Sunday, 31 August 2008

Bhutan : Yangphel Q/Finalists decided today

31 August, 2008 - Last year’s finalist Katayana made it to the quarter-finals of the 8th Yangphel archery tournament again after it defeated Dorji Drolo and Samden Lhendrup at the knock-out round on August 29.

Katayana lead by one set but the match against Samden Lhendrup could have gone either way, as the latter needed just one point to win a set. The blue ribbon Katayana snatched the winning set from Samden Lhendup and confirmed their seat in the quarters. But Samden Lhendrup had one more chance to qualify for the quarters if they could hit 30 kareys but ended up with just 26.

The best player of the league, Gem Tshering of Hungyel, could not entertain the crowd like he did in other matches by hitting just nine in yesterday’s match against Jagathang and Druk Norlha. But his team still managed to win two game sets to enter the quarters. “Perhaps Gem Tshering couldn’t do much today because he’s playing in Thimphu for the first time,” commented a spectator, as they left of the ground.

The most impressive display was from team Highlanders, who hit 35 kareys and won three game sets. Highlander’s Sonam Chophel hit 11 kareys, the highest individual score of the day. They beat Gyoem Drachom and Chana Dorjee. Goyoem Drachom still have a chance to get into the quarter finals with their 30 kareys through the wild card entry.

Zimdra will play against Ms Bhutan Pageant and Planet Gym, while NTT Construction will take on Jurmey Dargey and Dorji Lekden in the last match of the knock-out stage yesterday.

By Tandin Wangchuk

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Bhutan : Sound and light show to scare off wildlife

29 August, 2008 - The Ministry of Agriculture has devised an ingenious indigenous contraption, somewhat similar to a police siren in its function, to prevent wild animals from attacking farmer’s fields at night.

The inventor is Pema Dakpa, 39, of the post-harvest division in Paro, who has also created an improved local potato storage system. His latest invention uses a vehicle horn, fluorescent lights and a table fan, without the blades, and energised by electricity. The fan, with the light, rotates, producing a screechy rattling sound. All this is controlled by a timer and thermostat so that it turns on and off during intervals.

According to Pema Dakpa, the concept originated from talking to farmers. “They (farmers) said that wild boars were driven away by torchlight and from the banging of tins and plates. I just mechanised both features in a single device.”

His invention has been a boon to farmers in Pongmesa, Paro, where it was tried recently. Wild boars were easily scared off by the strange noise from the device. There was a 90-day test period and it proved a success. The instrument has been efficient with wild boars, monkeys and sambar. It is currently being tried in Zhemgang, Mongar, Trashigang and Trashiyangtse. If it is successful, the agriculture ministry has plans to replicate it in farms across the country.

“It’s quite a clever contraption,” said Tashi Wangchuk, an environmentalist who visited the site in Paro. “It works well and appears effective for farmers. It’s a good start.”

Chencho Tshering

Friday, 29 August 2008

Bhutan : Real estate values keep going through the roof

28 August, 2008 - The government has revised the urban land rates by more than 100 percent, but a closer look at the actual rates of land transactions today reveals an altogether different story.

About a decade ago, when land prices started rising, bankers and economists warned that they would reach a saturation point, speculating that real estate values would later stabilise. But the value of land in Thimphu is rising unabated defying all speculations.

Today, to the Thimphu City Corporation’s (TCC) revised rate of Nu 1,083 a square foot (sq ft) in the “core city” area, people are selling land not below Nu 2,500 a sq ft. This is about Nu 200,000 a decimal. In the peripheral areas like Changzamtog, Jungshina and Hejo, the rate has escalated from Nu 433 a sqft to Nu 900 to Nu 1,000 a sqft.

The municipal authority has also revised the price of land in the extended city area to Nu 167 a sq ft, but prices in extended areas like Lungtenphu and Babesa have reached about Nu 400 a sq ft or about Nu 180,000 a decimal.

Those in the land business say that the official rate is followed only when the government acquires private land or pays compensation. Much of the transaction is done on market rates and the government rate is reflected only on paper when transfers are done.

Going by what people in the real estate business say, the rate, especially in the extended city area, will not stabilise any time soon. “A long as the extended areas are not opened to development, land values will soar,” said a real estate developer. “There is limited land and this pushes prices up.”

TCC brought areas from Ngabi Rongchhu in the south to Changtagang in the north under the city’s jurisdiction about five years ago. But only Lungtenphu and Olakha have opened to development as of today. “If the entire local area plan opens up simultaneously, the rate will come down,” says a real estate developer.

Town planners had said that land value would decrease if there were more transactions.

Chief town planner of the works and human settlement ministry, Meghraj Adhikari, said that the time has not come for land price to stabilise. “But it won’t be long,” he said. “Most of the local area plans (LAP) are not yet released. Once the LAPs are released, there’ll be more transactions which will stabilise prices,” he said. The town planner said that other factors like shortage of land and absence of avenues for investments have placed land at a premium.

Unlike landowners, who feel that that the value will shoot up if their land were developed, planners say that, once land is developed, it should be taxed if left vacant to increase transactions.

Meghraj Adhikari said that today it was cheap to keep land vacant. “Once government introduces the vacant land tax, it will encourage transaction, which in turn would stabilise prices,” he said.

Those who closely follow the land business said that the value of land in extended area would settle only when it reaches the level of the core city land. “There is no land available in the core city. Therefore, the rush is towards the outskirts,” said one.

Experts in the land business feel that there will come a time when land will not be recognised as an asset by financial institutes. “Value of land is inflated when it’s mortgaged with banks because it is considered the best asset now,” said a businessman. “If returns from land are low, land will become a liability rather than an asset.”

“Many people borrow 100 percent from the banks and invest in land and construction,” said Meghraj Adhikari. “But more people are finding it difficult to buy land, construct houses and repay loans. Once more people come into the land and construction business, it will stabilise.”

By Ugyen Penjore

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Bhutan : New curriculum for embroidery

August 27: Zorig Chusum or Arts and Crafts Institutes in the kingdom will soon have a proper Tshemdru or embroidery curriculum. Until now, the institutes have been following the traditional way of passing down the skills.

Experts have gathered at the Vocational Training Institute in Khuruthang to develop a new curriculum for Tshemdru or embroidery.

The new curriculum which will be in Dzongkha is expected to help improve the quality of the craftsmanship and meet the demand and supply of skills.

Karma Lhazom, the officiating chief of the training and professional services division of the Department of Human Resources said the institutes do not have prescribed curriculum until now and have been following the traditional way of passing down skills of embroidery with experienced craftsmen teaching the novice.

She said with a prescribed curriculum, the task and responsibilities of teachers will be specified. The curriculum will be designed looking at the needs and will be user friendly both for the teachers and the learners.

