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Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 - 5:58 PM
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Compliance still a problem

Non-compliance: Many registered companies in the country do not comply with the provisions of The Companies Act of Bhutan 2000.

Recent inspection by the company registry division has found that about 95 companies failed to respect the provisions of the Act. About 40 companies have failed to maintain the statutory registers, which is regarded as top form of non-compliance.

According to the Act: “If a company or any other person contravenes any provision of this Act for which no punishment is provided elsewhere in this Act, the company and every director shall be punishable with fine which may extend to Nu. 5,000 and where the contravention is a continuing one, with a further fine which may extend to Nu. 500 for every day after the first during which the contravention continues.”

Repeated non-compliance could lead to deregistration of a company.

Company registrar, Karma Yeshey, attributed the non-compliance to lack of professionals working as secretary in the companies.

“Work related to the Act is [currently] headed by  accounts or finance staff,” he said. “They are nor familiar to the provisions of the Act.”

It was also discovered that about 14 companies did not maintain proper signboards. Some companies did not even have proper postal address.

“It is of paramount importance to adhere by the Act,” said registrar Karma Yeshey. “Companies have to inform the division within a week if postal addresses are changed.”

The officials with the registry division said that non-compliance could have happened due to rapid growth in the number of registered companies.

A total of 120 companies had registered with the division in less than three years. There are today 317 registered companies in the country.

About 10 companies had failed to conduct mandatory board meetings as required, and seven companies were found to not have conducted annual general meetings.

Non-appointment of chairman and the chief executive officer, and not submitting board reports are considered non-compliance on the company’s part.

Karma Yeshey said that some companies have not informed the registry division of the articles of incorporation. A company has to inform and seek permission to either increase or decrease their capital. Companies also failed to inform the division of transfer of shares. Should any private or a public company transferred its shares, it has to inform the registrar and complete formal procedures completed.

The listed companies don’t have to inform the division, as their information will reflect at the stock exchange.

Registry division officials said that there is an urgent need to make companies aware of the provisions of the Act.

By Rajesh Rai

A continuous house anyway

The country witnessed the violation of a constitutional provision during the last National Council election as members resigned from office to contest for another term.

That was following the apparent confusion with the interpretation of the council having to be a continuous house.

The continuity of the house was compromised because it lacked a quorum to convene a sitting, just in case.

The constitutional provision requires that council elections be held in a manner that it was reconstituted on the expiry of term of existing members.

The same provision was stipulated in the election Act as well.

In absence of any clarity on what seemed like a riddle then, the final interpreter of the constitutional provisions, the Supreme Court choosing to remain mum until moved through some case, election commission issued a notification.

For the commission the provision took to mean that serving council members ought to resign should they wish to run for another term and that was what council members then did.

To avoid such confusion in future, the Supreme Court provided its interpretation albeit rather late. It was better late still, than never.

National Council members, going by the Supreme Court’s interpretation, did not have to resign after all to partake in election for another term.

They could do that while still in office. That way, the house still had members in office, while at the same time election continued. Now that is a continuous house.

Members of the second council decided to etch this in their Act.

The amendment council members made to its Act is now with the National Assembly to deliberate on this session.

Assembly members yesterday brought up the same debates those of the first set of council member did, that of continuity, aspects of benefits and the need for council members to resign should they wish to re-contest.

Following discussions yesterday on the council members’ inclusion of a new provision, assembly members decided it was more fitting they discussed the issue when election Act was tabled for discussion.

Whether incorporate it in the council Act or in the election one, there is no two ways about the provision that has received the Supreme Court’s interpretation.

In other words, the interpretation of the Supreme Court is final and if our legislators mean to change anything about the provision, it would have to do so at the source, the Constitution.

Now have we really reached that stage?

Amochhu bridge to be ready by December

photo3-copyBridge over Amochhu

Highway: With 90 percent of the delayed Amochhu bridge constructed, road department officials are optimistic it will be ready by December this year.

Claiming 90.6 percent of its work completed, road officials said what was left was the erection of steel parts.

Project engineer Jangchub Yeshi said they have joined 30 arc segments and were left with 20 segments to form the arc steel.  A Thai-based company, Civil Park International, designed the double lane, 175m semi-through parabolic steel bridge.

“Once we join all the segments, they’ll erect the steel arc,” Jangchub Yeshi said. “After that, the department will cast the steel deck over the bridge.”

Jangchub Yeshi said the department carried out concrete construction work, which has been completed.

“But private contractor will have to erect the steel parts owing to the complex nature of the structure and specialised materials used,” he said, adding they are hopeful contractors will erect the arc steel by June.

