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Updated: 1 hour 16 min ago

Late come back seals win for Thimphu city

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:08

Thimphu city FC beat High Quality United FC, yesterday 2-1 in the ongoing Thimphu Premier league.

Lhendup Dorji of HQU FC scored in the 31st minute to take the lead and it looked like the game would end 1-0 until Karma Shedrup of Thimphu City equalized in the 81st minute.

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64 participate in national badminton championship

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:07

Sixty four badminton enthusiasts from Nganglam, Gelephu, Samdrup Jongkhar, Samtse, Gomtu, Phuentsholing, and Thimphu will compete in the open national badminton tournament which opened at Babena, Thimphu yesterday.

Among them, 11 are women and 53 are men.

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BEFIT to catalyse CSI growth

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 16:12

At a time when the cottage and small industries (CSIs) globally are turning out to be mainstream financing target, Bhutan is well placed to reap the benefits.

Not only the philosophy of Gross National Happiness is fully aligned with evolving investor and corporate mindset but its demography is also heavily skewed towards millennials, who think businesses should go beyond profits to improve society.

More than 100 participants attended the opening session of BEFIT yesterday

This was the message from the keynote speaker of the second Bhutan Economic Forum of Innovative Transformation (BEFIT), Merisa Drew, the chief executive officer of impact advisory and finance department at Credit Suisse. The BBC has recognised her as one of the most powerful women in Britain and Fortune Magazine has named her among the top 50 most powerful women in international business.

Impact investment, she said is already a half trillion USD financial market. In addition, sustainable investment accounts for more than USD 30 trillion. It means investment with financial returns while creating a positive environmental and social impact.

It is not just investors but the corporate world too that is shifting dramatically in their quest to solve global challenge sustainably.

There are already more than 2,000 signatories to UN principles of responsible investment accounting for USD 85 trillion.

“The Sustainable Development Goal is the language world is using today,” Merisa Drew said. The SDG, she said has identified world’s biggest problems and public and private sectors, investors and entrepreneurs must use the 17 goals to attract investment.

Bhutan, she said has another advantage. The median age of Bhutanese is 27 and demography is heavily weighted towards generation of millennials. According to Credit Suisse’s global next generation report, millennials perceive corporate purpose as to improve, educate, inform and promote wellbeing of society, generate jobs and protect the environment besides profit.

This, she said will drive CSI growth while solving problems related to environment, social and governance.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering, in his inaugural address said that CSI is the focus of the government and that a flagship programme was approved. He said that the economic survey that was launched last week clearly points out that businesses are confronted with lot of challenges and that it must be addressed. As a practicing surgeon, he said that his scanner is now on the government policies.

The Royal Monetary Authority governor, Dasho Penjore said the theme of the second BEFIT, ‘catalysing CSI to drive economic diversification’ is timely and relevant given the objectives of the 12th Plan and underlying economic challenges such as youth unemployment.

“This is a national undertaking to put in place necessary reforms,” he said. For a robust CSI growth, he said enabling regulatory environment is crucial to nurture entrepreneurial culture, drive innovation and technology, improve market access and enhance access to finance.

While it is time to turn rhetoric into reality, to do so the vice president of Singapore based consultancy firm, CrimsonLogic Yeong WeeTan said that the country must put into action the policies and plans.

The BEFIT conference that began yesterday saw the official launch of national e-commerce portal, the revised CSMI and FDI policies and a guideline on e-commerce.

Tshering Dorji

NC concerned over excluding Zhemgang 

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 16:10

The government’s decision to replace Zhemgang with Sarpang for the tourism flagship programme is in contravention of the Budget and Appropriation Act and must be reconsidered.

This is what NC has conveyed to the government through a letter addressed to the prime minister with copies to the Speaker, the foreign minister and the opposition leader a few days ago. The stand was taken at a recently held plenary.

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.

However, 10 days later, the cabinet secretary on June 24 wrote to the GNHC secretary announcing the Prime Minister’s approval of the Tourism Council of Bhutan’s (TCB) proposal to replace Zhemgang with Sarpang. The prime minister chairs the GNHC, while the foreign minister chairs the TCB.

The prime minister’s decision came after both Houses of parliament had passed the Budget and Appropriation Bill.

The NC stated that the National Budget Report 2019-20 is “deemed legally binding” on the government to ensure implementation of the activities and programmes as per the allocation. 

This implies that the tourism flagship programme should be implemented as decided in the budget.

