Yangchen C Rinzin
With the Cabinet approval on October 24, the pay and allowance, and students’ monthly stipend for Royal University of Bhutan and Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of law (JSWSL) has been revised.
However, the revision of pay and allowances came into effect from July 1 2019.The revised stipend for the students would be effective from November 1, according to the notification the Ministry of Finance (MoF) issued on October 25.
The revised monthly stipend for students of RUB comes after the recommendations of the National Assembly, which was endorsed on June 11 this year.
The stipend for the RUB students was last revised in 2011.
The MoF notification stated that the monthly stipend for boarders and day scholar students should be revised from Nu 1,500 per month to a minimum of Nu 2,500. The raise is not applicable to non-teacher education programme.
This means boarders of Samtse and Paro College of Education will receive Nu 3,500 per month, while day scholars would receive Nu 4,000 per month.
The postgraduate diploma students in education of both the colleges will receive Nu 5,000 per month.
The stipend has been revised to Nu 2,500 per month for boarders of JSWSL and other colleges, and Nu 3,000 per month for day scholars.
The pay scale, according to the MoF, would be revised as followed in the civil servants pay fixation guidelines issued in July.
The teaching staff will receive 55 percent of the minimum revised pay scale as lump sum amount for 0-10 years in service, 65 percent for 11-20 years, while 75 percent for those 21 years and above in service.
A lumpsum of 15 percent of minimum revised pay scale will be introduced as allowance for the non-teaching staff.
The government has also introduced proficiency allowance in addition to the teaching allowance for RUB.
Teaching staff would receive 10 percent of minimum revised pay as lumpsum amount for assistant professors, 15 percent for associate professors, and 20 percent for full professors.
However, this allowance will come into effect only after RUB implements a well-structured proficiency rating system endorsed by the University Council, according to the MoF.
The staff of RUB and JSWSL will also receive revised house rent allowance of 20 percent of the minimum revised pay scale. But the house rent allowance for S3 level and below will receive lumpsum of Nu 3,000 per month and also extended to ESP employees.
The other allowance includes communication allowance for Vice Chancellor of RUB and President of JSWSL, which is now revised at Nu 2,000 per month. The daily subsistence allowance for in-country training has also been revised to Nu 2,000 per day.
Although the daily allowance for in-country travel has been revised, the daily allowance for travel to India and other countries has remained the same. The mileage rate at Nu 16 per Km remains same for all positions levels and minimum distance travelled should be 10km.
The pension and provident fund contribution from the employer has also been revised from 11 percent to 15 percent of the basic pay whereas the employee shall continue to contribute 11 percent taking the total contribution to 26 percent. This shall be extended to ESP and GSP position levels.
The gratuity ceiling of Nu 1.5M is now revised without ceiling. The MoF notification also stated that the allowance for contract employees shall be 30 percent of the minimum basic pay.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that this was a reflection of the government’s continued effort to give a focus on education.
Lyonchhen said that such move was not for the sake of doing but to transform education system.
“As a motivating factor, we’re first starting with the pay packages, then will come institutional changes, institutional transformation, and capacity building,” Lyonchhen said. “Many other plans are coming in to give importance to education.”
Most of the college presidents Kuensel talked to said that although they were yet to receive the notification officially, the increase in the stipend was good news for colleges and students, which would benefit students in many ways.
Many said that with the increase in stipend, they would be able to buy quality and nutritious commodities in keeping with the inflation in the market.
Others said that the increase in the stipend would also help supply meat and egg twice a week including the transportation charges and buying firewood.
The country’s ranking on the ease of doing business has slipped for the fourth consecutive time to 89th position.
The former government has pledged to take the country to the top 50 position but the best position Bhutan could obtain was 73rd during its tenure.
Even the current government has pledged to improve the ranking. “We will cut red tape, promote transparent decision making on procurement, framing consistent policies and deregulate unnecessary bureaucratic procedures…take public service online,” stated the current government’s manifesto.
It also mentioned that improving the ease of doing business would have significant impact on thousands of small and medium businesses that will provide employment opportunities.
While it has been almost a year for the government since it took charge, the World Bank has labelled Bhutan along with the countries like Afghanistan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka that made “no regulatory changes” in the region.
Ease of doing business index, 2020, measures regulations across 190 economies over the 12 months ending April 30, 2019. This means that even if the government had some intent to launchsome of the reforms, the reporting period leaves only five months’ time since it assumed the office.
Otherwise, the report stated that South Asian economies maintained a solid pace of regulatory reforms, as both India and Pakistan earned spots among the top most improved economies.
A high ranking on ease of doing business index means the regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of a local firm. The rankings are determined by sorting the aggregate scores on 10 parameters, each consisting of several indicators.
The ease of doing business looks at rules affecting a business from inception through operation to wind-down: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency.
The top 10 best places in the world to do business, according to the study, are New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Denmark, the Republic of Korea, the United States, Georgia, the United Kingdom, Norway and Sweden.
Economies that score highest on the ease of doing business ranking share several common features, including the widespread use of electronic systems. The top 20 economies have online business incorporation processes, electronic tax-filing platforms, and allow online procedures related to property transfers. Moreover, 11 economies have electronic procedures for construction permitting.
The break down
The country’s lowest ranking was in resolving insolvency (168), meaning the cases of bankruptcy. This is attributed to lack of such cases in the country and thus there is no practice of resolving insolvency.
The country was also ranked low (111th) in terms of protecting minority investors. This parameter measures the extent of the level of information that companies must share regarding their board members, senior executives, annual meetings and audits. The report revealed that Bhutan performed poor in terms of rules governing the structure and change in control of companies and roles shareholders play in key corporate decisions. This measure is based on the information the Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan.
Bhutan is the 103rd easiest country to starting business, according to the World Bank. A further delve into the figures revealed that it takes eight procedures, 12 days to start a business with no extra payment. The top country(s) in this parameter demands zero procedure and at least three hours to start a business.
