Friday, May 22nd, 2015 - 10:03 PM
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Golden goose chase

The road safety authority is coming down hard on those who have not changed ownership of second hand vehicles sold or bought.  The announcement alarmed many.

If a quarter of the total vehicles in the country have changed hands, but not transferred the ownership, it is a lapse on the part of the authority.  There is a standing rule saying ownerships should be changed within 15 days of the transaction.  While there is no up to date database of vehicles, the reason for the strict rule this time, RSTA has lost out big time for not being able to implement the rule.

It will be difficult to go after vehicles and see if they have been sold or resold.  Stopping every vehicle to check would be a public harassment.  Therefore, the loophole in the rule benefitted many from avoiding the fees and charges involved in the transaction.

However, apart from maintaining an updated database, which is crucial for planning purposes, it is an opportunity for RSTA, one of the top 10 revenue earners in the 2012-13 financial year to keep up the trend.  RSTA’s revenue next year is certain to drop because of the ban on import of vehicles.  More than being in the top 10, RSTA needs the dough, as we can see there is plenty to do.

Lack of budget is a good excuse across government agencies and authorities for not being able to implement plans or take new initiatives.  By not transferring vehicle ownership, millions of Ngultrums, that the authority could get, is stuck.  Even at the worst depreciated rate, a vehicle owner transferring the ownership is liable for a few thousands.  If a quarter of the vehicles have changed hands without paying the 5 percent property transfer tax, we are talking about a few billion Ngultrums in loss.

Not much gets done today without budget, and budget is hard to come by, especially with the government in austerity mode.  Although much has improved, we still do not have efficient and reliable public transport services.  Accidents are still claiming a lot of lives.  Traffic violators are on the rise.  There are rules, but to enforce them we need people on the roads and money to keep them.

There is still the need of clearer traffic signals to direct city traffic, as well as roads signs, including zebra crossings, dividers, parking systems, and traffic flow.  All this will require a massive budget, besides ideas and planning.

While the December 31 deadline has sent people rushing to RSTA, we hope this rule will not end up like the seat belt and the taxi meter rules.

The latest on the overseas employment front

If agencies speed up their paperwork, the first batch of workers can leave within a month

Jobs: If overseas employment agencies can submit all the required documents and proposals and speed up registration, the labour ministry would be able to send the first batch of workers overseas in the next few weeks, according to labour ministry officials.

About 1,000 jobseekers have already expressed interest in the “overseas employment program,” labour officials said.  The ministry is waiting for the seven shortlisted employment agencies to submit their final proposal with required documents, which has to be submitted by January 8, 2014.  Due to this, the program officer with the department of employment in labour ministry, Tshewang Rinchen said the ministry, so far, hasn’t registered any jobseeker yet.

“It also depends on when the agents will get the offer from the host countries abroad,” he said.

When the agencies are licensed, officials explained, they will receive detailed information from the principal agents (employers) abroad.  The ministry of economic affairs will license the agents.

The vacancies will be advertised for registration of potential and eligible candidates, Tshewang Rinchen said, adding that select candidates will then be sent abroad through proper channel.

Jobseekers will be given a pre-departure orientation program, in which all the necessary documents will get verified, followed by which they will be certified as overseas employees.  Those candidates, who need skills training or any upgradation program, will be trained first.

“They’ll be sent abroad for employment, after going through process of selection after the training,” Tshewang Rinchen said.

In terms of emergencies, the Bhutanese overseas workers (BOW) will be evacuated by the Bhutanese overseas employment agents (BOEAs), in collaboration with the labour ministry and  ministry of economic affairs in Bhutan.

While the overseas employment is an initiative the government is taking to facilitate employment of Bhutanese overseas and promote full employment in the country, many people have raised questions if it will benefit or prove detrimental.

Labour officials also agree there are disadvantages in sending jobseekers abroad.  However, the ministry has prepared a guideline, keeping in mind the pros and cons of this program.