It is also expected to set standards for skill delivery. The new curriculum will be implemented from next year.

Meanwhile experts are also revising the curriculum for first year Automobile Engineering course.

The workshop is organized by the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Bhutan : "No Vehicle Day" every Tuesday for Agriculture Ministry

August 27: The Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Dr. Pema Gyamtsho and Agriculture Ministry officials in the capital walked to office yesterday in a bid to reduce pollution and traffic congestion. He will be the first Cabinet Minister to walk to office. They intend to walk to office and back home every Tuesday.

The initiative is part of the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) government’s manifesto.

In what was described as an unusual step, the staff of the Agriculture Ministry led by the Minister himself walked to office yesterday. Leaving their cars at home and walking to office is exactly what the minister and the staff of the Agriculture Ministry will be doing every Tuesday.

The move, the first of its kind in the country, is initiated by the Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Dr. Pema Gyamtsho. It aims to limit the use of cars thereby reducing pollution and traffic congestion, improve health and preserve the country’s pristine environment.

BBS talked to some of the staff as they entered the office premises. They described the experience as refreshing and exciting. They said this is a small step towards fighting pollution.

Shortly after everybody arrived, they gathered at the conference hall.
The minister congratulated and expressed gratitude to the staff for their support.

The Minister said with the theme “Helping our Environment, Health and Economy (HEHE),” the initiative is a way of showing that there are simple steps that people can take to reduce pollution.

He said limiting the use of cars has other benefits too. It will cut down fuel expenses thereby reducing both personnel and government expenses. He said a record would be maintained to find out how much money is being saved through the “no vehicle day” initiative.

He said the initiative will also encourage the public to use public transport services.

Lyonpo Dr. Pema Gyamtsho said the move is also socially healthy. He said while driving people’s concentration is fully on the road. But while walking people talk and interact with each other, a social habit that is disappearing fast with the changing times.

The usually packed parking lot in the Ministry premises was empty yesterday.

But, the challenge is whether the Ministry would be able to sustain the initiative.

The Agriculture Minister said efforts would be made towards it.

He said gradually other similar initiatives will be worked out.

There are close to 200 people in the Agriculture Ministry. Almost every staff owns a car.

Bhutan : Bumthang bids its woolen tradition goodbye

26 August, 2008 - Bumthang is known for its woolen products but that reputation may have changed.

Lesser Bumthaps rear fewer sheep. One reason is the increasing number of wild dogs and bears, who target sheep as prey. Another is development.

There were about 3,000 sheep in 1998 but that number dwindled to about 800 in 2007, according to the dzongkhag’s livestock records.

Besides wild dogs and bears, other animals, including stray domestic dogs, home in on sheep. Wild dogs attack in the day and bears at night. Shepherds say that bears cause maximum damage. When a bear breaks into a shed, it drags away one sheep but leaves behind eight to nine dead ones.

Because of predators and the difficulty in guarding sheep, especially when young people have left for the towns, farmers have slowly given up weaving their popular woolen clothes, replacing them with imported clothes.

Dorji Tshomo, 50, from Chokhortoe, said that sheep rearing in the past was necessary for clothing. There were no imported thick clothes available then and people had to wear woven woolen clothes to cope with the dzongkhag’s cold climate, she said.

“People wore double woolen ghos and kiras to protect themselves from the cold,” said Dorji Tshomo. They wove items such as Chara Nap from the wool of black sheep, Tarichem by mixing the wool from white and black sheep, Yathra and Mathra clothes, she said. The products found their way into towns where tourists and officials bought them.

Dorji Tshomo looked after sheep till she was 29 years old. What once was a large swathe of green meadow on which hundreds of sheep grazed is now thick with shrubs and bushes, she said. “The sheep were taken down from the mountains to the villages during winters and taken back up during summer,” she said.

Kinga Tshomo, 49, from Zhurey in Chumey, said that before every household in the villages owned 20 to 30 sheep and there would be one young child each looking after the sheep in the meadows by the village. Today only a few households own sheep and that too around 1-5 sheep.

“Farmers lose around 20 sheep to the predators every year,” said Kinga Tshomo.

Tshering Choki, 62, from Kizom in Tang, said she had more than 20 sheep a few years ago but that she had lost them all to wild animals. At any rate, she said, her children have started going to school and there was nobody left to look after sheep.

The assistant dzongkhag livestock officer, Dawa Dorji, said that the interest of the people in rearing sheep had gone down as the production of wool products was time consuming. “They even use imported wool for weaving Bumthang Yathra,” he said.

The manager of the national sheep breeding centre (NSBC) at Dechenpelrithang in Tang, Bumthang, Tshering Wangchuk, said that, although the population of sheep in villages has “drastically” dropped, the demand for it has not.

Few commercial textile weavers still buy wool from the centre at Nu 140 a kg. Tshering Wangchuk also said that the centre used to supply its breeds to the dzongkhag to promote production of fine wool, but that activity has declined because farmers don’t want it, he said. The centre is now rearing sheep for the sake of preservation.

By Nima Wangdi

Monday, 25 August 2008

Bhutan : Surface Transport Master Plan

23 August, 2008 - Revision of tax and fees on vehicles according to size, green tax on older vehicles, pedestrianisation of Norzin Lam, tramline buses in Thimphu, Gelephu and Paro, monorail from Thimphu to Paro, river transport and a railway system inside Bhutan.

These are some of the proposals suggested for study in the surface transport development plan. The plan is an effort by the government to develop a long-term transportation plan and strategy for 15 to 20 years at about Nu 4.5 billion.

“The main objective of the plan is to decongest our urban areas and make them pedestrian-friendly and provide more access to rural areas,” said information and communication minister, Lyonpo Nandalal Rai.

On the tax proposal in the report, the minister said, These are only suggestions and only the cabinet can take a final decision on what taxes, fees and charges are to be incorporated.” The green tax, he said, though not yet finalised, was proposed to phase out emission unfriendly vehicles exceeding their life span.

Under urban transport, it is proposed that Norzin Lam be turned into a pedestrian plaza up to Chubachu with no parking and limited access to tourist buses, taxis and emergency vehicles. All major roads in Thimphu are to be widened into double lanes with traffic to be funneled through peripheral roads. There is also a proposal to build two multistoried parking lots on the current city parking and also in front of Lugar theatre.

“Projects like the tram and monorail will be expensive and need to be studied before any decision is taken,” said the minister.

Phuentsholing has got proposals for one-way traffic roads, city bus service covering core areas like Pasakha, new parking lots, and a truck terminal on the outskirts. Overall proposals are developing cycling lanes and pedestrian-friendly footpaths in all urban areas, introducing congestion tax on busy roads and reducing registration of taxis.

For rural areas, the focus will be on converting farm roads to feeder roads and mule tracks to feeder roads. A system of government support, investment, soft loans and subsidy is also suggested for unprofitable routes in rural areas.