Access to finance, has long been touted as hurdle to private sector in the country. Bhutan is placed at 94th position. This indicator reports the number of individuals and firms listed by a credit bureau with information on their borrowing history from the past five years. It also delves into the coverage, scope and accessibility of credit information available through either a credit registry or a credit bureau. It also measures the degree to which collateral and bankruptcy laws protect the rights of borrowers and lenders and thus facilitate lending.
The country, however, is ranked 15th best country when it comes to regulatory framework involving tax payment. It involves the total number of taxes and contributions paid, method of payment, frequency of payment and filing and the number of agencies involved.
The report revealed that it takes 52 hours to prepare, file and pay (or withhold) the corporate income tax, value added or sales tax, and labor taxes, including payroll taxes and social contributions.
With 225 days’ time required to resolve a dispute, counted from the moment the plaintiff decides to file the lawsuit in court until payment, Bhutan is ranked at 29th place when it comes to enforcing contract.
While it takes USD 110 to obtain, prepare and submit documents during port or border handling, customs clearance and inspection procedures, the country is still ranked at 30th place in terms of trading across border. This is because it takes lesser time to transship goods across the border to India, compared with other countires in the region.
Good ranking do not however guarantee FDI inflow, it conveys countries’ regulatory aspects to do business. But it does not cover the aspects of macroeconomic stability, market size and quality of workforce. There are rigid benchmarks and assumptions made on all the parameters.
Trading across borders, for instance, considers the distance and cost from largest city to border. In Bhutan’s case, most export commodities to other countries are either processed or manufactured in the bordering towns. But measurements, for the sake of ranking are considered from Thimphu to Jaigaon.
Many of the parameters, such as enforcing contracts, starting business and registering properties are based on the assumption that the proponent is a limited liability company.
This means that small and medium enterprises, including the traders are under-represented making small businesses believe that the ground reality of doing business is different from the ranking. This is why other instruments such as the enterprise survey, also conducted by the World Bank, assesses small businesses that are Bhutan specific because private sector in the country is skewed towards small firms.
For the first time in Bhutan a workshop on Big Data for Health along with Asia eHealth Information Network Convergence Workshop on Enterprise Architecture is being organised in Thimphu.
About 24 experts on Big Data and Artificial Intelligence from USA, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar, and India are facilitating the workshop at the Royal University of Bhutan’s hall.
Big data is extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions.
The workshop is aimed at creating awareness on how innovative Big Data science such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning (ML) is applied to improve the gamut of health care services.
Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences (KGUMSB)’s president, Dr KP Tshering, said the inspiration and motivation for organising this workshop was based on the words of wisdom from His Majesty The King.
He said Big Data, Nanotechnology, and precision medicine could transform the healthcare services in the coming years and offer many added advantages.
Besides sharing experiences and challenges of other countries where AI and ML are applied for improving and digitising healthcare service, the workshop also aims to develop Bhutan health data enterprise architecture framework to align collection, storage and maintenance of all health-related data for the application of AI or ML.
Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said that the country must built its capacity to take advantage of this modern technology to improve health care services, which was expected to make major changes in the future.
“Although this is something that we have read and heard about, we do not have real experience of the use,” Lyonpo said.
Over the years, a lot of data has been collected through surveys, individual researches, and routine collection of data, which has been processed and analysed to track the progress made in health, to plan the programmes, and to define policies.
“However, we now know that there is much more that can be done with this huge volume of data,” Lyonpo said.
These data can be used in finding new methods and finding more active ways to treat patients.
Clinical Research Director with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr Leo Anthony Celi, said they were trying to bring together stakeholders from academia, from industry and from the government as the three stakeholders were required to collaborate in order to leverage the value of data and using that data to improve health care.
“We feel that data and learning are the best medicine for population health and that is the best way to improve the way we deliver care. Data and learning should be at the front and centre of health care” he said.
He emphasised on the importance of building a robust digital health infrastructure to have the value of data and health data science. “There has to be an investment on the health data infrastructure.”
In order to understand health and disease better, he said there was a need to integrate health data with non-health data.
On what the government is doing regarding data and technology, Lyonpo said Digital Drukyul was one of the most important flagship programme. “Once implemented at the end of the five-year term, we think this will revolutionise the way we manage and provide public service.”
Every Bhutanese will have a unique electronic identity and every service is going to go online. This way all the services would be more efficient, quick and also it would make the government more transparent, accountable and more proficient, Lyonpo said.
In the health sector, the government is in the process to establish electronic patient information system (ePIS), which will allow the health centres to go paperless and also patients will not have to come with bundles of prescriptions as they do now.
“Having all the data in our system will also enable us to provide some form of personalised care,” Lyonpo said. “So, in preparation to that, it is vital that we build the systems and invest in training relevant professionals.”
Lyonpo said education and training institutes must evolve and offer courses that are relevant for the jobs in future, particularly in the various fields of technology.
“We are setting the foundation for adopting these modern technologies by planning and building the necessary IT infrastructure and identify training means,” Lyonpo said. “We may be a little far from having data scientist and adopting machinery algorithms or using AI. However, we are definitely preparing the ground for their eventual use.”
These modern technologies, Lyonpo said, had many advantages to offer to Bhutan but there was an acute shortage of health specialist. “If we can have man and machine work in perfect combination and to complement each other then there is tremendous potential to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of patient care.”
More than 50 participants from multiple sectors in the country are attending the workshop, organised and funded by Bhutan Foundation, KGUMSB, MIT Critical Data Team, and AeHIN (Asian eHealth Information Network) and the health ministry.
The workshop ends today.
What is the relation between doma chewers and alcohol consumers?
A study to see the relation found that doma (referred as betel quid in the study) alone caused substantial reactions among alcohol consumers. When betel quid is combined with disulfiram, it was observed that some of the patients showed severe aversive reactions.
The prospective observational study carried out by Ugyen Dem et al on interaction between disulfiram and betel quid was presented at the fifth international conference on medical and health sciences held at Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) hall on October 27.