Decrease in the number of national workforce in the country, which will force Bhutan to bring in more foreign workers, and a brain drain, which could compromise the country’s human capital requirements, resulting in disruption of economic activities, are two major disadvantages many people discuss.

Program officer Tshewang Rinchen said these disadvantages would be minimised through close inspections and monitoring of overseas workers and their employers, in close collaboration with ministries and its embassies.

In addition to a minimum education of Class X, one should also possess basic trade skills to go overseas to work.  Further, one has to be a registered jobseeker, who is not able to find a job in the Bhutanese labour market.

Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Singapore, Thailand, and India are the countries the government is looking forward to send at least 30,000 Bhutanese jobseekers in the next five years.

Recent figures with the ministry show a total of 4,830 registered jobseekers across the country, out of which 2,665 are women.  Also, 2,458 of the total are university degree holders, with a few having master’s degrees.

Overseas employment program is an initiative and a strategy put in place by the new government to achieve full employment, as pledged.

By Rajesh Rai

Fee revision for companies listed under stock exchange

The revision takes effect in January 2014

RSEBL: The country’s only stock market, Royal Securities Exchange will be revising listing fees for companies listed under it to meet its operational expenses.

A listing fee is a charge a company paid to the stock exchange, which listed the company’s shares in the exchange so it could be officially traded in the market.

The new fees will be based on the strength of a company’s paid up capital, which is the total amount of money a company’s shareholders’ and promoters have contributed to establish the company.

For a company with a paid up capital of up to Nu 5M, the annual fees were revised from Nu 15,000 to Nu 20,000.

For those with a paid up capital of Nu 300M, it was revised from Nu 45,000 today, to Nu 80,000 annually.

Official of some of the listed companies said they were unaware of the revision. “We haven’t received any letters about this,” a chief executive officer of a listed company said.

The last revision was done three years ago. The stock exchange today has 21 listed companies (see table).

Stock exchange chief executive officer Dorji Phuntsho said the fees were revised because it would require money to finance new programs and activities.

The Royal Securities Exchange board approved the revision yesterday for it to take effect from January 2014. Royal Monetary Authority Governor Daw Tenzin is the chairman of the eight-member board, comprising Bhutan National Bank CEO Kipchu Tshering and Bhutan Development Bank CEO Pema Tshering.

Dorji Phuntsho said the stock exchange was drafting a new strategy to inculcate financial literacy among students and the public.

“We are working to include chapters on personal finance and savings in school curriculums,” he said. “This is important for the economy.”

By Nidup Gyeltshen 

56 students for 9th PYPP

IMG_0994Ninth batch: Student participants with Drangpon Tashi Dorji at the city police station in Thimphu

A 15-day initiative to involve young people in a productive way during winter vacation 

RBP: Fifty-six school going students are participating in the ninth phase of police youth partnership program (PYPP) that started in the capital yesterday.

The 15-day program will orient students on community police, crime prevention, child rights, drug education, fire and traffic safety, first aid and emergency responses and driglam namzha, among others.

The Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) initiated PYPP in 2008, as an intervention program to prevent youth crimes and delinquencies through improved relationship between youth and police.

Focal person of the program from RBP, Yongzin Nima Gyaltshen, said the program is aimed at youth, to help them spend their holidays more meaningfully. “PYPP is conducted twice in a year, during summer and winter holidays, for school going children,” he said.  The new batch will also learn adolescence health care, which is a new subject included in the program, he added.

“The program is expected to make youth understand about reproductive health and improve the well-being of young adults,” he said.  PYPP will also teach participants law, penalties and provisions through practical hands on experiences by helping the police, Yongzin Nima Gyaltshen said.

“We hope the students will understand law and be responsible citizens,” he said.

However, students also interacted with each other through the introductory session, where they briefed each other on their reasons behind joining the program.

A participant, Tashi Dorji, 14, who is studying in class 9, said he joined the program to challenge himself by working with police, instead of wasting his time at home.

“I learned so much about community police when I helped police while controlling the crowd during the National Day,” he said. “It’s not easy as I thought it would be to work as a police.”

