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Updated: 1 hour 48 min ago

Overhauling the cottage and small industry

Sat, 07/06/2019 - 14:39

Lack of coordination has belittled the value and efforts designed to facilitate the cottage and small industry (CSI) development, according to the CSI annual report.

A diagnostic study also found that support of various agencies largely overlaps in one or two phases of business while it is absent in some phases.

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11,248 species found in Bhutan 

Sat, 07/06/2019 - 14:38

Bhutan is home to 11,248 species according to the first biodiversity statistics of Bhutan released in May this year.

Recognised as one of the top ten-biodiversity hotspots globally, the country has 5,114 species of animals, 5,369 plants, 690 fungi, 55 Chromista, 18 Eubacteria, and two species of Protista. Bhutan has 0.8 percent of the total biodiversity.

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Waste management strategy highlights challenges

Sat, 07/06/2019 - 14:37

Despite having specific Acts, regulations and responsible authorities specified by law, waste management measures have not been effectively implemented.

According to the national waste management strategy (NSWS), the failure was due to limited workforce and budget, lack of implementing capacity in thromdes and dzongkhags and lack of awareness and cooperation from the public.

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Wither the Bhutanese media?

Sat, 07/06/2019 - 14:36

Sometime in 2012, a group of private newspapers appealed to the government against the implementation of the Advertisement Guidelines developed by the Ministry of Information and Communications. The government relented. That marked the beginning of the demise of the private press in Bhutan. The Guidelines would have pruned away the media houses to a sustainable number.

So, cannibalisation started in a media market crowded with 12 newspapers and six radio stations. The number was too big for a small population and a smaller audience at a time when the government’s austerity measures targeted publicity budgets. Today, five newspapers remain. Five have folded. One has suspended its publication indefinitely. Even five, it seems, is too many. Most of them are shadows of their former selves. In its heyday, Bhutan Times was 98 staff strong. It is down to 10 today.

Where did the sustainability challenge begin? It began with the liberal licensing policy. The government authorities have maintained that the Constitution’s guarantee of the freedom of the press means no one should be denied a media licence. Let them fight it out in the market. But experience tells us that the ‘media market’ does not operate like the potato and tomato market. And a media market in disarray is much costlier than a market of rotting potatoes and tomatoes.

In the meanwhile, the banking industry does not bleat like the media industry because a moratorium on the licensing of commercial banks keeps the number of banks in check. Article 7 of the Constitution that guarantees the ‘freedom of the press, radio and television’ also guarantees the ‘right to practice any lawful trade, profession or vocation.’ But the banking sector chose a moratorium while the media sector opened the floodgate. Hence a dying media industry.

 

Is there an answer? 

Yes. In fact, many. The dwindling number of media houses could be one of them if more media houses are not licensed. The Bhutanese media saw its heyday when only three newspapers competed for news and ads. That, in short, is the moral of the Bhutanese media’s sustainability story. Limiting the number of media houses raises the question of plurality and diversity. But the English expression, ‘the more the merrier’, does not make practical sense for the media in Bhutan. A Bhutanese expression, which means the opposite, makes sense: the fewer, the better fed.

Another answer is public funding of the media. The experience of the Nordic countries shows that public funding of the media can be effective. Many say it will come at the cost of independence. Executed with a robust system in place with the ‘arm’s length principle’ at the centre of it, publicly funded media are known to enjoy both independence and credibility. The media in countries where a good public funding model is in place are ranked high in press freedom. And many countries see good reasons to fund the media as the fourth estate. In Bhutan, the media is the weakest link in the democratic set-up for various reasons.

However, even without a system in place, the media houses have enjoyed some public funding. The ongoing printing subsidy for the private newspapers is a good example. We welcome the current government’s willingness to not only continue the subsidy but increase it from 50 percent to 100 percent.

The Advertising Guidelines can be brought back to life. This will bring about a professional advertising culture in the public sector as well as the media. But it must be implemented without affecting the plurality and diversity of the media.

All the while, the media houses must play their part.

 

What could media houses do? 

