Saturday, 23 February 2008

Nation celebrates His Majesty's birthday

February 22: As the nation celebrated the 28th birth anniversary of His Majesty the King, tens of thousands of people from all walks of life gathered at the RBP ground in the capital to take part in the celebrations. His Majesty was born on 21 February 1980.The celebration in the capital was broadcast live on BBS. The celebrations began after the Chief Guest Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji was escorted to the ground in traditional chipdrel procession.

Addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji said within a short span of time since His Majesty assumed responsibilities as monarch and head of state, several initiatives have been taken for the present and future wellbeing of the nation and the people.

He said thousands of people have been granted land kidu and the price of sand and stone made affordable for the general public. He said His Majesty has first hand knowledge of the hardship faced by the people having traveled across the length and breadth of the country accompanying His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo from an early age.

He said His Majesty has taken measures to take Kidu to the people understanding that vulnerable communities who are in genuine need of Kidu will not be able to travel to Thimphu to seek Kidu.

To build a strong economy as a firm foundation for a vibrant democracy, the National Tourism Board and Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) were established as per the command of His Majesty the King.

The GNH Commission was established to mainstream the philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) propounded by Hs Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo into the kingdom’s development plans.

As part of the celebrations in the capital, students from Thimphu presented a cultural programme. People BBS spoke to said the day is an occasion to pray for the long life and good health of His Majesty the King. They said it is also an opportunity to pay homage to His Majesty and reaffirm their loyalty and dedication to the King, country, and the people.

Coinciding with the birth anniversary celebration, the National Steering Committee for Coronation and Centenary Celebrations and Department of Information Technology launched the Coronation and Centenary Website

Bhutan Post also released the world’s first documentary CD-ROM postage stamps entitled 100 years of monarchy and in harmony with nature. The first CD stamp portrays a short history with photos and videos of the contributions of the monarchs of Bhutan. The second CD stamp highlights Bhutan’s pristine environment and conservation efforts.

The celebration ended with the Tashi Lebay.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

His Majesty the King grants audience to Indian Foreign Secretary

February 19: His Majesty the King granted an audience to the Indian Foreign Secretary Mr. Shivshankar Menon at the Tashichhodzong today.

The Indian Foreign Secretary Mr. Shivshankar Menon received an audience with His Majesty the King this morning.

He was accompanied by Joint Secretary (North), Ministry of External Affairs Ms. Preeti Saran and the Indian ambassador to Bhutan Mr. Sudhir Vyas.

A news release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Bhutan and India share strong historical and cultural relations and have traditionally enjoyed close ties of friendship and cooperation.

The present visit by the Foreign Secretary of India is in keeping with the well established tradition of regular exchange of high level visits and extensive exchange of views between leaders of the two countries.

It says the visit will provide an opportunity to renew and further strengthen the already existing excellent bonds of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

Earlier in the morning, the Indian Foreign Secretary called on Prime Minister Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji.

Exhibition on Bhutan's flora and fauna and culture and tradition in Japan

February 19: An exhibition in Tokyo, Japan, on Bhutan’s flora and fauna and culture and tradition is drawing thousands of people. The exhibition began on January 29 and ends on February 24.

Organized by the National Museum of Science and Nature in Tokyo, Japan, and the National Biodiversity Center in Thimphu, the exhibition is showcasing the flora and fauna of Bhutan.

Our reporter Deki Choden Dorji who is in Japan visited the exhibition on Saturday, said several stalls displaying Bhutanese cuisine and arts and crafts have also been set up at the exhibition.

A tent made of yak hair has also been set up at the exhibition. In one of the stalls, visitors can try on Gho and Kira.

Our reporter says volunteers from the JICA Bhutan Friendship Association and Bhutanese students in Japan are helping the visitors wear the national costume.

Senior Curator of the National Science and Nature Museum Mr. Hirayama Ryoji said there is a lot to learn from the way Bhutan has preserved its environment and way of life in the face of modernization and rapid development.