Disulfiram- antabuse (alcohol-abuse deterrent) drug was introduced in Bhutan in 2016 and was given to patients who are dependent on alcohol after completion of detoxification as an alternative to rehabilitation.
From March 2017-March last year, the observation of disulfiram and betel quid interaction was done on 100 patients. The study was done among patients with alcohol use disorders (AUD) admitted in the psychiatric ward at JDWNRH for detoxification and who were put on disulfiram and also chewing betel quid at the same time.
The study targeted patients with an age range from 24 and 59 years consisting of female (19 percent) and male (81percent).
They observed that when betel quid was taken alone, some symptoms occurred like – sweating, diarrhea, dizziness, palpitations, headache, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting.
After ingestion of one tablet (250 mg) of disulfiram, it was observed that 12 out of 22 persons, who earlier did not have any reactions, developed reaction.
Clinical Nurse with JDWNRH’s Psychiatry Department, Tashi Dorji said that two person showed severe reaction in the form of cardiovascular collapse and had to be admitted to the emergency ward.
“A 40-year-old man on disulfiram (250mg) developed severe reaction after taking betel quid on the same day. The patient collapsed due to hypovolemic shock and remained unconscious for almost an hour,” said Tashi Dorji.
He also cited that a patient on 250 mg disulfiram developed severe aversive reaction after he took beetle quid the same day. “He developed bradycardia (pulse rate of 44 beats per minute) and his blood pressure dropped to un-recordable level,” said Tashi Dorji.
The study also found out that the 12 percent of patients who did not show reactions with betel quid alone later showed significant severe aversive reactions when disulfiram and betel quid were consumed together.
It was found that betel quid is addictive in nature and has negative impact on human body. Some of the common conditions associated with betel nut use are neuronal injury, myocardial infarction, , asthma, central obesity, type II diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and metabolic syndrome.
It also affects the endocrine system, leading to hypothyroidism, prostate hyperplasia and infertility. Quitting the habit of chewing betel nut quid can provoke withdrawal symptoms like headaches, vertigo and irritation.
The international travel guidebook publisher, Lonely Plant, named Bhutan the best country to visit in 2020. It had rave reviews of Bhutan and its policies for those deciding where to holiday in 2020.
It is always nice to be rated the best. Tourism is important for Bhutan. It has always been. With the highest revenue generator, hydropower projects no more reliable as the main source of revenue, tourism seems like the best bet for Bhutan.
The best place to visit tag will bring in more tourists. It is the best marketing strategy given that Lonely Planet is a credible travel guidebook.
Ironically, Lonely Planet’s rating coincided with a lot issues being discussed surrounding tourism at home. One issue that is on everyone’s lips is mass tourism or regional tourism. The floodgates are already opened. With rave reviews like this, we will see more coming.
Are we prepared?
At a discussion on tourism yesterday in Thimphu, initiated by the Druk Journal group, one strong message that came out was the need for good policies to manage the influx of regional tourism. Nobody is calling to stop tourists from the region. The call is for some mechanism so that those visiting Bhutan are well organised for their own and Bhutan’s benefits.
There is no tourism policy today. A draft is being readied. We were, thus far, guided by the noble vision propagated by His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo – High Value Low Volume.
This one-liner, sort of policy, has guided us for decades for an exemplary sustainable tourism. We could have killed the red cow for meat, as Bhutanese say, instead of milking it everyday. We resisted the temptation of reaping the benefit of our uniqueness, our remoteness, our virginity and many more values and valuables that many countries already lost. This led to preserving a lot that is reaped by the current generations.
Are we saving some for the future?
The carbon neutral status that Lonely Planet highlighted, the rich culture and tradition, sustainable practices are results of the grand visions our monarchs had for the country. Left on our own, we would even be filled with backpackers. Honestly, how much have we contributed to these visions?
We have realised that putting all our resources on building hydropower projects is unwise. It took us long to realise and put the brakes. We shouldn’t let tourism fall into the same gorge. It is becoming clearly visible that we are going wrong in managing the important industry.
Tourism is good for the economy, no doubt. The industry is helping other industries. It is creating jobs and minting money for the government. But sustainability is being questioned. In other words, we are thinking of killing the cow for just meat.
The vision today is taking tourism to the top. There is the need of policy interventions. Left alone to market forces, all we will see is tourist atop choetens!
It might sound strange, but as Buddhist we believe in supernatural powers. The recent Dochula incident has generated a discourse. Suddenly, even the average Bhutanese is feeling that there are too many guests, some disrespectful of the host.
We need a good policy. Today, even the regional tourist driving to the sacred sites are complaining of seeing to many familiar faces, everywhere.
The 47th ministerial meeting on climate change among the least developed countries (LDCs) in Thimphu discussed and endorsed agenda for the Conference of Parties (COP25) in December.
The ministers emphasised the need to reduce the green house gas (GHG) emissions to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
The recent special report on land, climate change, and the ocean and cryosphere, published by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), highlighted the damaging impact climate change has on agriculture and important biospheres critical to LDCs’ livelihoods and food security.
During COP25, LDCs group will push forward the urgent need for rapid reduction in global emissions to avoid increased loss and damage due to climate change, and scale up support so that LDCs can adapt and build resilience.
“Limiting warming to 1.5°C remains feasible and will have considerable sustainable development benefits for LDCs and all other countries compared to warming of 2°C; however, the current average global temperature levels are already causing significant negative impacts in LDCs,” the document stated.
For greater emission reduction, LDCs will urge stronger policies and actions over the next decade to achieve global net zero emissions by 2050. In line with that, the communiqué acknowledged the UN Secretary-General’s call for political momentum and awareness during the climate action summit last month.
However, the ministers emphasised the need for more ambitious nationally determined contributions (NCDs) and climate action.
To mitigate and build resilience to impacts of climate change in LDCs, developed countries are mandated to support LDCs financially.
It was noted that the developed countries were not in line with the agreed goal to mobilise 100 billion USD annually by 2020. COP25 is expected to witness LDCs pushing this point forward.