For regional transport, different colours for local and long distance taxis will be examined, 8-9-seater maxi cabs may be allowed, construction of new bus terminals in dzongkhags and upgradation of current ones. As of now, 62 roads in the country have no regular public transportation.

For road safety, proposed measures include audits for all new or existing roads with regular maintenance and checks by road department inspectors.

It also proposes establishing search and rescue teams, GPS system for public transport, computer-based vehicle testing facilities and accident data analysis.

For emission control, introduction of the euro 4 standard in Thimphu and Phuentsholing by 2012 and euro 3 by 2010 for other places have been proposed.

For alternatives to road transport Lyonpo Nandlal said, “We can examine the feasibility of using Mo Chu, Pho Chu and Manas rivers for transport and an internal light railways based on the Darjeeling model.” This rail model could be for east-west connection from the south and also to complement the GoI rail links at the borders.

Some proposals will be implemented in the 10th Plan like more driving schools. The feasibility of rail connections at Gelephu, Samdrup Jongkhar, Nanglam and Samtse will also be studied.

By Tenzing Lamsang

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Bhutan : Anti national alert

23 August, 2008 - The ministry of home and cultural affairs has advised government, corporate, and other agencies around the country to be alert in the weeks and months leading to the Coronation celebrations and the events of the centenary celebrations.

A spokesman for the ministry said that the Royal Bhutan Police had learnt that anti national groups were planning to disrupt the celebrations.
Meanwhile the Press Trust of India reported yesterday that the Sikkimese police had arrested a Nepalese national carrying ‘a haul of gelatin rods used for making explosives, a diary, literature on militant activities in Bhutan and Nepal and a cassette’.

Identified as Bhudiman Bhujel, he was found wandering through the streets of Rhenock market in a suspicious manner on August 20. An associate, who was later identified as Prakash Adhikari, escaped, according to the Superintendent of Police (SP), East, M S Tuli.

PTI quoted the police, who said that Bhujel had been booked under the Arms and Explosives Act and the Foreigners Act and that a manhunt had been launched to find his associate

Friday, 22 August 2008

Bhutan ; Getting to grips with garbage

21 August, 2008 - Each person generates about a kilogramme of household waste everyday, according to the first national survey solid waste survey carried out in urban centres of Bhutan by the department of urban development and engineering services (DUDES).

The survey, which was conducted from November 2007 to January 2008, in 10 urban centres showed Phuentsholing as the highest centre, with each individual generating about 1.2 kg of waste. The lowest was recorded at Trashigang with 0.6 kg.

Bumthang dzongkhag produced the highest non-household waste with an average waste of 3.1 kg of waste per day, followed by Paro with three kilogrammes. However, the result depended on the number of samples collected during the survey. A total sample of 175 was collected from Thimphu, which showed an average waste of 2.7 kg, while 234 samples were collected from Bumthang.

DUDES deputy executive engineer, Sherub Phuntsho, who coordinated the survey, said that ten urban areas were taken for the survey since most development activities were happening there. However, he said that the response to the survey was poor.

The survey covered 11,068 households, which accounts for a total sample population of 52,371 people.

According to the survey, organic waste like vegetables, fruit remains, and garden waste topped waste composition at 58 percent. The highest waste was found in Phuentsholing and Samdrup Jongkhar.

Paper and paperboard formed the second highest fraction of municipal solid waste at 72 percent. Solid waste included all paper products, corrugated and non-corrugated carton boxes and packaging material. Offices generate the highest paper and paperboard waste.

Although use of plastic bags was banned in Bhutan in 1999, plastic waste formed about 13 percent of municipal solid waste.

Bhutan also generated about 4,3697 tonnes of municipal solid waste from its urban centres in 2007. Of these, organic waste made up 25,388 tonnes, paper and paperboard 7,516 tonnes, which is equivalent to about 1.53 billion A4 size photocopy paper. Plastic waste generation was estimated at 5,550 tonnes, which is roughly 24 plastic bags per capita per week.

The findings were presented at the first national conference on solid waste management at the Royal Institute of Management in Semtokha. More than 150 people from various agencies, dzongkhags, corporations, and industries are participating.

At the end of the three-day conference, it will find a concrete solution to the waste management problem in the country.

Addressing the opening of the conference, the finance minister, Lyonpo Wangdi Norbu, said, “Nothing is more damaging to the environment than the waste we generate. We must find new solutions to old methods of managing waste that are not effective,” said the minister.

The minister said that the attitude of people should change and not to leave it to the concerned agencies to solve the problem. “We need more awareness and shoulder more responsibilities,” he added.

The work and human settlement minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, said that the government lacked a clear role and proper rules and regulations. “We must have a concrete action plan,” he said.

“All of us must think and head towards the same direction. With the new development activities, we must find solutions accordingly,” said the minister.

“If the current practices of municipal solid waste management system, such as open dumping and burning goes on, not only will the life of the existing landfills be reduced but it’ll have a big environmental impact,” said the DUDES deputy executive engineer, Sherub Phuntsho.

Participants at the end of the first day recommended public awareness of waste reduction, especially at the school level, solid waste management plans with clear vision, involving all bodies at the local level, adequate funding and revision of municipal taxes.

Tandin Wangchuk

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Bhutan : Attracting foreign investors with incentives

21 August, 2008 - The Ministry of Economic Affairs is drafting an economic policy and reviewing the foreign direct investment (FDI) with an aim to attract foreign investors to the country.

An economic policy is a government regulation or law that encourages or discourages foreign investment in the local economy.

Under it, foreign investments in service and knowledge based industries like information technology, health, and education would be encouraged, said the ministry’s secretary Dasho Sonam Tshering. Hydropower would also be a major area.

“We want to promote our incentives, like tax concession, to attract foreign investors,” said Dasho Sonam Tshering. “Our aim is to employ Bhutanese. So incentives are focused around that.”

The secretary said that industries, which are not covered by the economic policy, could come in, but there would be no incentives for them.

Bhutan did not have an economic policy before. There was a policy, which dealt in areas under the then ministry of trade and industry like tourism, geology and mines, energy, and trade and industry. Foreign investment was, however, not the design. But since its change in name in October 2006, the ministry decided to pave a “new direction” for the Bhutanese economy.

“The policy is forward looking, holistic, and practical,” said Dasho Sonam Tshering.

Dasho Sonam said that the ministry was reviewing the FDI policy because it had failed to attract foreign investors, the main ones being only Aman and Uma, and recently, Saint-Gobain in the silicon carbide industry in Pasakha.

“We’re looking at the incentives, whether to increase them and, if so, by how much, to attract good foreign investors,” said Dasho Sonam.

