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Suspect detained for the death of a security guard

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 17:01

Crime: Thimphu police detained a 22-year-old man, suspected to have been involved in the death of a 24-year-old security guard with Jachung Security Services on February 9.

The deceased who was bleeding from the nose and mouth was found unconscious in a corridor of the national referral hospital building’s third floor.

When the police investigation team reached the hospital, the deceased who was in a coma was admitted in the hospital’s emergency unit.

The deceased succumbed to injuries the same night at around 11:30pm.

According to the CT scan report, the deceased sustained fractured at the back of his head and minor injuries on his right knee and back of the head.

However, a police official said that no sharp cuts were found on the deceased’s body and the cause of the death is yet to be established.

A hospital staff reported the incident to the Thimphu city police at around 8:45pm, suspecting it to be a battery case.

Police traced a former laundry boy with the hospital as the alleged suspect after learning that he was seen loitering around the building that day.

The police official said that although the alleged suspect did not confess to committing the crime, he had indicated that there was a problem between him and the deceased.

The alleged suspect claimed that his friends were with him when the problem occurred.

“We are not able to identify and locate any of the people that the alleged suspect claimed as his friends,” the official said. “It seems like he is making up stories.”

However, police will continue to interrogate the alleged suspect.

Dechen Tshomo

Spouting structural imbalance in the economy

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 17:00

Economy: Having realised economic growth of 7.6 percent in the past three decades, Bhutan is the one of the most successful countries, said senior economist and resident representative of the World Bank, Yoichiro Ishihara, at a panel discussion following the Launch of economic early warning system yesterday.

Notwithstanding the fact that Bhutan runs the highest current account deficit in the world, which is around 30 percent of the GDP, the country is confronted with a structural imbalance. This is because the economic growth is being driven by hydropower and the public sector.

While the current account deficit is on account of hydropower loans, which is supposed to be self-liquidating, the resident representative said it is critical to monitor the hydropower sector if the case is so.

“Hydropower not only impacts the economic growth but also for the sustainability of the country’s current account,” he said.

A major chunk of country’s debt is also concentrated in the hydropower sector.

Sonam Tenzin, the chief of the macroeconomic surveillance division under the new department of macroeconomic affairs of the finance ministry, said the country’s current account deficit is formed because of the accelerated hydropower construction financed through loans and grants.

The deficit, he said, is projected to fall drastically after the commissioning of three mega hydropower projects. He, however, added that the country has sources to finance the current account deficit.

Pushpalal Chhetri, former deputy governor, said cost escalations in the hydropower sector could result in increased electricity tariff. “If a unit of electricity cost Nu 6 a unit, where is the market?” he asked.

The director for regional cooperation and integration division of the Asian Development Bank, Cyn-Yong Park, said the country’s largest export commodity, electricity, is heavily dependent on India. The export of electricity, she suggested, should explore its market in the region to avoid structural vulnerabilities.

As for debt, Sonam Tenzin said the ministry has segregated the hydro and non-hydro debt. Non-hydro debt. He said non-hydro debt has been brought down by six percent.

Diversification

The answer, according to the panel of experts, is in economic diversification.

Cyn-Yong Park said Bhutan has great potential in tourism, wood products and textile, among others. “There are many things, the industrial base can explore and expand,” she said. “Bhutan really needs to develop its manufacturing base and produce essentials for domestic consumption.”

Pushpalal chhetri however pointed out that there is hardly any growth in the manufacturing sector. “Twenty years ago there were only 17 companies listed on the stock exchange and today there are only around 20,” he added.

The excise duty of about 15-20 percent on the import of raw materials and the annual increase in electricity tariff, for instance, is making the local industries incompetent, he said.

He said that there is no commercial financing to boost the rural economy and most of the domestic credit is concentrated in sectors that lead to consumption.

The resident representative of the World Bank also said if the goal is to provide employment that leads to inclusive growth, the hydropower and mining sectors  are not going to deliver. “It is internationally accepted that these sectors create little employment.”

The potential, according to him, lies in tourism, ICT and manufacturing. ICT, he said is the largest job creator. He added that Bhutan probably needs to connect the dots from different sectors to realise it’s full potential. “This is not happening.”

The country may have a small economic base, but according to Yoichiro Ishihara there is an advantage in being small. Lot of complicated systems could be made easier, he said.

For instance, countries resort to economic stimulus plans when the economy is not doing well. If the supplementary budget for the stimulus package is to go through the government to Cabinet and then to the Parliament, it could easily consume half a year.

Panelists from the ministry said that the government recognised the challenges and is preparing to face them.

The revised economic development policy, Sonam Tenzin said, is geared towards diversification of the economic base, including the industrial growth and mushrooming of cottage and small industries.

Industrial growth in the coming years is projected to increase from 6 to 10 percent. The narrow economic base, he said, complicates the policy formulation.

While diversification seems possible, lack of capital has been viewed as a major constraint.

Pushpalal chhetri said it is possible to source the required capital internally, for internal use and that can be repaid internally by developing the bond market.

In absence of a bond market, he said that the only source of capital is the credit from financial institutions, exposing them to asset-liability mismatch. “If institutions invest in long-term bonds, it not only will aid in credit creation but also develop the capital market.”

