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Picture story

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 16:41

Safety first or last? Construction materials are stored by the roadside where works are underway to construct the drainage in Hejo, Thimphu. On Wednesday, a six year old died and another four year old was critically injured at the site. 

BEFIT, the big drive for cottage and small industries

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 16:40

Sincere, Mindful, Astute, Resilient and Timeless (SMART) sums up the three-day Bhutan Economic Forum for Innovative Transformation (BEFIT).

These acronyms encapsulate His Majesty’s direction that Bhutan must make up by talents where it lacks in numbers.

Vice-president of the Royal Institute of Governance and Strategic Studies (RIGSS) and chairperson of the civil service commission, Karma Hamu Dorji said BEFIT is a result of His Majesty’s aspiration to address the pressing macroeconomic challenges through innovative solutions.

When the country celebrated the birth of HRH The Gyalsey, the financial sector made cash offerings to Their Majesties. His Majesty, however, commanded that the cash be used to institute BEFIT to initiate a discourse in creation of a resilient economy on the foundations of harmonious and just society.

The UN resident representative, Gerald Dally said economic development makes impact but it must be underplayed by cultural and social influence, which points to Bhutan’s uniqueness. He added that the country’s monarchs have been pivotal in doing so.

He explained that the dominant demography of young millennials, who think businesses should address the social problems and the country’s commitment to remain carbon negative, importance lensed towards its biodiversity are all worth the effort. This, he said sums up the sincerity aspect of His Majesty’s vision.

Self-reliance, he said is not a far-fetched dream if the mindset is strengthened. Over the last three days, he said opportunities in impact investing, avenues in food and agriculture, launch of Jab-Chor platform and commitments to ease access to finance are geared towards stirring mindfulness.

The sessions on technology, risk hedging, credit enhancement and reforms such as the revised CSI and FDI policies can be connected to astuteness.

“We should not be overwhelmed by risk; we should know the risk,” he said adding that some sessions from the BEFIT are directed towards moving beyond the trainings and developing the whole ecosystem, Priority Sector Lending being one. This, he said is being resilient.

The government assurance to move away from the hydro driven economy, interface between the happiness concept and SDGs and preparing for the future, he said is being timeless.

Reflecting on the core values of His Majesty, the RMA governor Dasho Penjore said that entrepreneurs, should embody humility and responsibility, and especially in the context of accessing financing, the importance of being responsible borrowers.

Why diversify into CSI?

There is a comparative advantage to small companies in a situation where it face competition with big companies. In Bhutan’s context, the World Bank’s chief economist for South Asia, Hans Timmer said that foundations for the CSI’s have been laid through germination of visions of good leadership.

For instance, one  entrepreneur said that His Majesty’s one comment on her business  that ‘she is doing a good job’ has compelled her to break the barriers of financial and social norms.

Bhutan, he said has invested in human capital through free education and it must continue. The country, he added has also started to think about unleashing the potential of its educated lot.

While high youth unemployment is a pertinent issue, he said this is one of the trends in developing countries. Initially, he said most countries employed the educated into civil service or corporate sector because these sectors created a conducive environment, provided incentives and benefits. “But with increasing people graduating from the universities, the government cannot absorb everyone,” he said.

Then comes the transition phase, where a common characteristic is mistrust in private sector.

But what drives the private sector growth Hans Timmer said is competition, both within and outside. “But the general theory doesn’t apply to Bhutan because of its uniqueness and this is why Bhutan has comparative advantage in small companies,” he said adding that improved investment, conducive regulations and technology can drive CSI as a catalyst to economic diversification for Bhutan.

Regionally, he said South Asia is under performing in terms of exports. “Exports determine the competitiveness,“he said.

The president and founder of Loden Foundation, Karma Phuntsho (PhD) said Bhutanese imbibe the values of social entrepreneurship from it tradition, culture and religion. He pointed out a compelling correlation between the four noble truths and eight fold paths of Buddha and a social entrepreneur.

Tshering Dorji

“We want our money back”

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 16:38

Ten students who had applied for overseas employment through Best Placement Agent (BPA) are running from pillar to post, in the hope of getting back their money from an overseas employment agent.

Desperate and frustrated, they approached a member of parliament, Dewathang Gomdar member, Ugyen Dorji of the opposition party who lent an ear to their grievances. He happened to be the only member in the office when the students came knocking.