The NC reasoned that the budget report is an integral part of the Budget Appropriation Bill 2019-20, which becomes a law after the royal assent.

According to the NC, the government’s decision is viewed as not in line with the Budget Appropriation Bill 2019-20 and the National Budget Report 2019-20.

Expressing its concern, the NC called upon the government to review the decision and take appropriate action. Both the National Assembly and the National Council passed the Budget Appropriation Bill 2019-20 of Nu 64,826 million.

NC’s Deputy Chairperson and spokesperson, Jigme Wangchuk, said,” We don’t know what action the government will take. We have expressed our concern.”

An official from the Prime Minister’s Office told Kuensel that it is reviewing the NC’s concern.

The cabinet secretary’s letter had stated that the decision was taken to ensure regional distribution in selection of the focus dzongkhags. However, as per the letter, it is not clear if the matter was discussed and endorsed by the cabinet.

Cabinet Secretary Kesang Wangdi wrote, “I am pleased to convey the approval of the Hon’ble Prime Minister on the proposal from the TCB to include Sarpang as one of the four focus dzongkhags in the Tourism Development Flagship Program of the 12th Plan, in place of Zhemgang.”

At a recent press conference, foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji said the Constitution, National Assembly Act and the Public Finance Act gave full authority to the executive to decide on plans and programmes of the country. He said that the flagship programme that has been passed by the parliament was a policy decision where the executive has full authority.

However, MPs who are not in support of the government’s decision say the Budget Appropriation Act is a law unlike other resolutions of parliament and is binding.

Article 14(10) of the Constitution states that any expenditure not included in the budget, or in excess of the budget appropriation, as well as the transfer of any fund from one part of the budget to another, shall be made in accordance with the law. 

Section 10 of the Public Finance (amendment) Act states that money shall be appropriated for the requirement of the state through the annual Budget Appropriation Bill approved by Parliament.

Section 56, on revision of budget and appropriations, states, “The Minister of Finance may present to Parliament Supplementary Budget Appropriation Bills, outlining changes in appropriations and resource estimates with full justifications for the revisions. Such Bill shall be introduced to Parliament at the earliest sitting of Parliament after the last sitting.”

However, section 57 adds that such revisions in the Budget Appropriations may be considered only when circumstances have changed significantly such as in the case of shortfalls in revenues and other resources threatening macro-fiscal sustainability and substantial increase in costs of programmes as approved by the Cabinet among other specified reasons.

It was also learnt that the economic and finance committee of the National Assembly at its meeting held on July 15 decided to discuss the issue with the Speaker. A member, who attended the meeting, said the committee agreed that the decision was unlawful.

The 13-member committee comprises seven members from the ruling party and six from the opposition.

MB Subba 

Nu 1.7B for a dry port at Pasakha

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 16:08

Of the total Nu 4 billion Trade Support Facility (TSF) the Government of India is providing in the 12th Plan, Nu 1.7B has been earmarked for a dry port at Pasakha.

Economic affairs minister Loknath Sharma confirmed this during his two-day visit to Phuentsholing last week.

India committed the TSF to strengthen bilateral trade and economic linkages between the two countries during Lyonchhen’s state visit to India in December 2018.

Speaking to Kuensel, lyonpo Loknath Sharma said the budget has been kept considering the heavy vehicle movement to the Pasakha industrial estate. Pasakha industrial estate has over 33 establishments. Ferrosilicon is the most traded product and contributes to the movement of hundreds of heavy trucks daily. The dry port would be built to support this trade.

The dry port would be three times bigger than the mini-dry port that has been constructed in Phuentsholing.

“A 15-acres of land also has been earmarked for the dry port,” lyonpo said. “We are 60 percent sure of this project.”

Lyonpo said the government is pursuing it and is hopeful that the works would begin within the 12th Plan.

He said the government is interested in establishing dry ports in Gelephu and Nganglam. Feasibility studies would be done for Gelephu, he added.

Phuentsholing already has a mini-dry port, which is the country’s first. It is one of the three components of South Asian Sub-Region Economic Cooperation (SASEC) project with Phuentsholing thromde.

Constructed on 5.4 acres of land, the port is located near the second gate and connects the Northern bypass, another SASEC project. The port would accommodate more than 45 trucks and have customs clearance for imports and exports, and helps decongest the country’s commercial hub.