Transition online. The media houses must stay abreast of media production and consumption trends and keep pace with them. With the world online, legacy media become irrelevant if they do not move online. With content monetisation, marketing, and audiences moving online, the future of sustainable media is online. But the online transition must be strategic, not ad hoc or haphazard.

Even as they plan to transition online, good journalism, not business, must be the face of the media houses. In media, money follows professionalism. Professional content leads to a bigger audience that leads to more advertisers that leads to bigger revenue.

 

But who will pay for good journalism? 

Recently, Kuensel denied full access to its stories online asking readers to subscribe to its print or PDF copies for full stories. The Bhutanese readers, used to decades of free access to stories online, are disappointed.

For Kuensel, this could be counterproductive to its online transition plans. The idea is to retain and build readership online, not divert it to print and PDF copies. Instead, if Kuensel asked its readers to pay Nu 20 (the cost of a packet of doma) a month for full access to its stories online, it could ease the readers into a paying mindset. Nu 20 will bring the newspaper Nu 2 million a month if it could gather 100,000 subscribers online at minimal additional costs.

From Kuensel’s perspective, though, it is unreasonable, even unfair, of the readers to continue to expect news stories free because journalism is costly. Sending its eastern Bhutan correspondent to pick two stories from Sakteng will easily cost a newspaper more than Nu 20,000. Who pays for the two stories? Partly by the advertisers, partly by the readers. We keep bemoaning the falling professional standards of the Bhutanese media. Have we ever thought of turning things around by chipping in some khamto of doma? Instead of adding to the social media noise, could we support the organised media which act as a sane counterpoise to corrosive and cankerous social media?

In the broadcast media, the biggest opportunity lies in BBS becoming a public service broadcaster (PSB). It does not make sense for BBS, which is already doing a lot of public service broadcasting, to remain as a state-owned enterprise. Here too, we are talking about the citizens directly supporting journalism or good media content.

Because of their watchdog role, the media do not engender benevolence that translates into huge charitable donations like tshethar and prayer ceremonies do. But for all practical reasons, they remain the citizens’ best friends. For them, we can do more than bemoaning their poor state and falling standards.

 

Contributed by  Needrup Zangpo

Executive director 

Bhutan Media Foundation

Can we question our food self-sufficiency wish?

Sat, 07/06/2019 - 14:35

A recent editorial in Kuensel titled “A stunted agriculture sector” grabbed my attention, just because we have been trying to achieve food self-sufficiency since the establishment of the agriculture sector in 1961 together with the commencement of the first five-year plan in 1961. Similarly, an opinion piece by the former Secretary of the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, Chencho Norbu, titled “The changing landscape of Paro valley” in Kuensel on March 9, 2019 articulates how the lush paddy fields of Paro valley changed. These two pieces, that came up recently, are just the tip of an ice berg, for Bhutan has been struggling to produce enough grains, edible oils and livestock produce for our own consumption.

Rice can be a classic example for it is the staple diet for Bhutanese and the ‘numbers’ on rice imports and produced are not encouraging. Bhutan’s “Annual Statistical Year Book 2018”, shows that, in 2017, we produced about 86,386MT of rice and imported almost an equal quantity of rice: about 78,449MT. Reading through our agriculture statistics shows the wide range of foods we import. However, it isn’t the diverse produce we import that’s alarming, but the quantity we import. Let’s say almost all the food that we have in our stores have been brought-in from other countries contributing to the global food-chain carbon footprint. So much for a ‘least-developed’ country and a highly ‘pro-claimed’ carbon negative country.

Having said that, do we have a choice? Can we achieve food self-sufficiency?

Being in the “heart” of the Himalayas, Bhutan does not have agriculture friendly geography. According to the Land Use and Land Cover assessment of Bhutan 2016 undertaken by Forest Resources and Management Division, Department of Forests and Park Services, only 2.75% of our area is cultivated (may be it is cultivable) agriculture land. This means that about 57% of Bhutanese, who are employed in agriculture activities, are depending on just 2.75% of our land. Well, there is nothing we could do for scanty agriculture land, but what is alarming is, of this 2.75% of our agriculture land, 39% and 10% of potential dry lands and wet-lands were left fallow in 2016, according to the Bhutan RNR Statistics 2016. These numbers tell us that, already scare agriculture lands are left fallow and empirical evidence from Bhutan and elsewhere suggests that fallow land brings in vegetation cover triggering a whole new level of problem: human-wildlife conflict. It is now trendy to refer to it as human-human conflict instead of human-wildlife conflict and that’s a whole new story for another article.