FDI, he said, was important to Bhutan. It would generate employment and prop up private businesses. Bhutanese economy today was driven mainly by government expenditure. The leading revenue contributors and employment agency was the government. This had to change, said Dasho Sonam, and a dynamic FDI policy would be instrumental.

By Kencho Wangdi

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Bhutan : Dialysis can’t meet demand

20 August, 2008 - The shortage of kidney dialysis machines in Thimphu referral hospital has reached a critical stage, say health officials.

There are four kidney dialysis machines but an average of 36 patients come for the treatment. One machine can accommodate two patients a day.

Dialysis treatment is for patients, whose kidney has temporarily or permanently lost its function. It does the job of a kidney in voiding body waste.

For 36 patients, there should be at least 108 dialysis sessions, say health officials.

Medical specialist, Dr Tashi Wangdi, said that a patient needs to receive dialysis treatment two to three times a week to be adequately dialysed. But the deficiency has them treating patients once a week. It is also not a short-term, say doctors, but a lifetime treatment.

Patients inadequately dialysed decrease their survival rate, say doctors.

Forty-five-year old Norbu Wangdi from Trashigang said that his daughter, who is suffering from kidney failure, used to get dialysed twice a week but the session has now been reduced to one. “Not many days after the dialysis, she has to come back with fluid overload in her body,” he said. His daughter has been undergoing the treatment in Thimphu for more than ten months.

Behind the shortage, doctors say, is the rising number of chronic kidney disease and diabetes cases in the country. When the dialysis unit opened in Thimphu in 1998, there were only eight patients. Kidney disease is caused by diabetes or high blood pressure.

“The number of patients will increase and we need more machines and more trained staff,” said Dr Tashi Wangdi. He said that the health ministry plans to put up more machines to ease the pressure. The cost of one dialysis machine is about Nu 2.0 million.

There are two dialysis machines each in the Mongar and Gelephu hospitals but they are yet to be used.

By Phuntsho Choden

Bhutan : Bumper apple crop in Paro

18 August, 2008 - Paro farmers are all smiles these days and with excellent reasons.

The boughs of their apple trees are bowed with ripe red apples waiting to be picked. They were though filled with anxiety at the start of the season.

Last year a late winter frost destroyed much (70 percent) of their produce, precipitating their worst year for apples.

But this season, thanks to their good fortune, apple-growers expect a bumper harvest. Farmers have started harvesting. The latest statistics reflect the surge. The agriculture officer in Lango gewog, Dorji Wangda, said that the yield in 2007 was 6-8 kg a tree, but it has swelled to 8-36 kg a tree this year.

Dotey gewog’s Ap Tshering Dorji, who owns 500 apple trees, said that he has more apples this year of better size and quality.

“There was no apple on some of the trees last year and, financially, it was devastating because apples are our main source of income,” said Ap Tshering Dorji. This year he is expecting to reap at least Nu 0.4 million from his apples.

The 41-year-old farmer’s sentiments are echoed in the other orchards of Paro.

Kencho Lham from Shaba gewog said that the valley had a mild spring with no cold temperatures. There was good early rain as well. “I could sell only 5 boxes in 2007 but this year I’m hoping to sell more than 30 boxes from my 70 trees.”

Apple is an important cash crop in Paro and Thimphu valley. It is also a source of hard currency earnings as the fruits are exported to Bangladesh, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.

But there are pockets in the dzongkhag, for instance near the Sarstham chorten, where apple trees have fallen victim to the late frost. “The yield is poor only in this area,” said Dorji Wangda.

By Phuntsho Choden

Bhutan : The ongoing GAO versus gup wrangle

19 August, 2008 - Long after the government appointed college graduates as gewog administrative officers (GAO), Zhemgang’s gups and the graduates are caught up in a power tussle. Some have even stopped speaking with one other.

The bone of contention is the powers and responsibilities identified in the GNH Commission’s terms of reference (ToR) for the GAO.

While the GAO’s job is to plan, manage and monitor development programmes, GAOs claim that they are being reduced to mere clerks at the gup’s office.

“I’ve no work other than to draft office orders and prepare minutes,” said a Zhemgang GAO. The GNH Commission’s ToR identifies GAOs as the “Chief Executive Officers” at the gewog level, but confusion has risen as the gewog yargye tshogchung (GYT) chathrim, which empowers gups to have all the executive power in the gewog, still holds sway.

The rift between GAOs and gups cropped up when some GAOs sought to bring into effect the GNH Commission’s ToR and Local Governance Act without realising that changes have taken place only on paper, according to gups.

A gup, who requested anonymity, said that the GAO in his gewog demands power to execute all developmental works.

“He makes me feel as if I don’t exist in the office,” he said, adding that he had all rights in accordance with the GYT chathrim.

There are even cases where GAOs decide and implement activities without even consulting the gup.

“The gewog can’t afford to have such clashes at the beginning of the Tenth Plan,” said a gup. “We need cooperation.”

Another gup said that he tried to support and develop good relation with his GAO. “But he thinks I don’t know anything. I can’t help it if my GAO has such an attitude.”

On the other hand, GAOs said that the gups are unwilling to share information for fear of losing power. They said that they did not even have a proper office to sit in or a computer to work on.

“I was asked to bring my own chair by the gup,” a GAO in Sarpang dzongkhag told Kuensel.

The GNH Commission’s ToR guarantees administrative powers to the GAOs to implement all gewog tshogde (GT) decisions, authorise payments and supervise civil servants in the gewog, oversee affairs of the gewog and ensure that the GT and the gewog administration function smoothly as per regulations.

But dzongkhag officials said that, until the implementation of the Local Governance Act and finalisation of the GNH Commission’s ToR, the GAOs should follow the old terms where they are to provide administrative assistance to the gewog.

“For a while, GAOs should adjust in the existing working environments,” said Zhemgang dzongdag, Kunzang N Tshering.

The dzongdag said that it was mandatory to review the Local Governance Act and bring out clear-cut rules and regulations, roles and responsibilities and authority for all gewog officials.

A GNH Commission official said that the GAO was brought under GNH to optimise human resources. “GAOs were appointed to provide planning support to the gewogs.”

There are about 186 GAOs in the country today.

By Tashi Dema

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Bhutan : Secretariat set to start construction

18 August, 2008 - The plan for a government secretariat building, which many thought was shelved, is right on track, according to department of urban development and engineering services (DUDES) officials.

The building, sited behind the Tashichhodzong and slated to house the entire ten ministries, the Gyalpoi Zimpon’s office, the Prime Minister’s office and the Royal Civil Service Commission, will begin with the construction of the education ministry.

DUDES officials said that there was positive indication that the education ministry building would be funded by the World Bank, while the agriculture and foreign affairs ministry buildings will be funded by the Indian government.

“We had a meeting with the education secretariat and made presentations to the ministry, GNH commission and the cabinet. We were supposed to start tendering this month but have not been informed of it yet,” said DUDES director, Rinchen Dorji.