The port has essential facilities that are lacking in the existing port at the customs office in Phuentsholing. A cold storage, weigh bridge, covered transshipment shed, a separate store to house risky goods, warehouse for seized goods, a store to house seized containers, transshipment shed for container goods, and export ware house are among the facilities at the dry port.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded 81 percent of the total budget as grant and the government funded the rest. In total, Nu 134.85 million (M) was invested.

Although it was completed in February this year, the MDP has not been used yet. Many from the business community are waiting for the port to commence and ease the traffic congestion. The existing dry port in Phuentsholing customs office is often crowded with vehicles. The congestion most of the time elongates to the traffic and causes prolonged blockades.

Lyonpo said the MDP could not be operated because there were different agencies involved and it was not yet decided which agency would operate it.

“ADB had handed it over to the department of trade, while the project was under thromde,” he said. “It took time to prepare documents on its operation.”

Lyonpo said thromde was in a better position to operate the port. “It shouldn’t take much time and the thromde has agreed to operate it.”

Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing 

“Effective technology key to solving problems”

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 16:06

Technology is a means of survival in the competitive modern world with modern problems, said Suhas Gopinath in an interactive session at TechPark in Thimphu on July 15.

Suhas Gopinath,31, from Bangalore in India, is the world’s youngest CEO. He established his first IT company at the age of 14.

Sharing his life experience to a group of professionals and officials from related agencies in the country, Suhas Gopinath said effective use and enhanced technology would help solve problems in the world efficiently. “Pressure on depleting natural resource would be reduced even.”

Recalling his teenage days as a persistent and a determined young boy from a middle-income family in south India, he shared how he had trouble explaining positive impacts of internet to his family, who considered using internet a moral sin.

In school, after Suhas Gopinath was excluded from a club of computer users and, failing to persuade his father to buy one for him, he visited an internet café in the neighbourhood with whatever pocket money he had. “I first started using internet and learnt web design and programming in the café.”

Inspired by Bill Gates, he missed classes, failed in mathematics in high school, and hid his interest in technology from his worried mother. However, after his CV and application for opening new company was rejected in South Asia due to his age limit, the company was opened in the US and he was made the CEO.

“To survive in a competitive and hyper agile world, people should be shamelessly aggressive users of technology,” Subash Gopinath said. A shy and introverted young boy, he said he had to paint moustache and appear bold and matured every day. “But it is important we leave the comfort zone and never quit.”

Worth USD 500 million, his company, Globals Inc was recognised as the fastest growing technology company that focus on education. His team was involved in developing software to reduce corruption in fund usage in remote schools of India.

“In remote schools with free feeding facilities, the headmasters created ghost students and sold most of the products in the black market. The software helped to maintain accountability in the system,” he added.

With new innovations and perseverance, Suhas Gopinath expects to solve corruption in land inheritance and fake wills.

He encouraged Bhutanese IT professionals and young entrepreneurs to be determined in the face of myriad challenges. “Bhutan is surrounded by two fastest-growing economies in the world. She has challenges as well as opportunities.”

According to a participant, Thinley, the talk broadened her understanding of technology and expects to use what she learned effectively as an entrepreneur. “The talk was inspiring and was delivered with humour.”

The session was organised by Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies (RIGGS) in collaboration with Thimphu TechPark.

Choki Wangmo

In the wake of nature’s wrath

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 16:05

It is a busy week in the capital city. There are many fora and conferences scheduled for the week. We kicked off a big seminar where catering alone cost millions. Life seems busy and normal.

Beyond Thimphu, in central and east Bhutan, it is a busier week.

Road workers, officials and passengers stranded are clearing roads, some dzongkhags and gewogs are cut off and farmers are counting the damages to their maize fields, their staple food. Some lost their entire crop.

Life has not come to a standstill, but the wrath of the monsoon is felt in the east this year. As of yesterday, landslides, falling boulders and flash floods have blocked 23 primary national highways. Mongar cannot be accessed from Trashigang or from Nganglam. People are reeling from the unexpected heavy rainfall. Even the air transport is affected although it is restricted to only a handful.

The gewog connectivity road and farm roads cannot withstand one monsoon. The road quality must have been good. We can only blame the monsoon.

Fortunately, we have not experienced any casualties, soaring food prices, fuel depots running dry or shortage of essentials. If we look around in the region, there are many in a sorry state. Millions of people are displaced in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Neighbouring Assam is the worst affected.