The 2017 Population and Housing Census of Bhutan (2017PHCB) reported, labour shortage; human-wildlife conflict and water shortage/irrigation as the top three cited reasons for leaving the land fallow by Bhutanese farmers. Intriguingly, all these reasons are linked: labour shortage is due to rural-urban migration, which is triggered by un-balanced regional development, which leads to fallow lands. Fallow land brings vegetation closer to farms, which brings wild animals closer to existing farmlands. It is an irony that, while we celebrate having 71% of forest cover [and increasing], we are losing some portion of our agricultural lands to forests. However, this is just a small part of the story, for, we lost prime agriculture lands of Paro and Thimphu to urban expansion.

In the front of water, Food and Agriculture Organization, AQUASTAT data ranks Bhutan 6thin the world for renewable internal freshwater resources per capita at 100,475.50 cubic meters. Though we have one of the highest fresh water per capita in the world, our farmers and households are grappling with drinking water shortage let-alone irrigation water. We are seriously going wrong somewhere, even with the existence of many organisations in various ministries looking after water.

Let’s shift gear and look at the “national issue” – rural-urban migration (as reflected in the 2017PHCB). We have one of the highest rate of rural-urban migration in south-east Asia and one of the most important and often talked about, but a lot ‘over-looked’ drivers leading to it could be the myth of ‘easy’ life in urban centres and employment opportunities. This probably should be ENOUGH reason, for us, to strategize (not relocating ministries from Thimphu to other dzongkhags) and make our rural areas attractive. Given our rich forest cover and biodiversity, enhancing the eco-tourism project could be one potential area, together with making our roads commuter friendly to make our rural areas liveable. One of the important aspects of agriculture friendly infrastructure: farm roads have reached almost all parts of our country. All that it demands is to keep it safe and automobile friendly. Make our rural areas “liveable.”

With continued efforts of our agriculture sector and our ever hardworking farmers, we can still dream of achieving food self-sufficiency. However, since, it isn’t unusual for our farmers to not find market for their farm produce during ‘season,’ investing in environment friendly storage area is, now, call of our time. It is also about time for us to seriously venture into post-harvest management strategies together with investing in marketing infrastructure for our farm produce. Our agriculture sector has been working on improved varieties of crops from day one, and sure enough, we now have some good varieties of food and fruit crops.

Given the scarcity of agriculture land, it will be worth for us to invest in fast growing and producing higher yield varieties of crops together with stress tolerant varieties. However, an important question that demands answer still lingers in the minds of our farmers – losing all the ‘fruits’ of their hard-work to wild animals and weather anomalies, which will be frequent at the pace with which climate change is hitting us. Wildlife insurance scheme may not necessarily work, as it didn’t earlier too, and there are evidences elsewhere of its failure. The best we could do is relax our conservation policies on “pest” animals, make our forests animal friendly and nip the drivers of farm marginalisation.

It is easier said than done but make our rural areas liveable.

 

Contributed by Sangay Wangchuk

Charles Sturt University

New South Wales

Australia

Tourist arrival drops in Sakteng and Merak

Sat, 07/06/2019 - 14:34

The number of tourists visiting Sakteng and Merak in Trashigang has decreased after the widening works on the East- West highway began, say residents of Sakteng.

According to records maintained by Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS), from 2008 to date, about 668 tourists visited the two remote gewogs of Trashigang. Only 87 tourists visited last year.

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Changery residents await information on crop compensation

Sat, 07/06/2019 - 14:33

The people of Changery in Drakteng, Trongsa are not happy for not getting any information on whether they would get crop compensation for the crops they lost in a hailstorm.

A severe hailstorm on April 2, that lasted for about an hour, destroyed chilli saplings, buckwheat, cardamom, maize, potatoes and oranges in the gewog.

