Saturday, 31 May 2008

Maldives Foreign Minister visits Bhutan

May 30: His Majesty the King granted an audience to the Foreign Minister of Maldives Mr. Abdullah Shahid at the Tashichhodzong yesterday.

Mr. Abdullah Shahid arrived in the kingdom on a three day visit on Wednesday, May 28.

He is accompanied by the Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Abdullah Hameed, the Ambassador of Maldives to Bhutan and other officials.

Mr. Abdullah Shahid became the Foreign Minister of Maldives in August last year. Previously he has served as executive secretary to the president and assistant cabinet secretary.

Also this morning, Mr. Abdullah Shahid called on the Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Thinley, his Bhutanese counterpart Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering and other senior government officials.

Speaking to BBS later in the afternoon Mr. Abdullah Shahid said he has come to Bhutan to offer the greetings of the president, government and people of the Maldives to His Majesty the King and the people of Bhutan on the kingdom’s peaceful transition to democracy.

He said Bhutan’s transition to a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy is an example to countries in the region and rest of the world. He said the example set by the Bhutanese leadership is exemplary and commendable.

On the relations between the two countries, he said given the physical distance, there is a need for direct routes of transportation to promote people to people contact.

He said he spoke about the establishment of direct-air transport link during his meeting with the Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley and Foreign Minister Lyonpo Ugyen Tshering. He said there is room for enhancing the relationship.

In the area of economic cooperation, he said the two countries must share their experience. He said over the past 30 years, the Maldives has been able to develop a vibrant tourism industry.

He said to share its expertise the Maldives will offer two scholarships for Bhutanese students in tourism industry from next year.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Monk Body arrives in Thimphu

May 30: His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the monks of the Zhung Dratshang arrived in Thimphu the summer residence yesterday.

Enroute to the Tashichhodzong, their summer residence, His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the Zhung Dratshang were received at the Lingkana Palace ground by His Majesty the King and granted traditional Shoelja-Desi.

The Monk Body spends the winter in Punakha. They leave for Thimphu on the first day of the fourth Bhutanese month maintaining a tradition that goes back to the early 17th century. The tradition of maintaining a summer and winter residence was instituted by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in the 17th century.

This year, their arrival has been delayed because the fifth month is double in the Bhutanese calendar.

Following the audience, His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the Monk Body were escorted in traditional Chipdrel procession to the Tashichhodzong.

At the main entrance of the Tashichhodzong, they were received by the Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigme Y. Thinley, Cabinet Ministers and Members of the Parliament.

The Monk Body left the Puna Dewa Chenpoi Phodrang on Wednesday.

In keeping with the age old tradition, His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the monk body made a night-halt at Thinleygang on Wednesday.

This morning as they proceeded towards Thimphu, thousands of people waited in line along the road to offer prayers and receive blessings.

The line of people stretched from Hungtsho, Yusipang, Semtokha, and Lungtenphu to the dzong.

2.15 m euros for Austrian-Bhutan bilateral program

29 May, 2008 - The Austrian government has committed 2.15 million euros to Bhutan within the bilateral program for this year.

The indicative financial assistance was finalised when the annual consultations document on Bhutanese-Austrian development cooperation was signed yesterday by the Austrian resident coordinator Mrs Marie-Christine Weinberger and foreign secretary Yeshey Dorji. Tourism, followed by the energy sector, would receive a major share of the total amount, about 42 and 26 percent respectively. Other fields, that would receive a share from this financial assistance, are culture with 11 percent, mountain ecology 7 percent, and other projects having 14 percent.

According to the GNH commission planning officer, Norbu Wangchuk, there are five projects likely to receive a portion of the budgetary assistance under these sectors.

Phase VI of the rural electrification (RE) project, starting in Phobjikha, is one major project for this year, besides the technical assistance for the Dagachhu power project. It will install electric lines underground as an eco-friendly measure, according to the resident coordinator.

“It is three times more than the actual expense of normal electric lines,” she said.

The Bhutanese-Austrian RE projects aim to electrify remote houses, which are outside the bigger rural electrification plans.

Mrs Weinberger said, “Austria would have longstanding development partnership in terms of projects not just important to Bhutan and its people but also to Austria,” she said. “Hereafter, the two governments will go for long term plans and projects starting next year.”

A portion of the budget, according to a GNH official, would go to the hotel and tourism management training institute (HTMTI), which is under construction. The institute is aimed at generating jobs, and as a training centre not just for Bhutan but also the region.

The Tadzong renovation and artifacts installation project, which is going to be the last of its kind, to be completed later this year, is another project supported by this assistance, according to the source.

The conifer research and training project, likely to start this year, will receive its budget from the disbursed fund. “However, it would depend on the report of the evaluation of last year’s project,” said Norbu Wangchuk. The foreign secretary, `Yeshey Dorji said, “With the new system, Bhutan’s development challenges are magnified, which increases the need for more cooperation and assistance from donor countries.”

Bhutan and Austria maintained diplomatic relations since 1989 and Austrian assistance is mainly in energy, culture, tourism and renewable natural resources (forestry) sectors, with human resource development as a crosscutting area.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Constitution to be tabled on Thursday

28 May, 2008 - "On 17 December 1907, the whole body of the lamas, the state councillors, the chillahs of different districts, and representatives of the people met at Punakha, and unanimously elected King Ugyen Wangchuck as the hereditary king of Bhutan. All declared their allegiance to serve him and his heirs loyally and faithfully to the best of their ability.”

A historic genja was signed.

History will repeat itself, exactly one hundred years later, when the historic signing will be enacted on June 2 as per the National Assembly schedule. The signing of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan will formalise the return to the people of the powers that had been vested in the first king by our forefathers a century ago.

Meanwhile, with the discussion on the draft constitution coming to a close, the chairman of the constitution drafting committee, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, will present the rectified version of the views, comments and suggestions raised by members of parliament today.

On Thursday, the chairman will make the final presentation before the Constitution is signed. The National Assembly will go into a long recess from June 3 to June 15. However, according to a National Assembly official, the members of parliament will break into different committees and work on the six bills: National Assembly bill, National Council bill, Election bill, National Referendum bill, Public Election Fund bill, and the Parliamentary Entitlement bill.