The students said that they approached various agencies in the country and without any progress, they had appealed to the MP’s office. “Other than MP Ugyen Dorji, everyone was out of office. With some hope, we came to seek suggestion and share our problems,” they said.

The students alleged the firm of fraudulent practices in fund usage, visa processing and renewal and air tickets, among others. The students are waiting for the agent to pay back their money, ranging from Nu 200,000 to 400,000 depending on the university and courses they chose.

“We have to repay back loan and time is running out,” one of the students said. “We want our money back.” The collateral free education loan was availed through a memorandum of understanding between the agent and the bank with the labour ministry as the secondary guarantor.

The loan interest was fixed at 12.13 percent.

However, an official from the agent said the students withdrew from the programme after contracts were signed and payments were made to the universities in Malaysia. “What the students fail to consider is that in the refund policies of the universities on which they signed, the tuition fees are non refundable if a student wishes to withdraw from the programme.”

Despite repeatedly writing to SG academy in Malaysia, the BPA official said that she has failed to obtain refund whereas BMI University has agreed to refund for three out of four students registered with the university.

She also said that after requesting the bank to reconsider the interest rate, the loan interest for the students was reduced to 7.9 percent.

Two students alleged that while heading to Malaysia, BPA official who accompanied them gave the visas only in Bangkok. “But we realised that our visas already expired. Then we were told to apply for tourist visa, which was not viable for financial reasons. It would not allow us to earn and learn as was agreed.”      

Two students went to the university with tourist visas and then applied for withdrawal, which the agent did not allow since the contract was already signed between BPA and the university.

Eventually the students returned and asked for refund from the agent.

The BPA official said the students cited health concerns and inability to adapt in the new environment as reasons for withdrawal and they were not liable for a refund according to the contract.

Another two students who appealed to the MP wanted refund after their visas were cancelled. However, BPA said that visa of the two students were rejected by the immigration in Malaysia as they submitted fake documents.

Regarding fake tickets for which the students accused the agent, BPA blamed their former manager, who embezzled about Nu 600,000 from the agent.

“After we knew about the manager’s fraudulent practices, he was suspended and we filed a police case against him,” the BPA official said.

On May 21, a student lodged a complaint against BPA official to the labour ministry.  The Department of Labour (DoL) told the involved parties to resolve the dispute. After failing to come to an agreement, the department informed them to pursue the matter with the Royal Court of justice.

To this, BPA said that the office was unaware about the letter as the ministry used postal service to deliver the letter, which was outlandish. She questioned the involvement of DoL as the cases were dealt by the Department of Employment Services.

The assistant programme officer with the ministry, Tshering Dawsel, said that what matters is that the BPA had got the information on resolution of dispute between the student and the BPA official. “The ministry is firm and wants the agent to either send students to Malaysia or refund the money. The case is going to take some time.”

Meanwhile, MP Ugyen Dorji said that the case is severe and told students to file a court case.

The agreement between the agent and students stated that after a minimum period of 15 months of training and another nine months paid internship, the candidate would be offered a two-year employment.

BPA met with the students yesterday.

Till date, there are 97 students under learn and earn programme in Malaysia, sent through the agent.

Choki Wangmo

Bhutan participates in candle festival 

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 16:36

At the invitation of the Governor of Ubon Ratchathani Province, the Royal Bhutanese Embassy and Bhutanese students in Thailand participated in the Candle Festival on July 16 and 17. The embassy participated with a float, which included a choeten made of candle in keeping with the theme of the festival, while Bhutanese students performed cultural dances at the festival parade. Bhutan was the only participating country in the Candle Festival.

The Candle Festival is unique to Ubon Ratchathani Province and marks the beginning of the Buddhist Lent. The magnificent candle and wax sculptures are presented as merit-making offerings and are displayed to the public/visitors in a festive procession before being taken to the temples. The customs and tradition related to this Buddhist festival dates back 117 years and has been preserved by the local communities of Ubon Ratchathani.

Staff Reporter

Defamation and libel laws should change if it is useful: FM

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 16:35

The government intimidated the judiciary to only accept genuine cases of defamation and libel so that people do not misuse laws.

This, according to foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji, is a part of the recommendation made by the United States during the United Nations Human Rights Council conducted in May this year in Geneva.

He confirmed that UNESCO and US made recommendations to Bhutan, as the council reviewed its human rights record.

