Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sorry Bhutan! Bhutan chickens out from SAARC Summit in Pakistan.

Sorry Bhutan!  Bhutan chickens out from November SAARC Summit in Pakistan.

India has her stated public reason. And Bangladesh too had prior grievances and Afghanistan have Taliban based grievance with Pakistan.

The Kingdom of Bhutan never had substantial differences with Pakistan or any other SAARC member nations. It is simply a uniniatiative  decision to comply with India's dictate. Bhutan had one unique opportunity to save SAARC and enhance her own  regional constructive image. Bhutan should have publicly first called upon all members to postphone the SAARC Summit.

Not attending is not at all excusable. Bhutan simply became a self condemned Indian- slave- State overnight with this rediculous boycotting of the SAARC Summit.

The decision to start the winding up of SAARC does no good to Bhutan or to India. For India, she lost her own regional base in international politics. And for Bhutan, she had closed down one important regional legacy of the Fourth King and worse,  displayed humiliating leadership as a nation and as a regional member. 

SAARC without Pakistan cannot be a respected Regional Body. All others only kowtow India. It is at SAARC where India can get her international objectives enhanced and earn some recognition of the world as the Chief architect of an important region. And the fact Pakistan is part of SAARC makes India look more influential.

India may be feeling that SAARC usefulness is nearing the end for India. China has been pushing for membership and how long could India stave it off. And once China joins then one nation SAARC control goes out of Indian hand. So might as well wind it up at this time?

How could India be so insecure with so much resources in land mass and population volume? Pakustan can be embarrassed by this boycott but that nation cannot be isolated or bullied by SAARC collectively or individually by India. Nothing is gained by this boycott.

India could have still retained her big brother status at Islamabad Summit. Uri was humiliating.  So were Pathankot and Mumbai. India just have to buck up as a nation and overcome the low morale of the navy, air force  and army. The enemy is not Pakistan or Terrorists. Real weakness is civilian authorities attitude towards Defence Forces. Why compel the Defence Forces to beg for better pension and equal pay?

Indian media thinks that this boycott has isolated Pakistan. Well,  if Pakistan is isolated with three members teaming up with India  then is India also isolated since  the other three members have teamed up with Pakistan?

No one nation has come off better in this unfortunate internal regional tussle. Really wish giant India had not brought this bilateral difference with Pakistan into this regional body.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Celebrating REMIT Bhutan with RMA and Bhutanese residing Abroad.

Celebrating REMIT Bhutan with RMA and Bhutanese residing Abroad.

Just came across an fb post of the Prime Minister shared by fb friend regarding REMIT Bhutan. It is about Foregn Exchange Account a Bhutanese can open with or through Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan (RMA).

This is a good starting move to promote  hard currency banking in Bhutan by Bhutanese working in third Countries.

RMA needs to go much further than simply permitting opening Foreign Exchange Accounts by such Bhutanese.   It has to change its authoritarian mode of simply " granting " something like permission to maintain " foreign exchange account" under REMIT Bhutan.

The Governor and the Board of RMA has to come up with commercial strategies to encourage those Bhutanese to park all their hard currency savings with or through RMA in Bhutan.

When DPT Government of Bhutan borrowed Indian Rupees to meet shortages, the Government paid interests of 9% to 11%. On top of that the Government had to more or less beg the Government of India to arrange such short Rupee term loans.

Later the PDP Government of Bhutan used hard currency reserve with RMA to buy Indian Rupees to solve the same problem of Rupee shortage. That way Bhutan did not have to beg India for Rupee loans.   

I cite these two cases to highlight how important it is for RMA and the Government to value the hard currency source that is represented by Bhutanese working  in third countries.  You cannot express value by words only  or simply permitting opening of hard currency account.

This REMIT Bhutan Scheme must be promoted and attracted through incentives that commercial banks (normal banks like BoB, BNB,T Bank and Druk PNB) offer:  Such as Savings interest and Fixed Deposit interests.

a) Offer 5% interest on Hard Currency Savings Account and higher interests on long term Hard Currency Fixed Deposits. The interest component could  be paid in Ngultrums. A twin Ngultrum Account could be opened along side the REMIT Bhutan account for interest deposit as well as for such account holder to spend money in Bhutan from their Foreign Exchange Account through equivalent counter value transfer into this Ngultrum Account.

b) Interests income from Fixed Deposits should not be taxed. Such income must be free of PIT to encourage saving culture for all Bhutanese living inside or outside Bhutan.  Banks can use Fixed Deposits to mobilise as capital source for their loans to clients. More money would be available to plough  into the economy.   And Government can earn more income through CIT from Banks and from BIT on  incomes generated through business investnents enabled by loans disbursed by Banks . This way all three:  the Depositors, the Banks and the Government ( Revenue Department) become end winners together. The Bhutanese nation benefits in the overall scheme of things.

c) Main reason why hard currency remittances are taking place through other channels than Banks is because RMA has in place a very discouraging short sighted regulation in place. RMA pays less when buying hard currencies and charges more when selling. The difference is around  than  Nu: 2. 25 for every dollar transacted. There are valid reasons in general transactions  like Donor contributions wherein Banks and RMA are able to accrue benefits from the service facilities offered.