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Picture story

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 16:02

Concluding a week long Moenlam Chhenmo at the Kuenselphodrang in Thimphu, His Holiness the Je Khenpo administered the blessing of Kuenkhen Pema Karpo’s Ladrub Wang to thousands of devotees yesterday. Hundreds of vehicles were parked along the roadside starting from the stretch between Druk School junction and Kuenselphodrang.

Poultry farmers blame feed for reduced egg production

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 16:00

More than 17 poultry farmers in Thimphu and Chukha allege they incurred huge loss after a batch of layer pellet feeds of Karma Feeds reduced their poultry production since May 9.

A poultry farm owner from Chukha approached the livestock officials in Thimphu, requesting the officials to investigate the case and help him.

He claimed he reported the matter to Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) officials but did not get any response.

“The livestock officer sent samples to BAFRA but there is no response,” he alleged.

He said he availed a loan of more than Nu 1.3M from Rural Enterprise Development Corporation Ltd (REDCL) to start the farm last year and was earning good profit until May 9 this year.

According to the owner, egg production in his farm reduced to 17 percent from 92 percent after feeding the feed. He had about 1,500 layers then. “I still regret feeding the feeds but I had no choice.”

He said he had to sell half of the layers to buy feeds, as egg production is lowered. “I am worried about how I will pay the monthly loan instalment of Nu 22,025 and land lease rent of Nu 70,000 a year.”

Another farm owner in Genekha, Thimphu, said the feed problem has now reduced her 3,000 layers to 700 and the farm is running in huge loss.

She claimed she also took a loan of Nu 2.3M from REDCL and repaid about half. “But I am worried how I will repay the remaining Nu 1.3M loan.”

According to the owner, they informed Karma Feeds the moment the issue arose. “They asked for time, saying they would look into it. They then sent an official to inspect all the poultry farms and asked for more time, as they needed to conduct a test.”

She said Karma Feeds initially said they would give 15 percent compensation but have not received anything yet. “Livestock officials say they have sent the samples to India for testing. I will have to wait for the test results.”

Another farm owner in Bjabcho, Chukha, said his layers stopped laying eggs a day after feeding the feeds. “I have more than eight years of experience in poultry farming and I know it is because of the feeds.”

In a letter Karma Feeds sent to livestock officials, it claimed that they received complaints on layer pellet feeds of production batch dated May 10 to 21 in which fishmeal was added to maintain projected crude protein content.

It stated that the fishmeal is not a new ingredient as it is added as a protein supplement in poultry feeds as and when necessary. “Farmers, agents and livestock officials reported none eating of the feeds and decrease in production and the management has immediately checked the nutrient content.”

The letter stated that as requested by a farm owner in Babesa, the birds and feeds were checked by National Centre for Animal Health in Serbithang and it did not find any Aflatoxin infection. “Further, the management has immediately recalled the feeds and replaced with new feeds in consultation with respective agents and it has been reported that the production is back to normal in all affected farms.”

It also stated that it declared in-kind compensation of 15 percent of the feeds consumed of the total 34,585 metric tonnes of feeds produced from May 9 to 21.

Karma Feeds project director, Chencho Wangyel, said they conducted the test the moment they received the complaints and although everything was negative, they recalled the feeds and declared the compensation valuing the customers.

“We understand their sentiments and we conducted laboratory tests,” he said. “We have also asked the agents to pay the in-kind compensation, as they would know which farm owners took the feed.”

Meanwhile, the director general for Department of Livestock, Dr Tashi Samdup said they have sent the feed samples to India to test the amino acids content. “We will be able to comment only after receiving the test result.”

Tashi Dema

World Bank report underscores financial risks

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 15:58

Financing the 12th FYP programmes will be a challenge according to World Bank’s latest developmental update.  In the 12th Plan period, the government has projected a total financing gap of Nu 29.2 billion.

While domestic revenue mobilisation through tax reforms and rationalisation of expenditures are critical, the rest will be financed through concessional loans, issuance of government bond, treasury bills and increased use of public-private partnerships (PPP).

However, accessing these revenues will require the development of capital markets for government bonds and improved investment climate to attract PPPs.