“The UNESCO made an alternative report to the report that Bhutan submitted,” he said. “Therefore, Bhutan doesn’t have to respond or comply with the report.”

He said the Bhutanese team didn’t even accept the report while presenting the country report to the council. “But the USA recommendation stated the need to prevent the misuse of the articles of defamation.”

An online news agency reported that Bhutan was encouraged to decriminalise defamation and place it in the civil code in line with international standards.

“In the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNESCO noted that defamation and libel were criminal offences under articles 317 and 320 of the Penal Code. Those offences carried a punishment of fines and a maximum of three years of imprisonment,” it stated.

It also stated that US made the recommendation to prevent the misuse of defamation laws to unduly constrain freedom of expression both online and offline.

Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said decriminalising defamation and libel would entail changing the law itself. “If it is useful to the country, we will change it, but it would take time, as it has to be first presented to the parliament.”

He, however, said that our laws are clear and section 318 clearly specifies what construes defamation.

Section 317 of the Penal Code 2004 states, “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of defamation, if the defendant intentionally causes damage to the reputation of another person or a legal person by communicating false or distorted information about that person’s action, motive, character, or reputation.”

Section 318 states that a bonafide expression made in the public interest; a criticism of a literary work or product; an appeal through lawful means or in good faith for redressing a grievance; a bonafide complaint by the defendant against one’s own superior officer or about an employee serving under the officer; a bonafide complaint by or to an agency or authority of Bhutan to redress a grievance; a formal report of a supervisor or superior officer concerning the work or performance of an employee; or instances where the Court, based on relevant facts and circumstances, considers the statement made to be reasonable, would not be considered defamation.

According to section 319, the offence of defamation shall be considered a fourth-degree felony if the defamation includes murder, armed robbery, terrorism or treason; or a petty misdemeanour if the defamation includes any matter other than murder, armed robbery, terrorism or treason.

A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of libel, according to section 320 of the Penal Code, if the defendant defames another person through the means of writing, drawing, or photographing.

The grading of the offence of libel is similar to that of defamation.

According to statistics maintained by the police, there were 10 defamation related cases reported to police in 2018. There were six defamation cases, three libel and a case of blackmail reported last year.

There were 13 defamation related cases reported in 2017, four in 2016, eight in 2015, six in 2014 and two in 2013.

Tashi Dema

New Lam appointed for Tharpaling

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 16:34

His Holiness the Je Khenpo appointed Khenpo Tshewang Sonam as the new lam of Tharpaling dratshang, Bumthang on July 16.

Lam Tshewang Sonam, 57, from Ura first joined in gomdey dratshangs of Wangthang Goenpa in Ura and later moved to Nymdroling monastery, Mysore for further studies.

Khenpo Tshewang Sonam received rigney and tseteachings from Lam Gyelwa Nima and Tsangkha Rinpoche Norbu Wangchuk.

He received kagyue Wanglung Thri Sum and other religious teaching from 67th Je Khenpo Nyzer Truelku Thinley Lhendup and Trongsa Lam Darbab Tshewang Dorji. He was conferred the Khenpo title by Penor Rinpoche in the third batch of Khenpos.

He served as chief of the Shedra at Namdroling monastery, Mysore for several times.

In 2003 he was sent to Tibet and served as the principal of the Pyelyul Shedra for more than five years. During his stay in Tibet he received teachings from Tibetan scholars, Nyseshukhen Rinpoche, Khenpo Achuk Rinpoche and many more.

After returning from Tibet, he served as the chief of shedra in Namdroling monastery for one year.

There are more than 100 monks at Tharpaling dratshang.

Nim Dorji | Trongsa

Fix accountability, immediately

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 16:33

We do not have to wait for disasters to happen; we do not have to count the lives lost to realise our responsibilities, each individually.

Yet, this is the problem that seems to be deeply embedded in the very cultural heart of the Bhutanese people.

It is sickening how everyone pretends to be deeply concerned but do far less than what they really ought to. The problem with us this day is needless recognition that does not serve any purpose. This is serve serve us no good in the long term. 

Let us home in on the reality. It takes courage to do so.

A six-year-old boy dies because in his small and innocent mind he was taking a shortcut. His younger friend suffered a serious injury.