Since the department needed an experienced contractor, the contract was awarded to a Bhutanese contractor, Gaseb Construction, and Kalika Construction, based in Nepal last year.

The contract was awarded after previous contractors, Bhutan Builders and DK Engineering and Construction were terminated following serious lapses in executing the work.  The department took over the work.

The project engineer said the department is optimistic it would be completed by December. “That’s if monsoon doesn’t disrupt the work,” he added.

The project, initially estimated at Nu 175M, is now expected to cost Nu 235M, and is funded by the government. “But the cost might increase when the project is completed,” Jangchub Yeshi said.

Officials said the Amochhu bridge is yet the most expensive bridge in the country, and is expected to last over 100 years with a capacity of 40R (40MT for excavators and 55MT for trucks).

The bridge over Amochhu, the construction of which started in 2009, was supposed to be completed by the end of 10th  plan.

The bridge, located 8km from Phuentsholing and 50km from Samtse, will connect the two.

By Yangchen C Rinzin,  Phuentsholing 

Dalley pickle, flying off the shelves

pickle3Processed and packed pickles

Dagapela fruit cooperative produces a hot selling product

Agriculture: A fruit cooperative in Dagapela, Dagana has tapped a niche market and converted their collective work into a profitable venture, producing and selling the fiery dalley (cherry pepper) pickle.

Daga Shingdre Detshen’s chairperson, Jurmi Dorji, said the demand for dalley pickle has been increasing. “We produce pickle worth Nu 150,000 a month, and the demand is increasing,” he said, adding that the cooperative has plans to produce it on large scale in future.

The cooperative is also exploring markets.  It was formed in 2008 by farmers of five gewogs of Tashiding, Drujeygang, Goshi, Tsendagang and Gesarling and has 64 members.

“We’re planning to extend our market to places like Wangdue, Punakha, Trongsa, and Mongar,” Jurmi Dorji said.

As of now, the pickle products are sold in three shops in Thimphu besides shops in Dagana.  Recently the pickle was introduced in a shop at Paro.

The cherry pepper pickles are packaged in jars of 200g and 400g, and sold at Nu 95 and Nu 145.  Besides dalley, the cooperative also produces bamboo shoot pickles, sold at Nu 85 and Nu 60 a jar.

Dalley chili is harvested during peak season from June to October from chili growing gewogs like Tshidhing, Goshi and Dorona.  The bamboo shoots are supplied from Tsangkha community forest and by local vendors.

The raw materials are preserved in jars for six months to one year and later processed with ingredients.  It is dried in the sun for 15 to 20 days during clear weather.  It’s then bottled and packaged for sale in the market.

The cooperative buys a kg of dalley at Nu 80 to 100, and a kg of bamboo shoots at Nu 20.  The cooperative also produced mango pickle, but quit after they found there was not much demand.

For dalley and bamboo shoot pickles, getting the raw materials was a problem before. “But not anymore,” the cooperative’s secretary, KB Gurung said, adding that the sellers have found a market for their produce.  “Both parties are benefitting.”

Except for the months of December, January and February (orange season), pickles are produced almost round the year.

The three months are peak mandarin season and members are engaged in pulp production.  Cooperative members said oranges were collected from the locality and sold to Bhutan Agro.  For this, a single unit structure and a food processing plant have been provided by the government.  Last year, the cooperative sold about 16MT orange juice to Bhutan Agro.

Meanwhile, Jurmi Dorji said the cooperative has started saving some portion of the income into their joint account.  “A large chunk is being spent to pay off the debt the cooperative incurred  from orange business,” Jurmi Dorji said.

To expand their business, the cooperative is looking at producing orange juice. “That’s if the government permits,” Jurmi Dorji said.

By Tshering Namgyal, Dagana

New wheat more diseases resilient

Research:  A research conducted by Renewable Natural Resources Research and Development Sub-Centre (RNRRDSC) in Tsirang has found that Baj and Agreem – two new wheat variety – to be more resistent to rust infection than Sonalika, the variety the farmers have been growing.

Rust has been a recurrent threat to wheat production in the dzongkhag. Research says that yellow rust epidemic in 1985 and 1986 caused loss of more than 50% wheat production in Punakha. It believes that more damage could have been caused in successive years.

The annual rust surveillance since 2012 has repeatedly spotted yellow and brown rust as the most common diseases in areas where Sonalika is grown. This year recorded 70% rust susceptibility of Sonalika.

Sangay Tshewang, wheat researcher and coordinator at centre, said Sonalika has become susceptible in countries like Nepal and India. The agriculture ministry, he said, aims to increase wheat production although it is a ‘minor’ crop in the country.