The National Assembly will tentatively resume on June 16 and the finance minister will present the Tenth Five Year Plan to the Assembly on June 23. The concluding ceremony of the first session of the first parliament is scheduled for June 30.

Over speeding on Thimphu-Paro highway raises concern

May 28: Carelessness and over speeding have been cited as the leading cause of vehicle accidents. If that is so, accidents are likely to increase especially on the Thimphu-Paro highway.

After the widening of the Thimphu-Paro highway, motorists are reported to drive at break neck speed.

The Thimphu-Paro highway is now wider and straighter. It is a pleasure cruising along this relatively straight wide road. But for many motorists, it is where they try to outperform Michael Schumacher. They drive at break neck speed.

The signboard says the speed limit is 40 kilometers per hour. Not many are paying heed to this sign board. Many would not have even read the signboard driving ad they are at 70 to 80 kilometers per hour.

Motorists who drive between Thimphu and Paro frequently say the speed limit should be increased. They said the speed limit even on narrower single lane road is 40 kilometers per hour.

Officials from the Road Safety and Transport Authority said they have discussed the matter with concerned agencies. They said once the speed limit is fixed then they would be able to implement and monitor the speed.

The Department of Roads said the speed limit of 60 kilometer per hour could be allowed only between Chuzom and Isuna because this stretch of road is straighter. They said in other areas, though the road is wider, it would be dangerous to increase the speed limit to 60 kilometers due to the numerous turnings. They said there should be different speed limits at different sections of the road.

Meanwhile traffic police said they don’t have control over the Babesa-Paro highway because the road is still not officially open and the finishing touches are being laid. However they said because of the sharp turnings, it would be risky to drive above at 40 to 50 kilometers per hour.

The traffic division said they are now monitoring the speed on the Thimphu-Babesa Expressway with the use of speed guns.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Classroom congestion, a problem in many schools

May 27: With school enrollment increasing, classroom congestion is posing a problem in many schools. The Peljorling Middle Secondary School in Sipsu in Samtse is one such school facing acute classroom shortage.

Situated in Sipsu, some 50 kilometers from the Samtse town, Peljorling Middle Secondary School is the only middle secondary school in the geog. The school has 28 classrooms only but has close to 1,700 students studying from preprimary to class 10.

Tashi Dawa the school principal said on average every classroom has 46 to 56 students depending on the size of the classroom. He said students who pass out from lower secondary schools in the nearby areas have to be absorbed in the school adding to the congestion. To address this problem, the school started shift system for preprimary to class 3.

Damcho, a teacher, said because of shift system the number of periods had to be reduced from seven to five. He said because of this, it may not be possible for teachers to complete the syllabus thereby compromising the quality of education.

However two more buildings are being constructed.

The principal said the cabinet decision to reopen schools which had to be closed due to anti-national problems will also help ease the pressure.

The school was established in 1953 has around 1700 students and 46 teachers.

His Majesty grants audience to Director General of border roads

May 27: His Majesty the king granted an audience to the India’s Director General of border roads Lt. General AK Nanda yesterday.

He arrived in the kingdom on a five day visit on Sunday, May 25. While in the kingdom he will visit Dantak projects and assess their progress.

Lt. General AK Nanda is an alumni of the National Defense College where he was awarded the president’s gold medal for the best all round cadet. At the Indian Military Academy, he was awarded the sword of honour and gold medal.

Over a career spanning close to four decades, his appointments include the command of an engineer regiment, an engineer brigade, and the general officer commanding of an area. He was appointed as the Director General of Border Roads in October last year.

Lt. General AK Nanda also called on the Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley and the chief operations officer of the Royal Bhutan Army Major General Batoo Tshering.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Lhuentse’s Little Leap Forward

27 May, 2008 - The face of Lhuentse town is up for a major overhaul.

Replacing the cluster of small shacks, built of planks and tin sheets, which has made up the district’s urban centre for decades, will be permanent structures, an internal road network, proper drainage, adequate water supply and street lighting.

At least, that is what residents are hoping for.

As in other parts of the country the few people, who set up shop more than three decades ago, settled near the dzong, the centre of all activity and authority in the district. They transported goods on horses from other eastern districts to do business.

But as other district centres grew into small towns, Lhuentse remained as it was.

Several sites for a township were suggested in the past but disputes among residents, lack of cooperation between shopkeepers and the dzongkhag authority, and superstitions never allowed anything to take off.

A place that everyone agreed on was finally identified at Phaling, near the present cluster of shops, and site development work was carried out during the 2004-05 fiscal year with World Bank funds. District engineer Tshering Chophel told Kuensel that about 24 plots were allotted to shop keepers. “Now it is up to them to start constructing. They have to do it within two years otherwise the plot will be auctioned to others,” he said.

Plot owners had waited for the lona to be over. In recent months the dzongkhag, through the works and human settlement ministry, has also approved drawings of houses to be built.

Town tshogpa, Kinzang, told Kuensel that only about four plot owners had adequate resources to start construction. The rest had to seek all possible means of support.

“Lhuentse is a remote town and most of us survive from hand to mouth,” he said. “Our business is very small and we hardly have any major income. It would be difficult for us financially.”

The 31 shops in town, including the 24 plot owners, cater to customers from the three gewogs of Kurtoe, Gangzur, and Khoma. But their most favoured customers are civil servants. While most shops are bars and general shops, the average income in a day is about Nu 300.

Plots were allotted on seniority basis and the rest were permitted to stay where they were until a new site was developed.

Kinzang said plot owners had put up a joint request for timber kidu to His Majesty the King and were waiting for a response. “Stone and timber are our main worries as they cost us a lot. Just for stone alone, it would cost us over Nu 300,000,” he said. He said that those who had money have begun to bring in raw material but most were waiting for kidu.

The construction of a two storey traditional house in Lhuntse is estimated to cost about Nu 2 million.

Meanwhile, many are of the opinion that the new town would bring more organized growth to the place. “Even if the place doesn’t grow in terms of business, there will be income for us through house rents and other activities,” said Samdrup, a bar owner.