The public accounts department’s director, Tshering Dorji, acknowledged that the only instrument of domestic financing apart from the credit is the government treasury bills.

He added that the ultimate aim is to create a vibrant domestic debt market for domestic use. To this effect, he said the government has approved the capital market development roadmap.

Tshering Dorji

Road to Merak leads to declining tourist arrivals

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 17:04

Tourism: Annual tourist arrivals in Merak and Sakteng gewogs in Trashigang have dropped drastically since Merak was connected with road till its gewog centre in 2014.

The annual tourism report 2015 states that 123 tourists trekked the Merak-Sakteng trail in 2014. This fell to only 88 tourists trekking on the trail in 2015.

Porter group members also said that there has been a huge drop in tourist arrivals. A porter group member from Chaling, Norbu said that the number of guests dropped by a huge margin since the road reached Merak from Jigmeling. “The road really affected tourist arrivals,” he said.

Income from tourists also decreased to about Nu 60,000 from around Nu 200,000 a year, when the road did not reach Merak, he said.

“After the road reached Merak, I cater to only about two to three groups of tourists a year with most preferring to travel by car,” Norbu said, adding that whenever he asked the resort proprietors in Trashigang, he was told that tourists now take taxis to Merak.

Earlier, the road to both Merak and Sakteng was left halfway to the gewog centres in line with the previous Plan. The idea of leaving the road midway was to enable the herders including the people of Chaling to earn some income from eco-tourism mainly through porter and pony services.

While the road to Merak was left at Jigmeling, the one to Sakteng was left at Thrakthri. With this, it was also expected that tourists could halt in the villages enabling villagers to earn incomes through home-stays, campsites and guesthouses.

The gewog also standardised routes to the highlands with Chaling as the entry point and Joenkhar in Sakteng as the exit point. The porter and pony groups in Chaling were supposed to escort guests till Merak and return after handing them over to the people of Merak.

From Merak, porter and pony groups would take the guests till Sakteng and then hand them over to the communities there. Porter and pony groups from Sakteng would then see the guests off at Joenkhar or Thrakthri.

However, that plan did not go down well with the herders of Merak, who proposed that the road be built till the gewog centre in their village. In 2014, the road was expanded till the gewog centre at Merak.

Since then, tourist arrivals started to decline.

Phuntsho, who also leads another porter and pony group from Chaling, said that the number of tourists has decreased since the road reached Merak. “Even the income for my group from porter and pony services dropped to Nu 50,000 from over Nu 150,000 earlier,” Phuntsho said.

Phuntsho has also experienced a drop in the number of tourist groups from around 10 to 15 a year to just two to three after the road reached Merak.

A herder from Merak, Wangda who also leads a porter pony group said that the number of tourists trekking to the gewog has declined by a huge margin. “There was a huge drop in the tourist arrivals in 2014 though the number improved the following year,” Wangda said.

In 2014, Wangda said that there were only five groups of tourists in the entire year.

While the people of Chaling attributed the drop to road connectivity, herders in Merak, herders in Merak however decried the road as cause.

“Tourists can still halt in our village even when coming by car but they don’t and we don’t understand why guides take them back to Trashigang in the evening,” Wangda, who also runs a homestay, said.

He also attributed the dwindling number of tourists to high porter and pony fares, which is Nu 480 a day.

A gewog official said that the downturn could also be because of Merak and Sakteng falling under the protected area. “It could also be partly because of the requirement of special permit to enter the gewogs since it’s under the park,” he said.

Some herders like Nima, however, argued that taking road to the village has helped the community more than eco-tourism had. “While road is benefiting the entire community, tourism has benefited only one or two individuals,” he said.

With the road to Merak now affecting income from eco-tourism, Norbu suggested that eco-trails be diverted to other places like Khaling to Merak via Phrengla. “The government can also try to introduce trekking from Merak to Shingkhar-Lauri via Serkemla,” he said.

Tempa Wangdi

One of five recently launched centres operational

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 17:03

Funds have been secured for the establishment of the other four

Agriculture: Of the five centres the agriculture ministry launched on January 5, it is only the Southern Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Jigmeling, Sarpang, that is operational as of now.

With its summer centre in Choladophu ready and 50 percent of the work complete for the winter centre at Chonaphu in Bji gewog in Haa, the Integrated Yak Conservation and Breeding Centre in Haa is expected to be operational by this June.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said that the National Native Poultry (Yubja) Centre in Lhuentse will be also operational by June or July this year.

“We have constructed the shed and the staff quarter is under construction.”

The minister also said that with the design ready and funds secured for the Centre for Conservation and Breeding of Bhutanese Mastiffs, the centre is expected to be operational soon.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that establishing the centre will not be difficult, as they just have to construct pounds to house the mastiffs.

While WWF and professors of Virgina Tech University agreed to fund the Regional Centre for Tiger and Cats Research in Tingtibi, Zhemgang, it is not yet determined when it will be operational.

It was learnt that they will first have to recruit the regular staff and construct structures of the centre.

Meanwhile, project coordinators emphasised the importance of centres.

