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Updated: 1 hour 13 min ago

Waste management in primary school curriculum?

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 14:55

Primary school students will be educated on waste management as a part of their formal education.

Educational material for promoting waste management education is being developed and will be ready within three months. The material is expected to encourage students understand the importance of lifestyle based on the concept of circular economy and 4R principles- reduce, reuse, recycle and responsibility.

To develop the materials, a consultative meeting was held on September 12 where policy makers, stakeholders, teachers, members of monastic institutions and civil society organisations participated.

The consultative workshop was part of a joint project between the National Environment Commission (NEC) and Institute for Global Environmental Strategic (IGES), Centre collaborating with UNEP on Environmental Technologies (CCET).

The initial concept of the project was developed based on the existing Youth Action for 4Rs by the waste management division with NEC in last May.

However, it was later expanded to target primary school students across the nation.

The Director of IGES Centre, Kazunoba Onogawa said, “We want to motivate school children to understand environmental issues and take proper actions for the protection of environment.”

“While we understand that changing others’ mindset is not so easy, but promoting behavioural change in children would make great impact and gradually parents would accept too.”

Kazunoba Onogawa said that they have also discovered the importance of parents’ role in inducing behavioural change among children towards waste management.  “We are targeting to educate school children first and then approach parents on the subject if time and situation allows.”

He said they would reach out to local government, civil society organisations and private sectors to share and expand knowledge about sustainable waste management.

The Youth Action for 4Rs was launched in 2015 to build sustainable waste management partnership with the schools and to instill civic responsibility in waste management in the society by making youth ambassadors.

Today, 15 schools and a college in the country actively take part in the initiative.

According to policy researcher with IGES, Ran Yagasa, the project would also target expanding environmental education material to monastic institutions. Gradually, it would be implemented  nation-wide, complementing environmental science subject that was integrated in the curriculum for class 9 and 10.

He said that in order to induce behavioural change among students, active-learning approach and experiential learning through participatory waste management activities and classroom lecture should be explored.

“Teachers should also be guided on waste audit, solid waste management and ecology.”

Meanwhile, General Secretary with Zhung Dratshang, Passang called for a need of strategic plan and curriculum on waste management for monastic institutions.

Passang said that the monastic institutions are actively taking part in waste management initiatives from conducting regular cleaning campaigns to discouraging devotees from offering packaged products.

NEC’s director, Phento Tshering said educating children early and building awareness on the importance of managing waste properly at an individual and family level, will contribute to creating responsible citizens.

“Therefore, education on waste management and minimisation has to be continuous throughout the entire period of education,” he said.

On enriching the context, visibility and usability of ecology note to meet with the local context of Bhutan, participants recommended integrating thought provoking questions, deeper exploration, and change of mindset and knowledge construction in the curriculum.

Participants also suggested developing a material focusing on behavioural change than academic content.

“Presenting facts in the curriculum beyond mere campaigning for prohibiting littering can be strong and effective message,” one said. Some suggested developing short animated videos to disseminate important messages among primary school students.

The project is funded by Environment Ministry of Japan under waste management component.

Chimi Dema

Picture story

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 14:52

 The Anti-Corruption Commission and Bhutan Transparency Initiative yesterday renewed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen cooperation to prevent corruption. 

The MoU signifies the commitment of two institutions to foster strategic partnership in promoting integrity, transparency and accountability and constructive citizen engagement to fight corruption collectively. 

The MoU is expected to facilitate realisation of the 12th Plan and ensure successful implementation of the National Integrity and Anti-Corruption Strategy 2019-2023. 

Reconstruction of Lingzhi dzong starts with dismantling Utse

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 14:49

Located at about 4,300 meters above the sea level, the ruins of the Lingzhi dzong still stand majestically on a hilltop in Lingzhi, Thimphu.

Also known as Lingzhi Yugyal dzong, the dzong was built by the third Desi Chogyal Minjur Tenpa to commemorate a victory over a Tibetan invasion in 1668.

It used to house the drungkhag’s administration and monastic body until it was further damaged in an earthquake in September 2011. The dzong was first destroyed in an earthquake in 1867, rebuilt in the 1950s, and partly renovated in 2005.