According to sources, except for shopkeepers in the current Lhuentse town, hardly any private people would be interested to make investments in Lhuentse.

Most are optimistic that there would be an increase in civil servants, who would subsequently rent their houses. “At present, there are civil servants staying in makeshift houses costing them not more than Nu 1,000 but, when we provide them with a good flat, they should be willing to pay a reasonable rent,” said Chedon, 54.

The 30 unit buildings constructed under national housing development corporation (NHDC) had helped, but many civil servants still live in temporary huts owing to housing shortage.

The new town is expected to reduce flood and fire risks with proper drainage and a planned fire control system. In a recent incident, four shops were flooded with mud and boulders brought down by a heavy shower. The fuel station situated near the lower market line posed a fire threat to the wooden huts.

Meanwhile, dzongda Tshering Kelzang told Kuensel that every possible way was being looked into to improve the place. “We agree that the place is a bit backward in terms of town development but everyone in the past had tried their best,” he said. “The place itself is very remote.”

The dzongkhag was currently studying the feasibility of eco tourism in order to boost the local economy. “The place has great potential for eco tourism with a treasure trove of important religious sites, hot springs, and tourist attraction sites in Khoma and Dungkar,” he said, adding that possibilities of opening trekking routes to Trashiyangtse via Menji were being looked into.

Plot allotment in new townships tops agenda

26 May, 2008 - Issues concerning new townships and delays in plot allotment to build houses were one of the main issues discussed at the 23rd session of Bhutan chamber of commerce and industry’s (BCCI) annual general meeting held in Thimphu.

In an interactive discussion with the ministry of works and human settlement (MoWHS) yesterday, most of the business representatives raised the same issue but no concrete decisions were reached.

A business representative from Samtse said that, since 1992, after talks of relocating Sipsu township to Balkoty, shopkeepers in the existing town were not even allowed to renovate or upgrade their shops. “Now some of the land in the new townships area seems to be occupied by offices such as the RNRC (renewal natural resource centre),” he said.

A representative of the Bumthang shopkeepers said that there were only 75 plots in the new Dekiling township but there were more than 125 business license holders in Chamkhar town. This was creating a problem.

Representatives from Dagana and Zhemgang also raised the point saying that, though they were allotted plots in the new townships, they were not allowed to start construction.

An MoWHS official said that the delay in the plot allotment of Sipsu town could be because of private landowners and the dzongkhag administration. “But we’ll look into whether land from the town plan area has been used for other purposes,” said the secretary of MoWHS, Nima Wangdi.

He also told the business representatives that, if the new towns needed a sewerage system, it must come to the ministry through the dzongkhag tshogdue (DT).

An urban town planner from the ministry refuted the allegation that the Dekiling township area faced a shortage of plots as plots were being allotted to people from other gewogs besides those of Chamkhar town.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Government eyes gewogs

Parliament 25 May, 2008 - Members of parliament yesterday deliberated at length on whether they should be allowed to partake in sketching out development plans at local levels.

A decision will be reached on May 28.

The discussion was triggered off by the labour minister, Lyonpo Dorji Wangdi’s submission that MPs should be allowed to participate in devising the development plans of the communities.

“Their Majesties the fourth Druk Gyalpo and His Majesty the King have always emphasised that we should work together,” he said. “I see no harm in members helping work out the economic development plans for communities, as long as they don’t indulge in their administrative affairs.”

The minister pointed out that, in the past, gups and chimis worked together at the local levels but in the new system MPs, who play as much an important role as the chimis, are not allowed to participate in DYTs and GYTs by the draft Constitution and the Local Governance Act.

He added that it was the thuemis (MPs), who promised development activities for communities, and their inability to participate in the planning process would only lead to their failure in fulfilling those promises. “So there must be a system for local and central governments to work in close consultation,” he said.

Echoing the labour minister’s views, the agriculture minister, Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, cited examples of other neighbouring countries where local governments, when left on their own, questioned transparency and accountability.

The national council member from Trashigang, Sonam Kinga, said that the local government should remain separate from politics which, he said, was also enshrined in the constitution. “It’s also against the policy of decentralisation,” he said.

Even if the central government draws up good legislation and plans, if local governments fail to deliver, the blame will eventually fall on the central government, said the education minister, Lyonpo Thakur S Powdyel. “MPs should be allowed to participate in framing local economic development plans.”

Dasho Karma Ura argued, “If the parliamentarians get involved in local governance, then it would seem as if the central government did not trust or have confidence in the elected representatives at the local level.”

Some NC members pointed out that there was no need to add or delete any provisions, since Article 22 of the draft constitution covers this part which states that ‘the powers and the functions of the dzongda and the local governments shall be to work in accordance with the laws made by the parliament’.

The chief Justice, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, said that it was essential for local governments to remain separate from politics for the good of the people, government and the country at large.

All policies and the development plans, he said, would be discussed in parliament and there was no need for the parliamentarians to put their hands in the activities of local governments.

The discussion will continue in the remaining days of the assembly session.

Elephants damage crops in Sipsu

25 May, 2008 - Even as this article was being written late last evening, a group of six elephants entered a maize field in lower Hungay, Sipsu, as farmers helplessly watched from a safe distance. It was raining heavily.

This week alone, marauding elephants from across the border destroyed more than 17 acres of maize plants, a few acres of ginger in the villages of Hungay and Peljorling in Sipsu.

According to farmers of the two villages, such damage happens every year and, despite measures to scare the elephants like solar fencing producing electric current, stopping the 600-pound beasts was near impossible.

Last year, Samtse dzongkhag officials fenced a total length of about six kilometres, but farmers said that the solar fencings were stolen from time to time.

Pushalal Sharma, a farmer from Hungay, told Kuensel that the recent attack on the night of May 20 destroyed two acres of maize and ginger fields. “If elephants continue to come, next year we’ll not plant crops any more. Our hardship and efforts are going in vain”, he said.

Another farmer from lower Hungay, Gauri Shankar, who cultivated maize, ginger and bamboo over an area of 1.50 acre, said that all his crops were totally destroyed. “Last year, I could at least get around 2 quintals of maize from the total 10 quintal production, but this year nothing is left,” he said.