Current expenditures are projected to increase with higher spending on the maintenance of hydropower plants and increase in public sector wages based on the recommendations of fourth pay commission. The increase in wages has been estimated at Nu 4 -5 billion a year.  Royalties from Mangdechhu project will be used to finance the increased wages.

Besides, the report projected an increase in spending, as the government will carry out new public investment programmes in line with the 12th Plan.  Based on the spending projected in the Plan, capital spending in financial year 2021-22 will be low and there will be a corresponding decline in the grants from India.

As of December 2018, external public debt stood at US dollar 2.5 billion or 103 percent of GDP. The borrowings by state-owned enterprises for hydropower accounted for about 77 percent of external debt.  Nearly 90 percent of hydro external debt is from India with interest rates of nine to ten percent for Punatsangchhu I and II, and Mangdechhu projects.  Further, hydropower construction costs are swelling due to increasing debts.

The delays and cost escalations could affect growth and revenue collection, the report states. However, it states that India will cover both the financial and construction risks related to the hydro projects and buy the surplus electricity at cost plus 15 percent net return. “Therefore, as long as the 15 percent net return is secured, hydropower external debt will remain sustainable.”

 

Risks

Delays in the completion of hydropower projects in the past few years have had an adverse impact. Although the Mangdechhu project is likely to be operationalised, Punatsangchhu I and II are uncertain due to geological problems. The delays impact the economy through lower growth, exports, and revenues. A year’s delay could negatively affect growth by 3 to 4 percent.

Grant financing as a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined significantly from 18 percent in 2003 and 2004 to 8 percent in 2016 and 2017. The increase in the size of the economy and graduation from the list of Least Developed Countries suggests that the trend would likely continue.

Bhutan is exposed to hydro-meteorological hazards, which increases the risks on hydropower and other sectors.

Most of the country’s productive infrastructure (hydropower plants, roads, and airports), fertile agricultural land, and over 70 percent of the settlements are located along the main drainage basins, which puts them at high risk of flooding. Variations in timely and quantity of rainfall can cause severe consequences of water availability, agricultural productivity, and food security.

Long-term challenges include the need for diversification of the country’s asset base through investments in physical capital, human capital, and institutions. This would help lower the barriers for investment and facilitate private sector development.

 

Recommendation

The World Bank recommends broadening financing options: implementation of GST in 2020-21 without delay was critical in mobilising domestic revenue. Developing the capital market will help finance the budget and in developing the financial sector.

With the operationalisation of the Mangdechhu project, exports are projected to increase, while imports remain moderate due to delay in the construction of Punatsangchhu I and II. Also, hydropower production and exports from Tala will also increase with the completion of the maintenance work.

Inflation is likely to reflect price developments in India and the Royal Monetary Authority is taking steps to strengthen its monetary and exchange rate policies. The inflation rate is expected to pick up in the near future with increase in food prices in India and higher fuel prices.

The report states that Bhutan is undergoing rapid urbanisation and a structural transformation to a service-based economy. While population growth and economic activity is concentrated in only a few settlements, the report recommends undertaking different approach to achieve balanced regional development.

Phub Dem

Ministry extends loan term for youth in Japan 

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 15:56

The labour ministry has provided an option of loan term extension scheme to the youth in Japan who are on overseas employment skills development (OESD) programme.

This means the youth placed in Japan through the learn and earn programme would have an option to extend their loan term they had availed to learn Japanese language, pursue higher education, enroll into vocational colleges or get full time employment there.

According to the ministry’s notification on the loan extension, the youth can repay the loan within the period of seven years for university graduates and nine years for class 12 graduates. This however does not include the grace period the ministry earlier extended. The interest accumulated will be spread across the term.

An official from the ministry said that the loan extension would be effective from the day the youth apply for an extension and complete the formalities with the bank. “This option has an added benefit of reduced equated monthly installment,” an official said.

The official added that youth could now approach the banks directly and apply for extension if they choose to and complete the formalities. The deadline to opt the facility has been kept open for the time being.

“The OESD loan deferment facility or OESD loan term extension facility is optional and those who are not interested can continue with their present loan schedule,” the notification states.

This is an addition to the approved OESD loan deferment facility the ministry had provided to help Bhutanese youth in Japan.