Last year, on farm trial, 8,000kg new varieties wheat were distributed to the registered farmers of Wangdue and Punakha to test and further distribute to the farmers in the following season. “We are hoping to collect about 160 tonnes of seedlings from the farmers this season to be distributed,” he said.

It is expected that the seed quantity can easily be met.

Wheat is mostly grown in low lying dzongkhags like Wangdue, Punakha, Trashigang, Trongsa, Samtse, and Tsirang.

Dhurba Das Chhettri, branch manager at National Seed Centre at Baja, said the centre expects to collect about 68 tonnes of Agreem and 87 tonnes of Baj seedlings from the two dzongkhags of Wangdue and Punakha this year.

District Agriculture Officer Sonam Zangpo said the main objective of the programme is to enhance wheat production in the country. “Its good to change old variety after many years. We are helping farmers in marketing by buying their products.”

Farmers were given free seedling last year for the first time.

Wheat is used as poultry feed and is also consumed by of the farmers, or used to brew alcohol.

Some of the farmers who took new seedling are yet to harvest first time.

Barp gewog has started harvesting but are waiting for a thrashing machine to determine the production.

Sonalika was first imported from North East India in 1988 and since than farmers have been growing.

By Tashi Tenzin

Mongar farmers welcome biogas plant

participants-constructing-a-biogas-plant-on-Mongar-during-the-practical-sessionParticipants constructing a biogas plant during practical session

Energy: More than 50 participants, including livestock officials and masons from Lhuentse and Mongar, attended a 12-day training on biogas plant in Mongar.

Participants said that such training would definitely benefit people, especially the poor in the remote villages.

Sangay, a farmer who underwent the training, said people in villages could not afford LPG. “Biogas plants will make life much easier,” he said.

Having acquired skills to build a biogas plant, farmer Tshewang Namgay from Balam in Mongar, aspires to impart his skills to fellow villagers.

The pilot biogas project will be started in Redaza village where a dairy group is thriving. Farmer Sonam Jamtsho, who is a chairman of the group, said the farmers in the village will no longer have to struggle with LPG.

“Firewood consumption will be greatly reduced, and the houses will be free of smoke and stains, which will bring improvement in health,” said Sonam Jamtsho.

Participants and livestock officials said biogas plants will have both immediate and long-term benefits.

Bhutan Biogas Project’s assistant manager, Sonam Phuntsho, said the masons and the gewog livestock officials should convince the villagers of the benefits of biogas.

“The officials will be supervising constructions of plants in the dzongkhag in the future and the masons will certify the training,” he said.

The size of the plants will depend on the number of cattle and family size. A tank with a capacity of four cubic metres can produce gas enough to light a single stove for four hours. This will require about 25kg dung.

Sonam Phuntsho said construction of a biogas plant with the capacity of four cubic metres will cost between Nu 30,000 and 40,000.

Farmers can avail of loan up to Nu 20,000 for the construction and get subsidy of Nu 11,700 after the installation of plant.

Pilot project that was started in southern dzongkhags in 2011 has so far installed more than 1,200 biogas plants.

The training was organised by Bhutan Biogas project with support from Asian Development Bank (ADB) and technical assistance from the SNV.

By Dechen Tshering, Mongar

S/J forest division too stretched to tackle poaching

DSC05493Forest officials with SLR guns

Staff shortage, among others, makes it hard to deal with illegal activities on the border

Forestry: Forest officials in Samdrupjongkhar are apprehensive that poaching and other illegal activities in the border areas will worsen if the government does not provide adequate and necessary support, especially human resource.

The file, maintained by the Samdrupjongkhar forest division (SFD), shows that about 14 wildlife-related illegal activities were reported last year.  This year, so far, the figure has reached 16.  Officials said, for the past few years, they were still in the process of compiling proper records of illegal activities along the Samdrupjongkhar-Assam, border.

Most cases are of illegal fishing and timber extraction, followed by poaching and illegal sale of animal trophies and timber.

Currently, nine forest officials work under the SFD, of which three are stationed at their respective field areas in Samdrupcholing, Jomotshangkha, and one operates from SFD.  The other six are with the reserve team.

A reserve team comprises forest officials, who are assigned to normal patrolling and during emergency time.

Senior range officer, Sonam, said regular patrolling is difficult because of the staff shortage.

“For patrolling, our team is made up of five officials,” he said. “Royal civil service commission’s rule states at least 15 should be in a team while operating at risk prone areas.”