Let us also talk about the responsibilities that we did not carry well. We have a standing regulation to refer to that is supposed to guarantee safety to all where mishaps like this can happen – Building Regulation 2018.

What good is it when a regulation does nothing good to the society that it is designed to benefit? Surely public – national resources – were put to use to draft and endorse such promises.

Now, we have only one thing to look at – to fix the accountability on whomsoever’s head it squarely falls on. Unless this is done, there will not be any improvement in the way things work in our society. Change ought not to be for the sake of it. The problem is with the lack of courage to fix accountability on those who fail to discharge their duty as is expected of them.

According to Building Regulation 2018, “The owner of the land on which a building is being constructed, altered or demolished shall ensure that: a) the work site is closely supervised by an engineer who is experienced in supervision; b) the work site has suitable scaffolding, platforms and nets; c) materials used in the construction comply with minimum standards prescribed by the Building Code; d) suitable signage is provided for workers on site and for members of the public (including drivers and pedestrians) using nearby roads and footpaths; e) workers are provided with suitable safety equipment and clothing, including helmets, safety belts, boots and working gloves.”

In the recent incident, there was none of this. The fact is our construction companies blatantly bypass the laws, rules and regulations. Where do we see construction workers with safety helmets and boots, for example?

If the contractor failed, how and why he failed must be explained. Only then will we get to those who did not ensure the safety of the public. The least we can do is not set such a precedent where public officials can easily get off the hook. Why are we spending so much on developing rules and regulation otherwise?

Accessing markets, a challenge for ‘Made in Bhutan’ products 

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 16:32

While much is done to promote Cottage and Small Industry (CSI), branding ‘Made in Bhutan’ remains a challenge.

Accessing international markets because of poor logistical infrastructure, low economics of scale, high transaction and transportation costs were some of the pressing challenges highlighted at the Bhutan Economic Forum for Innovative Transformation (BEFIT).

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Five entrepreneurs pitch at Jab-Chor 2

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 16:31

Jab-Chor 2, which was launched at the Bhutan Economic Forum for Innovative Transformation in Thimphu, saw five entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas to investors on July 17.

Bhutan Alternatives – the green solution, a remanufacture of toner cartridge in was one of them.

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First consignment shipped reaches Bangladesh

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 16:30

After three and half days, the consignment, a 1,000 metric tonnes (MT) of stone aggregates from Bhutan, which was flagged off from Dhubri Port in Assam, India, through the Brahmaputra River reached Narayanganj Port in Dhaka, Bangladesh on July 16.

The consignment was flagged off on July 12, three days later from the initial scheduled date of July 9. Covering a total distance of 615km, it took the ship three and a half day to reach Dhaka.

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Rolong- rolls on

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 16:19

10pm, Wednesday, July 17. The curtains at the dusitD2 Yarkay hotel in Thimphu fell revealing the first image of the upcoming feature film, Rolong – Make The Dead Walk.

The suspense was broken. The Blockbuzster Productions house was venturing into thriller/drama genre of filmmaking, contrary to the popular love stories and comedies Bhutanese moviegoers are used to.

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Picture story

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:21

Open: The Multi-Level-Car-Parking II at Norzin Lam opens for use today. Both entry and exit to the car park can be done from Norzin Lam or Gongzin Lam, the road in front of Thromde Office. The car park can accommodate 222 cars.

PM asks MoE to consider underage admission this time 

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:20

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering has asked the education ministry to reconsider its decision on revoking the admission of underage children for this academic session.

The letter sent through the Cabinet Secretary yesterday has directed the ministry to allow the children to continue their education. Admission of 890 underage pre-primary students in public and private schools were revoked in May.

However, the ministry is yet to discuss the letter and would take a few days to come with the decision based on the prime minister’s instruction.

The Prime Minister’s instruction has come following the response submitted by the education ministry on July 1 where it decided to stand by its earlier decision to keep the admission age at six years.

In the third week of June, a letter from the Prime Minster asked the ministry to extend and explore the possibility of reconsidering its decision.  “This was to ensure minimal disruption to the students who have not fulfilled the age requirement,”the letter had stated.

The decision to standby the earlier decision was to uphold the existing policy on the admission age to enroll in grade pre-primary.

Representatives of parents, proprietors and principals of private schools had submitted a petition to the Prime Minister on June 13 appealing the government to regularise the admission of underage pre-primary (PP) students for the 2019 academic session.