Rinchen Dorji said that the three ministries were given priority as they did not have proper buildings or were established in an inconvenient location.

The estimated cost of construction of the education, foreign affairs, and agriculture ministries was Nu 176 million, Nu 131 million and Nu 200 million respectively.

The works and human settlement ministry had signed CCBA Consultant for the design job with the condition that final payment would be three and half percent of the actual construction cost.

“Everything was ready,” said Rinchen Dorji. “When it came to implementation, the total amount projected by the consultant worked out to over Nu 2.0 billion. That was lot of money so the government thought we should review the amount.”

In the process, the department was asked to go ahead with the four ministries, including the finance ministry. However, the latest instruction from the GNH commission reflected budget allotment for three ministries only.

He said that the instruction of the present government was that it should be done within the Tenth Plan. “We’re ready but all we’re waiting for is money,” he said.

While the secretariat building was envisaged to be a massive infrastructure, that would occupy the green space behind Tashichodzong, concerns prevail that the structure might overshadow the dzong, which was a historical landmark.

Rinchen Dorji assured that everything was taken into consideration to make sure that the structure did not dominate the dzong.

“The reason why the buildings have space underground is just to be under subdue of Tashichodzong,” he said, adding that photomontage created from various directions indicated that it did not in any way diminish the dzong.

He said the proposed plan had parking space, water and sewer treatment underground, which would ease the space requirement.

Although some ministries have recently constructed massive buildings, Rinchen Dorji said that there were many organisations and agencies that did not have a proper building and, when the ministries moved out, it would create space for those organisations to move in.

By Kesang Dema

Monday, 18 August 2008

Bhutan : Austria commits Nu. 31 million for local government support programmes

August 16: The Austrian government has committed over Nu. 31 million for capacity development of the local government support programmes for the next two years.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Secretary of the Gross National Happiness Commission Karma Tshiteem and the Resident Coordinator of the Austrian Coordination Office Mr. Christian Maza.

The Agreement was signed at the Tashichhodzong earlier yesterday morning.

Secretary of GNH Commission said there is a need for capacity development of the local governments in Bhutan.

Karma Tshiteem said the Austrian contribution will go a long way in strengthening the capacities at the local level.

Resident Coordinator of the Austrian Development Cooperation and Counselor of the Austrian Embassy, Mr. Christian Maza said Austria will continue its support in tourism and energy. He said Good Governance and Civil Society will be the third priority sector of cooperation.

Speaking to BBS the Resident Coordinator said a further commitment will be made after two years to support the ongoing process of democratization and to strengthen civil society.

Bhutan : Booked for decline in education

16 August, 2008 - There’s more to the decline in the nation’s educational standards than just a deficiency of teachers.

According to a 2007 study by the education sector review commission, the poor quality and dearth of textbooks are also culprits.

The study found that only 66 percent of students had textbooks for all subjects, while 34 percent did not have textbooks for some.

About 22 percent of those without books could neither share nor borrow books from their friends.

For instance, in Gomtu middle secondary school in Samtse dzongkhag, about 50 percent of the Class VI students did not have science textbooks this year, said the vice principal, Pema Wangchuk.

“Since it’s a day scholar school, it’s inconvenient for students to share textbooks, especially if they live far from each other,” said Pema Wangchuk.

A member of the study group, Dasho Meghraj Gurung, said the situation was worse in rural areas. “It’s obvious that schools without textbooks or learning material will not be able to engage students in effective learning.”

Education officials attribute the short supply of textbooks to the change in curriculum and some revision for which material was not printed on time. They said that the shortage was also the result of bureaucracy.

Schools first send the textbook requisition to the dzogkhag education officers, who scrutinise the list then send it to the regional store. The requisition next goes to the education ministry and finally to the ministry’s central store in Phuentsholing for printing or purchasing.

The joint director of the curriculum and professional support division, Wangchuk Rabten, said that the submitted order list was not always accurate. “Rural schools have different issues because sometimes the books supplied are left at the road head to be picked up by an official from the school. But it has been reported several times that the books remain at the road head for weeks.”

The education ministry spends about Nu 50 million a year on printing and purchasing school textbooks.

The chief procurement officer in Phuentsholing, Minjur Dorji, said that the education ministry spent nearly Nu 101 million in 2007 for books, especially for the new curriculum. Another Nu 34 million was spent on stationery and sports equipment, he said.

But there are hundreds of students in the country who do not have textbooks. With about four months left for the academic year to end, twelve-year-old Tandin Passang of Babesa school in Thimphu does not yet have a science textbook.

Tandin Passang said that neither can he study at home nor do his homework. “I come early to school or go to my friend’s house when I need to refer to the science book,” said the class 4 student.

The study revealed that the quality of books was also a problem.

The review commission found the condition of many books to be in a very poor state, not only because of wear and tear but also for poor production quality, using sub-standard paper.

The study also pointed out that the pictures and illustrations in the text books were indistinct and masses of fused colours.

The education officials said they had no idea where the textbooks were being printed but that it was being given to Bhutanese publishing houses that bid the lowest.

A manager in one of the local publishing houses said that the officials did not check the capacity of the local printers. “After quoting low price, they outsourced the work to cheap publishing houses in India.”

By Phuntsho Choden

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Bhutan : India community celebrates 62nd birthday

16 August, 2008 - “I’m touched by the thoughtful gesture of His Majesty the King,” said the Indian Ambassador to Bhutan, Mr Sudhir Vyas, as members of the Royal Family, Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley and the ambassador cut the cake presented by His Majesty on the occasion of the 61st anniversary of India’s Independence Day yesterday.

India, said the ambassador, was very confident of the friendship and cooperation the two countries enjoyed. “I pray for the betterment of our bilateral relations,” he said.

As the Indian community in Bhutan gathered at the embassy in the morning, the Ambassador hoisted the Indian national flag and read out the president of India’s address to the nation.

President Pratibha Patil dedicated special words of gratitude to the brave personnel of the armed and paramilitary forces who guarded the frontiers.

The president said that the celebration of India’s independence day was a homage to the great national leaders, valiant freedom fighters - both men and women - who made many sacrifices to liberate India from colonial rule.

President Pratibha Patil said that no one should be left behind as the nation progresses. “It is my wish that growth and prosperity reaches every state, every district, every town, every village and every individual of the country,” she said.

The president stressed the importance of science and technology and said it held the key to progress in today’s knowledge based society. The president also reminded the nation of the growing demands for energy. “We cannot let lack of energy become a constraint on our ability to deliver high levels of growth. With the challenges of oil prices and climate change, the question of energy security confronts us,” she said. “We need to look at energy mixes, that are sustainable in the long run and are cleaner sources of energy, gradually making a deliberate shift to renewable energy.”