The project coordinator for the Integrated Yak Conservation and Breeding Centre in Haa, Towchu Rabgay, said yak farming is a source of livelihood for herders scattered in 10 dzongkhags, who play an important role in maintaining the integrity of northern frontiers.

“But the herders face the threat of extinction of nomadic culture and loss of biological diversity in the highlands,” he said. “There is also this threat of decline in yak population and deterioration of yak quality.”

He said the establishment of the centre is expected to contribute to yak breeding and conservation. “We are also hoping to establish yak based cottage enterprise.”

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said the centre will also be used to keep yaks safe. “Right now Tshethar Tshogpa save yaks but there is no place to keep the animals.”

The Regional Centre for Tiger and Cats Research in Tingtibi, Zhemgang, according to the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment’s senior biologist, Tshering Tempa, is expected to establish a regional prominence, where Bhutan can provide leadership and expertise in terms of tiger and cats conservation at a national and regional level.

“Given Bhutan’s acknowledgment in conservation works, this centre is befitting since it will also help in conducting scientific research on tigers and other wildlife,” he said.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said that Centre for Conservation and Breeding of Bhutanese Mastiffs (Bjob-Khyi) will be established in Gasa.

He said the breed is known for its natural guarding instincts and is the pride of the highlanders. “But it has lost its inherent genetic characters and it is a must to revive it.”

The agriculture minister also said through the establishment of the centre, they intend to conserve the pure Bhutanese Mastiff through selective breeding. “We will then distribute it to alpine herders.”

The National Native Poultry Breeding Centre in Lhuentse, according to Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji is expected to revive native poultry for resilient poultry farming in Bhutan.

According to a senior livestock production officer, Tshewang Tashi, native poultry has become rare and traditional values and intangible benefits are waning. “There is depletion of local poultry germaplasm and it is a must we revive the use of our native poultry as an integral part of the Bhutanese farming system.”

He also said that through the centre, they will try to avoid cross breeding with exotic breeds and then supply pullets to clustered households.

Meanwhile, the Southern Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Jigmeling was constructed with funding support from the Regional Wildlife Project of the World Bank.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said the centre will provide veterinary care and rehabilitation for rescued wildlife and will also house crocodiles and gharial. “Some crocodiles from Phuentsholing have already been shifted there.”

Tashi Dema

SASEC project in Pasakha to miss deadline

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 17:02

… following termination of a construction firm 

Construction: The Nu 294.14 million (M)  South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) project to improve the Pasakha bypass road in Phuentsholing will miss its deadline. The contracting firm, M/s Gaseb Construction, was recently terminated for failing to complete targeted works.

The project started in September 2015 and the deadline for completion was August 2017. The contract was awarded to M/s Gaseb Construction which was in a joint venture (JV) with SPML and Maccaferri.

The project is one of the component projects under SASEC in which the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is the funding agency. The Department of Roads (DoR) Phuentsholing regional office monitors and implements the project.

DoR had also given a termination notice to the contracting firm in October last year. The firm was expected to complete a certain portion of the job by December and report to the department, which did not happen resulting in the termination.

DoR chief engineer Dorji Wangdi said that about 15 percent of the project is completed. “The contractor has stopped the work,” he said, adding that the department is currently assessing the work at the site.

With the project’s progress suspended, the aim to decongest Phuentsholing town traffic has also come to a temporary halt. The first SASEC project in Pasakha that materialised in 2015 after more than five years of dialogue and agreements was expected to ease Phuentsholing’s traffic problems. Industrialists and Pasakha residents will also have to face problems in the summer of not having the Bhalujhora bridge ready by then.

The project will restore 1.1km along the existing road at Allay, Pasakha that was washed away by a flood in 2011. Along with this road improvement, a 120m bridge will be constructed at Bhalujhora, where a damaged bailey bridge is located at present. Heavily-loaded trucks are not allowed to use the bridge.

A 50m reinforced cement concrete bridge will also be constructed at the landslide prone area near the Baunijhora stream in Pasakha.

This improved road will also have a land customs station (LCS), which will connect the road to Bibarey near Manglabari, Jaigaon, India. Phuentsholing Thromde will implement this component.

A bypass road from Bibarey will connect to this road. Trucks travelling to the Pasakha industrial sites will not have to enter Jaigaon and Phuentsholing, which will ease traffic congestion in the neighbouring towns.

Indian counterparts have already started their part of the work in Bibarey. Construction of a road that will connect to the bypass is ongoing.

As the Bhalujhora bridge is restricted to heavy trucks, industrial companies will face problems in the summer. The bridge was also damaged by last year’s monsoon.

DoR chief engineer Dorji Wangdi said that they will have to repackage and tender the contract again. “But we will have to get approval from ADB in order to make the next contract package,” he said, explaining it is mandatory to get ADB approval.

Termination of the contractor was approved by the ADB, Dorji Wangdi said.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Choekhorling opts for cassava plantation

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 17:01

The initiative is also aimed to bring back unemployed youths

Initiative: Villagers of Choekhorling gewog are growing cassava on about 58 acres of land in a bid to generate more income.

Initiated by Tulku Jamphel Dorji, one of the sons of late Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, the income generated from cassava plantation is to be distributed equally among the community.