About Nu 13 million has been spent to date since the preparatory works for the Lingzhi dzong construction began 15 months ago. The preparatory works include transporting construction materials like stones and timber, and building camps for workers.

Thimphu Dzongdag Dorji Tshering said that the dismantling of the utse (central tower) of the dzong is underway. Utse has a three-storied structure, of which two storeys have been dismantled.

“Once the ground floor is dismantled, we will start building the utse first and then other structures,” dzongdag Dorji Tshering said.

He said that while it is hoped that the construction would be completed within the 12thPlan, nothing could be said as of now because there are challenges in transporting construction materials.

“Even if we have a shortage of a single timber, it takes about five days to have it transported to the site from a place called Dzhodhu,” he said.

Lingzhi Drungpa Mani Sangye said that Lingzhi dzong conservation project has a budget outlay of about Nu 400 million in the 12thPlan. It is a Government of India funded project.

Working period is limited in Lingzhi because after November it is difficult to work at the site because of extreme cold. Work restarts only in April.

With about 50 men joining the workforce last week, about 100 men will be working on the reconstruction of the dzong now.

In the last one month, the dzongdag said workers have been able to dismantle two storeys of the utse. Previously they were collecting stones, timbers and other materials from Dzhodhu, which is about a two-day walk from Lingzhi.

After the dzong was badly damaged in the last earthquake, he said the whole structure has to be reconstructed.

After the construction is complete, the dzong will house the drungkhag office and the monk body that has been moved to Barshong in Naro gewog after the dzong was damaged. The monk body consists of about 30 monks and a lam.

Drungpa Mani Singye said in the northern frontier, the dzong plays an important role in terms of sovereignty and security while for the people of Lingzhi, it houses the dratshang and drungkhag office.

Dechen Tshomo | Lingzhi

Demand for aggregates increases in the east

Sat, 09/14/2019 - 14:43

With numerous development activities happening in the eastern region, the demand for stone and sand has increased over the last five years.

The highest demand is for stone aggregates, according to officials from the regional Natural Resources Development Corporation (NHDC) in Mongar.

The total aggregates sold this year until this month stands at 450,000 cft, which is an increase from 290,000 cft last year. NRDCL officials expect the demand to touch 500,000 cft by the end of this year.

The NRDCL regional manager, Tandin Wangchuck attributes the demand to the increasing developmental activities in the eastern region like widening of road, blacktopping of gewog centre roads, Gyalpozhing town and Bondeyma industrial site development and an Agro-based industry construction at Lingmethang.

Although the demand for sand has not increased, the regional office had supplied about 60,000 m3, which is an increase from 50,000 m3 in 2015. “The demand for aggregates increased because two private stone crushing units at Gyalpoizhing and Mongar closed recently,” said the regional manager.

Officials said the demand for boulders has stagnated with people buying boulder at cheaper rates from the road widening sites.

With the construction of Kholongchhu hydropower project not gathering pace, demand for sand has stagnated. NRDCL officials said the project is expected to lift huge volumes of sand. The local demand is met by a private business that supplies sand in Trashigang.

After a sand depot at Chagzam in Trashigang started, demand for sand from NRDCL decreased. “The depot supplies about 3,000 to 4,000 truckloads of sand in a year and 25 percent of our business is affected,” Tandin Wangchuk said.

The regional manager said the revised forest act 2017 permits individual to use sand only for self-consumption, but the private individual keeps continuing the commercial work.

“I don’t know how the private individual managed to get the clearance. He got it in 2017 and even got it renewed,” he said.

Tandin Wangchuk said NRDCL wrote to department of forest and park services and the dzongkhag forest division. The corporation is yet to receive a reply.

Private individuals supplying sand from Samdrupjongkhar is also affecting NRDCL.

Meanwhile, Tandin Wangchuk said the regional office is well equipped with sand in the 39 sand depots in the six eastern districts. In addition, he said nine more depots were explored to supplement should the demand rise in future.

Tshering Namgyel | Mongar

Sprinkles: A journey towards first 1,000 golden days of childhood

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 16:43

To address and battle the problem of anemia and stunting in Bhutanese children, the Ministry of Health (MoH), with the support of UNICEF launched the “sprinkles programme” in Samtse yesterday.