On the agricultural sector, the president said that the development of the nation would not be comprehensive or complete unless there is development in the rural areas and increased agricultural productivity. “We should aim at enhancing productivity by using better technology and innovative farming practices,” she said.

She also said that India’s effort to build a progressive nation was hindered by social evils that existed in their society. All social evil, whether dowry, domestic violence, discrimination or drug and alcohol abuse should be eradicated from society, she said.

President Pratibha Patil said that India was seeking to engage with the international community to promote peace and development in the world.

The Gyalpoi Zimpon, Dasho Penjore, cabinet secretary, Dasho Sherub Tenzin, foreign secretary, Yeshey Dorji and chief of protocol, Kunzang C Namgyel joined the flag hoisting ceremony in the morning.

Members of the royal family and senior government officials attended a cultural programme at the India House auditorium in the evening.

By Tandin Wangchuk

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Bhutan : The curse of the river

For the second year in a row, farmers of Norbugang in Sarpang are not cultivating rice. RIKU DHAN SUBBA reports

It is not because of marauding wild elephants or boars but because Kharkhola River has been a major problem to the farmers for the past 11years. After eating up two irrigation channels and more than 12 acres of rice fields, the river is still an incessant menace to the farmers.

Sitting on the edge of a broken land, Passang Muktan wonders how long the Kharkhola will take to erode away his remaining land. Earlier, he used to cultivate more than three acres of rice every year. After the river eroded his entire rice field, he has been staying dispirited- surviving on little money he gets from selling doma.

“Everything has gone in the last 11 years and the river is claiming the remaining land too. It seems very unsafe to live here,” Passang Muktangsaid. Although he builds the walls to protect his land every year, the river washes away the erected walls. Every summer the river erodes his land from all the corners and he believes one day the river will gobble up all his land and the entire village.

The small stream, covered with thick forests, snakes, monkeys and porcupines was a ‘conserved village’ without any threat. “Everything was normal until a flood in 1996 washed away the entire lowland paddy fields and the irrigation channels. Now it is a common summer activity, battling the river,” said Sun Bdr Subba, a former Mangi Ap.

About 31 households are not cultivating rice this year due to lack of irrigation channels. Many converted the fields into doma orchards and fodder grasslands.

However, many farmers try to build their own channels with temporary walls but to no use. “We build our own channels in the morning but always find them destroyed by the river in the evening,” said Karma Dema Tamang, another farmer.

Since last year, initiatives like planting bamboo and grass and construction of loose walls have been rendered by the government.

But within a few hours, it is washed away by the raging river. None of these anti-erosion measures could keep the raging river at bay. Many villagers suggest that their hope will become a reality only if a permanent boulder pitching and netting is constructed. The dzongkhag agriculture officer, Tashi Wangdi, said the dzongkhag administration is sourcing the budget for the maintenance of the irrigation channels and for land protection.

“The UNDP has agreed to support to maintain all the broken channels all around the dzongkhag,” Tashi Wangdi said. According to him there are around seven broken irrigation channels in the dzongkhag. Meanwhile, there is no rice and the river rages on.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Bhutan : The Phuentsholing day care centre- a parent’s dream

From learning the alphabets to brushing up on their paintings- to doing the dance and eating on their own, the children of Phuentsholing Day Care Centre are learning the basic art of living.SANGAY WANGCHUK reports

Most parents have found it more productive to send their children to the nursery school where they learn new things every day. In fact the teachers of the day care centre claim that no one has ever questioned the standing of such institutes.

Like Alice in Wonderland, children feel alienated in the initial days. However, the teachers say that within a few days, they feel at home.

What is most captivating is that a psychologist, Vaishali, from Rajasthan in India has been hired as the headmistress. She says that she understands children’s emotions. “We help them in making a smooth transition from a home experience to a school experience. We nurture them to become better students,” she said.

The classes start at 8:00 am in the morning with a hand strengthening exercise followed by a tea break and breakfast. Throughout the lessons they are taught alphabets, painting, rhyme songs, reading and most importantly- to be sociable and compassionate.

“Every learning foundation is of overriding importance. The lessons are taught step by step so that their understanding ability can improve.

The day care students are more confident, sociable, disciplined and are aware of many things,” said the headmistress. A total of 90 children make up the strength of the day care centre. The children are grouped into three groups. The youngest group is the ‘Toddlers’ where children from one to three years are taught how to scribble an image, paint with crayons and eat on their own.

The next level is the ‘nursery’ where children are taught how to read, write, paint and maintain discipline. After a year the nursery students are promoted to kindergarten where a child can further develop. “They are more disciplined and responsible and have a better sense of awareness,” the headmistress said.

However, as the lectures are being delivered, most students doze off. The lectures turn into a sleep capsule as more children doze off in front of their teachers. “We have furnished beds for every child and we do not disturb them while they sleep,” said a teacher.

Unlike other schools, the teachers of day care centre are observed as considerate. The day care teachers are seen as foil to other primary school teachers. The teachers say that they never beat students or scold them as such actions might hurt their students’ fragile minds.

“I feel happy when I send my baby to the day care school. If I send her to a primary school, a teacher might slap her,” said Tshering, whose only daughter studies in the day care centre. “I feel like they are my children. It is more to do with affection. We have to be very friendly so that the kids can learn more,” said Dechen Pelmo, a teacher at the day care centre.

From storytelling and singing with puppets to the dancing numbers the teachers at the day care centre aid the students in every possible way. Many parents, who are unable to send their children to the day care centre, envy the care that is provided. Apparently most parents who sent their children to government schools are upset that the teachers sometimes beat up students for trivial reasons.

Bhutan : Policing of capital steps up a gear

14 August, 2008 - If you’re hanging around late in town, alone or with friends, be sure to carry your ID card because you just might get asked for it by a Thimphu policeman.

“Surprise checks on vagrants or anyone moving about at late hours will be conducted,” said a Thimphu police spokesperson.

Thimphu police is intensifying its night vigilance following various mugging incidents in the town in July.

During that month, police caught three Lungtenzampa middle secondary school students for attacking several Indian construction workers and robbing them of cash and mobile phones. In the same month, two other Indian labourers were assaulted by about ten boys in their twenties.

According to the police spokesperson, a private company employee was also robbed of his salary and a mobile phone by a group of seven youth in Motithang. He was beaten and left unconscious.

The spokesperson said that night patrolling in the past focused mostly on drug activities. “But we’ll also pay more attention to muggers now.” He added that more police would be called from headquarters to strengthen the city police team. The team will include traffic police, who’d check cars moving after 11 pm.

A police notification says that those, who fail to convince the patrolling team of his or her presence at a particular place and time, would be taken to the police station for questioning.

“This is not to harass people but to render all help possible,” said the spokesperson.