The appeal was made after the education ministry in May revoked the admission of 890 PP students (below 5.5 years old) in public and private schools across the country.

The representatives had also appealed the government to set five years (as of March 2019) as entry age for PP.

Underage students are those who have not attained six years, the criteria the ministry prescribes for PP enrollment. The ministry’s earlier decision had meant that the children would have to repeat class PP next year.

Even if the policy could not be changed, they had requested the government to reconsider this year’s enrollment with assurance that from next year, the schools would abide by the rule.

The ministry, taking into account children’s development stages and well being based on global research findings and practices had decided to stand by its earlier decision.

Some parents Kuensel talked to said the ministry could consider the decision this one time because the children are already half way through the academic year and the fees have already been paid.

One of the parents said that if the ministry was to take such decisions then it should have been made before the academic session and not in the middle of the session when a child has already learnt half of the syllabus.

“The one-time consideration we are requesting is for our children and not because we’ve already spent the money. Any amount spent on a child is never a waste but this is affecting my daughter because she is insisting to go to school.”

Few parents said that the ministry should take a prompt decision on the Lyonchhen’s directives so that they can join when the schools reopen after the summer break.

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Govt.’s decision on Zhemgang illegal: Opposition

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:18

A few days after the National Council wrote to the Prime Minister asking the government to reconsider its decision to replace Zhemgang with Sarpang in the tourism flagship programme, the Leader of Opposition has written to the Speaker to revoke the government’s decision.

The letter, which was signed by the opposition leader and dispatched yesterday, states that the government had taken the decision in spite of the opposition having explained about possible violation of laws and its impact on the budgetary procedures.

“You may kindly recollect that I have taken the floor to express my concern on the issue after learning that the Cabinet was likely to make this change. I also clearly highlighted the possible implications such a move will have on the planning and budgeting procedures besides violation of relevant laws,” the opposition wrote.

He stated that the government has no legitimacy to make any amendment to the Bill once both Houses of parliament passed it and granted assent by the Druk Gyalpo.

“The opposition party is deeply concerned by this unlawful decision of the government in violation of the Budget Appropriation Bill which was passed by the parliament,” he stated.

The National Assembly on June 14 passed the National Budget Report 2019-20, which allocated Nu 11 million each for Zhemgang, Lhuentse, Dagana and Gasa for the tourism flagship programme.

The Budget Appropriation Bill for the 2019-20 was adopted by the National Assembly after incorporating recommendations from the NC.

The opposition leader stated that as the budget was allocated to specific dzongkhags and approved as part of the Budget Appropriation Bill, the government has no authority make changes to the plans and programmes as well as set priorities before being submitted to parliament for approval.

The opposition has drawn the government’s attention to Sections 2 and 3 of Article 14 and questioned the constitutionality of the government’s action.

The opposition also cited Section 8 of Article 20 of the Constitution, which states “The Executive shall not issue any executive order, circular, rule or notification which is inconsistent with or shall have the effect of modifying, varying or superseding any provision of a law made by Parliament or a law in force.”

The opposition also quoted sections 62, 57, 58, 59, 60 and 61 of the Public Finance Act, which deal with revision of budget and appropriations.

Section 62 states, “No budgetary body shall carry out activities for which there is no provision in the budget and appropriation Act or other lawful authority.” This according to the opposition mandates that the government cannot propose activities, which are not there in the budget and appropriation bill and hence is unlawful.

“It is abundantly clear that the government has neither respected the supremacy of the Parliament nor the provisions of the Constitution and the Public Finance Act and has deliberately gone ahead with their decision to alter an approved provision of the Budget Appropriation Bill 2019-20,” the opposition stated.

It added that such a practice would set a very unhealthy precedence whereby the very foundation of the parliamentary procedures and processes and values, principles and spirit of democracy would be shaken.

The opposition spokesperson Dorji Wangdi said that the party had decided to write to the Speaker as it was the most amicable option the opposition had felt.

Opposition members comprising both elected and non-elected had recently met in Thimphu to discuss the issue. “It was decided that this was the most amicable option to resolve the issue,” he said.

However, foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji, who is the chair of the TCB maintained that the government felt that its decision was not unlawful unless it oversteps the total budget.

He said that if the legal arm of the government feels it’s not a right decision and the opposition feels it’s unlawful, the government would keep the implementation of the proposed change pending and put it in the next budget.