About 4.3 million people in Assam have been affected by flooding, while 83,000 have been forced to seek shelter in relief camps on higher ground. The same monsoon rains over the past week have left many dead in Nepal and Bangladesh, and submerged vast areas of north-east India.

The monsoon has just started. We can only feel the vulnerability of being at the mercy of nature, a force that is beyond our control. Is there anything that we can do?

We cannot stop the monsoon, even if we seek divine intervention. What we can do is be cautious. The roadblocks or places getting cut off in the east may not get the attention of both media and the government, but they should not be neglected. It is not visible. It is happening beyond Thimphu.

Machinery and men are deployed to ensure that connectivity is not affected for long. Weather pattern is changing every year for many reasons. Some blame it on global warming. Whatever the reason, we have to be better prepared. As a landlocked country and situated in a fragile topography, we are more vulnerable to natural disasters even if it is not our making.

What contingency plans do we have? How well are we prepared besides sending some heavy earth moving machines to clear a block? Freak weather conditions are going to stay if not worsen every year. The urgent question is: how well prepared are we?

Guidelines contravene LG Act: local leaders

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 16:03

Finance ministry officials, including the minister, and officials from the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) went around the country, sensitising on the recently launched guidelines of gewog annual grants (GAG) and dzongkhag development grant (DDG).

Local leaders, who attended the sensitisation meeting, allege that the guidelines have contradictory clauses with the Local Government Act and claim there would be problems in implementing it.

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Drakteng’s service centre to resume soon

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 16:02

The gewog service centres of Drakteng, Tangsibiji, and Korphu in Trongsa have not been providing any service for more than seven months according to the local leaders.

Drakteng’s service centre, however, is expected to provide services soon, according to the General Manager of Farm Machinery Corporation Limited (FMCL).

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Windstorms flatten maize in Trashigang

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 16:01

More than 82 households in three gewogs of Trashigang lost at least 59.39 acres of maize and other crops to the recent windstorm .

The windstorm affected most parts of Thrimshing and Kangpara gewogs.Rainfall since July 9 also contributed to the damage.

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Two arrested for alleged theft and slaughter of a Jersey cow

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 16:00

Thimphu police arrested two men, aged 45 and 26, for alleged theft and slaughter of a Jersey cow at Ngabiphu.

A cow owner, who lives in Ngabiphu, reported the matter to police on July 15.

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Picture story

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 15:59

Tashi Tshokey will represent Bhutan at the 12th South Asian bodybuilding Championship in Nepal from July 18 to 22.

23 highways blocked in central and eastern Bhutan

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:27

Monsoon this year has not only disrupted road transportation but also hit domestic air services in the country.

Flight cancellations due to bad weather are reported from all three domestic airports. Gelephu airport reported a last minute cancellation following unfavourable weather condition yesterday. The airport recorded five cancellations so far.

No flight has landed at the Yonphula domestic airport in Trashigang this month. There are three flights to Gelephu and Yonphula every week. The domestic airport in Bumthang recorded about three flight cancellations so far. The airport receives five flights every week.

Multiple roadblocks from across the country have also been reported. According to Department of Roads (DoR), various locations along 23 primary national highways (PNH) are blocked due to landslides, falling boulders and flash floods following incessant rain since July 6.

Majority of the roadblocks is reported in central and eastern parts of the country.

The maximum number of roadblocks, at 15 different locations, is reported in Trashigang. While most of the roadblocks are along the gewog centre roads, the PNH connecting Trashigang to Mongar, Samdrupjongkhar and Trashiyangtse is blocked at four locations.

DoR’s regional office in Tingtibi has reported 12 roadblocks including five PNH along the Gelephu-Trongsa, Tingtibi-Panbang and Tingtibi-Praling roads.

In Samdrupjongkhar, three PNHs – Gyalpoizhing-Nganglam, Nganglam-Panbang and Trashigang-Samdrupjongkhar remained blocked as of yesterday.

Major blocks at Reotala along the Trongsa-Gelephu PNH, Khandropang along Bumthang-Mongar and an area near Dangdung Bridge along Trongsa-Gelephu PNH are also blocked since July 10.

In Lingmithang, the Gyalpoizhing-Gongri PNH and Kurizam-Mongar PNH including seven-gewog centre roads and two dzongkhag roads remained blocked as of yesterday.

Multiple landslides are also reported between Ossey stretch and Box-cut along the Gelephu-Trongsa PNH.