By Kesang Dema

Bhutan : Teacher’s allowance given new lease of life

14 August, 2008 - The government’s recent proposal to revise civil service salaries and the efforts to recruit and retain teachers has reenergised the debate over the old compensation and allowance packages.

Many teachers continue to ask whether the teaching allowance, which was discussed extensively during the 87th Assembly session in 2007, would ever be reinstated.

The education ministry had proposed a set of financial incentives to attract, motivate and retain teachers to address the teacher shortage after the 30 to 45 percent allowance for teachers was withdrawn during the pay revision in 2005.

The teachers’ allowance was also highlighted in the last annual education conference, when teachers from all twenty dzongkhags asked education ministry officials to expedite the implementation of the Assembly resolution.

“It’s demoralising to see that the teacher’s scarcity allowance, which the government has been working on, hasn’t come through,” said the Principal of Paga community school, Pem Kinley.

Another teacher in Punakha said teachers have been expecting the compensation since July 2007.

But education officials said the National Assembly had only directed the ministry to propose a package of incentives for teachers. The ministry has submitted the proposal to the pay commission and it is yet to be considered.

Education minister, Lyonpo Powdyel, said that the ministry had proposed that the commission consider teaching as a scarce profession, where only a few people wished to be teachers and to consider other factors, such as location and difficulties faced by teachers.

“Given the dire difficulties in attracting, recruiting and retaining good teachers in the system, it’s absolutely necessary that teachers be compensated adequately for the work they do in educating our children,” he said.

About 33 rural schools reported last year that they had only one teacher and the education ministry recruited about 220 teachers to fill the gap for this year alone.

The education minister said that teaching, as a profession, has to be looked at very differently from other jobs. “Teaching is a full time job in the sense that there’s hardly a difference between the public and private life of a teacher,” he said.

Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyel said the previous teaching allowance was timely and a critical intervention, that helped the education ministry acknowledge the difficulties inherent in teaching.

Asked why the incentive was delayed, he said most of the members of the erstwhile cabinet resigned to join politics and the caretaker government did not have the necessary policy framework to consider the request. “We took up the case as soon as the new government was formed and the government has asked the ministry to work out a package of incentives and compensation for teachers,” he said.

By Phuntsho Choden

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Bhutan : 2nd GEF meeting for South Asia Constituency

August 13: Bhutan is hosting the second Global Environment Facility (GEF), South Asia Constituency meeting. The two day meeting began yesterday morning in the capital. The operational and political focal points of Global Environment Facility from Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka are attending the meeting.

The GEF is a partnership among 178 countries, international institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives.

The meeting is being organized to provide a platform for the Global Environment Facility operational and political focal points to come together and discuss issues affecting the effective utilization of GEF resources.

The meeting is also to provide opportunities for the participants to familiarize themselves with issues of GEF in South Asia constituency.

According to Karma Tshiteem, the secretary for the Gross National Happiness Commission and the GEF operational focal point of Bhutan, the meeting is in preparation for the GEF Council meeting to be held in November this year. He also spoke on the benefits of the grant.

Bhutan received its first GEF grant of US$ 10 million in the 7th five year plan for Bhutan Trust Fund for environmental conservation.

So far Bhutan has received more than US$ 29 million under the GEF grants in the areas of climate change, biodiversity and land degradation activities.

Bhutan ; No need to panic- enough fuel says Trade

August 13: The road closure on the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway has brought along with it a set of problems. Yesterday morning, motorists in Thimphu queued to fill up at the gas stations.

Taxi drivers, office goers, businessmen and travelers queued at various oil distributing outlets for several hours as the pumps ran out of petrol yesterday morning.

At the Druk petroleum in Chubachu, petrol stock ran out and this according to the Assistant manager was because of the lack of regular supply from Phuentsholing. He said their supply tankers are stranded at the road block point at Takti.

The situation was no different at the Bhutan Oil Distributor in Lungtenzampa. Here too, petrol stock ran out and vehicles lined up for hours waiting for the tanker to bring in the stock from the Dechencholing Depot.

Some of the people BBS spoke to said that the management should have done something before such situation came about.

However, it was all smiles as the tanker arrived around mid day. There were then people coming with jerry cans and pet bottles. Police were also at scene to ensure a smooth flow.

Dilip Chhetri the senior manger of the Bhutan Oil Distributor in Lungtenzampa said the regular supply is disrupted because of the road block on the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway. He said 11 of their tankers are stranded at Gedu.

Commenting on the situation in the capital yesterday morning, the Trade Department says that there is no reason for the people to worry.

The Joint Director of the Internal Trade Department Dophu Tshering said the retail outlets in Thimphu have been supplied with 90,000 liters of petrol and diesel yesterday morning.

He said there is enough stock of fuel in the country and in case the stock needs to be replenished, the Trade Department is working on plans to bring in fuel via Gelephu.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Bhutan : Bagdogra - Possible new Druk Air destination

11 August, 2008 - Civil aviation authorities are looking into the possibility of adding Bagdogra as a new destination to Druk Air’s existing flight routes in India.

A bilateral meeting between the two governments held in Delhi last month indicates that Bagdogra had already been granted as “an additional point of call” for the designated airline of Bhutan by the civil aviation ministry in India.

“With this agreement, Druk Air could operate services to Bagdora and beyond, particularly to Bangkok and Kathmandu via Bagdora,” said the director general of civil aviation department, Phala Dorji.

“If Druk Air is interested to use this route, we have to inform the Indian authority about the plan to operate from Bagdogra and give them three months’ notice,” he said. The time would allow the Indian government to make preparations on their side.

He said that the Druk Air would have to consider other obligations and also see .whether they could cope with the new route given the existing number of aircrafts.

“They’ll also have to do certain marketing in terms of traffic and study the feasibility of operating beyond Bagdogra,” he said.

In order to fly from Bagdogra to Bangkok and Kathmandu, a proper agreement needs to be drawn up with the respective authorities in Thailand and Nepal.

“We can still fly passengers from Bagdora to Bangkok but need to get clearance from the authority in Thailand to fly passengers from Bangkok to Bagdogra. Same is true in case of Nepal,” said Phala Dorji.

However, the civil aviation officials are optimistic that their counterparts in Thailand and Nepal would respond positively.

Meanwhile, a memorandum of understanding signed during the meeting also ensured the use of any airport in India for relief operations in case of any disaster at the Paro airport.

Assistant planning officer, Sithar Dorji, said that factors like Bhutan’s location in a seismically active zone and Paro airport being located near the river, with high chances of flash floods, posed threats to the airport.

“We have only one airport so, if there are any sort of natural calamities or disasters and if the airport becomes unusable, they’ll allow us to use any airport in India,” he said. It was also agreed that, in the event of any accidents with aircraft of Druk Air or foreign ones operating in Bhutanese air space or territory, India would provide assistance in search and rescue operations.