LDC group will also urge the developed countries and international partners to provide finance, technology transfer and capacity-building support to LDCs to implement NDCs and long-term low GHG emissions development strategies, among others.
During COP25, which will be held in Chile, LDCs will urge all the parties to complete implementation of the remaining elements of the Paris Agreement, particularly Article 6.
Article 6, if properly implemented, would make it easier to achieve reduction targets and raise ambition through the emission trading system.
The mechanism allows countries with low emissions to sell their exceeding allowance to larger emitters. By paying a price on carbon, countries exceeding their NDCs would bear the costs of their emissions.
The approach could reduce GHG emissions and create platforms for innovative and cleaner technologies and transition towards a low-carbon economy.
LDCs will commit to advance the LDC renewable energy and energy efficiency initiative for sustainable development, LDC initiative for effective adaptation and resilience, and the LDC Universities Consortium on Climate Change.
These are LDC-led initiatives to address climate change and drive sustainable development at the national level, which will support the delivery of the LDC 2050 vision.
Bhutan is the LDC group chair for the year 2018 and 2019.
The meeting ended on October 25.
Bhutanese parliament delegation attends first executive council meeting of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly
A four-member delegation from the Parliament of Bhutan led by the speaker attended the first executive council meeting of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) from October 26 to 28 at Rize in Turkey.
The meeting discussed matters on establishing cooperation with other organisations, establishing working groups on statutory documents and to consider and adopt the draft resolutions of the standing committees on social and cultural affairs, economic and sustainable development, political affairs, and budget and planning.
The nomination of the APA president and vice presidents for 2020-2021 and APA president for 2022-23 was also discussed during the three-day meeting.
According to a press release, speaker, Wangchuk Namgyel, also called on the speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Mustafa Sentop, during the visit and exchanged views on the importance of maintaining close collaborations between the Parliaments.
The Assembly is a platform to foster cooperation and coordination among the parliaments in Asia for the promotion of peace and respect for human rights and humanitarian principles, according to the press release.
The APA has 44 member countries and 16 observers.
The Parliament of Bhutan has been a member of the APA since 2006 and also hosted the APA standing committee meeting on social and cultural committee in September 2017.
Parliamentary delegations from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Palestine, Russia, Turkey, Shura Council of Qatar and the National Parliament of Timor-Leste as observers attended the meeting in Turkey.
Meanwhile, request for full membership for Qatar and Timor-Leste were also adopted by acclamation during the meeting.
Phub Dem | Laya
Laya Run, considered one of the most scenic high-altitude run in the world, has become a crucial part of the Royal Highland Festival. But the run’s popularity among the highlanders has been decreasing.
This year, only two Layaps participated in the run. Choki, a lone female participant from highland was awarded winner for the second time this year.From left: Tashi Norbu (4th), Pema Jamtsho (1st), Nima (2nd) and Sangay Wangchu(3rd) Laya Run has seen an increasing in participants over the years
Highlanders feel that the run should be for the people of the highlands. All top eight winners of Laya Run this year were from the armed forces.
This, a runner from Laya said was demotivating for the highlanders. “We already know who are going to be the winners.”
Sangay Wangchu has won the run for the third time. This year, he came third.
He said he deliberately ran late this time to give the opportunity to the new participants.
“I feel that the participants are not happy to see me win every year. I will not participate next year because I would be preparing for the international snowman run,” said Sangay Wangchu.
Former Laya Gup Kinley Dorji said that the highlanders should host the festival instead.
He also said that the Laya Run should be only for the highlanders and for others. “The highlanders are demotivated to take part in running competition because they know that they cannot compete with other runners.”
The event would be unique if the run is only for the highlanders, he added.
National Council representative from Laya, Dorji Khandu, said that the whole purpose of the Royal Highland Festival was to attract tourists and national participants to visit Laya. The run, he said, is one of the most important attractions.
“I can sympathise with the highlanders. But what is more important is to attract as many participants from outside the highlands,” Dorji Khandu said.
He said that Laya Run, like any other activity of the festival, should not impose any restriction. “There are street vendors from other dzongkhags.”
Laya Gup Lhakpa Tshering said that the run should not be restricted to anyone. “We should in fact be happy that the participation is increasing by the year. ”
Some say that the natives of the highland have the advantage; they are not able to win the run because they often do not prepare adequately.
Choki said that she did not have time to practice. “But I walk every day through the valleys and over the mountains. I think my daily chores prepare me for the competition.”
Ninety-three runners took part in the 4th Laya Run on October 23.
There were runners from India and the US besides seven different countries.
President of the Bhutan Paralympic Committee (BPC), Her Royal Highness Princess Euphelma Choden Wangchuck, attended the 19th general assembly of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) at Bonn in Germany from October 24 to 27.
This is the first time that HRH attended the general assembly, the highest decision making body of the IPC.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the IPC.
The BPC was established in September 2017 to promote the paralympic movement in Bhutan, and provide all Bhutanese living with disabilities, the opportunity to participate and excel in sports. The committee is the apex sports body mandated to promote sports among people living with disabilities in the country.
According to a press release, the committee works in close partnership with the Bhutan Olympic Committee and since its establishment BPC has worked actively to advocate inclusivity, accessibility and also implemented several capacity building activities for sport administrators, coaches and athletes, to promote the para-movement in the country.
For the first time, two Bhutanese para-athletes, a shooter and an archer, represented Bhutan at the Asian Paralympic Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia last year.
The BPC currently has four full time athletes, in archery, shooting and athletics. The athletes are currently practicing for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Games in Japan.
Kelzang Wangchuk | Pemagatshel
With work progressing well, the much-awaited Denchi dzong in Pemagatshel is expected to be complete by June next year.
As of this week, about 93 percent of physical works and 75 percent works for the utse (central tower) were completed.
The construction site is a beehive of activity with the deadline approaching. Painting works on completed structures are in full swing.
The initial deadline of the project was 2018, but it was extended until June 2020 because of changes in the drawing.
