Thursday, July 31st, 2014 - 7:29 PM

Revised vehicle tax – people to pay for government’s incompetence

The government recently proposed to increase vehicle tax by more than 100%. The basis for this whopping raise is to curb the outflow of Indian rupee (INR) and convertible currencies (CC) (7 June 2014, Kuensel). The other reasons for the hike although not explicitly mentioned but alluded to are intended reductions in traffic, fuel import and environmental pollution. Let us objectively dissect these stated or alluded to reasons to see whether or not this hike is fair under Bhutan’s prevailing socio-economic and environmental conditions. First, [... Read More]

The Himalayas: Upstream but Downwind

The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region has received much attention as the source of rivers that supply water to 1.3 million people downstream. It has received far less attention for its role as the recipient of the air pollution originating in the plains. Across northern South Asia during the dry season, individual plumes from hundreds of millions of cooking fires, tens of millions of diesel vehicles, generators and pump sets, as well as tens of thousands of brick kilns merge together into one thick brown [... Read More]

Life & Death from the Himalaya to Factory Floors

Everest Tragedy Highlights Need for Changes in “Labour Chain” Isn’t climbing supposed to be one of “the” symbols of comradeship and teamwork? During the time Tenzing Norgay Sherpa,  who would have been 100 years old this May 29,  and Edmund Hillary climbed Everest in 1953, everyone was involved and shared the risk, the challenges and the joys of adventure.  How different it has been this year.  As the world moves on to read of the next tragedy from Asia, the loss of 16 lives in [... Read More]

Whither sits the Fourth Estate

In its journey to democracy the country has embarked on, one companion that is struggling to keep pace is the Bhutanese news media. What is left today is a poor semblance of what could have been. But the story, some seven years ago, was strikingly different. Privately-owned newspapers hit the newsstands, and competition revved up overnight. Newsrooms were abuzz with editors and reporters brainstorming story ideas in an urgent hustle to make their papers stand out the next morning. It was about breaking the news [... Read More]

Bhutan’s rise calls for courageous policy measures

PLH-OP-EdPhilippe Le Houerou

My first trip to Bhutan since taking over the position of World Bank Vice President of South Asia in July 2013, my visit was a timely opportunity to learn about Bhutan, the uniqueness of its people and country, our partnership, and how the World Bank can best provide support through its Country Partnership Strategy for 2015-2019. Bhutan’s economy is on the rise.  The economy has grown in the 7-8 percent range for the past five years and this is likely to continue.  Hydropower development, better [... Read More]

Connecting Terrestrial ‘Islands’ to Promote Biological Diversity

This year, the UN has declared ‘Island Biodiversity’ as the theme for celebrating International Day for Biological Diversity. The world’s islands are home to about 600 million people – 10 per cent of the world’s population. These islands are also home to some unique species of plants and animals that are found nowhere else in the world. For example, the kangaroo is found only in Australia, the flightless kiwi bird is found only in New Zealand, and the now extinct dodo – another flightless bird [... Read More]

Why FCBL should expand

Wholesalers and retailers should look upon the corporation as a mentor than a competitior  There is a reason for retailers to fear the Food corporation of Bhutan (FCB) encroaching in the retail grocery business, because FCB has the support of the government, and is a seasoned organisation that has been in these kind of business for decades, with mammoth experience in wholesale and retail grocery undertaking. FCB already has established and strategically located depots nationwide to cater the needs of these retail outlets.  However, it [... Read More]

IT Park: The real picture

In view of the various misunderstandings that seem to be floating around regarding IT Park project, I felt it was necessary to make a few clarifications because correct information is vital for healthy public discourse and understanding. First of all, the IT Park is one of the three components of Bhutan Private Sector Development Project, which the government conceptualised and initiated in consultation with the World Bank in 2006, about two years before Bhutan’s first democratic elections in 2008. Given the difficulty we face in [... Read More]

Pay revision needs an alternative model

It seems that the Pay Commission has proposed to the government a 20% pay revision for civil servants like previous pay revisions, which I think is not the best available option especially in the context of minimizing income gap. Therefore, in order to address the problems of people in the vulnerable income groups, it is necessary to look at a modest and alternative model of pay revision, which is somewhat different to the previous pay revision model.   Current Situation Analysis The need for a [... Read More]

What WTO membership would entail

With new leaders at the helm of the government, Bhutan is once again fancying WTO membership. While a final decision lies with the leadership of the government, the national interest must ensure that other voices also be heard while making the final decision. Several questions thus arise. WTO membership entails free trade, open market and globalization, but are we ready to hand over our country to the multi-national companies so they can do whatever they want for economic gains? Are we desperate enough for economic [... Read More]

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