It is an evidence-based and cost-effective intervention that will improve the quality of complementary food for children aged six months to two years. Health centres will distribute the sprinkles when mothers and caregivers bring their child for routine growth monitoring.

Under this programme, all health facilities in Samtse will now have “sprinkles,” a micronutrient powder that has 15 different vitamins and minerals. It is a one-gram powder pack that can be easily mixed with the child’s food and fed.

Sprinkles was launched following the national nutrition survey, 2015, which revealed that two in five children were anemic, while one in five were stunted in Bhutan, a serious public health issue according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Prior to yesterday’s launch, the sprinkles programme was piloted in nine health centres, three each in Samtse, Dagana and Mongar. An assessment of the programme in these dzongkhags found high user acceptability and compliance. The interventions were successful in improving the infant and young child feeding practices and nutrition status of children aged six to 23 months.

The health ministry is targeting to scale up the sprinkles programme across the entire nation by June 2020. The programme will continue in the six health facilities in Dagana and Mongar.

The health minister Dechen Wangmo, who graced the launch said it was “a great milestone for Bhutan.”

“We are securing and investing in the future generation of our country,” she said, adding that anemia and stunting was intergenerational issue.

“If we have a mother with micro-nutrient deficiency, her child will carry the same challenge and burden. We are on a task to finally break the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.”

Unless this “vicious cycle” is broken, Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said Bhutan will not achieve enabling environment for children.

“We want to invest in every child born in Bhutan,” she said, explaining further that Bhutan, a small nation, cannot compromise on physical and cognitive competencies of its population.

Meanwhile, the objectives of the sprinkles programme are also to help improve nutritional status of under-five children, particularly of those with childhood Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA) and stunted, to increase knowledge and awareness among parents and health service providers about the importance of micronutrient containing food and adequate dietary intake, and to promote exclusive breastfeeding and proper complementary feeding of nutritious foods.

The programme is also a part of the “accelerating maternal and child health policy,” which is working on accelerating the health outcomes of all mothers and children in Bhutan.

A mother, Sonam Youden, who has been feeding the complementary sprinkles to her son, shared her story during the launch yesterday.

Sonam’s son, Rigpa Yeshey, who is yet to turn two, frequently moved around the event hall. The child even went up at the stage to the health minister’s seat and fiddled with a sprinkle packet.

Participants at the launch said his confidence and liveliness was a great example of sprinkles.

“Sprinkles is very beneficial,” Sonam Youden said. “My son is healthier. His growth in height and weight is excellent.”

Sonam said mothers should not waste the opportunity of sprinkles.

UNICEF Representative Dr Will Parks, who was at the launch said they are happy to be part of this important effort that secures the wellbeing of children at a critical age.

“We are here for our children, our hope, our future,” he said, adding the introduction of sprinkles will bring immediate impact on child growth and development by improving the quality of complementary foods.

Dr Will Parks said sprinkles would ensure that the first 1,000 days of a child a “golden 1,000 days.”

The sprinkles programme was launched at Samtse College of Education (SME). Officials from the dzongkhag, local government, WHO, SME, and various government and private sectors also attended the programme launch.

Rajesh Rai  | Samtse

DDC’s APA going to come down hard on others

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 16:42

In 1994, during the mid-term review of the 7th Plan, a kaja (command) was issued stating that all correspondents, register/muster roll, vehicle registration plates, phone directory, house address and house number, and sign boards should be in Dzongkha, the national language.

After 25 years, the Dzongkha Development Commission is trying to do the same. This time, it will reflect on their performance if it is not implemented.

The Commission has included making it compulsory to issue all government office orders, which includes appointment order, transfer order, relieving order, promotion order and officer orders in Dzongkha from this financial year.

DDC Secretary Tshewang Norbu said that it has become important to promote Dzongkha, as Dzongkha usage has decreased over the years and this is a cause of concern. Once the APA is signed with the Prime Minister, it will become compulsory.

The Secretary said that in 2017, DDC conducted a study focusing on the usage of Dzongkha through correspondents, office orders, notifications and circulars, which revealed that 90 percent of these were written in English and only 10 percent on an average were exchanged in Dzongkha.