Project manager, Lhaten Dorji, said that the deadline was extended because the government insisted them to construct the central tower instead of the zig-rey (gallery).
He said they could not start works on block A and B until they got the drawing of the tower as they share the foundation. The steering committee then decided to revise the deadline during its 4th meeting held in 2017.
The project manager said that after they got the drawing in December 2015, they could not start work immediately because of problem in the drawing. Main works on the utse started in 2016.
Lhaten Dorji said labourers are working from 7:30am to late night to deliver the work on time. However, site development works and parking will not be completed with the dzong.
Lhaten Dorji said challenges like not being able to transport materials, frequent strikes along the Indian highway affected work, as materials couldn’t be delivered as they wanted.
The project manager said getting skilled labourers was another challenge, as people preferred working where they were paid higher than the project. “However, we are confident to meet the deadline.”
The initial estimated budget for the project was Nu 530 million (M) but it has now increased to Nu 610M. The project is being funded by the government of India.
Yaks loaded with goods reach Sakteng from their Brangsa (temporary herders’ camp). Soon most of the highlanders will migrate to the warmer places with their livestock.
People living with human immunodeficiency virus (PLHIV) frequently experience depression, one of the most common mental illness.
Female HIV patients were found to be at greater risk of depression, according to a cross-sectional study conducted earlier this year.
The author, a Clinical Pharmacist with the national referral hospital in Thimphu, Kezang Tshering said depression is a leading cause of disability and one of the major contributors to the overall burden of disease among PLHIV.
“It is emerging as a highly prevalent mental disorder in HIV infected individuals,” he said.
Meta-analysis has shown that HIV patients were two folds more likely to get depressed compared to HIV negative individuals.
While prevalence of depression among PLHIV in countries like Thailand, USA, China and Sub-Saharan African, including neighbouring countries like India, Nepal, is high, the prevalence rate in Bhutan is unknown.
The study was carried out to investigate prevalence and factors associated with depression among adult HIV patients attending antiretroviral therapy (ART) clinics in four hospitals in Thimphu,Punakha, Paro and Wangdue.
ART, according to the World Health Organisation consists of the combination of at least three antiretroviral drugs to maximally suppress the virus and stop the progression of HIV disease.
About 27.2 percent of HIV patients attending ART clinics were found to be suffering from depression.
The study was conducted among 103 HIV patients attending ART between February and May 2019 at the four hospitals. The participants were aged between 23 and 79.
The patients were screened using translated and validated Bhutanese version of center for epidemiologic studies depression scale-revised (CESD-R), a depression screening instrument.
Since 1993, a total of 663 HIV cases (344 male and 319 female) have been diagnosed until June this year.
In terms of the incidence of the epidemiology of HIV cases in the country, about 49 percent of the PLHIV are residing in Thimphu. In terms of dzongkhags, more than 50 percent reside in the Western dzongkhags.
“This is one of the reasons why the study is carried out in the western region of the country,” said Kezang Tshering.
Depression is linked with poor quality of life and weak physical functioning. Studies have shown that depression is frequently missed at primary care level.
“If we look at the health care facilities in Bhutan, most of our HIV patients have access only to the primary health care level so they have a greater chance of missing the diagnosis if they are suffering from depression,” he said.
He also pointed out that the mental health programme in the country does not include any mental health interventions being undertaken among HIV patients.
The study also found that participants with poor perceived family support were positively associated with depression.
Providing good family support could serve as a solution among Bhutanese HIV population so the family members of HIV patients are encouraged to be more supportive towards patient.
The study also recommends focusing on female with poor family support and mental health interventions to be integrated into routine HIV care in Bhutan for proper management of depression.
On August 4, a video of two men beating up a teenager and making him prostrate and kiss the shoes went viral enraging social media users.
Within days, police arrested the man who filmed the incident which took place on June 13.
Last week, the Family and Child bench in Thimphu sentenced the two men to prison terms ranging from one year seven months to two years three months.
A month before the incident, the victim and one of the convicts, Tenzin Lhendup had quarreled.
On June 13, Tenzin Lhendup came looking for the victim with two friends and spotted him at a futsal ground in Babesa. The defendant with his friend, Pasang Dorji, boxed and kicked the victim several times and then asked Pasang Dorji to film it on his mobile phone.
The defendant made the victim prostrate repeatedly and also kiss his shoes.
Tenzin Lhendup confessed that he had been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident. He pleaded to the judge for a minimum sentence as he wished to continue his studies.
The OAG prosecutor argued that if he was sent off with a light punishment, he would continue to abuse substances and pose a threat to the others in the society.
According to section 215, child battery of the Child Care and Protection Act 2011, a person is guilty of battering a child, if a person purposely uses physical force or causes the child to be subjected to a physical force. The offence of battering a child shall be a petty misdemeanor or a misdemeanor, if aggravated circumstances are present.
Tenzin Lhendup has been a repeat offender, as he was arrested by police for engaging in fights. His parents were divorced. He finished higher secondary school. Police record showed that he abused controlled substances. The court found that he had not attended the mandatory rehabilitation programme of habitual substance abusers despite a court order.
The court sentenced Tenzin Lhendup from Thimphu thromde to two years and three months in prison. He was arrested on August 8.
The accomplice, Pasang Dorji was sentenced to a year and seven months in prison from the day of his arrest on August 7.
The third man Sonam Jamtsho is slapped a fine of Nu 3,750, equivalent to one month wage, for failing to report the crime.
Since the landmark agreement of 1994 in Cairo, Bhutan has come a long way in enhancing the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls in the country, according to the executive director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr Natalia Kanem.
During the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) talk in Thimphu on October 24, Dr Natalia Kanem said that the nation’s milestone journey in achieving the goals is attributed to political will and leadership of the country.
Dr Kanem, who is on her first official visit to the country said she felt that coming to Bhutan was a calculated move because Bhutan is one of the best examples she had encountered in her role as the head of UNFPA. “Bhutan shows what political will; leadership of His Majesty The King, and creativity among an educated group of people; the ministers can achieve collectively.”