He said that although the use of the budget is debated, the change in dzongkhag was not illegal. He said activities in the dzongkhag would continue. 

The foreign minister said the government was open to discussion with the opposition, but that it had not come for discussion. “We appreciate discussion and dialogue,” he said, adding that the opposition should come forward to discuss the matter.

MB Subba

Naro gewog awaits electricity 

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:17

Even after a year and a half since Naro gewog in Thimphu proposed for rural electrification, the gewog is still without electricity.

Although the National Environment Commission approved the project, it is awaiting forest clearance from the Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS). This is because the gewog falls within the Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP).

Naro gup Wangchuk said that in 2017, the sixth technical advisory committee meeting of DoFPS approved the forest clearance with few conditions, which according him was not applicable, considering the requirements of spacing in the electrification process. “The department gave approval for transmission lines but ordered against tree felling for installation of poles and transmitters.”

The approval letter from DoFPS to Bhutan Power Corporation, dated December 27, 2017 stated, “Rural electrification to Thimphu should be done along the ongoing GC road to Barshong sharing right of way. Hence, no felling should be done along the line from right of way clearing.”

However, the gup said that the construction of the 29 kilometres gewog centre (GC) road, which began in 2008, is still ongoing. The construction was delayed by months in between as it came in conflict with habitat conservation of wild animals within the park.

“Wild animals are more important than the welfare of about 71 households,” he added.

Even if the road was complete, he said, the electrification process couldn’t be carried out along the GC road, as the road is steep and constructed by cutting through cliffs.

The chief of JDNP, Rinzin Dorji said that the park is in the process of field investigation and survey to ensure that no harm is done to both the people and the park. “We had consultation meetings with Bhutan Power Cooperation and a report is underway.”

Once the report is submitted to the department, the gup said the consultation meeting among people of Naro and the park officials would bring beneficial results.

With an area of 281.37 sq. kms, Naro gewog has about 250 people. It shares borders with Kawang and Lingzhi gewogs, and Paro dzongkhag.

Choki Wangmo 

A call for private sector to reform

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:16

Private sector must renew its role as the country shifts from subsistence to market-oriented economy.

This was the takeaway from the second day of the Bhutan Economic Forum for Innovative Transformation.

Alving Ung, a leadership expert faculty at Royal Institute of Governance and Strategic Studies (RIGSS) said businesses must discern its core values, develop to strengthen communities, design life-giving goals and discover the calling to love and serve.

Reflecting on His Majesty’s address at RIGSS, Alvin Ung said that three core values – adaptiveness, ability to look at problems from different perspectives and learning everyday – were passed on from His Majesty The Fourth King, which His Majesty would now like to pass on to HRH the Gyalsey. “As a business, if you are not certain about your calling in your life, look at the words of His Majesty to guide you and find your calling,” he said.

While entrepreneurs are often called the problem solvers, the conference saw speakers advocating businesses to align their goals with the SDGs, besides profit. The conference also introduced Bhutanese businesses and entrepreneurs to the concept of impact investing and sustainable investing.

However, for the SDG agenda to move forward, Aniket Shah, head of sustainable investing at a global asset management firm, Oppenheimer Funds, said the world needs a breakthrough and leadership to show the way in how to develop sustainably and that Bhutan is well positioned for the task.

To accelerate economic transformation, he said, a smart institution that attracts foreign capital, ability of domestic industries to export and domestic development financial institutions with clear mandate are prerequisite. “There is no need of too many complex financial institutions but you must make sure that domestic institutions are serving the mandate,” he said.

Managing director of Borneo Eco Tours, Malaysia, Albert Teo Chin Kion shared his experience on running a social business. “I have worked on my businesses in Borneo with the goal of empowering my employees and the community, by training them, giving them access to loans, and helping them grow. Employment is the first step out of poverty. It is at the core of economic development and social stability,” he said.

He however, said there is a need to “detox the free-mentality” from the people’s mind. “Welfare creates unhealthy dependency,” he said adding that people construe welfare as their entitlement with frequent freebies.

 

Access to finance

Access to finance is the biggest obstacle for startups and enterprises. To ensure that businesses don’t drown from risks that are beyond human control and improve access to finance, Dr Suresh Balakrishnan, technical director of UNCDF (UN capital development fund) spoke on risk sharing, insurance cover and subsidising risks by financial institutions to encourage them to lend more. Use of FinTech, he said will help make better credit decisions as well as allow borrowers to explore multiple options.