Some of the offices did not have single letter written in Dzongkha.

“Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution clearly states that Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan and after 1971 department of education then had clearly made sure that Dzongkha language should be promoted both in writing and speaking,” the Secretary said. “However, we’re in 2019 today and yet, Dzongkha language usage is still very poor including the implementation.”

Tshewang Norbu said that there are several Kashos (Royal decree) and Kajas issued since 1993 mandating all meetings or official gatherings with the public and correspondences to be conducted in Dzongkha.

“Despite series of Kashos and Kajas issued to speak and write in Dzongkha, not many have followed,” he said. “Many are still comfortable using English to write office orders or other official letters although there are officials that can read and write in Dzongkha.”

Tshewang Norbu said that there is no definite answer on why it had failed to implement or it was never followed and no study was ever conducted.

He said these were some of the reasons why they included that in the indicator, as the DDC cannot enforce or has an Act to force them to write in Dzongkha. All the ministries and agencies’ APA must include one of the success indicators to write office orders in Dzongkha from this year.

“Although we had proposed in the APA to also have circular and notification in Dzongkha, the Government Performance Management Division (GPMD) had removed during the APA presentation,” the Secretary said. “This is just a start, we will slowly extend to other official correspondences.”

The DDC in its 12th Plan has also proposed a plan to survey the status of Dzongkha usage, competency rate and to see how much of the Dzongkha tools that DDC has developed are being used.

“This might help us capture why it was never followed. It is those at executive level, policy makers and decision makers that do not follow most of the time.”

Yangchen C Rinzin

Dearth of investment avenues drive real estate boom

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 16:40

Lack of an independent property valuation authority and limited investment avenues, a huge demand for real estate has been created in the economy, leading to skyrocketing prices of land and buildings, especially in urban centres.

This demand has drawn  majority of investment from the public since investors see real estate as a long-term investment, hereditary of a sort. This is an innate Bhutanese trait that places inheritance, as rights.

However, in the banking sector, this special interest in the real estate has put pressure on the trade balance and INR reserve. Some even anticipate a housing bubble.

This concern was raised during the 20th session of Bhutan Dialogues hosted by the United Nations office in Bhutan.

The Deputy Governor of Royal Monetary Authority (RMA), Yangchen Tshogyel, however, said she was not sure whether there is a bubble at all or when it will burst. She said that limited alternatives for investors and the nature of real estate in Bhutan could have fuelled this trend.

“There should be policies to address this issue. Initiatives such as Jabchor and crowd-funding are aimed at providing alternative investment avenues and to diversify investment,” she said.

In the absence of a property valuation authority in the country, she said, banks become the de facto valuation authority, which in turn have their own estimations.

The Deputy Governor also said, there are regulations mandating the loan to equity ratio. For instance, an individual constructing a building should finance 40 percent of the cost as their equity and the bank will finance the remaining 60 percent. However, she said some clients have availed 100 percent of cost as loan and banks have also provided it. “This is happening because of lack of specialised property valuation authority,” she said.

The risk becomes higher when there are short supplies of tenants and owners are not able to generate the required income to repay the loan.

“The central bank has to address the issues by enhancing the capacity expertise and standardising valuation,” Yangchen Tshogyel said.

She also highlighted the economic vulnerability of an import-driven country like Bhutan. The central Bank experienced a difficult time last year because of the election transition period, which created a lapse in implementation of the new Plan. The country, she added witnessed hardly any cash inflow while there was an outflow of INR 300 to INR 500M every day. This trend continued for six to nine months.

“Entrepreneurship and Cottage and Small Industry should serve as a tool for diversification. The focus is on the young population. What we need is not a reform from the government but revolution,” she said.

Phub Dem

BCCI pushes for legal status

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 16:39

The Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) has formed committees to resolve the legal status of the chamber as the apex body of the private sector.

The BCCI’s legal mandate and legitimacy for operation have come into question after a performance audit report of the chamber published last year stated that BCCI was not recognised under any law.

“We have formed about two to three committees that will work on how to position BCCI as the apex body of the private sector,” the chamber’s Secretary-General Sangay Dorji told Kuensel.