Phuntsho Wangdi, another farmer, said that sometimes they felt like killing the elephants. Most farmers have approached the gup to come up with an effective measure to stop future damage.

Wild elephants mostly attack during the night. Some farmers even tried chasing them away by using firecrackers but it worked only against the young ones, according to farmers.

Dzongkhags officials, as well as farmer,s believe that the elephants trespassed mainly because of poaching and destruction of their habitat across the border making them seek refuge. “We believe that elephants attack only when their natural habitat is disturbed but no one has a clear idea”, said a dzongkhag official.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Rain scarcity affects paddy transplantation

May 24: Farmers of Thedtsho, Phangyul and Rubesa geogs in Wangdue dzongkhag are once again worried that they may not be able to complete the transplantation on time.

In many rice-growing dzongkhags, paddy transplantation has begun but farmers here have yet to begin. Farmers say acute shortage of water has left them at the mercy of the monsoon rains.

The vast tracts of paddy fields belong to the farmers of Thedtsho, Phangyul and Rubesa geogs. The fields stretch as far as you can see. Most of the fields remain empty. In some fields, paddy has been transplanted but they are beginning to wither under the sun.

Wearing round bamboo hats, their sleeves rolled up and their backs bent, a few farmers are busy transplanting paddy. They sing along as they go about their work. They said they would be able to transplant only a few fields with the water from recent rainfall.

Some farmers said they have planted maize in the paddy fields because they do not want to leave the fields uncultivated. They said when they cannot transplant paddy on time, their harvest suffers and often they are compelled to avail loans.

Namgay Wangchuk, the gup of Thedtsho geog said he has raised the problem in the Geog Yargey Tshogchung (GYT) and suggested diverting water from the Punatsangchu using water pumps. He said the Dzongkhag administration has plans to build water reservoirs to collect rainwater.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Retiring to Gelephu

23 May, 2008 - Had it not been for the troubled situation in the neighbouring Indian state of Assam and the southern problem of the 1990s, Gelephu town might have grown to become a major commercial centre.

It was the shopping centre for the central districts of Zhemgang, Trongsa and Bumthang. Its ample flatlands held enormous promise for the future and proximity to the border made it ideal for industries.

All that vanished when circumstances took over. Young people started to move elsewhere for business and opportunities. People with money invested in places that held more promise. Gelephu town’s core commercial area has hardly seen any growth in two decades.

But go beyond the commercial areas and it’s a different story altogether. Hidden amongst endless betel nut trees are numerous residential buildings that have come up slowly over the years along the fishery road, the forest checkpost and the Tali dratshang areas. And this development has come from people who have left active service.

Along the fishery road is a two-storied yellow building. It has enormously thick walls to keep out the summer heat. A woman tends to a few flowers in the front garden that is surrounded by old bamboo fences.

On the upper floor, Dr Anayat, 74, sits on a chair watching what he calls ‘happenings in the world’ on a 29-inch Sony television screen. The former director of the National Institute of Family Health, who retired in 1994, settled in Gelephu and practices homeopathy, catering to patients from all walks of life from all over the country.

Further down the road, a retired police officer sits with his wife and 107-year old mother-in-law in front of his bungalow. Dasho Dujay, 68, from Thimphu, came to Gelephu in 1969 as a police officer and settled here after retirement.

“All the houses located in these areas belong to retired armed personnel and former civil servants,” said the Gelephu gup, L P Thapa.

One of the oldest residents of Gelephu, Gyeltshen, 70, who owns a furniture house, told Kuensel that there were a few people residing in Gelephu when he first settled there in 1966 to do timber business. “Only a few hut shops made of thatched bamboo were there,” he told Kuensel.

What is now filled with cottages and orchards was then a dense forest. There were times when people feared going to Bhur from Gelephu lest they might get lost. “People use to cut and mark trees so that they don’t get lost in the dense forest,” said Gyeltshen.

While many retirees, who worked in Gelephu, chose to live in Purano Busti (old village), retired armed officials and personnel settled in Lodrai, about four kilometers away from the town, and a few in Mainatar.

“A warmer place is best for old age,” said Dr Anayat, adding that the weather in Gelephu was favourable. In the cold, old people tend to suffer from arthritis, according to the doctor. “Pressure problems would also be more acute because of the higher altitude,” he added.

Gelephu, with its low cost of living, warm climate, basic urban services standards and a relatively quiet environment has attracted senior citizens. “Everything is cheaper in Gelephu compared to Thimphu, from vegetables to building material and it’s easily available and affordable,” said Dr Anayat.

Others, like Dasho Oko Tshering, 70, from Chang Dungkar in Paro said that, since a lot of his friends are settled in Gelephu, he feels at home there. “Retirement is a stage where you stop working but certainly not a stage where you stop enjoying your life,” he said. “It’s a time of relaxation, a time where you stop working for good and with friends around you, it’s worth living.”

Many retirees told Kuensel that they settled in Gelephu because land was cheaper when they bought it. A five-acre plot of land, which costs about Nu 2 million today, two decades ago cost only Nu 15,000.

While a number of retirees bought property in Gelephu while serving in the dungkhag, there are others who settled there though they had never served there. They are the ones who planned to have a peaceful retired life. “I bought 15 decimals land after I retired from service in 1999 and settled here,” said Wangdi from Trongsa, who runs a small grocery shop in Lodrai.

Retirees, new to the place, have had problems adjusting to the excessive heat in summer, mosquitoes and security issues that pop up once in a while.

Retirees begin their day early. They believe in exercise, and, on summer mornings, at half past five, the circular road is full of early risers, who go for walks or to circumambulate the Tali lhakhang.

Evening walks are livelier and reserved for talk. And the most absorbing subject is the recent political change.

While retirees like Dr Anayat are busy treating patients, other retired people spend their day watching the live National Assembly sessions, with a copy of the draft Constitution in hand. “Most parliament members are talking sense, but a few raise points just for the sake of being heard,” a retiree told Kuensel. “If only I was young, I’d be proud to be a member of parliament,” said another retiree.

New classification and standard system for hotels

May 23: More than 100 hoteliers, tour operators, and officials from various agencies attended a seminar on the New Classification and Standardization System for hotels in Bhutan.