Bhutan, he said is disadvantaged geographically. Lack of coordination among institutions and preparedness are challenges to ease credit access.

“Instead of using grants to finance few individual investment, development agencies could incentivise institutions to finance bankable CSIs by giving risk cover,” he said.

While various initiatives to kick start businesses exist, Sangay Tshering, managing partner of Green e-solution whose entrepreneurial journey began in 2010 said there is lack of support to build human capital.

The biggest constraint businesses face, he said is in scaling up production. This is the time when demand is picking up. The private sector, he said also lose good people because employees working in private firms are treated as ‘second class citizens.’

He indicated that businesses not only suffer deficiency of financing, but individual financing is also not rendered to people working in private sector.

However, the BEFIT conference yesterday saw finance minister issuing in-principle approval for Bhutan’s first CSI bank. The Rural Enterprise Development Corporation Ltd would now be converted into a CSI bank.

A domestic crowd-funding platform developed by the Royal Securities Exchange was also launched yesterday.It is a digital platform, bhutancrowdfunding.rsebl.org.bt that offers new businesses to explore finance and public investors to explore avenues.

Tshering Dorji

Hume pipe crushes one, injures another in Hejo

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:14

A six-year boy died on impact and another four year old was critically injured when a hume pipe rolled over and crushed them at Hejo in Thimphu yesterday. The incident took place around 11am when the boys had gone out to a nearby shop.

The four-year boy was taken to hospital.

Residents said the hume pipe rolled and trapped the children.

The hume pipes were stacked above the road for the ongoing sewer construction along the road. Residents said the area is unsafe for commuters and children.

“Who should be responsible for safety? Is it thromde, contractors or parents? Someone should be responsible,” said a resident.

Phub Dem

Promise of CSI growth is welcome

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:12

Cottage and small industries have been growing steadily over the years. After Royal Monetary Authority’s  (RMA) priority sector lending (PSL) policy it received priority, resulting in the CSI growth of more than 20 per cent. There are more than 20,000 licensed and operational CSIs in the country today.

The good news is that the focus of the second Bhutan Economic Forum of Innovative Transformation (BEFIT) that ends today is further development of CSI in the country. For a robust economic growth, this is critically important for Bhutan.

According to some observations, the median age of Bhutanese is 27 and demography is heavily weighted towards generation of millennials who look at corporate purpose to improve, educate, inform and promote well-being of society, generate jobs and to protect the environment besides making profits. However, the fact remains that businesses are today confronted with challenges that must be solved to pave way for the healthy growth of economic opportunities.

Bhutan has arrived at a time when economic diversification will define its success as a nation. CSI development can and must, therefore, play a critical role in solving some of the biggest problems facing the country today – rising youth unemployment and dwindling agriculture sector. In this regard, giving grounds for enabling regulatory environment crucial to nurture entrepreneurial culture is vitally important without which there would scarcely be any drive for innovation and technology. Access to finance and market must follow.

While the numbers look good, we have not been able to harness the benefits of CSIs. Perhaps it is time we brushed aside rules and regulations (there are too many of them!) that in fact impede growth and really worked at developing CSIs in the country. As part of human capital development and enhancement of entrepreneurship culture, entrepreneurs are provided with essential skill development training business advocacy workshops regularly. However, there the things seem to end.

When we talk about CSIs, looking beyond is perhaps much more important than looking inside. Limited market can be the biggest challenge to young entrepreneurs. Economic diversification, otherwise called the development of CSI, cannot tarry or fail because it is the only real antidote to the challenges emanating from changing times.

Working together to fight corruption

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:11

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), in its effort to combat and fight corruption better, interacted with the media fraternity yesterday in Thimphu.

The commission officials, recognising that engagement with media is necessary since media has wider reach and more interactions with public, conducted the interactive session to receive feedback, as they are drafting a media and communications strategy.

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JSW School of Law and UVic formalise collaboration

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:10

To formalise collaboration and future cooperation in joint research projects and conferences, exchange of faculty and students as well as teaching and researching materials, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between JSW School of Law and the University of Victoria (UVic), yesterday.

The two institutions also agreed to cooperate in implementing the regulating governance in South and Southeast Asia, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Advanced Scholars project.

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