The chamber sees enactment of a law that will define and outline clear legal mandate and legitimacy for its operation as the most appropriate solution to the legality issue. The secretary-general said that discussions were being held on drafting of a Bill.

The BCCI had drafted a Bill for the chamber in 2006 and submitted to the parliament but it could not be turned into a law as the then Speaker did not accept the Bill. The chamber’s effort to push for a BCCI Act failed again in 2012 due to lack of support from the government.

The concept note prepared by the secretary-general in 2012 for BCCI Bill states that the proposed Bill would not only provide a legal basis for the existence of the chamber, but also enhance the participation of the chamber in the country’s economic development.

Sangay Dorji said that the government has agreed to render its support on all the issues, including the one on the chamber’s legal status. However, he said that there should not be issues on the chamber’s legal status, as far as he was concerned.

Labour and Human Resources Minister Ugyen Dorji said the government would support the BCCI on resolving the chamber’s legal status issue as part of its support for the private sector. The government, he said, was working closely with the chamber.

In absence of a proper legal status, the legality of the MoUs signed by BCCI with international and local bodies has been questioned. The BCCI have signed 12 MoUs with international and local partners including SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industries and project agreements.

Suggestions to register BCCI as a civil society organisation (CSO) were also made. But BCCI says that the chamber’s role as an interest-group representing the business sector is different from that of CSOs, whose mandate is social.

The secretary-general said that the chamber works for the interest of the private sector by making policy recommendations to the government since the government cannot take up every issue of the business sector. The BCCI, he said, also needed to be proactive in helping the private sector grow.

The RAA in the performance report stated that it was vital for the apex body of private sector development and representation to have a legal basis. “Legally, BCCI is in a state of quandary and existence of BCCI is not recognised under any law,” stated the audit report, which covered the period from January 2013 to December 2017.

The chamber in 1996 ratified the BCCI Charter and currently its operations are governed by it.

The BCCI in its 26th Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on October 31, 2011 had also discussed the need for a legal basis. Uncertainty over its legal status has become an issue at the following AGMs since.

BCCI members at the 32nd AGM held last week in Thimphu also expressed concerns on the questions being raised on its legal status. Officials from the chamber assured them that the issue would be resolved.

BCCI was supposedly formed in 1980 and remained without operation until 1988.

MB Subba

Canada govt. announces new scholarship for Bhutan

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 16:38

As part of the ‘study in Canada scholarships’ programme, the government of Canada has announced new scholarships for students from Bhutan and 17 other countries, according to a press release from Canadian embassy.

Through the programme starting in the 2020/2021 academic year, scholarship recipients will receive Nu 3,256,029 a year to study post-secondary programmes of up to two years.

The press release stated that scholarship recipients will be able to pursue fully funded studies leading to a diploma, post-secondary or post-graduate certificate, or Master’s degree at a college, technical or vocational institute, or university in Canada.

Canada’s Ambassador to Bhutan Nadir Patel said Canada is proud to welcome students from Bhutan at institutions of higher learning across the country. “We value the people-to-people ties, institutional linkages and bilateral cooperation developed through student mobility. I encourage students from Bhutan to apply for these scholarships to pursue the educational program of their choice in Canada.”

According to the press release, scholarship recipients will have an opportunity to access high-quality programmes across Canada, including hands-on, competency-based learning.

“Scholarship recipients will also experience numerous other benefits Canada has to offer including outstanding quality of life, safe and vibrant multicultural communities, beautiful outdoor spaces and nature, and access to first-class healthcare,” it stated.

Canada and Bhutan’s history of co-operation in the education sector dates back to 1963, when Canadian priest Father William Mackey travelled to Bhutan at the request of the Bhutanese government to establish a secondary school system for the country.

“Since then, the two countries have worked together on many successful education initiatives including partnerships between Canadian and Bhutanese universities, student exchanges, training and conferences,” the press release stated.


Students can access information on study and research in Canada at EduCanada or EduCanada official Facebook page, which also offers a three step search tool for postsecondary programmes, visa and study permit information, and study cost estimations.

Students can also consult the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials which maintains a Directory of Universities, Colleges and Schools in the Provinces and Territories of Canada.

Staff reporter

Unemployment and private sector growth

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 16:37

Of the many new challenges facing our rapidly changing society today, unemployment is perhaps the biggest.