It was difficult when I was trying to control the crowd, he said, adding that he wishes to continue volunteering and helping police.

Another participant, Ugyen Lham, 16, said her ambition is to become a police officer.

“I want to gain experience on how the police functions, so that I’ll know what it takes to work as a police,” she said.

The youngest participant, Kinzang Dorji, 12, who was attending the program along with his brother, said he wanted to spend his vacation productively, and help police in reducing crime.

A total of eight phases of PYPP have been completed so far, where about 3,600 students have been sensitised.  The eighth PYPP had about 775 students as participants.

By Thinley Zangmo

Engaging locals in community development

Such initiatives is also expected to instill a sense of ownership over services provided to  communities

CSC: To engage people in planning, monitoring and evaluating development activities in their own communities is to empower them.

Taking this on board, Anti-Corruption Commission officials with a consultant from India are conducting a weeklong training on the use of Community Score Card (CSC) for 21 participants representing the government, civil society organisations, training institutes, private sector, media and local government officials at Samtenling gewog in Gelephu.

Community Score Card, organisers said was a tool that helped a community identify local problems and seek local solutions using local resources for any development activities the government provided.

That way, they said the tool provided a mechanism to create transparency in the society by enabling local communities to take joint decisions and draw common action plan for improving services provided to them.

Community services include all state-provided services to a community including renewable natural resources, health, education, electricity and telephone among others.

It is also expected to improve community services and public expenditure management.

“This tool will enable local communities to evaluate service provided to them, by giving their scores against indicators of a service,” an organiser said. “Indicators of community services, which scores low has to be prioritised and a new action plan drawn to improve them.”

Apart from that, the mechanism would also instill a sense of ownership over the services provided to a community.

The new scheme also allows for conflict resolution between service providers and beneficiaries in the community.

With support from Helvetas Swiss Interco-operation and Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, anti-corruption, local governance and information technology and telecommunications officials organised the training.

The resource person, an independent consultant from India, Dr Santosh Kumar said Community Score Card was a powerful tool to check corruption as well as to reduce or eliminate poverty in the society.

“Poverty can be reduced by providing access to quality services to a community,” he said.

The main cause of poverty, he said was lack of access to development services and quality of service delivery to communities.

Anti-corruption officials said this method would strengthen community engagement in policy prioritisation, budget allocation, public expenditure and tracking and monitoring of services.

“Community participation is expected to enhance social accountability,” an anti-corruption official said.


Contributed by 

Sudarshan Subedi, 

manager, Kuensel library

A public library on wheels

DSC_9948Books on Wheels: Students leaf through pages of books inside the mobile library that Save the Children launched yesterday in Thimphu

Save The Children initiative to deliver material to members’ doorsteps, as it were 

Reading: Rathina, loves reading.  But with the public library located away from his home in Changedaphu, the 11-year-old’s mother doesn’t allow him to go out alone.

However, with a mobile library now in place, Rathina is thrilled. “My mother takes me to the library, whenever she’s free during weekends, but that’s once in a while,” the class III student from Changzamtog middle secondary school, said.

With its seats removed, the bus has racks of fiction, non-fiction, audio books and magazines and newspapers.  The bus, whose body is covered in paintings of flowers and children reading, also has a seat and table for the librarian, as well as a computer.

Save the Children, while discussing with Thimphu thromde ways to increase the library’s reach to children living outside the core city areas, came up with the idea of a mobile library bus, an initiative worth Nu 3M.

“In order to succeed in school, we know children must be able to read and write with comprehension,” Save the Children’s director MB Ghaley said yesterday at the launch. “Bhutanese, by nature, have poor reading habits.”

Save the Children, which has been working with the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck public library, noticed several members to be children, who lived outside the city.

“But for a city with over 14,000 school going children, we felt the number of those making use of the library was very negligible,” the director said.