Known as the green hills cassava plantation group has around 21 members as of now. The members are busy these days taking care of the plantation besides having to work in their respective fields.

Mangmi Jigme said they adopted mass cassava cultivation because there was no other source of income in the village after the mandarin production failed since the past few years.

Villagers refused to take up poultry or piggery farming given the religious sentiments attached to it. They grow only maize but for self-consumption.

Jigme said cassava plants are usually harvested a year after cultivation. Villagers would then process the tapioca into flour and sell it in the market. “They have already talked about it with some bakery owners in Thimphu,” he said.

“We had to manage the seedling from other gewogs as the agriculture office didn’t have it,” Jigme said. “We also tried baking a cake from tapioca in one of the bakeries in Thimphu and it was successful.”

Villagers said that instead of wasting cassava plants like before, they decided to utilise it properly as a means of income. However, villagers are still looking for seedlings to fill the entire field.

The dzongkhag agriculture sector has also helped villagers with electric fencing, as the area is prone to wildlife attack.

The initiative is also aimed to bring back unemployed youths who leave the villages in search of jobs.

“Our only worry is if we would be able to meet the demand once we start to market the tapioca since there is a huge demand,” Jigme said.

Meanwhile, villagers have also formed a vegetable group for the first time known as the Green Hills Vegetable Cultivation. The initiative is expected benefit the local community by adopting natural farming.

Vegetables like potatoes, chillies, radish and cabbages would be distributed equally among members besides selling them to the institutions at a reasonable price, if produced excessively.

Yangchen C Rinzin | Nganglam

Energy saving measures promises big returns for industries

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 17:00

Energy: Energy intensive industries in Pasakha, Chukha can reap huge returns from installing waste heat recovery measures, a National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS) study says.

NECS and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) studied the energy efficiency of three industries, calcium carbide, steel rolling mill, and ferro-silicon in Pasakha between March and October last year.

The results of the study was launched as a policy brief coinciding with the birth anniversary of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck.

The earlier studies showed the industry as a venue for energy efficiency improvements.  Energy efficiency is one of the most attractive options to reduce production costs, the policy brief stated.

The result of the study in calcium carbide and ferro-silicon plants focussed on waste heat recovery from their electric furnaces. The efficiencies of the furnaces were found to be very low, between 30-40 percent.

“The energy losses from the furnace revealed that about 30 percent of the energy input to the furnace is lost or wasted through flue gases which are emitted from the stack,” the study stated.

The ferro-silicon plant has both technical and economic possibilities to install a waste heat recovery boiler and power plant system of about three mega watts.

The installation will need investment of Nu 200 million which has a pay-back period of four years.

The energy efficiency measure has potential to reduce green house gas emissions by about 22,400 tonnes a year.

In the calcium carbide plant the drying and preheating of feeding material is the most viable option to use the waste heat. If installed, the dryer system, worth Nu 32 million, would save 2.93 million kilowatts an hour of electricity a year. The investment will be recovered in five years from energy savings. The new system will reduce GHG emissions by 2,900 tonnes a year.

Numerous energy conservation measures were identified for the steel rolling mill. Measures worth Nu 15 million is likely to save 1.7 million KWH a year equivalent to 1,633 tonnes of CO2 and investment returned in four years.

Stakeholders from industry, and government agencies, among others, expressed interest in adopting the identified measures.

Energy efficiency is the cheapest and most effective way to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, a major green-house gas, emitted by burning of fossil fuels.

Reduction of carbon emissions is a priority under international treaties to combat climate change and reduce global warming.

On September 30, 2015 the country submitted its intended nationally determined contribution to the UNFCCC in which it has committed to remain carbon neutral, meaning that the country will maintain its GHG emissions from energy, industry and other sectors to below its total carbon sink from land use, land use change and forestry.

The INDC also states that improvement of manufacturing processes in existing industries through investments and adoption of cleaner technology, energy efficiency and environmental management will be a priority.

The study was supported by the UN environment programme.

Tshering Palden

Non-resident Bhutanese, key to financial inclusiveness

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 17:00

Remit-Bhutan will be launched in Perth and Canberra 

Economy: Over 4,000 Bhutanese working and studying in Australia have only 32 foreign currency accounts with the banks in the country today.

However only 18 have made deposits into their foreign currency accounts facilitated by Remit-Bhutan, which was launched about four months ago.

Remit-Bhutan is a platform facilitated by the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) for non-resident Bhutanese to operate foreign currency accounts with any authorised bank in Bhutan. The initiative was also launched in New York in October in the presence of more than 200 non-resident Bhutanese.

As of date, 488 foreign currency accounts have been opened with local banks, mostly from the United States and the Middle East. The banks received more than USD 0.5 million of deposits so far. So a large part of the Australian market is yet to be captured.

To encourage more Bhutanese living in Australia to open foreign currency accounts, a team from the RMA, Bank of Bhutan, Bhutan National Bank and T-bank will visit Perth and Canberra from February 13 to 18 to formally launch the Remit-Bhutan system.

The RMA governor, Dasho Penjore said that with the waiver of tax on fixed deposits, savings in Bhutan has become more attractive and that the commercial banks in the country are offering higher deposit rates compared to those offered in international markets.