And while we continue to make a poor hand at addressing the problem, the situation is fast descending into the darkest depths.

Because we are a country with one of the youngest populations—going by some well-placed reports, over 60 percent of Bhutan’s population is below the age of 25—there could be a sustained increase in unemployment among youth.

Currently, Bhutan’s youth unemployment rate stands at staggering 15.7 percent, or close to 5,000 persons between the ages of 15 to 24 years. And in the 12th Plan period, more than 60,000 jobseekers are expected to enter the labour market.

Putting ourselves merely on our guard, as we seem to have been doing all along, is now obviously not enough. The situation, which is aggravating by the day, demands that we find it in our heart to take some urgent actions.

The sooner we bring ourselves to it, the better.

But where must we look to for solutions? The civil service, which used to be the biggest employer in the country, has begun shrinking rapidly. Its focus today has shifted from numbers to efficiency. With good reason.

On the other hand, the private sector, often mooted as the engine of growth, has not seen the kind of growth to equal to the rising demand for employment opportunities. Without pragmatic solutions and right interventions, calling on the private sector to create more jobs makes little sense.

Startups are growing and must be encouraged, but that will take more than merely giving them occasional platforms. Incentivisation with subsidies will be required and should be provided. These happening, employment creation will grow and expand; although slowly in the beginning, the growth will pick pace.

Agriculture is the sector with the greatest potential to generate employment opportunities. However, the sector is today the smallest contributor to the economy because investment in the sector has been decreasing over the years. Even as agriculture is one of the biggest sectors, it is the smallest employer in the country today.

That the private sector must drive the economic growth of the country cannot be denied. For the economic growth to happen, however, the private sector growth must first find a firm footing.

A turn-around is possible but we must bring it to bear; misplaced priorities can be costly.

Hard-to-reach population reached in health screening camp

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 16:36

Focusing on prevention, a team of health officials carried out health awareness and screening camp for the hard-to-reach population in Soe and Lingzhi in Thimphu starting last week.

Since the first day of the screening at Soe on September 6, a total of 266 people including students were screened in Soe and Lingzhi. About 79 people, a majority of the population availed the health services in Chebisa in Lingzhi on the last day of the screening on September 10.

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Taktse lecturers appeal for reinstatement

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 16:35

Six lecturers and a supporting staff of College of Language and Culture Studies(CLCS) who were compulsorily retired four months ago have appealed to the management to reinstate them.

The application was submitted to the management on August 13.

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Crematorium of four gewogs underutilised

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 16:34

There is a crematorium constructed for the four gewogs in Samdrupcholing drungkhag. But it is hardly used.

Most of the villagers cremate bodies in open fields in their village, as the crematorium is in dilapidated condition. There is no water, electricity and the road leading to the facility is bad.

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Vegetable sheds help make income for locals

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 16:33

The vegetable sheds along the highway may conflict with the right of the way, however, it is a means of income for many families in the dzongkhag.

Construction activities are not allowed within the 50ft of the highway.

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Judoka Ngawang Namgyel to be trained in Japan

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 16:32

Ngawang Namgyel, 21, from Bhutan Judo Association (BJA) will undergo judo training at Dhoto University, Hokkaido in Japan for a month in November this year.

Ngawang was sponsored by the South East Interscholastic Sailing Association (SEISA) group in Japan.

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His Majesty The King grants dhar

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 13:52

His Majesty The King granted dhar to appoint the new Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications, Gasa Dzongdag, and a Zimpon Wogma to the Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon.

Phuntsho Tobgay, who was formerly serving as the Director General of the Department of Geology and Mines is the new MoIC Secretary. The new Gasa Dzongdag Rinzin Penjore  was the former Director of the National Council Secretariat. Pema Rinchen, who served as Director of Project Hope under His Majesty’s Secretariat, was appointed as Zimpon Wogma to the Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon. In accordance with Article 2.19 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, His Majesty The King appoints government Secretaries and Dzongdags on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, who, in turn, obtains nominations from the Royal Civil Service Commission.

Policy intervention needed to create jobs, says private sector

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 16:10

On September 6, addressing the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries’ (BCCI) annual general meeting, Labour Minister Ugyen Dorji called on the private sector to create jobs.