The seminar was organized by the Tourism Council of Bhutan and the Austrian Coordination Office.

Speaking on the occasion the Director General of the Tourism Council of Bhutan Kezang Wangdi said the current classification system in Bhutan introduced in 1999 has not been able to gain universal support among hoteliers or consumers. He said the proposed new system will be based on star rating.

He said the proposed classification system is aimed at providing credibility and benefit all stakeholders by especially motivating them to invest and offer improved services to meet demands of the international markets.

The corporate secretary of the Hotel Association of Bhutan Dilu Giri said most of the hotels have poor infrastructure, service, and facilities and lacks professionalism.

With support from the Government of Austria, the Tourism Council of Bhutan has developed a proposal for standardization and classification system for hotels in Bhutan.

Mr. Michael Raffling, a hotel classification consultant from Austria who helped develop the proposal, said most of the hotels need to be upgraded and their services improved to meet the international standard.

The seminar was attended by the outgoing as well as the new Resident Coordinators of the Austrian Coordination Office Mrs. Marie Christine Weinberger and Mr. Christian Mazal.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Kidu for people affected by windstorm

May 22: The government has recommended Kidu for those affected by the recent windstorm from His Majesty’s Relief Fund.

The Home and Cultural Affairs Minister informed the parliament yesterday that compensation for affected families has been worked out. Lyonpo Minjur Dorji was speaking as parliamentarians expressed concerns over the recent natural disaster.

More than 145 houses have been damaged by the windstorm in Trashigang and Pemagatshel on May 19. It also claimed the life of a 27-year-old woman. More reports from the geogs are expected.

Several houses have also been damaged in Monggar. This is the second windstorm to strike these Dzongkhags. Last month, 383 houses were damaged by windstorm in the five Dzongkhags of Trashigang, Pemagatshel, Sarpang, Samdrup Jongkhar and Chhukha.

The parliament members expressed concerns and offered their condolence to the affected families. The Home and Cultural Affairs Minister Lyonpo Minjur Dorji informed the house that the government has recommended for Nu. 5,000 as Kidu to each household affected by the windstorm.

It has also been recommended that houses which have not been insured be given 30 percent of the cost of the damage. All the affected houses are also to be given 50% of the cost of CGI sheet and free transportation. The money is to be used from His Majesty’s Relief Fund.

The Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Thinley said the government has instructed the Dzongkhag administration and the Tshogpas to provide full support to those affected. The parliamentarians also discussed strategies to cut the risks from natural disasters in the future.

The Finance Minister Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu assured full support in terms of financial assistance.

Health Minister in Geneva

May 22: The Health Minister Lyonpo Zangley Dukpa is leading a six member delegation consisting of officials from the Permanent Mission in Geneva and Ministry of Health to the 61st World Health Assembly from May 19 to May 24
193 member countries are attending the World Health Assembly.

The Director General of the World Health Organization said food security, devastating impacts of climate change and threat of pandemics such as the Avian Flu could setback the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Lyonpo Zangley Dukpa in his address reported that Bhutan was well on track to achieving the MDG targets by 2015. He also highlighted the need for enhanced support from WHO and the international communities to overcome challenges that threaten to delay timely achievement of MDG.

On the sidelines of the World Health Assembly, the Health Minister held bilateral meetings with Norway, Thailand, South Korea, and India.

How rachus are worn: The right way and wrong

22 May, 2008 - It seems that there is still some confusion on the proper way of using the rachu. This became apparent when the BBSTV camera panned the audience gallery during its live broadcast of the ongoing joint session of Parliament this week.

Schoolgirls attending the session wore the rachu in different ways. Some wore it around the neck while others slung it over the left shoulder.

According to a driglam namzha expert from the cultural department, the rachu should be worn hanging from the left shoulder. While bowing down or showing respect, one fold of the rachu should go around the right shoulder so that the two ends are in each open palm.

According to another expert, the rachu should be worn around the shoulders while seated in religious ceremonies but, in formal settings such as the Assembly hall, it should hang from the left shoulder.

“I saw a female MP bowing to a minister without putting the rachu around her shoulder,” said an observer. Parliamentarians were oriented on the proper way of using the rachu and kabney before the start of the session.

Sonam, a corporate worker, said, “I only know one way of wearing the rachu, that is by hanging it from my left shoulder and I usually bow in reverence with the rachu in same way but holding both my hands at the end of strings.”

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Phuentsholing on railway map by 2010

21 May, 2008 - The “Golden Jubilee Rail Link,” that will put the border town of Phuentsholing on the global railway map, should be ready by March 2010, if all goes according to plan.

The project involves building 17.5 km of rail link, at a cost of about Nu 2.7 billion, that will connect Phuentsholing to the nearby Indian town of Hasimara on the New Jalpaiguri-Alipur Duar route of the northeast frontier railway, according to a feasibility study done on the project.

The project will be funded from the Nu 100 billion commitment to Bhutan over the next five years announced by the Indian prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, during his recent visit to the country.

According to officials of the information and communication ministry, the terminal point of the rail link in Phuentsholing will be on the banks of the Toorsa river after plans to take a bifurcation to Pasakha industrial estate were shelved.

The feasibility report stated that there was not enough space at the proposed site at Pasakha for a railway yard even with minimum facilities. “Pasakha is not technically feasible because the site is surrounded by water bodies and situated at the confluence of Padzeka chhu and Singi chhu,” stated the report.

However, an official from the policy and planning division of the communication ministry, said that the report had been submitted to the GNH commission to see if there was any possibilities of a bifurcation to Pasakha, the industrial heartland of Bhutan. A study done by a government of India enterprise, RITES ltd., also points out that the rail link is not financially viable. An earning analysis, both from passenger and freight, states that, even by 2030 -2031, the link will only earn about Nu 2,015.49 million.

The study scrutinized two alignment alternatives and recommended the link to take off from the existing Hasimara railway station of New Jalpaiguri-Alipurduar route of northeast frontier railway. The existing centreline of Hashimara railway station would be the starting point or Kilometre 0/00. According to the study, this alignment was shorter, passed by inhabited areas, was closer to existing road and needed less number of metalled road crossings.