So far about 25,000 people have visited the exhibition. Our reporter Deki Choden Dorji says on weekdays more than one thousand people are visiting the exhibition. On weekends, as many two thousand people are visiting the exhibition.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

10th Round Table Meeting begins

February 18: His Majesty the King hosted a lunch at the Dechencholing Palace yesterday for the delegates of the 10th Round Table Meeting. The 10th Round Table Meeting with development partners started yesterday morning in Thimphu.

His Majesty the King hosted a lunch at the Dechencholing Palace yesterday for the delegates of the tenth round table meeting. Their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princesses, the Prime Minister and senior government officials were also present at the lunch.

Delegates representing Bhutan’s development partners from bilateral, multilateral and non-governmental organizations are in the capital for the 10th round table meeting which started yesterday morning.

The meeting is organized by the Royal Government of Bhutan and the United Nations Development Program. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that the round table meeting continues to remain the most significant and important forum for the Royal Government and its development partners to engage in meaningful and comprehensive dialogue.

The Bhutanese delegation to the meeting is led by the Education Minister Lyonpo Thinley Gyamtsho. The Acting UNDP Regional Director for the Asia and the Pacific Mr. David Lockwood is the co-chair of the meeting.

The Prime Minister Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji delivered the inaugural address. The Foreign Secretary Yeshey Dorji and the Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi also made presentations.

The GNH Commission made presentations on the strategies and priorities of the 10th five-year plan as well as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and poverty reduction.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Thai ambassador presents credentials to His Majesty the King

February 15: The ambassador of Thailand Chalermpol Thanchitt presented his credentials to His Majesty the King at the Tashichhodzong today.
Ambassador Chalermpol Thanchitt was escorted to the Tashichhodzong in traditional chipdrel ceremony. He was then ushered into the throne room where he presented his credentials to His Majesty the King.
Ambassador Thanchitt began his career as an attaché in the Europe Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During a career spanning over 25 years, he has served in various positions in the Thai foreign ministry and missions abroad.
Prior to his present appointment, he served as the Thai ambassador to Singapore.
The Thai ambassador also called on Prime Minister Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji at the Gyalyong Tshokhang this morning.

Ambassadors of European Commission and Norway present credentials to His Majesty the King

February 15: The ambassador of European Commission Ms. Daniele Smadja and the ambassador of Norway Ms. Ann Ollestad presented their credentials to His Majesty the King today.

Ambassador Daniele Smadja and Ann Ollestad were escorted to the Tashichhodzong in traditional chipdrel ceremony. They were then ushered into the throne room where they presented their credentials to His Majesty the King.

Ambassador Smadja joined the European Commission in 1978. Before she assumed the present post, she served as the director of multilateral relations and human rights in the Directorate General for external relations of the European Commission.

Ambassador Ollestad of Norway began her career as a freelance journalist. She served as a special adviser in the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research before she assumed the present position.

The two ambassadors also called on Prime Minister Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji this morning.

New thongdrol of Kuenkhen Pema Karpo to be inaugurated on February 16

February 14: A new thongdrol of Kuenkhen Pema Karpo was unfurled to the public at the Tashichhodzong yesterday morning.

His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, Their Majesties the queens, and their royal highnesses the princes and princess were also present at the unfurling.
Hundreds of people gathered in the courtyard of the Tashichhodzong to offer their prayers and receive blessings from the new thongdrol.

The thongdrol was embroidered using silk and brocade. It took almost three years to complete.

Buddhists believe that their sins are washed away if they get a glimpse of a Thongdrol.

The construction of new Kuenkhen Pema Karpo thongdrol was initiated by Sungkhop Gyeltshen. Kuenkhen Pema Karpo is one of the most important figures in the lineage of Drukpa Kagyu sect of Buddhism.

The Lhabsang Thruesel ceremony for the new thongdrol was conducted by the venerable Dorji lopen and the Yangsey of Tertoen Drukdra Dorji, Ugyen Droduel Thinely Kuenchab.