“For search and rescue operations, we need to have equipment in place and this entails huge expenses. We don’t have such facilities and they’ve agreed to help us,” said Phala Dorji.

He said that, although there was no such understanding signed before, it was always assumed that the Indian government would chip in during such eventualities. “They have been always been very supportive,” he said.

By Kesang Dema

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Bhutan : Closure of Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway affects vegetable vendors in Thimphu

August 11: The closure of the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway over the last few days has affected some of the vegetable vendors.

Some trucks carrying vegetables from Phuentsholing the for weekend vegetable market in Thimphu have been waiting for days for traffic to resume.

Vegetable vendors say that the produce in the trucks are getting damaged. Each truck carries produce worth Nu. 70,000- 80,000.

The vendors also have to pay transportation charges ranging from Nu. 7,000- 10,000. However, local farmers who brought their farm produce at the market saw brisk business.

Fruit vendors were however not affected by the closure of the traffic. Some of them said they were able to bring in their fruits just before the traffic was closed.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Bhutan : Starring our hotels

11 August, 2008 - Bhutanese hotels will soon have to compete for points to get their ‘stars’ right as either one, two, three, four or, if lucky, a five star hotel.

The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) is looking to replace the current A, B, and C standards of hotels with the international system of star rating. Under this system there are five broad categories with 276 items and services, that will be looked for in hotels for star ratings.

The five categories are 1. General exterior, location and building rooms 2. Fittings, furniture, equipment 3. Services 4. Leisure facilities 5. Additional in-house facilities (like media room). The higher one’s points, the better the star rating.

A hotel will therefore have to get 50 points for a one star, 90 for a two star, 130 for a three star, 170 for a four star and 250 for a five star.

Guest houses and lodges and apartment hotels will also have a similar system with lesser points required, but only up to 3 stars.

Some items for which points are given are like a steam bath having 6 points or a whirlpool with 3 points. There are however basic requirements like bathrooms or beds, which are a must, and for which no points will be given but the absence of which will mean minus points.

There will also be special concept hotels allowed, which could be like bike hotel, trekking hotel, seminar hotel and health hotel between two and three stars. “For applying for ratings, there will be an interactive online form on TCB, which can be filled and sent online or downloaded and posted by the hotel owne,r who will rate himself and after that the verifying team from TCB will come and verify and, if correct, then the required rating will be given on the spot,” said consultant Michael Raffling.

“If not happy with the decision, then the owner can appeal to the Classification Commission as the apex body, who will examine the case and give a final decision,” he added. This commission will comprise a chairman nominated by TCB, two experts nominated by the Hotel Association of Bhutan and one expert nominated by ABTO.

Rinchen of TCB said, “We hope to be able to introduce this rating system by November 2008.” The main aim of these rating systems will be to set domestic and international standards for our hotels catering to international tourists.

Bhutan : Drawing the curtain on corruption

9 August, 2008 - In what is clearly a “naming and shaming” strategy to take the fight on corruption a step ahead, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is publishing the names of persons and details of corruption in the media for the first time.

About 150 Bhutanese have been named in relation to 34 corruption cases investigated by the ACC since 2006 (see ACC newsletter inside). The cases range from forgery and bribery to misuse of authority and embezzlement of government funds.

People implicated include corporate employees, local leaders, former drangpons, engineers, former dzongdas, a government secretary, contractors, education officials and other civil servants.

“We’re publishing the case details purely for public information but it’s up to people to judge whether we’re using the ‘naming and shaming’ tactics,” said ACC chairperson, Neten Zangmo.

Of the 34 cases, 17 have been forwarded to the courts and 12 sent to the concerned agencies for administrative action.

Neten Zangmo said that the aim of such information in the media was to let people know of all cases that were investigated and not just the controversial ones, such as the Phobjikha land and RICBL cases.

“People should know which cases are lying with the court and with the agencies,” she said.

The court has so far passed its judgement on 12 cases.

Naming and shaming tactics has been effective in many countries, mainly in Singapore, say observers. Others, however, say that it can work both ways.

The works and human settlement minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, said: “It can act as a deterrent but can also be demoralising for some people, who’ve not been proven guilty by the court.”

He said that if the cases were established, then people should know. But if they are pending in court and the person is yet to be proven guilty, then the strategy could be demoralizing.

Opposition leader Tshering Tobgay said that he supported every initiative taken by the ACC against corruption. However, he said that there were risks of shaming the wrong people.

At present, ACC is investigating 18 cases.

By Phuntsho Choden

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Bhutan : Netherlands Fellowship Programme commits Nu. 30 million to RAA

August 9: The Netherlands Fellowship Programme is committing Nu. 30 million for capacity development of the Royal Audit Authority (RAA).

The agreement to the three year bilateral project was signed by Auditor General Ugyen Chhewang, in the presence of Ms Anne-Marie Schreven, the Honorary Consul of the Netherlands in Bhutan.

Through this multi-year agreement programme around 50 auditors will be trained in accounting, auditing, financial and quality management fields through long term and short term courses.

The Auditor General Ugyen Chhewang described the signing of the agreement as timely. He said the Royal Audit Authority is in greater need of capacity development.

Ugyen Chhewang said the assistance will help the Royal Audit Authority in rendering the audits more efficiently and responsively. This he said is required with the changing needs of the society and transformation in the government as well as technological and scientific advancements.

Ms Anne- Marie said the singing of the agreement is an example of growing friendship between Bhutan and Netherlands.

This is the second and last multi year agreement approved for Bhutan under the Netherlands Fellowship programme.

Bhutan : Beijing Olympics opens

August 9: The opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics is taking place amidst hot and humid conditions at the Bird's Nest stadium. Two archers from Bhutan will compete in the ranking match today.

Two archers, Tashi Peljor and Dorji Dema from Bhutan are participating in the Olympics. Today, they will compete in the ranking match.

The Bhutanese delegation is led by the former Prime Minister Kinzang Dorji in his capacity as the President of the Bhutan Olympics Committee. The National Assembly member from Athang-Thedtsho constituency Pasang Thrinlee is also attending the programme in his capacity as the Chairman of the Youth and Sports Committee of the parliament.

Two Bhutanese students are also participating in the Olympic Youth Camp. On Thursday, they took part in a team welcome ceremony.

Our reporter Pem Tshering in Beijing says the two Bhutanese archers were practicing in Hongkong for about a month because of lack of facilities in Bhutan. It was also to let the athletes get used to the hot and humid weather conditions there.

Meanwhile, a grand reception banquet was held yesterday afternoon at the Great Hall of the People for the world leaders who are in the Chinese capital to attend the opening ceremony.

Some 15,000 performers and 29,000 fireworks will give the Games a sparkling start.