The key to reading: Save the Children’s director MB Ghalley hands over the mobile library’s key to Thimphu Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee yesterday

Thimphu thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said the mobile library bus service is a step up and generous support from Save the Children for children in Thimphu. “As parents it’s our responsibility to engrave the habit of reading into our children from day one,” he said. “Compared to the ratio of school going children, 2,500 members at the public library is very negligible”

The mobile library bus service, which officially starts moving from January 5 next year, will cover eight areas in the capital – Changaydarphu, Motithang labour camp, centenary park, police camp, Serbithang, Changjiji, Lungtenphu and Taba army camp.

Along with the books, the bus would also have a volunteer librarian on Sundays.  The bus will remain at each of these destinations for two hours, during which it will lend books to the children.  The books, both for children, teenagers and adults, have to be returned at the end of the hour.

“I’m very happy and excited,” Buddhi Maya, 13, said. “We’ll learn to read better with books delivered to our doorsteps.”

Save the Children and Thimphu thromde are hoping to launch similar projects, by raising funds, in other dzongkhags as well.

Tshering Norbu Uden

In Pictures: What do they say?

It did serve someone’s purpose
Photo: Lhaki Wangchuk


Push to upgrade Tsirangtoed BHU

tsirangtoed-BHUTsirangtoed BHU

Despite not meeting criteria, there is a strong and insistent demand from people

Health: With increasing pressure from people, one issue discussed at the recent dzongkhag tshogdu was the need to upgrade its basic health unit in Tsirangtoed, Tsirang.

Tsirangtoed gup, Nar Bahadur Rai, said the need to upgrade the unit was a resolution of the gewog tshogde, following feedback from the people.

“It’s centrally located and would benefit the people of four gewogs of Tsirangtoed, Phuentenchu, Sergithang and Semjong,” he said. “If approved, the sick wouldn’t have to come all the way to Damphu hospital.”

District health officer, Tashi Dawa, said, while that was to be incorporated in the 11th Plan, he said, the health system requires a BHU to score more than 20 points in criteria, such as population, number of patients visiting every day, elderly people and children’s death rate, to be upgraded.  He said Tsirangtoed BHU scored only 17 points.

Supporting the gup, Tsirangtoed mangmi, Nanda Lal Kharel, said, besides being centrally located, the gewog’s population is also growing.

“Tsirangtoed lower secondary school will be upgraded to a middle secondary soon, and there are people from far flung villages, who walk for more than three hours to reach the BHU,” he said,

He said it was also difficult to avail ambulance service from Damphu hospital during emergencies, and upgrading the health facility would benefit the rural folks more.

Other members from nearby places like Phuentenchu gup also supported the proposal. “Even getting a vehicle in the gewog is difficult because of distance and poor road condition,” the members said.

DT members said, excluding Semjong, the three gewogs of Sergithang, Tsirangtoed and Phuentenchu alone have more than 700 households.  It takes more than three hours for people of Sergithang to reach Damphu, and more than two hours drive for those living in Tsirangtoed and Phuentenchu.

Members said the current BHU had enough structures and what was required was a doctor and some additional health workers.

“Some decisions should be taken based on the needs and not on the criteria alone,” the members said. “There are many BHUs in the country, which don’t fulfill the criteria but were upgraded.”

The DT resolved that the district health officer should approach the health ministry about the people’s proposal.

By Tshering Namgyal, Tsirang

Coming up to speed with procurement manual

IMG_6820Tender committee members participate in a mock bid evaluation that was held as part of the training

To that end, Bumthang’s tender committees attended a four-day refresher course 

11th FYP: Bumthang’s gewog and dzongkhag tender committees are confident about implementing the eleventh Plan’s developmental activities without any lapses having been briefed and “refreshed” for four days on the procurement manual.

After work is awarded to contractors, every procuring agency faced problems of either the contractor falling short of fund, poor quality work or delay in the progress by not working according to the work plan.

Bumthang dzongda Sangay Thinley said the course gave an opportunity to especially clarify on bid evaluation and on the rejection criteria. “The procurement manual and tendering aren’t new things, as everything’s mentioned for us to follow,” he said. “But when it comes to interpretation, there are confusions.”