The government implemented the loan deferment in March. According to the recent State of the Nation report, 51 youth have opted for the loan deferment scheme. More than 700 youth had availed for the learn and earn programme, of which more than 200 youth have already returned to Bhutan.

Each youth has taken loans ranging from Nu 600,000 to Nu 700,000 at the rate of 8 percent interest. Currently, they pay Nu 14,000 as interest.

While Kuensel could not contact the labour minister for comments, it was learnt that the decision on the loan extension came recently after one of the banks informed the ministry and sought the suggestion to explore for such a facility. The bank made the request following youth’s request to the bank for a loan term extension. The facility was approved after the ministry put up to the Prime Minister.

Yangchen C Rinzin  

Veterinary services go digital

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 15:55

The wait time for test results of samples from the laboratories has now been shortened with the launch of Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), an online database system designed to efficiently manage the information of all veterinary laboratory activities.

It has the features for online entry of sample details, test result, diagnosis, and recommendation. The system helps the veterinary laboratories to track samples from submission details to testing and reporting of results.

National Centre for Animal Health’s (NCAH) programme director, Dr RB Gurung, said, “This database enables real time tracking of sample testing status through a paperless system. Besides data storage and test result dissemination, customised analysis can also be performed to provide decisions required in policy interventions.”

For instance, if there is an outbreak of a disease in animals, the new system helps in expediting the process of tests and delivering the results and diagnosis by much faster.

The system went online on July 1 and could be remotely accessed by any registered and authorised person, he said. “The officials who decide the diagnosis based on the test results can be anywhere in the world, but still convey their diagnosis.”

Livestock officials said that every year laboratories in the country produced a large number of data from the number of samples submitted and tests performed.

“Until now, all the laboratory networks in the country have been maintaining this information on paper-based system,” an official said.

Storage and management of such large volume of data manually is a huge challenge as they could be lost and damaged. The new web-based database system would help in electronic storage, enhance security, easy analysis, and control on chain of custody.

Dr RB Gurung said that experts in the department developed the system with no cost to the ministry and would reduce the turn-around time for the services to the farmers.

Livestock department’s director general, Dr Tashi Samdup, said that this was one of the best systems in the region.

This system is intended for all the laboratory facilities under the livestock department namely the NCAH, regional livestock development centres (RLDCs), satellite veterinary laboratories (SVLs) and dzongkhag veterinary laboratories (DVLs).

Another advantage of the system is fixing accountability and responsibility. According to the annual performance agreements (APA), the laboratories have annual target of conducting 1,500 tests of samples.

The programme director said that the new system makes it convenient to monitor and evaluate the achievements on the APA targets.

There are veterinary laboratories in all dzongkhags, four regional laboratories, four satellite laboratories and a national laboratory in Thimphu.

Tshering Palden 

An ailing health sector

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 15:53

Our healthcare system is crumbling.

With health workers grabbing the attention of policy makers, we have overlooked the quality of health infrastructure in the country.

New hospitals are reporting cracks in the walls and ceiling. Tsirang hospital was involved in a controversy when it was still under construction. The mother and child hospital was even ahead with contractors crying foul over the tendering process. The country’s only MRI machine at the national referral hospital is yet to be resuscitated. Gelephu hospital is in the news more for its broken machines and cracked ceiling and walls than for its healthcare services. When parts of its ceiling dropped soon after its inaugural, the CT machine, which is again broken was allegedly damaged.  Seven months into its opening, cracks developed on its walls. Today, parts of the ceilings are falling off and health workers are placing buckets under leaks near the patient beds.

This is happening at a time when the heath sector is already grappling with high number of health workers leaving the profession. It is occurring at a time when plans are underway to build more hospitals and merge the referral centres.  Efforts to expand accessibility to healthcare centres and reach have come at a cost of quality.

Having specialists and trained health professionals is not enough to provide quality healthcare. The facilities they work in and the equipment they are provided with are as critical. We have seen how lack of medical equipment has deterred doctors and specialists from going on transfers. Some chose to remain at the national referral hospital while some chose to take all the equipment with them to their new place of posting.