A major block at kilometre 36 along Jumja-Lhamozingkha PNH in Phuentsholing is expected to open to traffic on July 23. Continuous rainfall washed away the whole formation width along the highway on July 13.

DoR officials said that man and machines have been deployed at the sites and clearing works are ongoing. However, heavy and continuous rainfall has hampered the work progress. “While we have cleared the minor blocks and opened the traffic, heavy rainfall at night blocks the roads again,” said an official. “We cannot exactly say if the cleared roads would remain open but we have put our machines at almost all the affected locations.”

Most of the reported roadblocks remained closed to traffic as of yesterday.

Meanwhile, given the poor road conditions, institutions such as Gaedu College of Business Studies in Chukha and Sherubtse College in Trashigang have rescheduled the reporting dates for the students.

Younten Tshedup

Housing policy to ensure affordability and accessibility

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:17

The government shall regulate the housing sector to ensure that rental costs do not exceed 30 percent of household income, according to the draft housing policy, 2019.

The policy states that the government should also provide public housing to low and middle-income households.

More than 65 percent of households live in rental units in urban areas where the majority of available rental housing costs more than 30 percent of household income, the policy points out. Most of the Bhutanese houses or structures, it states, are not disabled friendly.

The Royal Monetary Authority (RMA), the draft policy states, shall adopt appropriate social and welfare-oriented monetary policies to promote affordable housing. It was found that finance is a critical input for housing development and housing loans from financial institutions and private savings are the only sources of equity for private housing developers. The high interest rate on housing loans, it states, translates into high rents or higher sale prices for housing units.

Should the policy come through the government could initiate measures to adopt systematic and appropriate allocation of national budget for public housing development,  fiscal measures to provide incentives to individuals for purchase of first residential apartment or construction of first house limited to two storeys for self- occupations.

Urban population increased from 30.9 percent in 2005 to 37.83 percent in 2017 and is projected to rise to 56.8 percent by 2047.

The draft policy noted that the main challenges faced by housing developers in the country are high cost of land acquisition and construction (materials and labour), and expensive development finance and developers’ inability to repay commercial housing loans even with high rental incomes derived from the housing properties.

“These challenges have contributed towards high rent burden in urban areas,” it states. “A majority of Bhutanese cannot afford to own houses and have to depend on rental housing.”

The draft-revised policy once approved is expected to address such challenges in the housing sector as well as address the existing and future problems of housing.

Some of the objectives of policy are to provide safe and affordable rental housing for all, promote home ownership, encourage private, corporate and government entities’ participation in the provision including preservation of Bhutanese tradition, culture and local ecosystems.

Pointing on some of the challenges and policy interventions, the draft policy states that the government in collaboration with the National Land Commission shall identify and include state land for housing development in human settlement plans.

It has also called to allocate land on lease for public housing development programmes, for development of employee accommodations, and carry out re-planning, re-development and densification of existing public housing colonies.

The cost of construction materials is one of the factors contributing to high cost of housing construction where the cost is further escalated by high transportation cost. The draft policy suggests the government to mandate the use of certified locally available construction materials in public housing development to boost local economy.

There are 163,001 households in the country as of 2017, of which 102,607 are rural households and 60,394 are urban households. Almost 36 percent of the households own houses in rural areas against seven percent of households owning houses in urban areas.

Some of the policy interventions for the government are to mandate and ensure that all housing developers comply with regulations on the preservation and promotion of traditional architecture and establish a dedicated housing development and regulatory agency in the country.

‘The government shall establish mechanisms for rent determination and control for rental accommodations for uniformity,” the draft states.

The Ministry of Works and Human Settlement will implement the policy.

Yangchen C Rinzin

ASAB alleges Thimphu thromde of favoring landlords

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:16

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has ordered the Thimphu Thromde to submit a comprehensive report on “exorbitant” increase in rent of automobile workshops by landlords in Olarongchhu and on why it returned pooled land to landowners.

An investigation to the allegation will be determined by the report. “We are yet to receive the report that can determine whether it merits for investigation or not,” an ACC official said.

Five executive members representing the Automobile Sector Association of Bhutan (ASAB) appealed to the ACC’s chairperson last October after both the landowners and Thimphu thromde “lent a deaf ear” to workshop operators’ outcry over the unlawful and exorbitant rent hike and issuing eviction notices.

The workshop owners claimed that they have been appealing to the landowners since 2012 to abide by the Tenancy Act of Bhutan 2015.