Bhutan and India signed a memorandum of understanding to establish railway links between the bordering towns of India and Bhutan on January 25, 2005 during His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo’s visit to India.

According to the MoU, it was agreed that the government of India would carry out feasibility studies for establishing broad gauge rail links between Hasimara and Phuentsholing, Kokrajhar (Assam) and Gelephu, Pathsala and Samdrup Jongkhar via Daranga, Rangia and Nanglam, and Banarhat and Samtse.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

A meeting of minds

21 May, 2008 - On May 17 the members of the National Council and the National Assembly stood up to offer a “silent ovation” in response to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s address to the Bhutanese people. It was a historic moment and the Indian prime minister was the first international figure to address Bhutan’s new parliament.

“The Indian prime minister’s visit to Bhutan has given me and our new government tremendous confidence that we will be able to fulfill the high expectations with which we have been voted into power,” said the prime minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley. “India’s commitment for the next five years was beyond our expectations. Our government has been assured that India will continue to support Bhutan just as it has over the years and, in fact, we can expect continued and even greater support as a democracy.”

“It was such an opportunity to have been able to receive the prime minister of India, our most important development partner, as our democratically elected government starts work,” added Lyonchhen Jigmi Thinley, who is scheduled to visit India some time at the end of July. “We share the same perceptions and we indeed have a common destiny with the same ideals and same perceptions on global issues and challenges.”

Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bhutan was widely covered by the Indian media, which focused on the prime minister’s pledge of Rs 100 billion for “economic engagement” with Bhutan.

The Indian prime minister said that India was a friend and admirer of Bhutan. “As Bhutan enters a new era in its history, you can continue to count on India … to stand by you as a factor of stability in your quest for greater prosperity and happiness,” he said in a televised address to the Bhutanese people.

Bhutan had witnessed unprecedented social and economic development during the reign of the fourth Druk Gyalpo, the architect of Bhutan’s constitution and polity, said the prime minister and “today, His Majesty’s vision of vesting sovereignty in the people of Bhutan has borne fruit”.

He reminded the Bhutanese parliament that democracy was not merely about holding elections. “Democracy requires sustained commitment to tolerance and the judicious exercise of power as a societal trust to be used for public good. It requires a deep commitment to the rule of law. It requires the building of strong institutions of governance and respect for the other’s viewpoint.”

“As we enter a new era in our ties and a new century, I come to seek and reinforce the same meetings of minds, the same depth of understanding and the same confluence of thoughts and aspirations, that have characterized our relations thus far, to guide us in the future,” said Dr. Manmohan Singh. “As partners, confident in our friendship and mutual security, we will work together to make our friendships gain added strength with the passage of time.”

Dr. Manmohan Singh pointed out that, over the past four decades and more, the two countries had worked closely in the process of Bhutan’s planned development. “We remain committed to working with Bhutan in support of the 10th five-year plan (FYP),” he said. “This period will lay the building blocks for Bhutan’s development and support your vision for tomorrow. We will develop our cooperation during the 10th plan with imagination and flexibility, in accordance with your priorities in human resource development, education, information and communication technologies, health, infrastructure and numerous other fields.”

“We know we are on the right path when electricity generated in the mountains and valleys of Chukha, Kurichu and Tala lights homes in Bihar, West Bengal and Delhi and generates wealth for Bhutan,” he added.

India’s ambassador to Bhutan, Mr Sudhir Vyas, told Kuensel that the prime minister had put his own thought processes and his own vision into his words. “It was framed with a vision,” he said. “He has a sense of the Indo-Bhutan relationship and he tried to communicate that with the parliament.”

The visit was a historic milestone in Indo-Bhutan relations and it captured and reflected the ethos of the bilateral relationship, said Mr Vyas. “The prime minister was received by goodwill and warmth wherever he went. There were many gestures along the way. He stopped to meet children; the children responded so beautifully. At every event, the warmth and goodwill was so evident.”

The prime minister’s audiences with Their Majesties, his discussions and meetings with the prime minister, saw the same identity of thought, the same commonality of vision, and the determination to raise this bilateral relationship to its fullest potential, said the ambassador.

“It’s extraordinary the way the thinking of leadership of Bhutan and India came together to develop their vision for the future,” he told Kuensel. “As ambassador, I would say that I’m incredibly encouraged by the visit, by the discussions that took place, by the whole atmosphere in which the visit took place, and by the goodwill … all the signals are very very positive. The whole visit radiated positive energy and I feel very encouraged for the future of our bilateral relationship.”

Fewer accidents at Melong Brak

May 20: The Melong Brak on the Samdrup Jongkhar-Trashigang highway is known as a dangerous stretch of road.

A number of people have died in accidents on this road which is narrow and runs across a smooth vertical cliff. But over the last few years, there have been fewer reports of accidents on this road.

Melong Brak literally means mirror cliff. Seen from a distance, the cliff looks like a massive mirror. Therefore it has been named Melong Brak. The narrow road runs along the smooth vertical rock face like a thin line. For motorists including passenger bus drivers and truckers, this is one of the most dangerous roads in the kingdom.

Accidents on this road are almost always fatal, often leaving behind no survivors. Passengers are known to mutter prayers in silenced as they pass along this road.

Melong Brak is located about 70 kilometers from Samdrup Jongkhar on the way to Trashigang. The road is so narrow, there is just about enough space for a singe truck to pass along slowly. One mistake, one wrong turn of the wheel, and the vehicle will plunge 300 meters into the abyss. Most of the accidents occurred while two vehicles were passing each other.

Meme Khotsa Drukpa, an 80-year-old resident of Narphung said accidents occur almost every year at this cliff. He said he personally witnessed 15 accidents, the majority involving heavy vehicles. He said the wreckage are still lying at the bottom of the cliff. It is not possible to take them out.

But over the last few years, there have been fewer accidents on this road. Our reporter Pema Samdrup says this could be due to the numerous signboards, crash barriers and illuminators established by Project DANTAK.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Orange production falls in Pachutar in Phuentsholing

May 20: Farmers of Pachutar village in Phuentsholing are facing a dilemma. Their orange production has been falling every after year.