“It also gives an understanding that woman of Bhutan asked for something and the government responded to their needs,” she added.
Dr Natalia Kanem said Bhutan is one of the few countries that achieved reduction in maternal mortality, as was enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals. Now, Bhutan is on track to achieving Sustainable Development goals (SDGs) through initiatives in poverty reduction, on which the foundations of SDGs was built.
“It’s a great story to tell that change can happen, and not everything is hopeless. In these 25 years, the statistics and data in this country has proved that lives of people have changed. The girls and women of the world are waiting for us to act and it is possible; Bhutan showed the way,” she said.
As of now, the country’s skilled birth attendant is more than 90 percent compared to 11 percent in 1994. “The achievement is unbelievable and miraculous. That is the direction where I want African and Asian countries to head.”
Emphasising on the role of UNFPA in the country, she said the agency is there to listen to the needs of the government and work accordingly to enhance lives of women and girls, in collaboration with the ministries, particularly in the field of safe birth.
To service childbirth and encourage spacing, UNFPA is focused on family planning, making childbirth safe even in remote communities by training professionals and making information available to people.
Dr Kanem also attributed the achievement to the philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH). GNH relates to the three principles of the United Nations, which puts human right in the forefront. The second pillar of the UN is sustainable development which integrates progress in health and education and is in line with the principles of GNH, encompassing all facets of development.
“Happiness does not only mean material comfort, but your contribution to help and make your community a better world,” Dr Kanem said.
She also said peace is at the heart of Bhutan’s development, which is the third founding principle of UN.
However, Bhutan has a long way to go, according to Dr Kanem. She reiterated on the goal to further reduce maternal mortality rate which is currently at 86 deaths per 100,000 live births. “By 2030, Bhutan can reduce that to 70.”
Due to challenges of transport and reach to poorer sections in the country, nutrition, access to skilled birth attendant and proper breastfeeding is a concern.
Dr Kanem called everyone to reduce stigma and taboo to survivors of domestic violence, harassment, rape and the related social issues. She said that menstruation is a natural body process and the need for menstrual health and hygiene. However, it can be achieved by providing sexual and life skill education to everyone including the monastic communities who have closer connection with the people.
“Advocates of peace and women who stand for their rights should be encouraged. The community and police should understand that it is their responsibility to make difference in spreading happiness throughout the world,” she added.
ICPD25 which will take place in Nairobi next month believes in the vision of integrated development that foreshadowed the SDGs and emphasise the same principles: non-discrimination and universality; the centrality of health, education and women’s empowerment to sustainable development; and the collective need to ensure environmental sustainability.
Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, who is the UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, will lead Bhutan’s delegation to the summit.
ICPD programme of action recognises reproductive health, women’s empowerment and gender equality are the pathways to sustainable development.
In 1994 in Cairo, 179 governments agreed that sexual and reproductive health is the foundation for economic and social development.
Wondering why some imported goods cost more than double the price?
Hundreds of million of Ngultrum are spent on hidden cost since 2014 while importers pay abnormal charges when they are unaware of import norms.
The Tamu Worldwide Shipping Private Ltd., a registered trade association with with Bhutan Chamber and Commerce Industry (BCCI), found this out through records of import and export it maintained.
About Nu 36 million (M) was estimated to be misspent by clients registered with the association in this year alone through hidden cost.
The highest, Nu 45M, was recorded last year.
Hidden cost or abnormal charges are the charges imposed on importers, which actually are inapplicable or could be avoided. In other words, it is an unnecessary payment made by importers to shipping lines, said Sonam Ratu, the marketing officer with Tamu.
Container load charges, trade surcharge, water surcharge and rupee depreciation surcharge, among others are few examples of abnormal charges imposed on the importers.
“These charges were imposed when multiple agents were involved in transshipment of cargos and can be avoided if importers are aware of, for what and how they are charged,” added Sonam Ratu. “Not many importers in the country are aware of the charges imposed.
A survey conducted by Tamu earlier this year revealed that about 80 percent of the respondents were unaware of logistic process for imports.
Officials said that such loopholes in the logistic process also cause inflation in the market.
Of the 11 international commercial terms initiated by International Chambers of Commerce in 1936, Ex-work, Free on Board (FOB) and Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) are used in the country today.
For Ex-work and FOB, delivery of cargos and documentations are handled by the trade associations and hands on quotations are given beforehand.
While in CIF, documentations and delivery until certain point are handled by consignee with multiple agents involved in the logistics process.
Records with Tamu showed that about 70 percent of the invoice from 2014 until this month was imported through CIF by government agencies.
More than 80 percent of the invoices were imported using the service by corporate agencies and about 80 percent by private entities.
Only 5 to 50 percent of the goods imported were done through Ex-work and FOB services.
In addition to hidden cost, importers would also be charged with demurrage and detention due to incomplete documentation and delay in payment among others, according to the officials.
Owner of Dumba 3D works, Bishu Prasad Sharma, said he had to pay an extra Nu 30,000 as demurrage charges one time.
He said that transport fees costs him more than the actual price of the product while importing through CIF service.
Tamu official said that many of their clients wanted to know only the cost of exporting and importing consignment. “They do not bother to know what they are charged for and other important information.”
“This is the reason why our entrepreneurs are affected in the market, said Kamal Raj Gurung, the chief executive officer of Tamu.
To cut down hidden cost, educating importers on the INCO terms, optimising trade route, enhancing payment process, providing hands on quotation, using green logistics approach (the 3R principles towards cost effectiveness) and insuring products were recommended.
“Addressing such issue would help the nation overcome trade deficit and achieve sustainable development,” said Kamal Raj Gurung.
Recognising the importance of educating the exporters and importers on such loopholes with logistics procedure, Dy. Secretary General with BCCI, Chandra B. Chhetri, said that the chamber would reach out to the agents outside the capital to create awareness on the process.
“Both the government and private sectors dealing with the exportation and importation should take an equal responsibility to address the issue”, Sonam Ratu said.