It is not the first time that government has urged the private sector to help solve the unemployment problem. The private sector claims there are jobs in the sector, without takers.

About 66,000 jobseekers will enter the labour market in the 12th Plan, according to the 12th Plan human resource development master plan.

How will the government and the private sector create jobs together?

Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji touted the implementation of the Cottage and Small Industries (CSI) flagship programme as one of the new programmes the government had come up with to create jobs. Start-up programmes also form part of the flagship programme.

The programme, he said, would encourage entrepreneurship culture and was linked to employment generation.

“This shows how serious we are about addressing the unemployment issue. The government is doing different and more than what the past governments tried,” he said.

The total allocation for the programme in fiscal year 2019-20 is Nu 235.698 million (M), including Nu 69 million for startup programmes.

The labour minister said that technical trainings would be provided to help youth find jobs in the private sector and that the sector will be provided with critical skills development trainings. 

He also said that the minimum daily wage was also being reviewed by the government to help the private sector.

BCCI Secretary-General Sangay Dorji said that the issue was not so much about lack of jobs in the private sector but that Bhutanese youth were not willing to take up the jobs. Mismatch of skills and lack of a training that is required in the private sector, he said, also remained as an issue.

He said employers including hoteliers in dzongkhags like Bumthang were facing a shortage of employees. The shortage of employees in the private sector in the southern dzongkhags, however, is met with Indian day workers.

Day workers from India, he said, were cheaper to hire. “These are issues the government has to look into and a policy intervention is required.”

However, the government’s hope of creating jobs in the private sector lies not only on the health of the economy. Development of the private sector is crucial.

The private sector is calling for policy interventions by the government to promote local products.

Besides the service sector, the government recognises the cottage and small-scale industries (CSI) as a major sector with potential to create jobs.

But local manufacturers, especially of construction materials, say that the absence of a concrete policy to promote local products and the availability of cheap Indian products forced them to close their ventures.

Kuengacholing Concrete Bricks and Bumthang Wire Mesh Gabion Enterprise are among the latest to close their business. The closure of those business units means loss of employment.

The promoters said their products could not find a market that was enough to remain in the business.

Some local manufacturers of construction materials said jobs couldn’t be created without a concrete policy intervention towards import substitution through promotion of local products.

BCCI Secretary-General Sangay Dorji said that Bhutanese manufacturers did not enjoy a competitive advantage over Indian manufacturers. He added that the BCCI would work at the policy level to help the private sector.

However, at a time when the country is facing an unemployment problem,  some local manufacturers say that they find it difficult to find willing Bhutanese workers.

Proprietor of Yangjung Sonam Bricks and Still Fabrication Enterprise in Gelephu, Sonam Dorji, said he employees 21 Bhutanese workers in his enterprise. He said most graduates from technical training institutes expected supervisory works and that he hired Indian day workers.

“The mindset of our workers has to change and that should be done during the course of their training,” he said. While Indian workers were ready to work with a monthly salary of Nu 8,000, Bhutanese workers demanded about Nu 10,000.

But the proprietor of Paro-based ST Bricks, Sangay Tshewang, is not so lucky as Yangjung Sonam Bricks and Still Fabrication Enterprise. He cannot hire day workers from India.

“It’s difficult to get workers. The business is not doing well,” he said.

The government says it will come up with a strategy to help local manufacturers within a few months so that the objective of employment generation and import substitution is enhanced. But it adds that local manufacturers should meet the quality standards and the products should be market-oriented.

MB Subba

Most patients in Samtse contacted dengue in Phuentsholing

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 16:09

Samtse reported a total of 75 dengue cases as of yesterday of which 63 were reported from Samtse, eight from Gomtu, and four from Sipsu.

However, more than 95 percent of the patients in Samtse had contacted the dengue fever in Phuentsholing, according to officials.

Although the first case was reported on March 5 this year, health officials said there were minimal indigenous cases. 

Despite discovering many breeding grounds, Samtse was able to keep the fever under control. A health team was thermal-fogging nooks and corners in Samtse yesterday. The team also do indoor residual spraying to kill mosquitoes.