The area, he said, is big, stretching from Pemagatshel to the border along Samdrupjongkhar.

While claiming the whole forest area near Assam-Bhutan border to be a hotspot for wildlife illegal activities, forest officials are yet to survey the stretch that comes under their jurisdiction.

SFD covers two dzongkhags of Samdrupjongkhar and Pemagatshel.  In Samdrupjongkhar, SFD has three range offices, including one at SFD.  The other two are at Jomotshangkha and Samdrupcholing.

Under Pemagatshel, SFD has two range offices, one at Nganglam drungkhag and the other in Pemagatshel proper.

“It’s impossible to cover the whole are with the resources we have,” Sonam said. “However, we’ve identified the places where poaching activities take place frequently.”

The steep terrain and dense forest make it arduous for the team to react fast. “And the poachers take advantage of the porous border,” Sonam said, adding that, in summer, the situation becomes more difficult to handle because of heat, rain and swollen rivers, which the team is required to cross at times.

With limited human resource, ranger officer Sonam Jamtsho said, they team up with the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) personnel patrolling in groups of 30.

“The risk of wild animal attack is high,” Sonam Jamtso said, adding the team was too small to counter an attack.

In 2012, a team member narrowly escaped a brutal attack by a furious elephant.  The officials were following the foot tracks of an elephant.

Forest officials said, in 2007, the division had 18 staff in the reserve team alone, which has shrunk by 50 percent today.

The SFD has been pressurising the sdepartment of forest for more support, but has not received it so far.

Other challenges, forest officials said, were the weight and length of the self loading rifle (SLR).  “When we patrol for days in the jungle, the SLR gun isn’t handy, especially since we have to carry ration and baggage too,” senior range officer Sonam said. “We’ve proposed for a handy weapon, but it hasn’t come through.”

Communication, while patrolling, is also restricted within the short range of the Motorola handset they use. “We don’t have a base station at the field sites,” Sonam said, adding, unless there is a base station, network coverage will be less. “It takes five days of perilous journey, and communication becomes a major issue with network getting completely cut off.”

To tackle this issue, SFD officials have been mulling a proposal to construct a base station near the army base at Woonchilu goenpa in Pemagatshel.

“The place is located at the top of a mountain and we’ll be able to manage the network range and cover the whole area. We haven’t proposed the government so far, but we think it’s time we put it up,” Sonam said.

By TsheringWangdi,  Samdrupjongkhar

A tarnished golden goose?

The authority’s report underscores the perils of having all the eggs in one basket

Hydropower: Hydropower debt is expected to reach Nu 211B by the end of the 11th Plan, and it will be a costly affair for the economy if export tariff does not, at least, equal the loan component.

Although the government, previous as well as current, has been stressing that hydropower debts are self-liquidating, the audit findings on public debt managements stated that review on the projects revealed various risks associated to repayment.

Loan undertaken for hydropower projects, the report on public debt management stated, are susceptible to time and cost overruns.

For instance, the cost escalation of Kurichhu was about 120 percent from the initial estimated cost of Nu 2.5B, and Tala’s cost overrun was 207 percent from the initial estimate of Nu 14B.

The recent geological surprise at Punatshangchhu I added Nu 94M to the initial estimated cost of about Nu 35B.  This, according to the Royal Audit Authority (RAA), is expected to further increase, because it does not take inflation into account.

The time and cost overruns, the report states, will have multiple impacts, such as loss of revenue, higher generation cost, besides increased loan and interest burden, consequently increasing repayment obligations.

As of June 30, hydropower debt constitutes 57 percent of the total outstanding debt of Nu 94.5B.

The report stated the terms of financing from the Indian government changed over time.  Grants portion has been declining, and loan component has been increasing.

In the earlier projects of Kurichhu and Tala, the projects are financed through 60 percent grant and 40 percent loan.  This has just reversed in case of Punatshangchhu I.

Moreover, from 2011, the portion of grant decreased to 30 percent and loan increased to 70 percent, as in the case of Punatshangchhu II and Mangdechhu.

Besides, the rate of interest on Indian rupee (INR) loan has also increased, albeit being soft loans.  But it would definitely entail addition burden on repayment.

“This clearly indicated that the country’s hydropower debt burden is expected to increase in the near future,” the report stated.

Another issue the audit highlighted was on the constraint regarding storage and transmission, while the country aims to generate 10,000MW of electricity by 2020.

While India, which has huge energy demand, guarantees the energy market, the country is not able to sell energy at market driven prices.

This was because of the power purchase agreement that the two countries sign before the financing of projects.