The thongdrol will be taken to Punakha Dzong today. His Holiness the Je Khenpo will conduct the inauguration ceremony for the new thongdrol on February 16.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Bhutanese welcome the year of the male earth rat

February 9: Astrologers say the year of the Male Earth Rat marks the end of the Lona or the inauspicious year. The year of the Male Earth Rat is auspicious for starting new constructions, holding marriages and celebrations, and setting up new business ventures.

Here in Thimphu, at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, the first baby of the Male Earth Rat year was born at 3:36am on Friday, February 8.

When day broke and people woke up to a bright new day and a new year, the Losar celebrations started. The kingdom ushered in the year of the earth male rat with celebrations, prayers and gratitude.

Across the kingdom, the Bhutanese family got together to rejoice in festivities, further cementing the bonds that have kept the fabric of Bhutanese society alive and strong.

The altars in Bhutanese homes looked resplendent with offerings made exclusively for the new year, an offering to pay gratitude for the good of the year that went by and a prayer to seek the blessings for a happy year ahead. With lush home cooked meals and dishes prepared specially for the day, the feast will continue. Children wore their new year best.

The young and the old, friends and family joined in games ranging from Khuru to archery. Far flung sons and daughters traveled for days to spend the New Year with their parents. The young paid their respects to the old. The old reposed their confidence in the youth. Mother nature blessed the day with the glory of sunshine.

The bond of community was strengthened as neighbors exchanged their Losar offerings. The faith in the dharma was further consolidated as Bhutanese visited temples to make offerings and prayers.

The people of Bhutan celebrated Losar in the backdrop of peace and tranquility that has prevailed in our nation. This year we will pay our tribute to our monarchs for ensuring our well being and sovereignty.

The year will also make our kingdom a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy. It is a historic year indeed. And on the first day of the Earth male Rat year, Losar, a day of festivities and celebrations, we also paid our deep gratitude to our monarchs, for extraordinary leadership and vision, unprecedented reforms and above all, ensuring ours and our kingdom’s well being and sovereignty.

His Majesty awards red scarf to Gyalpoi Zimpon

February 9: His Majesty the king awarded red scarf to Gyalpoi Zimpon Dasho Penjore at the Tashichhodzong on Thursday, February 7.

His Majesty also awarded white scarf without fringe and patang to six Zimpon wongmas. They are Karma Gyamtsho, Karma Thinley, Namgay Rinchhen, Nima Tshering, Yeshey Lhendup and Tashi Tobgay.

Speaking to BBS Gyalpoi Zimpon Dasho Penjore said he is privileged by the honor and prestige that His Majesty the king has bestowed upon him and the six zimpon wongmas.

Dasho Zimpon Penjore was the Deputy Managing Director of the Royal Monetary Authority before assuming the present post. He has worked on the Bhutan National Pension Plan, FDI policy, and accession to the World Trade Organization, Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan and the Bhutan National Bank. He also served as the secretary general of the Bhutan India Friendship Association. Dasho Penjore has a Masters degree in Economics from the North Eastern University in Boston, USA.

The Zimpon wongmas come from various backgrounds like financial, IT, security, Power and environment. Their jobs under the kidu system involves traveling constantly to the remotest parts of the kingdom, improving the existing welfare system, carrying out research on important issues affecting rural life and coordinating and liaising with government and non government agencies across the country.

A press release says the office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon works according to the highest standards, ethics and integrity and with unwavering hard work and commitment to the Tsa Wa Sum. Their utmost priority as per royal command is to lift the weakest and the most vulnerable members of the society, keeping in mind that the poorest and most deserving of kidu will not be able to come to Thimphu that Kidu should go to them.

Friday, 8 February 2008

His Majesty grants audience to SAARC Secretary General

February 5: His Majesty the King granted an audience to the SAARC Secretary General Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji today.

Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji is in the kingdom as part of his farewell visits to the SAARC member countries. He will be completing his three year term as the SAARC Secretary General at the end of this month.

He will be succeeded by India’s Ambassador to Vienna Dr. Sheel Kant Sharma who will take over as the new SAARC Secretary General from next month. The post is occupied by representatives of SAARC member states on rotation.

A news release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says as Secretary General, Lyonpo Chenkyab Dorji has vigorously and successfully pursued various SAARC activities and its objectives which contributed to the reinvigoration of the SAARC process.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Prisoners entitled to postal ballot

February 7: The Election Commission of Bhutan has issued VPIC to prisoners who are eligible to vote. There are 496 prisoners who are eligible to vote. 13 prisoners were issued postal ballot in the last National Council election.

The Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi says except for prisoners who have committed treason, all the other prisoners who are 18 years and above are eligible to vote. This he said is because under the constitution, every Bhutanese have the right to take part in the democratic processes. “But prisoners who are guilty of treason and violation of national security will not be allowed to vote as it is against the principal of constitution, said the Chief Election Commissioner.

The Election Commission is currently working together with Dzongkhag officials and Royal Bhutan Police to set up boards where the campaign material will be pasted in the prison compounds in the country.

The prisoners are also briefed on the voters right and voting procedures

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

The downside of rising life expectancy

6 February, 2008 - It is as yet years away but could most likely happen if measures are not taken. As Bhutanese live longer, with better medical care, the pension plan will reach a stage where the benefits it pays out would be more than the contribution it receives. Cruel as it may sound, rising life expectancy, therefore, does not bode well for the sustainability of the pension system as it exists today.

“We have a “pay as you go” system that suits us now because we have a young population,” said the managing director of the fund, Dupthop Wangchuk. “But it will mature one day so we have to look at ways of making it sustainable.”

Bhutan’s pension plan for civil and corporate employees is a partially funded system where contributions from working PF members support the pensioners. Members contribute eight percent of their salary and employers make an equal contribution. Of this, 10 percent goes to the pension plan and six percent to the provident fund (PF). On retirement, the PF is paid as a lump sum and the pension as a monthly salary till the pensioner dies.

According to pension officials, the present system has a 30-year value and will mature by 2032. Maturity means the first group of people, who were members when the system started, which is little more than 20,000, would all be beneficiaries. When this happens, more will be going out than coming in.

Pension officials said that this was a global trend in many countries, which had the “pay as you go” system. Japan was a classic example where the average life expectancy is 80 years plus and there were more pensioners than contributors to the plan.

A number of reforms had been introduced in these countries to sustain the pension plan. One was to extend the retirement age. For example, the retirement age in the US and Japan is 67 years and in the Nordic countries it is 70 to 72 years.

The other was to increase the contribution rate. “In many developed and rich countries, the contribution is as high as 30 to 40 percent and the retirement benefits are also very good,” said a pension official. “But raising the contribution rate here could affect the take home pay.”

Pension officials say the best option to sustain pension liabilities was a prudent investment policy, that improves returns on the fund. However, it was becoming increasingly difficult for NPPF to find adequate investment avenues in the country, according to the managing director.

“We get about Nu 45 million as contributions every month and we’re not able to invest that fund into areas that give us good returns,” said Dupthop Wangchuk. “We’re looking for investments that give us 7 to 10 percent returns.”

The NPPF has invested its funds in equity holdings in a number of local companies and corporate bodies. It has also financed projects and government loans. Besides that, it also invests in real estate and housing and education loans to its members. Still, as of June 30, 2007, it had Nu 703 million in the banks as short-term deposits, which recently decreased interest rates on short-term deposits from three percent to two percent. “It’s money lying idle,” said the managing director.

In 2002, NPPF did have offshore investments but later withdrew because of ‘bad experience’. The NPPF is looking at making significant investments in the upcoming Dagachu hydropower project in Dagana and the Dungsam cement project in Nganglam.

By Phuntsho