“Therefore, along the lines of wider national savings campaign strategy, there is further need to sensitise the advantages of savings offered in Bhutan to larger non-resident Bhutanese,” he said. “This is extended financial services to include non-resident Bhutanese in the financial inclusion policy and strategy.”

With more Bhutanese going abroad as students, for UN peacekeeping missions and through overseas employment scheme, Dasho Penjore said Remit-Bhutan could serve as a common financial network.

The ease of opening such accounts where Bhutanese working abroad can save their foreign currencies in a secured place with no tax, the governor said; “it is too good to be true.”

While some Bhutanese workers have raised concerns that the facility will be used by the government to keep an eye on their income, an official from the Central Bank assured that full confidentiality of the accounts is guaranteed.

Under the confidentiality agreement of the banks, only the account holder and the bank have access to the respective accounts, unless the account holder(s) authorise someone on their behalf. Apart from this, the Central Bank may have the authority to access the accounts in suspicion of illegal transactions.

This extended service, the governor said is critical to generate inclusive growth.

Contribution from the foreign remittance to the country’s GDP is very marginal today. Should Remit-Bhutan help swell the inward remittances from the non-resident Bhutanese, the country could achieve a new dimension of economic growth, which is Gross National Product (GNP).

GDP is the total value of goods and services the nation produce over a specific time. The net income receipts from abroad when added to GDP provides a figure reflecting the country’s GNP.

Tshering Dorji

Public view must be sought for standard signage rule

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 17:00

The signboard standardisation rule is upon us again. Thimphu Thromde is expected to implement the rule very soon, which means signboards in the city will have to be designed as per the guidelines and should be approved by the authorities. In the event of noncompliance, person or business responsible will be fined according to the number of days of violation.

What we also know from the plan is that a building’s face will be allowed to have a maximum of three types of signage. The signage, however, cannot overlook the architectural elements of the building.

Eleven years ago, in 2005, the thromde’s plan for uniform signboards was shot down by Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS). The argument was that having uniform signboards didn’t make any sense and didn’t help anybody.

The argument to implement the rule now is that there is a need to create city’s unique identity. Uniform signboards will, of course, help shape city’s identity. Our buildings in the city will look good and clean. But what is more important is that we give special regard to safety aspects. Many business entities in the city today have signboards that hang precariously, posing risks to shoppers and pedestrians.

Some thromde officials are of the view that many signboards in the city contain unnecessary information, including inappropriate graphics, but not the necessary information like contact details. When we talk about uniform signboard rule, we talk about how the signboards must look, their shape and size, font and colour, among others. We may be going a little too far with this because we must also allow space for creativity. That’s why MoWHS did not approve of thromde’s idea in 2005. To many the rule of uniform signboards created a lot of inconveniences.

The guideline is, as we speak, subject to review. The thromde has posted the draft guideline on its website and has invited individuals and organisations for review and comments. The thromde should invite as many businesses as possible and consult with them so that the rule doesn’t become the cause inconvenience later.

100 health workers to be trained on newborn health

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 17:04

Bhutan will be the first country in the region to make use of the EENC course

Health: More than 100 health workers from various parts of the country will be trained on best care for newborns using the Early Essential Newborn Care (EENC) course starting from mid February this year.

The health ministry last week signed an agreement with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF in this regard.

The training, using WHO’s Early Essential Newborn Care (EENC) course, will be conducted in four batches. It will begin from mid February to March at the referral hospitals in Thimphu, Mongar and Gelephu.

Experts from the WHO regional office will be in the country in mid February to introduce the course. They will conduct a national training of trainers involving twelve healthcare providers of diverse backgrounds, including specialists and nurses at the Thimphu referral hospital.

According to health officials, the national trainers will then provide the training to health workers in the western, central and eastern regions until March. The health workers will be from hospitals that together cover over 90 percent of institutional deliveries in the country.

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk said that despite the huge leap that Bhutan has made in reducing overall child mortality rates over the past decades, newborns remain one of the most vulnerable groups that need urgent attention. “That is why we developed the Bhutan Newborn Action Plan in 2016,” Lyonpo said.

“We know from other countries that a lot of progress can be made with relatively simple interventions that work well in big hospitals as well as in remote areas.”

Lyonpo also said the EENC course serves as an important first step, to make sure everyone gets the basics completely right on how to care for newborn babies in the best possible way.

Bhutan will be the first country in the region to make use of the EENC course, which educates healthcare workers on the vital steps to be taken immediately after birth to minimise preventable newborn illness and deaths, according to UNICEF and WHO. It will have a strong focus on evidence-based best practices such as breastfeeding immediately after birth and keeping the baby warm with skin-to-skin contact.

Officials said that these are two critical lifesaving interventions, especially for preterm babies. In future, it is expected that the course can be organised independently in Bhutan as part of the regular pre-service training and in-service mentoring of health staff in the country.

The UN estimates under-five mortality rate (U5MR) of 32.9 per 1,000 live births for Bhutan as of 2015 against 133.7 in 1990, and the current global average of 43 per 1,000 live births. Newborn mortality rate (death in the first 28 days of life) is currently estimated at 18.3 per 1,000 live births, accounting for more than half of the total U5MR. This is roughly the same as the global average of 19 per 1,000 live births.