District health officer Gunjaraj Gurung said control measures are still ongoing.

“It is not an outbreak here,” he said, adding that they have been able to keep it under control because of the experience they had in 2017.

In 2017, Samtse saw a total of 107 confirmed dengue cases. The number decreased to 25 in 2018. 

Dzongkhag malaria supervisor, Gallay, said that although the number of positive cases has decreased, they cannot take risks.

“Due to the outbreak in Phuentsholing, outbreak chances are still high,” he said, adding that they have been making  more and more people aware of the fever.

Gallay said they sought help of the Samtse College of Education students to conduct door-to-door awareness campaigns on September 7. “Many mosquito breeding sources were destroyed.”

Meanwhile, the health ministry’s public health department, issued a notification on September 9, asking all the district hospitals and BHU- grade I in the dengue-endemic areas to enforce the use of bed nets by patients “immediately and keep all the patients together on the same floor.”

The notification asked to inform health assistants of all BHUs in the southern belt to use bed net when dengue patients are kept under observation before they are discharged or referred.

Referring to the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Phuentsholing general hospital on September 9, the letter stated that, “there were dengue suspected patients scattered in all the wards including emergency ward and all the patients were lying on the bed without bed net.”

It stated that it could be one of the reasons for slowing the progress of outbreak containment despite vigorous effort in vector control and prevention in Phuentsholing.

The letter further highlighted that during such time of dengue outbreaks, it was crucial for all the patients to be kept on the same floor and under the net to prevent transmission of dengue to other patients and health staff.

Phuentsholing hospital management is currently working out to install bed nets. In Samtse, bed nets have been issued.

Rajesh Rai  | Samtse

26-year-old man arrested for attacking cabbie in Gelephu 

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 16:08

A 26-year-old man from Sershong gewog in Gelephu is under custody for allegedly attacking a taxi driver with a kitchen knife.

The incident took place around 9:30am yesterday near Jigmeling along the Gelephu-Sarpang highway.

According to the victim, the accused reserved his taxi for a round trip to Jigmeling and back. “He was constantly on the phone with someone. As I was looking through my rear-view mirror, I saw him suddenly attack me from the back seat with a yellow kitchen knife,” the 42-year-old taxi driver said.

He said that he managed to get hold of the right hand of the accused and jumped out of his white Wagon R car. He escaped with a minor cut below the chin from the knife.

The accused then drove the taxi towards Sarpang. The car was found toppled near Chhoekhorling in Dekiling gewog later. The accused sustained minor injuries.

Police are investigating the case.

Younten Tshedup | Gelephu

Bhutanese delegation attends UNCCD COP14

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 16:07

Bhutan committed to ensure sustainable management of land resources and called upon all international partners to adequately support the country’s efforts during the ministerial round-table discussions of the Fourteenth Session of the Conference of Parties (COP14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Minister of Agriculture and Forests, Yeshey Penjor led a delegation to the high-level segment of the UNCCD COP14, which was held from September 9 to 10 in India. “Bhutan is committed to remain carbon neutral and emphasizes on the critical requirement to transition to a clean energy economy,” he said.

The UNCCD COP14 was hosted by the India and was attended by about 8,000 delegates including 93 ministers from 196 countries; Intergovernmental organizations; Special and UN Agencies; Civil Society organizations; and media personnel.

The event was organised to identify viable solutions to the growing challenges of desertification, land degradation, and drought.

The UNCCD was adopted in Paris in 1994 to be a legally binding document for fighting desertification through sustainable land management and has been ratified by 196 countries and the European Union (EU).

Meanwhile, Lyonpo represented the Prime Minister at the event on “The Mainstreaming of Organic Agriculture and Agroecology in the Himalaya Region.  Policy Context in Bhutan, India, and Nepal” on September 6.  The press release states that Lyonpo delivered on Bhutan’s experience in promoting organic agriculture and highlighted the successful organic agriculture initiatives in Bhutan.

Besides, the minister held several bilateral meetings with the officials from India. “The minister of Forest Service of the Republic of Korea, Jachyum Kim also met with Lyonpo and expressed interest to learn more about Bhutan’s success story in its forests and environment conservation,” a press release stated.

Staff reporter