In Bhutan, mental health is fast emerging as a major social issue.
However, even as health care specialists have begun shining the spotlight on mental illnesses and their wide-ranging impact on individuals and the society, mental health is still very much a taboo subject.
The importance of reframing mental health as a public health concern so is becoming more urgent. And we have a long way to go.
Depression, for example, the most common type of mental illness among the Bhutanese, is considered the leading cause of both injury and disease for people around the world.
Going by some well-placed estimates, by next year, depression will be the second most common cause of disability in the world after heart disease.
For a country that is witnessing rapid socioeconomic transformation, which is one of the main causes of depression among the populace, this information is a serious warning.
Mental illnesses have effect on family members, friends, colleagues, and communities. The consequences of not tackling the rising issue of mental health threaten to weigh heavily on the society.
Health Minister Dechen Wangmo rightly remarked at the fifth international conference on Medical and Health Sciences in Thimphu last week: “It is painful to see that there are limited services when it comes to mental health.”
It is precisely because of such realities facing our society today that conferences like the recent one should mean more than a platform for awareness creation and discussion.
There is a serious need to fill the gap between challenges and opportunities.
The changing socioeconomic realities are adding stress on the people, especially the young, who are wading through a complex maze of modern life.
Suicide, alcoholism and substance abuse, among others, are the modern narratives of our society, which are all, one way or the other, linked to the rising burden of mental health.
In Bhutan, the challenge facing public health professionals is providing access to services. In particular, we lack rehabilitation services, because of which mental health is fast growing to be one of the major public health issues.
Today, mental health is often discussed in the context of adult health care. That is because of headway we have not made in terms of research for greater understanding. That’s perhaps also why we are not able to remove the stigma attached to mental illnesses.
But mental health remains a problem for children and adolescents, too. As a nation that is demographically very young, the implications of not dealing adequately with this emerging public health issue will be far-reaching.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
About 50 farmers of Dzedokha chiwog, Logchina gewog have tapped their ancestral therapeutic ways of using zingiber cassumunar (locally known as phacheng) into developing two products, “zhinor balm and liniment (massage) oil.”Zhinor Liniment oil
The community-based group functions as the Dzedokha Pacheng Detshen (DPD) and engages in cultivation of zingiber cassumunar. The essential oil from the rhizome is processed into two products.
Zingiber cassumunar’s rhizomes are valued for its medicinal value and it is claimed for its anti-inflammatory properties. Locals in Dzedokha have always used it to cure joint pains.
The zingiber products were officially launched on October 21 along with the inauguration of the Natural Product Development (NPD) facility at Dzedokha.
The benefits of this plant was first discovered by officials of the National Biodiversity Centre (NBC) in 2012.
In 2014, NBC received a GEF-UNDP project funding for the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) in Bhutan. Dzedokha was chosen as one of the pilot sites to implement ABS regime and harness the traditional knowledge associated with zingiber cassumunar and diversify the local livelihood.
In 2016, the group with the technical support from NBC secured a project funding of USD 47,500 from GEF-UNDP Small Grant Programme to continue building technical capacity of the people of Dzedokha and to upscale the marketing of the zhinor products.
A facility was then constructed in Dzedokha to engage local people until the final stage of finished zingiber products, encourage local entrepreneurship, and provide employment opportunities to unemployed youth.
The group operates as a social enterprise. Operators from DPD have been extensively trained and are competent for the development of the zhinor products.
Operators buy zingiber rhizome from the members of the community and extract the essential oil for the development of zhinor products.
The operators share certain percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the products to the community group as a benefit to the community group.
Senior biodiversity officer with NBC, Mani Prasad Nirola said zhinor massage balm and zhinor liniment oil were launched after four years of research and cultivation trails.
“The group has been trained in essential oil extraction and how to produce massage balm and liniment oil using zingiber essential oil,” he said, explaining that the group can start from cultivation to until the finished product.
“Marketing is the only work they haven’t done,” he said.
However, zhinor balm and oil are currently sold in spa and wellness industries nationally and internationally by the community with a technical backstopping from NBC, Mani Prasad Nirola said.
In order to secure a better market for the products, a trademark certificate has been secured and products are marketed under the name of “zhinor,” which means zhidey-gi-norbu, he explained.
“The organic certification has been also granted for the cultivation or organic zingiber,” the biodiversity officer said.
Although people in Dzedokha continued to rely on cardamom, ginger and mandarin, as their primary sources of income for many years, mandarin yield dwindled significantly over the years due to citrus greening and the price of cardamom and ginger has been unstable.
Now, they have zingiber cassumunar as a new source of income. Some farmers earn as high as Nu 50,000 to Nu 80,000 annually from the sale of zingiber cassumunar.
DPD chairman Phib Raj Rai said farmers sell the rhizome at Nu 50 per kg.
“One farmer grows up to 300-500kg,” he said, adding the highest a farmer has grown is about one to two metric tonnes (MT).
In 2018, the group harvested about 16MT of zingiber. The next harvest is in February 2020. Prior to the inception, before 2012, farmers would just grow a few plants for personal medicinal use.
More than 180 members of Duedro Rangwang Zhidey Tshogchung from 20 dzongkhags attended the first annual general meeting organised at Yangchenphu Higher Secondary School, Thimphu on October 26.
People and organisation in many countries around the world claim to have adopted Bhutan’s human development vision of Gross National Happiness (GNH).
But what they actually portray is different people’s perceptions of GNH. Some are philosophical, some are well researched academic constructions, and some are spaced-out theories.
GNH is described as an esoteric philosophy, an inspiring concept, a development goal, a measure of development, a wake-up call, and so on.
It is also being criticised as a platform for ambitious politicians, a mere catchphrase, an empty promise, meaningless platitudes, a purely intellectual concept, an academic redundancy, and so on.
If confusion is truly the beginning of wisdom, all this is wonderful.
I, too, would like to add to the confusion by sharing my understanding of GNH and attempting some responses and clarifications to ideas that are being exchanged.