How it all happened?

The letter to the ACC stated that in 2008, the monthly house rent was fixed at Nu 60,000 for large workshop, Nu 30,000 for medium and Nu 20,000 for small workshop. The landlords, mostly from Olakha and Babesa, however, kept on increasing high rent which was not in line with the provisions of the Tenancy Act.

The landlords claimed that rent was increased due to high percentage of land pooling which was about 56.58 percent taken by the Thromde, apart from land taxes and loan interests they had to pay. ASAB stated that the landlords increased the rent from Nu 60,000 to Nu 80,000 in 2012 and Nu 170,000 in 2017 for large workshop, Nu 30,000 to Nu 44,000 in 2012 and Nu 80,000 – Nu 90,000 in 2017 for medium workshop and Nu 20,000 to Nu 60,000 in 2017.

They stated that the hike was far above the 10 percent allowed by the Act every two years. “Regardless of such enormous increase since May 2017, the house owners issued eviction notices within a short period of three months,” the letter sated. The reason provided by the building owners for eviction is that they wanted to either renovate/reconstruct new workshop buildings on the excess land they received from thromde.

“Such unregulated increase in rent and lease tenure is placing the security and the survivability of the automobile business at risk,” the letter stated.

Workshop operators in 2018 sought the help of thromde and ministry of works and human settlement (MoWHS) for immediate intervention on the rent hike.

Conflict of interest?

The MoWHS on March 8 last year wrote to the Thrompon requesting Thimphu Thromde’s tenancy dispute settlement committee (TDSC) to look at ASAB’s grievances.

The Tenancy Act mandates respective thromdes to adjudicate and resolve any tenancy related issue falling within Thromde’s jurisdiction.

Accordingly, a five-member committee of TDSC heard and decided about a dozen of cases involving both parties- landlords and workshop operators. According to the aggrieved parties, the TDSC had taken decision in favor of building owners, who are mostly from Babesa. “There was conflict of interest,” two workshop operators who appealed to the Thimphu dzongkhag court against the TDSC’s decision told Kuensel.

Refuting allegations, TDSC’s member and Thromde’s legal officer, Ugyen Dorji, said that the decisions were taken in the interest of both parties as per the provisions of Tenancy Act. TDSC, which comprises of five members chaired by Thrompon, established that the building owners issued eviction notices to the workshop operators as per the agreement signed for rental and land lease under chapter 8 (a) and (b).

Section 75, 76 and 77 of the Tenancy Act allows owner to issue notice on rental unit if he wishes to discontinue the tenant at the end of the tenancy, and he has the right to reacquire the rental unit for his own occupation during the subsistence of tenancy for which the owner may exercise that right by serving the tenant a written notice of two months in advance.

The owner also has the right to evict tenants if rent has been not paid for two preceding months, the tenant refuses to vacate after the expiry or termination of the tenancy, does not comply with the terms and conditions of the agreement or if the tenant creates nuisance to other tenants or carries out any dangerous activities.

“Our ruling also stated that an aggrieved party can appeal to the court within 10 days if he or she is not satisfied with the decision of TDSC,” Ugyen Dorji told Kuensel. “There is no question of conflict of interest,” he said.

About 11 workshop owners appealed to the court for judicial intervention.

Owners refute allegations

Building owners said that they issued eviction notices to workshop owners for breaching rental agreement executed as per the Tenancy Act and not paying rent on time. They also alleged that some workshop owners also sublet their rental units to others and constructed additional structures without the notice of the landowners.

One owner said that the workshop operator has leased the building to another operator without even informing him. “They built new structures in the little space and rented it out. This has affected us in getting our lagthrams,” he said. Owners also said operators never paid the rent on time.” Sometimes they pay one month’s rent in three months. We have loans to repay.”

On the breach of rental agreement, one owner said that it was the operators who proposed rent hike, drew up agreement and set the conditions. “They were the ones who came to us with the conditions that we all signed,” he said.

Issues on excess land pooling

ASAB requested the ACC to look into the excess land pooling returned to a few landowners. “We failed to understand why the pooled land, as per the land pooling agreement, has been returned to few vote-bearing landowners by the thromde,” ASAB stated. “Once the land has been pooled, it has to be used for public benefit services and structures.”

They stated that the former prime minister during his visit to the workshop area in 2016 assured them that the land contributed towards land pooling would be used for constructing ECCD for children of workshop employers and employees, a new BHU and parking for vehicles visiting the workshops.