Two resource persons from finance ministry’s public, procurement and policy division conducted the refresher course that ended yesterday.

Participants were briefed on how to carry out quotations, handle good samples, make comparative statements and evaluate and take decisions, give supply orders and maintain stock, among others.  The opening and rejection of tenders, evaluation, acceptance, work order and agreements were also covered.

During the course, participants were also asked to fill in questionnaires to test their understanding, and a mock bid evaluation was also held.  They were also briefed on how to write item descriptions and specifications while inviting quotations.

Tang gup Thinley Namgyel said it was better to learn from the experiences shared by senior colleagues. “We’d read the manual several times, but there was never anyone to actually explain the manual to us, so we always had to seek clarifications, but now we understand better,” he said.

Committee members also cited other problems faced during the bidding process, such as delay in submitting the sealed bids, putting a company stamp by the bidder after tagging it ‘confidential’, and not signing near the changed amounts in their bid.

The dzongda said bidders have to be careful while they bid. “Now, we don’t have to waste time in seeking clarification for every bid we open; it’s all been cleared and we’re ready for the 11th Plan,” he said.

For the 11th Plan, there are about 39 major activities planned in the dzongkhag, with each activity to have more than a Nu 2M budget.

Under the civil works, there are 28 activities, of which five are major works.  Religion and culture sector has eight major and 36 minor activities, while the health sector has listed nine major and 23 minor activities for the plan period.  The urban sector has listed 13 major and 11 minor activities, while agriculture and livestock sectors have two major activities planned.

By Sonam Choden, Bumthang

One local short film to be screened at two int’l film festivals


Movie: A local short film, the Red Door, has been selected to be screened at two international film festivals.

The Red Door, by filmmaker Tashi Gyeltshen (Girl with a Red Sky), will be screened at the international film festivals of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and Fribourg in Switzerland.

The 15-minute film follows the journey of a man, who carries with him a door.  In this case, the door is a metaphor for death, and the journey itself a metaphor of the different stages of life.

“At the microcosmic, personal level the film is my expression of a tragic event of my 22-year old nephew’s suicide in June 2013,” said Tashi Gyeltshen. “Making the film was my way to console myself,” he added.

“At another level, the Red Door is a metaphorical journey of a man, traversing through different stages of life depicted through the changing landscapes,” he said. “No matter how high we climb up, be it our assumed wisdom, experiences or age, the Red Door accompanies the journey, we carry our own death, ultimately we have to open the door.”

On the film being selected by the two international film festivals, Tashi Gyeltshen said he appreciated the recognition. “To be recognised for your work is huge, but I don’t necessarily work to be recognised,” he said. “I make a film because I want to, because I have to, because I feel the world will be incomplete if I don’t tell my story, as the world will have one less story.”

The making of short films is limited to a very small group of filmmakers in Bhutan. “I don’t even think whether what I do conforms to the convention or not, whether the theme necessarily makes social sense or not, whether it’s abstract or not or even if it’s art or not,” said Tashi Gyeltshen. “Every story will have a social message or as you say ‘a moral of the story’ whether you like it or not, but I don’t make a film to preach nor to convey a social message, I’m not here to judge, I just want to tell a story according to the world I live in.”

Tashi Gyeltshen is a self-taught filmmaker.  He has written and directed two short films, Girl with a Red Sky and A Forgotten Story, and a documentary on Taekwondo in Bhutan.  In 2009, he won the best screenplay award at the Bhutan national film awards.

He plans to create a trilogy by following the Red Door with one more short film, the Red Phallus in 2014.  He then plans to work on his first feature film.

The royal office of media and bhutan+partners, a foreign organisation that “facilitates and generates news and unusual programs driven by creative people searching for innovative and lasting connections” supported the making of the Red Door.

DVDs of the short film will be available in Thimphu, following the two festivals, next year.

By Gyalsten K Dorji