To talk about GNH, I believe that we have to first define happiness.
I know that the world’s greatest minds have been trying to define happiness for centuries but I have my idea of a GNH perspective on happiness. The happiness in GNH is not fun, pleasure, thrill, excitement – or any other fleeting sense – it is the deeper and permanent sense of contentment that we consciously or, in our sub-conscience, seek.
Have we achieved GNH in Bhutan? No.
Has GNH had an impact on Bhutanese society? Yes.
Everyone who visits Bhutan senses a different atmosphere from the moment he or she arrives. I believe that this sense comes from the values that have been nurtured over the centuries.
Today, we are calling it GNH.
I offer my understanding of GNH as it exists today.
I see GNH in four forms – the intuitive, the intellectual, the responsibility, the emerging global.
First of all, I see intuitive GNH values in past generations of Bhutanese who had a strong mutual understanding and enjoyed an interdependent existence as members of small rural communities. The village astrologer, the lay monk, the lead singer, the carpenter, the arrow maker, the elders and the youth, all had their responsibilities.
The values, drawn from Buddhist teachings, from the experience and wisdom of our ancestors and from the very practical needs of a subsistence farming lifestyle, inculcated a reverence for an interdependent existence with all life forms, or all sentient beings.
Some examples of this are seen in the reluctance to hunt and fish (both of which are banned in the country), the sometimes frustrating tendency to be less “productive” to avoid hurting or upsetting someone, and putting up with the cacophony of an unruly stray dog population. People identified their own priorities in life.
In the 1980s, farmers of one village were taught, successfully, to do a double crop of paddy, meaning that they doubled their rice production that year. They refused to do it the following year because, as one farmer said, “We did not have time to play archery, to enjoy our festivals, to bask in the sun”.
Another perception level I see is the attempt to define, explain and measure GNH, along with the academic construction of the concept. As discussed earlier, the best accepted definition of happiness is the abiding sense of inter-relatedness with all life forms and of contentment that lies within the self.
This is related to the happiness that Buddhists seek from the practice of meditation.
In one understanding of GNH as a development vision, a representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) described it as a much more advanced concept of the Human Development Index that the UNDP has been refining.
This takes me to the third perception level: GNH as a government responsibility.
As discussed, I think the definition of happiness as the abiding sense of contentment and GNH as a government responsibility make basic sense, although the translation of this into policy, legislation and prioritised activities is very much a work in progress.
In other words, we may agree on goals, values, and responsibilities, but differ sharply on the best strategies to achieve those goals. And yet, it is the recognition that GNH must be the basis of mainstream policy thinking that sets Bhutan apart from some countries that have expressed interest in GNH.
As we saw during the GNH conferences in Thailand, Brazil, and Canada, some people doing good work among their communities – NGOs and civil society organisations – think they have found an identity in GNH.
In Bhutan, however, the four pillars and nine domains have given politicians and bureaucrats some idea of national priorities. This is useful because public servants do not intellectualise policy but make decisions that have an impact on all citizens.
The international discourse
The fourth perception level is the “internationalisation” of the GNH discussion.
Bhutan has certainly not worked out the solutions to the world’s problems, but I think we have opened up an amazing conversation and we need to give this conversation coherence and direction.
The concept of GNH, even partially understood, excites and inspires people. After five international conferences on GNH and the April 2 meeting in New York, one criticism at home has been, “stop preaching GNH overseas and make it work in Bhutan”.
This is a resounding example of the need for clarity in GNH thinking and understanding.
Here, I emphasise the point that we are not preaching to anyone, rather, we ourselves are learning out there.
There is a vast amount of research and analysis and experimentation done on GNH-related issues – sustainability, well-being, climate change and much more – by intellectuals including Nobel laureates, by universities and institutions, by civil society.
Bhutan must learn from them to deepen its own understanding of GNH.
International discourse can only benefit Bhutan because we ourselves do not have the capacity to undertake the necessary research and analysis required to implement GNH fully at home.
In conclusion, there is a growing understanding – even fear – that the human population, driven by the values of GDP, is literally consuming the earth.
That is why GNH is a pun on GDP which used to be known as Gross National Product. The loud message is that human development needs a higher goal – beyond GDP.
Dasho Kinely Dorji
Quite often, we see people requesting for emergency blood donations online.
While we see many interested donors responding, most of the time the blood type do not match. And other times there are issues of locations, where the interested donor is in a different dzongkhag.The app interface
To address these issues, students and staff of Jigme Namgyel Engineering College (JNEC) in Dewathang, Samdrupjongkhar developed a mobile application Save Live by Donating Blood (SLDB), which provides real-time link between the blood donor and recipients.
SLDB app, according to associate lecturer Younten Tshering, allows users to view detailed information of donors and enable real time communications as and when emergency occurs.
The project is developed as a part of the college’s Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT) project, which aims to enhance the living standard of the society.
How does it work?
Interested blood donor can register filling their required details. The details include name, age, gender, blood group, contact number and location, among others.
Once registered, Younten Tshering who is also the developer of the app said that any blood donation seeker could have access to a host of donors via the app.
Another feature to the app is placing request for donation in advance. Any user of the app, not just the registered members can view these requests and can make donations if interested, he said.
He said that at many occasions when critical patients are in need of blood, the normal method is to route through their family, friends, social media and community, among others.
“This process is observed to be time consuming and might lead to health risks of the patient,” he said, adding that even through accessible information and technology and available social media platforms, people find challenges in receiving blood donor in absence of such platform.
He added that the current blood needs especially during emergency are not met by the blood banks at the hospitals. “That is why we see people requesting for donations online frequently.”
“I’ve personally experienced the hassles and inconveniences involved in the current practice of seeking blood donations online,” he said. “We at JNEC hope that this app helps ease these problems for patients and their relatives”
Meanwhile, the app was presented at the 5th International Conference on Medical and Health Sciences 2019 on October 26 in Thimphu.
The app is currently available for android platforms.