Although Rinzin Dorji appealed to both high court and Supreme Court and was later acquitted, the former government stood by its decision.

Rinzin Dorji was also sent on  “authorised absence” right after the case was charged to the Haa district court to prevent controversy and conflict of interest.

DNT then, through a press release, welcomed the decision and stated that it would have a positive impact on the efforts to root out corruption in the country although it questioned the former government for delay in such decision.

The press release stated: “If the recent decision was an action on high moral ground, why was the foreign minister in the first place nominated as a candidate and then as a minister. This contradictory decision is a demonstration of the weakness of the executive and poor judgment of its leaders.”

The Anti-Corruption Commision had earlier asked the government to suspend the home minister when the case was sent to the court in April this year.

Lyonchhen had then said that the case is not related to the home minister’s current position and there is no risk to obstruct justice or tamper with information.

However, Lyonchhen said that it was two different cases where, in the former case, the foreign minister was removed only after the final court verdict. “If it had appealed to the court, DNT would not have made any comment,” he said.

“But in the case of home minister, it is still an on-going case. So, I don’t think I can make any comment right now. We will see what can be done once the appeal system completes.”

Lyonchhen said that when it came to such issues, it is time to use both the brain and the heart to see the balance and welcome whatever the decision will be in the end, which will come without any interference from the government.

“I am absolutely clear on this and nothing else will matter, but it will depend on Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen what he wants to do or take the case, as it is his case and not DNT’s,” Lyonchhen said. “This case started way before he became a minister and the only thing I can ensure right now is government will not interfere.”

Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen in his intimation letter to Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Ltd (RICBL) stated that his Toyota Prado met with an accident at Lamperi on the Thimphu-Wangdue highway on July 21, 2016. In another statement Lyonpo claimed that his car engine malfunctioned when it was on the way to Mongar.

There were no evidences to indicate the accident actually happened, the judgment had stated. It was then when the former executive director (ED) of RICBL, Sonam Dorji, offered his help to claim insurance on the Lyonpo’s vehicle. Knowing that Lyonpo was not eligible for the insurance claim, the two then decided to make a false claim.

For submitting false letter to make insurance claims, Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen is charged of fraud under section 311 of the Penal Code of Bhutan. He was also asked to refund the full amount to the insurance company through the Office of Attorney General (OAG).

However, home minister has appealed to the High Court on August 27 stating that the case involved ‘question of law and question of facts’.

Yangchen C Rinzin

Performance agreement signed to complete Punatsangchu projects on time

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 15:01

The economic affairs minister, for the first time, signed performance agreement with project authorities of Punatsangchu Hydroelectric Project Authority (PHPA) I and II on September 12.

The objectives of the agreement are to ensure that the project management, consultants and contractors are fully responsible to complete the projects within the stipulated deadline.

It is also expected to provide an objective and fair basis for evaluating the performance at the end of the year.

The preamble of the agreement states it represents an important accountability mechanism for inculcating a performance-based culture in the project implementation.

Both the projects have missed several deadlines and escalated its construction cost.

The construction of PHPA I started in November 2008 and was supposed to complete by November 2016. Major landslides because of geological instability on the right bank of the river delayed the construction of the dam and pushed to the deadline to 2024. The project cost also escalated from Nu 35 billion (B) to Nu 93.7B as of July this year.

The main priorities highlighted in the agreement are having the proposals to provide holistic solutions for the right bank slope stabilisation finalised with targeted dates from September 15 to November 30 this year, revision and submission of project schedules along with the project completion date, completion of installations of 26 two diametres reinforced concrete cement piles at the national highway, completion of downstream surge gallery and completion of pothead yard building.

The agreement also prioritised the resolution of all audit issues from inception till financial years 2017 -18.

The performance agreement also highlighted specific performance requirements from consultants and contractors involved in the construction of the hydropower projects.

The engineering and design consultant, Water and Power Consultancy Service Limited (WAPCOS) has to conduct a timely review of measures to stabilise the right bank and issuance of drawings and design notes and provide final proposal on dam right bank holistic measures.

The equipment supplier, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), have to supply balance turbine shafts to erect generator stators and rotorsand turbines for unit 3,4 and 6. It is stated that the shaft vendor has issues with BHEL.

Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) has to deploy adequate skilled manpower and improve cash flow to complete the pothead yard building. HCC is not able to deploy adequate skilled manpower and has financial issues.

The construction of PHPA II, which started in December 2010, is now scheduled to complete by 2022. The downstream surge gallery (DSSG) in March 2016 affected the powerhouse complex.