They have been advised to replace the old trees with new saplings but this means they have to forego the income from the sale of oranges for over five years till the new trees start bearing fruit.

Pachutar was once a village that thrived on oranges –a major cash crop and financial backbone of the community. But over the last few years, the harvest dwindled with each fruit bearing season. This has become the main concern of the farmers.

The production during the last season was the lowest so far. Agricultural officials said the trees were over 20 years old and have not been managed properly. They said the trees were also stuck by citrus green, a disease which results in poor flowering and yellowing of leaves. They said the only answer is to replace the old trees with new saplings.

The Agriculture Ministry is willing to provide disease resistant saplings to the people. But the farmers said they are reluctant to start all over again. Orange trees normally take about five years to start bearing fruit. They said they cannot afford to forego the income for such a long time as it is the only source of income for many farmers.

DNA profiling the snow leopard

How many snow leopards are there in Bhutan? Where do they stay? Are they safe? These are some of the many unanswered questions about Bhutan’s elusive big cats about which little is known.

To answer precisely these questions, animal biologist, Tsewang, has come up with a plan to track these animals by genetic fingerprinting. “We basically collect ‘scat’ or faeces of these leopards and analyze their DNA to get information on them,” he said.

This new technique, used along with a modern graph calculation system, will provide a more scientific estimate of the number, spread and abundance of snow leopards in Bhutan.

Tsewang has already gone scat hunting and come up with some interesting findings. “In Bartshong-Lingshi under Jigme Dorji National Park we were told by the park ranger, Namgay Wangchuk, that stray dogs gone wild were found to be encroaching in the habitat of the snow leopard”. According to villagers, these dogs have also been known to corner leopards and steal their kill with ease. The troublesome dogs, in this instance, a pack of 13, roam freely in the forests there.

According to park officials, these dogs have also been found killing blue sheep and yak calves. What is worrying some officials is that these dogs are thought to be carrying a parasite called ‘gid,’ whose occurrence has also gone up in these dogs.

According to Tsewang, he also came to learn that the best places for leopard scat and signs was off the beaten track and deeper into the forest. These leopards prefer places like steep cliffs at an elevation, bases of cliffs, narrow bases and ridges. His first excursion also got him further proof that snow leopards could also come down to lower altitudes instead of only sticking to higher reaches.

“They sometimes even come as low as the river when travelling from one place to another,” said Tshewang. He also came across the scat of other carnivorous animals like wild dogs (different from strays), fox and marneet, showing a more diverse eco- system.

Another interesting find was the great tolerance of the yak herding inhabitants to the hunting practices of the snow leopard. “Elsewhere, even for small kills, villagers are up in arms but here the snow leopard’s kills of yak calves are tolerated with great understanding,” said Tsewang. “This basically means that our theory of human-wildlife conflict needs to re-examined in this situation, though it doesn’t mean we should ignore these tolerant people,” he added.

This research will continue over a year and take the biologist over a vast terrain from the Jigme Dorji national park in the west to the Bumdeling sanctuary in the east.

The data, when compiled, will also show whether snow leopards are using the biological corridors. “We’ll determine this by seeing if the gene pools are mixing in the different parks of Bhutan,” said Tsewang. He also hopes to use the data from his study to help in any conservation programme and that credit must go to the park and forest staff of JDNP for their tough and dedicated work in the field.

On the importance of snow leopards, Tsewang said, “If the snow leopards are fine, then so are the blue sheep and other fauna they fees on, which in turn means the alpine forests and flora are also fine and finally it means that the environment itself is well preserved.”

Monday, 19 May 2008

Indian PM addresses the parliament

May 18: The Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh addressed the joint session of the parliament yesterday morning.

He is the first foreign dignitary to address the joint session of the parliament after Bhutan became a constitutional democratic monarchy.

Their Majesties the Queens Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck and Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck and Their Royal Highnesses the Princesses Ashi Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck and Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck also attended the parliament on the occasion.

Addressing the parliament, Dr. Manmohan Singh said he is happy to be in Bhutan at this historic time and celebrate with the people of Bhutan their towering achievements.

He said as the first ever elected representatives of the people, the parliament members bear a special responsibility and have a unique opportunity to translate the aspiration of the Bhutanese people into reality.

He said democracy requires sustained commitment to tolerance and judicious exercise of power as a societal trust to be used for public good. It requires deep commitment to the rule of law. It requires the building of strong institutions of governance and respect for other’s views.

Speaking about Indo-Bhutan relations, he said Bhutan and India have created a unique, unparalleled, and time tested partnership of peace and friendship. He said both countries have a vital stake in each other’s wellbeing and prosperity.

Dr. Manmohan Singh also paid tribute to His Majesty the King. He said His Majesty’s deep concern for the people and determination to create a policy framework that maximizes their potential holds great promise for Bhutan.

Dr. Manmohan Singh informed the house that they will begin constructing a rail link between India and Bhutan connecting Hashimara to Phuentsholing and establish a scholarship in the name of Pandit Nehru and the third Druk Gyalpo for Bhutanese students to study in leading Indian universities and institutions.

Talking about India’s assistance to the 10th five year plan, Dr. Manmohan Singh said the bilateral economic engagement over the next five years will be around Rs. 100 billion.

Welcoming the Prime Minister of India, the National Assembly speaker Tshogpoen Jigme Tshultim said it is a matter of great satisfaction that Indo-Bhutan relations are stronger than ever.

He said the destinations of the two countries are inexorably linked and expressed confidence that the visit of Dr. Manmohan Singh will further strengthen the relations between the two countries.

In his vote of thanks, the chairperson of the National Council Namgay Penjore said the support of the people and government of India has been instrumental in realizing the aspirations of the Bhutanese people.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

India commits Nu 100 billion to Bhutan

17 May, 2008 - Addressing the joint session of the newly elected Bhutanese parliament today in Thimphu the prime minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, committed Nu 100 billion for Bhutan’s 10th Five Year Plan.

“Our bilateral engagement with Bhutan over the next five years will be of the order of Rs 100 billion,” said the prime minister in his address.