Health ministry officials also thanked the various technical working groups consisting of representatives from Thimphu referral hospital, Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan, WHO and UNICEF for fine-tuning and finalising conditions for the course.

Kinga Dema

Thromde drafts signage guidelines

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 17:03

Signboards: Inconsistent signboards and billboards in the city calls for legal rules and regulations to guide the signage designs in the city, according to the thromde.

Thimphu thromde, recognising the need for proper signboards and billboards to represent the city’s identity for different activities such as commercial, institutions, industries, private property and offices, among others, drafted signage guidelines last year.

Thromde’s executive secretary, Passang Dorji, said that the signboards in the city are currently inconsistent and spoiling the aesthetics. “The existing signboards are un-monitored and designed with poor safety measures because of lack of legal rules and regulations to guide the signage design.”

In other countries, a building’s architectural design is hidden with signboards covering more than half of the building. “We don’t want such things to happen in our country,” Passang Dorji said. “Thimphu, being the capital of Bhutan, we want to keep it unique.”

An urban planner with the thromde pointed out that many of the current signboards in the city contain unnecessary information including inappropriate graphics but not the necessary information like contact details.

The urban planner said that poor maintenance of the signboards and safety issues can also be seen in the city. “Some of the current signboards are poorly anchored to the main structure, with wiring exposed, and the boards torn and colours faded,” he added.

Passang Dorji said that the thromde is collaborating with the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority and the draft Signage Guidelines 2016, will be implemented this year.

After the implementation of the guidelines, all the signage displayed should be designed as per the guidelines and approved by the respective authority, he added. If found not complying with the guidelines, the person shall be fined with respect to the number of days the guidelines are violated.

A building’s front will be allowed to have a maximum of three types of signage. However, the sign displayed should not overlook the architectural element of building and should have similar character to the sign displayed within the same building front to avoid varieties in signs displayed on the same building.

The guideline says that signage shall not exceed the Maximum Signage Allowable Area for activities allocated in the building. The signage allowable area shall be calculated with respect to the front area of the activity that is the maximum area used by the particular activity.

Use of window graphics, door graphics and standing signage will not be considered during the signage allowable area calculation, however, content of signage such as text and contact numbers in window and door graphics shall be included during calculation of allowable area.

Each function/activity shall be allowed to have a maximum of two types of signage with one major and one minor sign on the storefront.

Those functions on building sides or rear without direct access/opposite to access point shall be allowed to have one directional signage on the front of the building. The signage should not be big and obscure the storefront signage.

The guideline classifies signage to different types according to different uses each property or area provides.

To create uniform and reliable signage throughout the city, the guidelines consist of standards that include the materials to be used, signboard design and construction, contents, location or placement of signboards, among others.

Passang Dorji said that once the guideline are implemented, it would beautify the street with reliable and uniform signage for different activities within the city.

The guideline is subject to review to meet the changing need of the user and functions as and when needed.

The thromde had posted the draft guideline on its website and has invited individuals and organisations to comment or review on any needed changes and improvements on the draft guideline.

Dechen Tshomo

9 thromde G2C services for Phuentsholing Thromde launched

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 17:02

G2C: Phuentsholing Thromde in collaboration with the Government to Citizen (G2C) Office under the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet launched the G2C System comprising of a total of nine services under Phuentsholing Thromde, according to a press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Speaking at the launch, Office of the Prime Minister director Lobzang Dorji, expressed that the launch of the nine services are in fulfillment of the mandatory indicators of the annual performance agreement signed between Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay and the Phuntsholing thrompon, for the year 2016-2017. He also added that the launch of the nine G2C services is expected to improve public service delivery for the residents of Phuentsholing Thromde.

The nine thromde services were initially developed by the G2C office for Thimphu Thromde and was launched on July 9, 2015. Upon successful operationalisation of the services in Thimphu Thromde, the services are being replicated in the rest of the thromdes.

The advantages of the online services are multi-fold, for the public will not have to visit the office to avail the services, further the system also has SMS notifications integrated into the system. For  thromde officials, with the reduction in public interface, officials will be able to perform their duties without disturbance. Further, the system will also be important for record keeping and generating reports for future reference.

The thromde’s administration stated that they will be looking at stabilising the system with support from the G2C office. Despite the challenges related to internet speed, user acceptance and public awareness, the thromde’s administration expressed that with the launch of Phuentsholing Thromde’s online services, it is anticipated to improve public service delivery for citizens residing in the thromde by reducing turnaround time. Besides time, the service will also help in reducing travel costs for the citizens to avail the services.

The thromde’s service was developed by the G2C Office with support from the Government of India under the PTA Project.

Building Construction Approval

Occupancy Certificate

Online Grievance

Direct Grievance

New Sewerage Connection

Vacuum Tanker Service

New Waterline Connection

Shifting of main pipeline, domestic connection, and water meter

Upgrading, downsizing, disconnection and reconnection of pipelines

Staff reporter

Lucky agent’s way with the lottery

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 17:01

Profile: Seated under the shade of the cinema theatre in the heart of Gelephu town, Kinley Wangdi is busy selling Royal Bhutan Lottery Ltd (RBLL) bumper lottery tickets.