The main priorities in PHPA II are the finalisation of the project completion deadline, dam concreting, completion of invert concrete lining of headrace tunnel (HRT), completing of loose much grouting in DSSG, completing the benching by removal of much and simultaneously strengthening of walls in machine hall and transformer hall of the powerhouse.

The agreement mandates the management of both PHPA I and II to sign similar performance agreements with consultants and contractors. The management should release the payment based on their performances.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma met with employees of both projects on September 12. “We tried to identify issues and problems and also acknowledged where there were good initiatives and development,” he said.

Tashi Dema

Gap between proposal and implementation behind high NPL

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 15:00

The contradiction between the applicant’s proposal and activities actually carried out on the ground is the main reason behind high loan default cases in Micro and Small Enterprise (MSE) loan scheme.

The agriculture minister said this when asked about high non-performing loan (NPL) in MSE that led Bhutan Development Bank Limited to temporarily suspend the loan scheme to seven dzongkhags.

With the increase in the NPL, some are pointing out that it was the role of agriculture ministry to conduct feasibility studies and assess the projects before encouraging people to ply for loans.

The bank has stopped giving loan from 2016 owing to a high number of NPL and the issue was raised during the 32nd Annual General Meeting of Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry last week.

About 185 clients have defaulted with a total overdue of Nu 21M. The highest NPL was recorded in Bumthang.

Acknowledging the concerns of NPL, Prime minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the Cottage and Small Industry (CSI) bank should have an advisory board to identify economic opportunities and to study the viability of the project. “CSI bank should have a desk to ensure continuity to the business and predict if the business has any chances of defaulting. Any intervention that is critical to reducing the rate of NPL will be provided.”

Lyonchhen said that NPL was an issue and many clients were not repaying the loan at all. He said that there was a policy loophole to trace defaulters. “The same defaulters from two to three commercial banks can avail loans from MSE scheme, and they fail to repay the loan.”

Finance minister Namgay Tshering said that Rural Enterprise Development  Corporation Limited (REDCL)’s NPL was 12.5 percent and that it was within the acceptable threshold (below the acceptable limit of 30 percent).

To improve the rural economy, Revolving Fund (RF-I) is mandated to finance major CSI projects including agriculture under the umbrella of Bhutan Development Bank Limited (BDBL). RF-I has the highest NPL.

However, RF-II under REDCL has minimum NPL in comparison to all banking sectors.

Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said that the transformation of REDCL to CSI bank would enhance loan portfolio beyond agriculture and CSI. The bank is expected to extend its services to other sectors such as seasonal export loan and overseas employment loan.

“The ministry is already engaged with the financial institutions of Bhutan to upscale the loan portfolios of agriculture and rural-based economy. CSI bank will have more equity,” he said.

Phub Dem

Promoting the national language

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 14:59

There is yet another attempt to promote Dzongkha, our national language. This time, it is with a different approach.

The Dzongkha Development Commission will sign a compact with the Prime Minister that all official correspondences will be made in Dzongkha. It is a tricky agreement. The DDC is actually imposing it on the government. Their performance will be judged by how much the government or decision-makers keep to the spirit of the agreement.

Some might say the Commission has pulled a fast one on the government if their annual performance agreement, yet to be signed, is signed as it is presented.

Notwithstanding the protocol of preparing an APA, Dzongkha should be promoted and the Commission has found a good opportunity to make another attempt.

There had been several initiatives, including issuing orders and commands to promote the national language. Some orders date back to the 7th Plan. The irony is that after 25 years, we are still talking about the same issue.

Where have we failed?

Insisting on making official correspondence in Dzongkha alone will not promote the national language. It is not a new initiative. We tried this several times before. If official issuing orders or those at decision-making level are finding Dzongkha cumbersome or boring, it was not helping the initiative.

There should be an interest in the language. How do we make it interesting? How do we make it the language of choice? How do we make it simple and attractive? The questions are many.

Our Dzongkha readers have been a little disappointed that the language is difficult to read, write or understand.  There is a belief that everything foreign is better and fashionable. Among the young, an inferiority complex has developed if you are not speaking English.

Dzongkha has come a long way. But it is not because of our policies. The major boost the national language got was from the film or music industry, the media, especially radio and television. There is no communication problem if we visit Sakteng in the east or Bara in Samtse. It is widely spoken and has seen phenomenal development.