“This existing price mechanism provides limited scope for taking advantage of surge in market prices,” the report stated, adding tariff remained static for years, despite impact of double digit inflationary trend, and erosion in purchasing power of money.

The audit recommended the government to explore viable option or market for energy export. “The government may sign a long term agreement with India, and explore other options to export energy to other countries in the SAARC region to boost market and economy, ” the report stated.

Further, RAA highlighted that there are exchange rate fluctuation risk on projects financed in convertible currency, such as Basochhu, which is financed by the government of Austria, where the loans are denominated in euros.

Hydropower projects are also subjected to unforeseen hydrological risk, however viable they may be.

During times of hydrological disasters, the audit found that there is no backup plans to service the debt, since repayment is dependent on revenue generated from the plants.

The government also has to import power at higher cost during the lean seasons, owing to growing domestic demand during lean winter season.

By Tshering Dorji

 

No more boat operations

Circular: Home ministry officials recently issued a circular to all dzongdas and gups instructing them not to allow boat operations to ferry passengers.

This is in response to the recent boat mishap in Rendibi, Zhemgang on May 10 that claimed nine lives so far. While six had survived, three men are still missing.

The circular was sent last week after police submitted the investigation report of the boat mishap to the government.

Zhemgang police had submitted the investigation report to the police headquarter on May 20.

Although police chief was unavailable for comment, some officers said police were awaiting response from the government to take action against the man who operated the boat illegally.

“Everyone knows the boat operation was illegal and the investigation report mentioned it too,” an official said.

But home minister Damcho Dorji said although the boat operator did not have a license, they could not take action against him because he had been operating the boat for a long time and no one complained about it so far.

He said the boat operator was actually liable for the mishap and could be charged to court and made to pay compensation to victims’ families.

“But the fault lies with everyone, even the authorities, as they did not intervene and stop the boat operation,” he said, adding the man would have been liable only if the authorities had asked him to stop operating the boat because of the risks it posed to people’s lives and had he not heeded to that.

He also said the government had instructed roads officials to stabilise the suspension bridge so people could cross the river using that.

“We also asked for bridge construction over Mangdechhu to be expedited,” he said. “It’ll be completed within a year.”

Lyonpo Damcho Dorji also said Zhemgang dzongda was briefed to ensure the suspension bridge was stabilised.

Besides people of Zhemgang, people of the four gewogs of Umling, Tarithang, Serzhong and Chuzergang in Gelephu also used boat facilities to cross the swollen Maokhola in summers.

This year on, boat operation will be disallowed and people of the four gewogs will be asked to use bridges instead.

Lyonpo said Bhutanese, in general, had a poor sense of responsibility when it came to safety of common people.

He cited the example of a pit hole dug at Olakha that did not have any lighting facilities and cautionary notes.

“Dzongkhags and gewogs should ensure there is no risk for common people and if there is, those responsible should be charged for gross negligence,” he said.

But the problem in Bhutan, he said, is that people do not know they have the right to be protected and people should sue the government.

By Tashi Dema

PM in New Delhi to attend swearing in ceremony

IMG_8522Lyonchhoen in conversation with senior BJP leaders yesterday

Ceremony: The Bhutanese delegation led by Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay arrived in New Delhi yesterday afternoon to attend the swearing in ceremony of prime minister elect, Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India.

Indian Ambassador to UNESCO and former chief of protocol, Ruchira Kambol and the Joint Secretary (North) Abhay Thakur received the delegation at the airport.

Later in the afternoon, senior BJP leaders, Vijay Goel, Meenakshi Lekhi, Nirmala Sitharaman, Vijay Jolly and Indresh Kumar of the RSS called on Lyonchhoen at the Leela Palace where the Bhutanese delegation is staying.

Bharata Janta Party leader, Narender Modi will be sworn in as the 15th Prime Minister of India in a  ceremony, which will be attended by head of government and state  of the SAARC nations and another 3,000 guests, including the chaiwala (tea seller) from Vadodara who proposed the Lok Sabha candidature of Narendra Modi.

The swearing in ceremony will begin around 6pm today in the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Lyonchhoen in conversation with senior BJP leaders yesterday
At the airport: Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay arrive in New Delhi yesterday to attend the Indian prime minister-designate Narendra Modi’s swearing in ceremony today

President of India Pranab Mukherjee will administer the oath of office and secrecy to the 63-year-old Narendra Modi and his Council of Ministers in the presence of a host of leaders, including outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, besides leaders of various other parties and Chief Ministers.

Lyonchhoen is expected to meet prime minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee tomorrow.

By Ugyen Penjore, New Delhi