We have health professionals at the helm of governance today, a government that campaigned on healthcare and one that is more aware of the problems hindering the delivery of health services than the rest of the population.  While attempts may be underway to reform the health sector, there have been no visible actions.  Lack of budget is cited to justify inaction. Paying clinical professionals large allowances is not enough if they are not provided with the tools and required infrastructure to practice.

The quality of health workers is as critical as the quality of a hospital, touted a place of healing.  The state of our health care facilities is now posing risks to ailing patients.  The tragic death of neonates reported at the NICU is a crude reminder of the lapses in maintaining quality healthcare.

When we talk about quality in healthcare, it usually means safety, effectiveness, and positive patient experience. Despite challenges, these aspects of healthcare exist and there is a high level of trust in the health system. For a country that puts the well-being of its people first, we should be doing more. What we are seeing is the complacency to treat the problems that are contributing to the health sector’s challenges.

Our policy makers harp the rhetoric of nation building and change when we are not even able to ensure the quality of a school, a road, or a hospital.

Trongsa hospital needs more doctors

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 15:51

With a lone doctor, patients visiting Trongsa hospital have to wait hours to consult the physician.

The hospital had been managing with two doctors to date after two other doctors left for studies.

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Monitoring of plastic ban goes slow

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 15:48

Tshering Penjor runs a dairy shop in Thimphu. Products are neatly packaged in transparent plastic. Customers also get a transparent plastic as a carry bag.

On the Norzin Lam in Thimphu, Nima is busy washing betel leaves. He packs the doma in a thin plastic wrapper.

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Apiculture, a lucrative business for farmers

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 15:46

Tshering Wangdi Sherpa never imagined he could be an apiarist (beekeeper) although he saw his interest in apiculture (beekeeping) grow during school days in Jakar, Bumthang.

From Patshaling Toed in Tsirang, Tshering Wangdi Sherpa is the chairman of the Patshaling Beekeepers’ Group that was started in 2010. Over the years, the group had 16 members and today, it has 38 members.

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Mongar hopes to win National School Athletics Meet

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 15:40

From Mongar, Rinzin Choden, 16, and her relay team expects to win the 4×400 metre girls’ relay at the 16th National School Athletics Meet which opened in Thimphu yesterday.

Participants will compete in 13 different track and field events

The relay team from Mongar Higher Secondary School has qualified for the first time at the national sports meet after the team won the track event among seven schools at the dzongkhag’s school sports meet.

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Ceiling falls off in Gelephu regional hospital

Thu, 07/04/2019 - 15:50

Less than a year after its inauguration, noticeable damage to the physical structures has emerged at the central regional referral hospital in Gelephu.

Following the discovery of multiple cracks on the walls of the 150-bed hospital earlier this year, the ceiling in various parts of the hospital has started to fall off. Currently, more than 40 locations have been identified that have suffered the damage.

Officials with the maintenance division of the hospital said that water from excessive sweating and leakages from the air conditioning (AC) machines have damaged the ceiling made from mineral fibers and gypsum boards.

A few days ago, the dialysis unit on the first floor was one of the most affected areas in the hospital. A considerable amount of water dripped from the ceiling. Buckets were placed near the patients to collect the overflow.

“The condition was really bad. Without the AC, we couldn’t work and the patients had a difficult time remaining inside the room. And while the AC was on, we could not stop the leakage,” said one staff.

Maintenance officials said that the AC’s drainage alignment in the dialysis unit had some problems and the line was blocked, which resulted in the overflow and seepage through the ceiling. The alignment was later fixed.

On June 28, the hospital administration wrote to the contractor regarding several repair works the hospital required immediately. It was learnt that there were about 16 different repair works, mostly with the physical structures that are required at the hospital.

It was also learnt that excessive leakage from the terrace due to poor waterproofing had damaged the ceiling near the main entrance of the hospital and lobby area. Exterior walls in some places were also damaged due to water coming out of displaced gutter pipes.

Kuensel learnt that the fire alarm panel at the hospital is non-functional and additional new cracks had also developed on the walls in various locations. Loose tiles in different places also needed to be fixed.

Gelephu residents alleged that cracks and falling ceiling were a result of poorly built structure and rushed inauguration. “They should have given enough time to properly build the hospital,” said one of the residents. “The building is not even one year old and already we have all these problems. Quality has been compromised.”

