Despite exports down, the thromde expects monthly rents to be paid for depots used
Bhutan Exporters Association: Mandarin exporters, who are already worried, with their exports not picking up, have now been asked by the Phuentsholing municipality to pay monthly rents for the space their depots occupy.
The municipality decided to charge rents for depots, starting November last year, and had informed exporters about the rents. But to date, none of the 27 exporters, who have set up their depots, have paid up, thromde officials said. The depot, where exporters pack, grade, load and unload mandarin was used free of charge until the last season in 2011.
Thromde’s executive secretary, Tharchin Lhendup, said the exporters and Bhutan exporters association, were notified twice to make the payment. “When we first discussed the issue, the association agreed verbally,” he said.
He said the thromde had to charge rents, because the thromde was decentralised last year, which meant that the office has to sustain on taxes and rents the office collects.
The rent, after discussions among municipality officials, was decided at Nu 5 a square foot for the area the exporters occupied in Amochu. By this rate, most exporters would have to pay more than Nu 6,000 a month. The export season ends by mid March.
“We wanted to charge rents, so that we can maintain the road to the depot, which is completely damaged,” Tharchin Lhendup said. “This is also the reason why the exporters agreed, and the association was supposed to collect the rent and pay us.” The thromde has however not calculated the amount of revenue required to maintain the road, or the rents they would be collecting, if exporters pay.
Thromde’s chief urban planner, Tshering Phuntsho, said it was mandatory to charge or levy taxes when government land is used.
General secretary of the association, Tshering Yeshi said the works and human settlement ministry has been informed about the issue, and that they are still waiting for the ministry’s response. He said the municipality’s reason to maintain the road by charging rents is not justified. “If they want, they could have maintained the road a long time ago,” he said.
Tshering Yeshi said city has also charged an industrial rate, while mandarin business is seasonal. “We didn’t say the association would collect the rent and give it to city,” he said. “We’re an association to deliver service, so how can we force exporters to pay the rents?”
The general secretary said the municipality informed them to pay as per the “agreement”, but insisted he didn’t remember signing any kind of agreement. “They were even asking us to collect rents from illegal canteens that people have opened.”
With export business low this year, the association has requested the government to not collect rents this year.
Meanwhile, exporters feel there is a need to have a permanent export depot in Phuentsholing, the country’s main commercial hub. They fear that, when Amochu reclamation works begin, or any other developmental activities, they would have to look for space.
The association’s general secretary said there is no space in Phuentsholing to construct a depot. “Other than Amochu, there’s no space,” he said.
This, many said, needs to be sorted out soon. “We’ve been raising this issue several times,” he said. “In one meeting, the agriculture ministry has agreed to look for place.”
By Yangchen C Rinzin, Phuentsholing