As though he has all the time in the world, Kinley Wangdi is surprisingly calm and quiet when it comes to selling the tickets. He doesn’t shout out for people to come and buy the tickets.

The 37-year-old said that his doesn’t need to scream out for people to come and buy the tickets. “I’ve been in Gelephu for more than two decades and by now I know almost all the people here,” he said. “My face sells the tickets for me.”

However, more than his face, Kinley’s fortune attracts most of his customers. Kinley Wangdi has hit a hat trick for selling out the winning tickets in the last three months.

In November last year, when the RBLL launched its first Phuensum Dharim, the country’s monthly paper lottery, the second prize worth Nu 500,000 was from one of the ticket booklets that Kinley Wangdi had sold.

In the following month, the third prize worth Nu 200,000 was again from one of Kinley’s booklets. Of the five individuals who became millionaires from RBLL’s lottery scheme, last month’s jackpot winner worth Nu 1 million was from a ticket that Kinley’s sub-agent had sold in Gelephu.

“It’s a lucrative business. However, I did very bad business when Phuensum Dharim was first launched last year,” he said. “People were not confident because the lottery was starting again and many had doubts on how it would work. But today, the business is working out well.”

Kinley Wangdi serves as an agent for RBLL in Gelephu and certain parts of Sarpang and Trongsa and Zhemgang. He makes around Nu 25,000 a month excluding the prizes he wins from selling the winning numbers. He has some 15 sub-agents working under him in these areas.

“I say it’s a good business because the sub-agents under me who are mostly graduates earn at least Nu 12,000 a month,” said Kinley Wangdi, adding that since the January’s jackpot prize number was from one of his sub-agents, the seller’s prize worth Nu 50,000 was also given to the sub-agent.

Kinley Wangdi said that although Bhutan’s market for the lottery business is not ideal, the trick is with the agents on how they sell the tickets. On an average, Kinley sells around 200 tickets sitting in the open space, that he calls his office.

Kinley Wangdi also runs an overseas employment agency in Gelephu. “For now I’m focussing more on the lottery business. I’ve handed over my employment business to my staff.”

He said that although there are not many challenges for him currently, the unsold tickets sometimes become expensive for him. “Once I couldn’t sell much and had to keep all the remaining tickets to myself. It was worth Nu 15,000,”

However, he couldn’t win even a single prize from the unsold tickets that he had to keep. “Well, I believe all my luck goes out with my customers because people often request me to select a number for them,” he said.

Kinley Wangdi said that the Phuensum Dharim is more popular because it is cheaper than the bumper lottery.

“Since my sub-agents can’t sell the bumper tickets, I’ve taken it all under me and I’m selling this,” he said. Of the 400 bumper lottery booklets, Kinley Wangdi has managed to sell only 50 as of now.

Younten Tshedup  |  Gelephu

The media

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 17:00

The Constitution guarantees the right to all Bhutanese citizens to ask questions. It also guarantees the right of a citizen to not answer a question and journalists are aware that this right goes both ways.

In some cases, such as national security, we can understand if queries cannot be responded to. After all, we are Bhutanese citizens first, journalists second.

The question is whether a public organisation has the right to not be answerable to the media on non-security related issues. A public organisation or someone who holds a public position must respond to questions from the media because we are all involved in the goal to strengthen our country, and for that to happen, all parts of the system must be allowed to carry out their responsibilities.

While media freedom is respected by the government, and journalists can practise their professions without intervention or fear, there are still isolated incidents of concern. This is attributable to individual mind-sets and not the system.

Recently, one of this newspaper’s journalists suffered reprisal for asking a question about an organisation at a Meet the Press session. The powers granted to the seat held by an official of the questioned organisation were used in a non-professional manner to influence the private life of the journalist.

While the journalist, as a private citizen could have accepted the decision of the organisation without even an explanation, an explanation was still provided. It was pointed out that the decision was based on the question asked in the Meet the Press session. The line that separates the professional and private life of a citizen was not respected.

This incident is an isolated one, but could set a precedent. Other journalists could suffer reprisals in their private affairs for their professional conduct.

Recently, it was indicated at another Meet-the-Press session that journalists are being influenced to write stories. We assure our readers that despite such occasional experiences, we will continue to bring you news that others may not want printed. We also assure you that there is a check and balance system in place in this newspaper to prevent external influences and conflict of interest, so that we are as objective as possible.

Issues have also been raised concerning some of the editorials of this newspaper the most recent being a survey report that was referred to that said corruption is concentrated at the top decision-making levels and that combatting corruption was viewed by respondents as an uphill task that would mean taking on, besides politicians, judges, bureaucrats and businessmen.

However, while the survey was conducted by Bhutan Transparency Initiative, the onus has now been placed on Kuensel to provide information so that the government may carry out investigations. To our readers we clarify that we cited the findings of the National Corruption Barometer Survey (NCBS) 2016 published by the Bhutan Transparency Initiative.