The parliament sessions, the gewog and dzongkhag tshogdes are helping more and more people master the language. These are all positive signs, but not a result of policies that make the language easy, attractive and fashionable.

There should be positive and innovate approach to promoting Dzongkha. It must be enjoyed and not thrust upon to promote it.

We should be better with advanced technologies. We have Apps available to teach and learn Dzongkha. There are Dzongkha dictionaries, grammar books and other reading materials.

Those who know Dzongkha say that finding Dzongkha difficult or complex language is a myth, a reason or an excuse to not learn. If we put effort like our kids learn Korean, Dzongkha is not difficult.

Dzongkha is important. It is an essence of our identity. We should learn it to be able to read, write, and speak.

BCSR vs anti-corruption laws

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 14:58

The Press Release issued by Royal Civil Service Commission and reversal of the decision of the Anti-corruption Commission is a cause of concern. This has also caught the attention of both social media and mainstream media. Numerous presumptions and theories came on this issue and seem to have caused confusion among the general public. Such decisions may ruin people’s confidence in the institution of civil service and also may encourage more public servants to commit corruption. Some feel, RCSC’s decision rendered the nation’s anti-corruption laws toothless. Others feel, other public institutions may come up with similar administrative rules and regulations in the interest of their institutions and may offer similar justifications. As a result, the fundamental objectives of campaign against corruption may be defeated.  This may also jeopardize any similar investigations and court proceedings from being free, fair and non-interference.

At a closer glance, RCSC remained silent on the actual contents of the Supreme Court decision cited in their press release.  Public have no knowledge of what the court has decided. The Commission resorted to interpret Rule no. 19.10.1 and 19.10.5 of BCSR, 2018 elaborately to justify their decision. This interpretation seems incorrect in every legal sense.  Firstly, BCSR, 2018 is mere a delegated legislation and has no authority of whatsoever to nullify provisions of the law made by the parliament. Secondly, BCSR itself categorically stated that, it is promulgated under Article 26 of the Constitution and Civil Service Act. This means, every provision of BCSR originates from Civil Service Act and applying these provisions to nullify Suspension Order issued under ACC Act is nothing short of fundamental error in interpretation of a law. Neither the ACC Act nor the Civil Service Act provide any provision authorizing RCSC to review suspension orders issued under the ACC Act.

The Sections 167 (2) and (4) ACC Act, 2011 is unambiguous. These provisions provide that, once the suspension order is issued becomes mandatory and no other institution has discretionary power to revoke in any way. In fact, the suspension order not only extends to investigation but also till the end of outcome of final appeal. The parliamentary act manifested in the ACC Act is crystal and thus, suspension order is binding. Discretionary authority derived by RCSC in the present case deviates too far from the whole gamut of legal interpretation, validity and enforceability of laws enacted by the parliament. This also undermines the parliamentary sovereignty. It would not wrong to presume that, ACC would have reviewed and considered all the circumstances before, they issued the suspension order. The only proper and legitimate way to challenge such order is through courts.

It is universally recognized that, the constitution has overriding effect on the statutes (parliamentary acts) and parliamentary acts have overriding effect on rules and regulations (delegated legislations) made by the executive. However, in this case, delegated legislation tried overriding provisions of parliamentary act. This contrives the universally recognized principle.  In fact, to ensure this principle, Bhutan’s Constitution explicitly provides a clear separation of power among the legislature, the judiciary and the executive. Balancing the pros and cons of such decisions in a democracy will be the only means of nurturing and strengthening our unique democracy, envisioned by our farsighted and visionary monarchs.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Kuensel or JSW school of law.

“Lucky dip” leaves people unhappy

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 14:57

More than 85 percent of the participants vying for a plot at the Industrial Service Centre (ISC) in Gelephu returned home dejected after they thought the distribution method was unfair.

To provide equal opportunity to all the participants, thromde organised a “lucky dip” for the distribution. This was the fourth round of plot distribution at the ISC conducted by the thromde since 2017.

Of the 28 shortlisted participants, 21 turned up for the lucky dip on September 12.

One each plot was available for automobile workshop and godown and five for manufacturing units. These plots were surrendered by the previous owners.

Thromde had received more than 400 applicants for the available plots.

Of the seven plots that were up for grasp, only three participants received the ‘yes’ chit from the lucky dip. The remaining four plots were retained by the thromde.

This according to the participants was unfair.

Participants argued that thromde should have removed the chits for those who did not make it to the event. “Keeping a slot for the absentees was unfair for those who were present,” said one participant.