“We came to know that workshop landowners who have benefitted from the land they received are related to the Thrompon and the legal officer,” the ASAB’s letter stated.

They requested to investigate the issue.

Rinzin Wangchuk

The housing policy

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:13

There will finally be a housing policy- a comprehensive one indeed, that will come as a relief to the 81 percent and growing urban dwellers paying rents through their nose and always at the whims of the landlords.

Housing is one of the biggest problems. If there is not enough, those available are expensive. The problem is worse for the low or middle-income group. 

Most issues related to housing has its root in legal or policy inadequacies. If the revised housing policy comes into effect, at the earliest, it is one that is truly in the interest of the people.

The policy recognises all the problems and its causes. It is guided by the principles of affordability, adequacy, accessibility and safety among others. That is what most Bhutanese expect.

The scarcity or the cost of land had been a factor in driving house rents. The policy will identify state land for housing development including leasing it to corporate and real estate developers.

The other excuse had been the expensive loans landowners borrow to build houses. Recognising financing as a critical part of housing development, the policy looks into adopting fiscal measures or incentives to allow real estate developers develop affordable housing.

Another factor that drives house rent, cost of construction materials, is considered with interventions like exploring cheaper and locally made materials and technologies.

For many Bhutanese, issues like safety, accessibility or preserving tradition is secondary, as the priority is to have affordable decent housing. The policy does look into all these aspects.

With shortage or affordability the issue today, many salaried people end up paying not less than 40 percent of their income on house rent. The policy will ensure that this does not exceed 30 percent.

There are other areas the policy could cover to fulfil its visions. Cost of transportation has ripple effect. Those constructing houses buy trucks, as it is cheaper to buy than hire until the construction is completed. We have seen distances shortened, but not in the cost of transportation. The distance between Phuentsholing and Thimphu is shorter by about 20kms after the bypass. Trucks need not climb to Chapcha. Has it resulted in a drop in transportation cost?

The trend is that building owners offset the cost to tenants. If there are means to intervene in controlling construction costs, it will benefit the majority. Most urban hubs are congested. There is no space and the alternative is to go to the outskirts. Reliable and affordable public transport linking housing colonies to work places would bring down housing cost.

Design and requirement for buildings is determined by locations. Those outside the thromde do not follow standard building requirements. They can save cost from using lesser steel rods, for instance, even if the house is for rent. In the thromdes, strict regulations drive construction costs. There is no problem in the requirement. The problem is in urbanisation of the periphery. Does it mean that the lives of those living outside the thromdes are cheaper if the buildings are built without required specifications?

Meanwhile, the much-awaited draft housing policy is on the Gross National Happiness Commission’s website for comment. It is an opportunity to shape the policy that would affect more than half of the population.

It would be too late to criticise once it is endorsed.

Drukgyel CS student bags 12th Golden Youth Award

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:12

Palden Tshering Yangchen from Drukgyel Central School in Paro won the Golden Youth Award from among 80 students at the 12th Golden Youth Award (GYA) Camp in Thimphu.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering awarded the trophy and certificate to the winner during the closing ceremony at the Youth Development Fund (YDF) on July 14.

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More than 100 youth attend youth summit 

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:10

The 5th Youth Summit held at Royal Thimphu College concluded yesterday evening with a gallery walk on six different issues. The issues were global warming, women empowerment, divorce and its effects on youth, mental heath, negative impact of social media and self-reliance.

The four-day residential camp brought together more than 100 youth aged 14-18 from various parts of the country on a journey of self-discovery and reflection on their roles as citizens of a democracy. The theme this year was ‘Change Begins With Me.’

Staff Reporter 

14th Bhutan – Japan annual bilateral consultation held

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:09

The 14th Bhutan-Japan annual bilateral consultation on economic cooperation was held yesterday in Thimphu.

The two sides discussed the flagship programmes in the 12th Plan, comprehensive national development plan for Bhutan 2030, status of Japanese assistance to Bhutan, bilateral assistance needs survey and other areas of cooperation, a press release from the foreign ministry states.  On-projects were also reviewed and deliberations held on prioritised projects submitted for approval by the government.

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Greenhouses boost farming in Haa

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 17:08

Farmers in Haa are taking up commercial farming with greenhouses protecting their crops from adverse weather conditions.

Besides supplying it to the local market, the produce grown in greenhouses has also found a market in Thimphu.

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