We assure you, our job will be to continue using such reports and other sources to continue and aid us in our battle to find and root out corruption, at all levels, not just the top-decision making levels and inform the people when we find it.

Peljorling HSS to get its first hostel by 2018

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 17:00

Education: With construction of two 120-bed hostels beginning in January this year, Peljorling Higher Secondary School (PHSS) in Tashichholing in Samtse is expected to get its first hostel facility by 2018.

Having a hostel means the students will no longer have to rent houses near the school. More than 500 students rent houses in many areas in Tashichholing, including places near the school vicinity.

Most of the students stay without basic facilities. Some do not even have proper toilets.

Students said since they rely on electric cookers, they face problems when there is electricity outages, especially in summer.

However, going by the increasing student population every year, it is feared the two hostels will not be able to accommodate all the students. Peljorling school had a total of 1,632 students last year.

School principal, Sonam Jamtsho, said students who graduate from primary schools across Samtse are sent to the school and they have to take all the students.

Tashichholing gup, Sameer Giri, also said that the student population inflow increased as the school was upgraded to a higher secondary school from a middle secondary.

The gup said people should not expect developments to come overnight. The two hostels will solve a major problem and the government has been very supportive.”

Meanwhile, the Tashichholing gewog office is administering the construction of the two hostels and monitoring daily activities.

Gup Sameer Giri said although there are 18 months to complete the hostel, they want the project to end ahead of time so the students can benefit.

Meanwhile, principal Sonam Jamtsho said that the school management would provide boarding facilities on priority basis. Class 10 and class 12 students will be given the preference.”

The school management and the gewog office said they will also use bunk beds to cater to more students.

The government has approved more than Nu 30 million (M) for the construction.

Rajesh Rai | Sipsu 

Best class 10 results of past three years

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 17:00

Examinations: The class 10 results declared yesterday are the best of the past three years.

This is first time in six years that the pass percentage for the Bhutan Council for School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA) has increased from the previous year. The pass percentage had been steadily declining starting with 97.04 percent in 2011 to 92.95 percent in 2015.

In 2015, 5,414 qualified for higher secondary schools while this year 5,923 qualified for government schools.

A total of 11,991 students from 110 government schools and four private schools sat for the examination in December 2016 compared to 11,550 in 2015.

The cut-off point was 61 percent, three points above that of last year. The overall pass percentage is 95.75, an increase of 2.8 percent in 2015.

Students performed best in Dzongkha, Computer Applications and English with the pass percentage being above 96 percent. Science results were the worst, with a pass percentage of 69.79 percent. Despite that, officials said those who passed in the subject scored well with a mean score of 70.85. In most of the subjects the mean scores were between 55-70.

Juben Rana of Samtse Higher Secondary School (HSS) scored 92.60 percent. Thinley Yidzin Wangden and Karma Yangchen Tenzin from Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary School stood second and third with 91.80 percent and 91.40 percent respectively.

Ugyen Dorji from the Dzongkha Development Training Institute topped the Language and Cultural studies certificate examination scoring 81.60 percent. Kinzang Dorji and Sonam Gyeltshen from the School for Language and Cultural Studies scored 78.20 and 76 percent for the second and third position.

A 15-year-old from Sarpang, juben Rana met the expectations of the school and his mother who is a teacher. “Although it’s a total surprise, I’m really happy and proud of my school and parents,” he said.

But this is not the first time Juben Rana has topped his class. He has been holding the top position in his class for the past five years.

Juben’s mother found it hard to describe her feelings. “He has worked very hard for this and we’re immensely proud,” she said. Her happiness springs from the fact that her son will receive another certificate of merit from His Majesty The King, for the fifth time.

Samtse HSS principal, Tshueltrim Dorji said that Juben Rana is a decent, hardworking and a sincere boy.

Luntenzampa MSS vice principal Kinley Gyaltshen said that the two girls are usually also neck to neck in school as with the national results.

“What stands out about them from the rest is that their parents are concerned for their performance and guide them,” Kinley Gyaltshen said.

Feeling grateful, Thinley Yidzin Wangden, 15, from Drametse said she will pursue the Science stream in her higher studies during which she will decide her future. “Well I couldn’t do much revision but paying attention in class worked for me,” the daughter of a Member of Parliament said.

Science was her easiest subject but she scored the highest in Computer Applications obtaining 97. Her lowest marks were in Dzongkha at 80.

Karma Yangchen Tenzin, 15, from Nemjo, Paro stood third. The daughter of a businessman wants to also pursue the Science stream and become a veterinarian one day. “The result came as a surprise,” she said, adding that she had worked hard for the results.

She has excelled in studies from pre-primary and topped her classes ever since.

The toppers said that they feel grateful to their teachers, parents, and friends who have supported them.

Students can access their results on the BCSEA website, www.bcsea.bt/ and also through SMS using their individual index numbers.

B-mobile users should type R12<space>index number and send to 3333, T-cell users send their  index numbers send to 4040.

BCSEA officials said that candidates can collect their mark sheets and pass certificates from their respective schools by the first week of March.

Those wishing to recheck their answer sheets have to apply to the BCSEA before February 13. A maximum of two papers will be allowed for rechecks and each paper will cost Nu 300. The result will be announced on February 16.

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