There were 12 people competing for the five manufacturing unit plots and seven and eight people each for the lone automobile workshop and godown plots.

During the lucky dip despite missing some of the participants in each category, the number of chits for the lucky dip was kept same.

For instance, of the seven competing in the automobile workshop category there were only five who had turned up. However, the number of chits for the draw was maintained at seven. None of the five participants picked the ‘yes’ chit. The plot will remain with thromde.

Participants requested thromde officials for another opportunity to pick for the unclaimed plots. Thromde denied the request stating that it was not necessary for all the plots to be distributed.

“I wasn’t lucky enough. But the more disappointing thing was that most of us didn’t even have a chance because we were competing with people who were not even here,” said one of the participants.

Another participant, Tenzin Wangda said that thromde in their notification had stated that any participant who would not be present personally during the event would not be allowed to contest.

“This should mean that their chits must also be removed from the list,” he said.

Thrompon Tikaram Kafley said that the thromde would also require plots for other developmental works such as setting up new parking space, waste collection centres, placing new water tanks for the town and developing children’s park and gardens to add to the aesthetics of the thromde.

“While we understand their disappointment, we have given them equal opportunity for getting the plots,” he said. “Should there be similar opportunities in the future, based on the proposals that is submitted to us, we’ll give them the priority.”

It was also learnt that those people who had initially acquired plots at the ISC have started sub-leasing. The thrompon reminded the participants that it was against the lease agreement to sub-lease the ISC plots.

Tenzin Wangda said that it is a rampant practice among the plot holders of ISC to sub-lease the plots at a higher price. “These people are making profits at the cost of people like us who genuinely require the plots,” he said. “I only have a year before I vacate my current godown from where I distribute cement.”

It was learnt that some of the plot holders charge Nu 130,000 per month for a plot at the ISC. The existing rate per plot is Nu 4 per sq.ft annually. The minimum size of a plot at the ISC is about 30 decimal. On an average, each plot holder pays a sum of about Nu 13,000 to the thromde annually.

Thromde officials confirmed that they have also received information on sub-leasing practices at the ISC. “We know this is happening but we need evidences to prove this. Once we have the proof, serious actions will be taken against the defaulters.”

Meanwhile, the thromde had issued a final deadline to all the plot holders to relocate and start operating from the ISC by the end of the month.  “We have given them enough time and extension. Unless the reasons are genuine, those plots without any developments will be cancelled and re-distributed,” the thrompons said.

The ISC located under the Tashiling demkhong spreads across 111.5 acres of land. A total of 110 plots (46.4 acres) were leased out since January 2017 for a period of 30 years.

Younten Tshedup | Gelephu

Adding value to plastic waste

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 14:56

At the waste recovery centre in Ngabiphu, Thimphu, high and low-density polyethylene plastic is being segregated from among the heaps of waste.

A few months ago, the waste recycling plant, Greener Way, ventured beyond conventional ways of recycling. The plant explored opportunities to expand new methods to curb plastic waste challenges in the town areas. Modifying the plastic waste through better recycling strategies, the firm produced plastic poles for socioeconomic and environmental reasons.

The founder of Greener Way, Karma Yonten, said that the increasing volumes of plastic waste generated in Thimphu encouraged him to create value out of waste. “We cannot control plastic waste. Even if the ban on single-use carry bags is enforced, people still use different types of plastic for packaging.”

Plastic poles would replace the wooden poles used for electric fencing and reduce pressure on forest resources, Karma Yonten said.

According to him, the current practice of electric fencing did not succeed because the wooden poles got damaged. “Plastic poles can last for about 15 years. It need not be changed and can withstand mesh and barbed wires.”

Recently, the plant also produced reflective poles that can be used as road markers along highways.

Depending on the shape and size of the poles, 3-12 kg of plastic waste is used for producing a single pole.

Once the high and low-density polyethylene plastic waste is segregated and washed, they are heated and solidified in an agglomerator. The solidified plastic is then mixed, extruded and is made to cool.

Greener Way plans to import plastic waste from the neighbouring districts.

Karma Yonten said that machines in the plant were used for making plastic granules, which was unsuitable for manufacturing poles.  “Modifying inputs in our machines and considering the experience we have in waste recovery, we can recover all types of plastic waste.”

Greener Way has plans to also produce plastic furniture to reduce the challenges of plastic waste in the country.

Till date, the firm has 76 employees.

Last year, United Nations Environment Programme found that since 1950s, only 9 percent of waste is recycled.

Choki Wangmo

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