 

Defunct CT Scan  

Officials said the main machine is operational

The CT scan machine at the hospital has been non-functional since last month. According to the hospital staff, certain parts of the central processing unit (CPU) of the machine have suffered some damage.

Although the main cause of the damage is unknown, officials said that rodent infestation could be a possible reason. “The wire vents into the CPU are large enough to provide access to rats, which we assume could have done the damage,” said a staff.

However, there is no physical damage to the wires inside the CPU. It was also learnt that the main machine is operational.

Officials said that Gelephu regional hospital does not have a full-time radiologist, whose absence considerably affects service delivery.

Two technicians and technologists each and a nurse currently operate the unit. Officials said that while handling the patients for scan and post-processing of the images were performed by technologists, a radiologist is required to make the readings of the scan report.

During emergencies, officials said that patients are referred to either Thimphu or to the hospital in Bongaigoan, Assam.

Younten Tshedup | Gelephu

MPs’ wait for better office continues

Thu, 07/04/2019 - 15:38

The Cabinet is yet to decide on a proposed plan to relocate the PMs’ office from Langjophaka, Thimphu to a convenient place, according to officials in the Prime Minister’s Office.

MPs have long been demanding for a better office, where they have privacy with their constituents and better amenities.

A committee comprising officials from the foreign ministry, the department of national properties and the secretariat was formed in November last year to assess if the MPs could be accommodated in the National Assembly building.

The secretariat had submitted the committee’s report to Prime Minister early this year on the plans to relocate the MPs’ office.

The committee is said to have presented its report to the Cabinet recently  but the Cabinet is yet to come to a conclusion based on the report.

The secretariat is awaiting a formal communication from the prime minister on whether the foreign ministry would move out. The Prime Minister is said to have told the secretariat earlier that he would give a decision by March this year.

“MPs are expecting to have a better office – a room where they can have privacy with their voters and people who come to meet them. There is inconvenience, and we are also quite concerned,” the National Assembly’s secretary general Sangay Duba said.

He said that his office would take course of action after the prime minister communicates his decision to the secretariat. He also hinted that MPs could move into another building with adequate space if the foreign ministry could not be relocated.

The initial plan to shift the foreign ministry to the existing MP office was cancelled, saying that many sensitive documents have to be shifted too. Also, the secretary general said that the foreign ministry needs a befitting office as it receives foreign delegations.

“The first thing foreign delegations do is meet the foreign minister, and the foreign minister has to stay closer to the secretary and the secretariat,” he said.

Should MPs move into the National Assembly building, the space would be just adequate, he said. The MP office today houses about 64 MPs and research assistants besides some support staff from the National Assembly secretariat.

The Prime Minister is said to have asked the secretariat to take over some of the structures currently occupied by the National Council secretariat, which will be shifted to the Convention Centre.

The secretary general was also of the view that the government should prioritise construction of a separate building each for the ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office for better coordination and dignity.

The former government had allocated budget for construction of an office building to house the foreign ministry in the 12th Plan. However, it was learnt that the present government has withdrawn the budget.

Construction of new buildings is not a priority for the present government, which has said that no new constructions would be taken up during the 12th Plan unless necessary.

“I think it’s important that the foreign ministry has an independent office. Even to the extent I said that we should have a separate Prime Minister’s Office because it’s for the future,” Sangay Duba said.

Having a separate Prime Minister’s Office, he said, would help in better coordination with the secretariat staff.

MPs have expressed dissatisfaction over the lack of individual offices, security arrangements and a proper parking lot at their present office. Coordination of work between MPs and the secretariat is expected to be easier if MPs move into the National Assembly building.

The offices of the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, Speaker and Deputy Speaker are housed in the National Assembly building.

 

MB Subba 

Drying paddy fields worry farmers 

Thu, 07/04/2019 - 15:36

It was Ugyenla’s turn for paddy plantation on July 2 in Mikachen Pam in Bje,  Trongsa.

His power tiller remains parked in the dry field. The 50-year-old farmer said that, each of the 17 households get a night and a day’s share of water in the fields.

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