The prime minister, who was on a two-day visit, also laid the foundation stone of the Punatsangchhu I hydro project in Wangduephodrang and dedicated the 1020 MW Tala Hydroelectric Project to the people of India and Bhutan.

Addressing the joint sitting, which was attended by representatives of the royal family, high level delegation from the government of India and senior officials of the Bhutanese government, the prime minister said that as Bhutan entered into a new era in its history it could always continue to count on India as a friend. “As an admirer of Bhutan, India will stand by you as a factor of stability and support in your quest for greater prosperity and happiness,” he said.

The prime minister reminded the parliamentarians that as the first ever elected representatives of the people, they should bear a special responsibility and have a unique opportunity to translate the aspiration of the people into reality.

“Democracy is not merely about elections. It requires sustained commitment to tolerance and the judicious exercise of power as a societal trust to be used for public good. It requires a deep commitment to the rule of law, building of strong institutions of governance, and respect for other’s viewpoint,” he said. “I can assure you that you have wholehearted support as you enter this new and exciting phase in your country’s history. We'll work with you to realize your full potential, in a manner and pace that suits your own chosen path of development and priorities.”

Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh also informed the parliament that the two countries would develop two new mega hydropower projects; the Punatsangchhu-II and Mangdechhu. He said that the government of India would commence the preparation of detailed project reports for four new projects. “Implementation of these projects will help us achieve the target of at least 5,000 MW of electricity from Bhutan to India by 2020,” he said.

The prime minister also said that the construction of the first ever rail link between India and Bhutan called the “Golden Jubilee Rail Link”, commemorating the late Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit in 1958, will start soon to connect Hashimara to Phuentsholing.

Bhutan-India relation, according to the prime minister was no political construct. “It draws its strength from geography, from history, scholarship, religion culture, and ancient commercial and people to people contacts. Just as strands of many colours are woven together to make a beautiful kira, so the many and varied strands that constitute the tapestry of our relationship come together,” said the prime minister.

He said that the relations between India and Bhutan was a model of how neighbouring countries, uneven in physical size and attributes, can coexist in perfect harmony and understanding. "Both our countries have a vital stake in each other’s well-being and prosperity,” he said. “As we enter a new era in our ties and a new century, I come to seek and reinforce the same meetings of minds, the same depth of understanding and the same confluence of thoughts and aspirations that have characterized our relations thus far, to guide us in the future. As partners, confident in our friendship and mutual security, we will work together to make our friendship gain added strength with the passage of time.”

Visiting at a historic time when it was the centenary year of the Wangchuck Dynasty, the year of the coronation of His Majesty Jigme Khesar, and of Bhutan’s transition to democracy, the prime minister said that it was a tribute to the enlightened leadership and statesmanship provided by the Fourth Druk Gyalpo that Bhutan has succeeded in reaching these milestones in an atmosphere of utmost peace and stability while steadily improving the welfare of her people.

The chairman of the National Council, Namgay Penjore, thanked the prime minister on behalf of the parliament. “Your words of wisdom will go a long way in reminding us of onerous duties as members of parliament in ensuring the success of parliamentary democracy in Bhutan,” said the chairman.

Indian PM receives audience with His Majesty the King of Bhutan

May 17: The Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh has arrived in the kingdom on a two day visit. Shortly after his arrival in the capital yesterday, Dr. Manmohan Singh received an audience with His Majesty the King at the Tashichhodzong.

The Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh was escorted in an elaborate chipdrel procession to the Tashichhodzong. In the courtyard of the Tashichhodzong, he was presented a guard of honour by the Royal Body Guards and the Royal Bhutan Army followed by the National Anthems of the two countries. Dr Manmohan Singh was then ushered into the throne room where he received an audience with His Majesty the King.

Dr. Manmohan Singh is the first leader of a foreign country to visit Bhutan after the kingdom became a democratic constitutional monarchy. His visit also coincides with the golden jubilee of the visit of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to Bhutan in 1958.

The foundation of the close ties of friendship between the two countries was laid by the late King His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Dr Manmohan Singh is the fifth Indian Prime Minister to visit Bhutan.

During the audience, His Majesty the King said that the close ties of friendship and India’s unstinted support have been central to Bhutan’s socio economic achievements and prosperity. Most recently, India had provided important financial and technical assistance in Bhutan’s preparations for democratic elections. His Majesty paid special tribute to the role of Pandit Nehru who visited Bhutan 50 years ago in defining the strength and intimacy of our bilateral ties.

The Prime Minister of India felicitated His Majesty the King, the people and the government of Bhutan on the successful start of democracy and expressed India’s support for Bhutan’s democratic and economic endeavors. He also reiterated India’s support for the 10th Five year Plan.

His Majesty said that as Bhutan faces the challenges of building a new democracy founded on a strong economy, it is only natural that we should strive to do so with the cooperation and support of India, the world’s largest democracy and economic giant.

His Majesty and the Prime Minister of India emphasized the complete commitment of the leadership of both countries to Bhutan-India friendship cooperation in this new era.

Following the audience with His Majesty the King, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met with his Bhutanese counterpart Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley.

Speaking to BBS after the meeting, the Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y. Thinley said the visit of the Prime Minister of India to Bhutan is significant for many reasons. He said the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh has come to express India’s solidarity with His Majesty the King in supporting the realization of His Majesty’s vision of a democratic Bhutan.

Describing the discussions between the two Prime Ministers as fruitful, he said Dr. Manmohan Singh has assured the royal government of India’s full support for the realization of the aims and objectives of the 10th five year plan.

The Foreign Secretary of India Mr. Shivshankar Menon said the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh was deeply touched by the extraordinarily warm welcome extended by the government of Bhutan. He said this reflects the unique, close, and warm nature of the relationship that Bhutan and India enjoy.

Mr. Shivshankar Menon was speaking at a press briefing yesterday evening at the Phuntsho Pelri hotel in the capital. He said in keeping with the tradition of high level exchanges, the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has invited his Bhutanese counterpart Lyonchen Jigmi Thinley to visit India.

He said they have been instructed by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to look at doubling the hydropower generation in Bhutan from the original target of 5000 megawatt to 10,000 megawatt by 2020.

He said Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has made it clear that they would not just be responsive but committed to support Bhutan’s developmental efforts.