… exempt sales tax (to vie with IMTRAT canteen) and ease access for Indian tourists
27th Annual General Meeting: Representatives of the Haa business community once again voiced their concerns over the IMTRAT (Indian military training team) canteen stores department (CSD) eating into their business at the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (BCCI) 27th annual general meeting held this week in Thimphu.
However, unlike in the last meeting in 2010, where local businesses in Haa pushed for a need to restrict access of CSD to civilians, this time they have urged the chamber to approach the government for a possible business sales tax exemption in the dzongkhag.
“The goods sold in the CSD canteen are sales tax exempted, but the same goods sold by locals are not,” the Haa BCCI representative, Rinchen Khandu, said. “Difference in selling price is the obvious reason for customers to prefer buying from CSD.”
IMTRAT CSD provides all types of goods, from toiletries and kitchen items to ready made garments and stationery. It is meant for army personnel and ex-servicemen, but locals also get access.
A local businessman in Haa said there is a system of selling the goods to cardholders (army personnel) only, but local people somehow manage to buy goods. “Most items sold in the CSD are almost 50 percent cheaper than items available in Haa township,” he added.
Considering its small population, the department of revenue and customs could keep the exempt sales tax for three years to allow growth, Rinchen Khandu suggested. “The tax later on could then be gradually increased for local businesses,” he said.
BCCI general secretary Phub Tshering said the chamber is concerned about growth of the retail sector in Haa and such issues, although complicated, would be put up in the next private sector development committee (PSDC) meeting.
A request for considering free entry for Indian tourists visiting Haa, without having to obtain special route permit, was also made during the AGM.
“The business community there feels no need for Indian tourists to obtain special route permit, and an increase in tourist numbers can benefit local businesses,” Rinchen Khandu said. “The home ministry could help fund festivals, so that local goods could be sold to tourists.”
Phub Tshering said the PSDC had already submitted the permit issue to tourism council (TCB) and association of Bhutanese tour operators (ABTO), and the business community in Haa will be informed once the decision comes through. “It’s difficult to have festivals in Haa during winter, but the chamber had informed TCB and ABTO to conduct summer festivals for tourists,” he said.
By Passang Norbu