d) In cases of Bhutanese citizen remittances, RMA need to pay the same selling rate in  counter value. This will encourage Bhutanese residing away to remit through Banks and also induce such Bhutanese to park their hard currency earnings with RMA or Banks authorised by RMA. Bhutanese residing or working outside must be encouraged to bank their hard currency savings with Bhutanese Banks. Over the years they will grow to be reliable continuous substantial foreign exchange source for Bhutan.

e) Whilst on this subject of exchange value, RMA could also realise more hard currency if it permits re- exchange of left-  over foreign currency at the selling rate. For example: The Banks sell certain amount of dollars to a Bhutanese travelling to third Countries. The exchange  rate applied is the higher selling rate. The same Bhutanese should be permitted to re-exchange upto a third of the amount initially exchanged at the prevailing selling rate upon return from the third Country. This would enable RMA to capture almost all available hard currency within the country and such Bhutanese do not have to seek buyers in the black market or hold on to the hard currency saved for next outside visit which may not even happen. 

I appreciate the progressive step taken by RMA and this Government. Thank you for national interest. Please take further concrete steps so that both the Bhutanese nation and the Bhutanese citizens residing or working outside mutually benefit.          

Monday, September 19, 2016

Who is really sponsoring terrorist attacks and to what end? India points at Pakistan and Pakistan points at India.

From attacks at Parliament in Delhi to Mumbai attacks, the terrorists from Pakistan have been blamed. Whether Pakistan Government intelligence agencies or Pakistan Army are or are not behind such heinous attacks against soft targets in India cannot be determined with 100% certainty. That is because Pakistan not only denies involment but also refutes evidences presented by Indian agencies. Many countries condemn such attacks but no third nation or intelligence agency stepped forward to directly blame Pakistan Government or Pakistan Army for the Pathankot or Uri attacks.

There are terror groups both in Pakistan and India and both nations have themselves been victims of home grown terror groups. Are the two nations using terror groups to achieve their political objectives  both at home and against each other? 

Afghanistan, India and even United States have at one point or another have accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorists attacks in the past. As for India, till now only Pakistan has accused her of terror attacks. However, now there has appeared a tacit public admission that India  is not totally innocent. A former Indian Chief of Staff has called for creation of Sucide Squads.  The senior General would not have  publicly called  for such a drastic state sponsored terrorism organization if such is not already in existence. And no official entity is ridiculing his call.  

This year terrorists have been blamed for two daring attacks. One against heavily fortified Pathankot air base of Indian Air Force in Punjab sector facing Pakistan. The other being the more recent attack carried out on the said to be heavily fortified Indian Army Base at Uri in Kashmir sector. India has blamed Pakistan for these attacks. And the evidence they cite is that the equipments and other materials used in the attack have " Pakistan markings".

On the Pakistan side, they express their disbelief in terrorists having the capabilities to execute such attacks against heavily fortified and sensitised Indian defence establishments without some sort of Indian Government/ intelligence agencies' connivance. 

There are several serious thought provoking matters regarding the Uri attack that killed 17 soldiers and gravrly injuring over 30 ( death toll could increase).

1. Would a terrorist attack sponsor ( if Pakistan) so willingly show its involvement by providing equipments and other materials with " Pakistan markings". It should be possible to arrange equipments and materials from other sources.

2. Why the attack now just when General Assembly of United Nations is about to begin? India is at a very defensive position in the international political arena due to her heavy handed use of military force in Jammu  Kashmir state. So many civilians have been killed and the state has been under military seizure for over 2 months and no end in sight. The latest attack on Indian Army Uri Base shifts the villian spotlight away from India to terrorists whether Pakistan sponsored or otherwise. The aggressive Indian Army in Kashmir is made to appear the victim. 

3. How could Indian Defence Forces be so weak and helpless that even its most sensitised and fortified Army and Air Force Bases at the  Line of Control be so easily infiltrated and successfully terror struck by terrorists even " Pakistan sponsored"?

4. Pakistan is declared to be number one enemy of India and yet India appeared so ill prepared at both Pathankot and Uri. How is that possible? And if outside sponsored terrorists have been able to carry out such terror attacks inside highly fortified prime military establishments, shouldn't those in command be held responsible. Till now no Indian Defence Minister, Chief of Army or Officer-in- Command of such terror struck defence establishments have been publicly held accountable for military humiliations.   And most strangely the Defence Minister of India has been silent on the Uri attack while the Home Minister and Finace Minister have been publicly vocal. 

Prime  Minister Modi said that the " perpetrators will not  go unpunished". The Home Minister said " Pakistan should be identified and isolated". And the Finance Minister said it was an  " act of cowardice".  The Indian Army spokesman stated that the equipments and other materials had " Pakistan marking". Indian Media thinks that these are very strong statements. But such statements have been oft stated in the past and are very general in nature.

Pakistan Government and the Army flatly denies their involvement and in fact seems to be accusing India of staging. 

Other nations including United States and United Kingdom condemned the Uri terrorist attack but not Pakistan. As usual there will be fire works between India and Pakistan at the United Nations General Assembly. One thing for sure is that Jammu Kashmir is becoming an international issue. And many lives including that of soldiers are being unnecessarily lost and families so sadly bereaved. RIP. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Politics in Bhutan is more than unpredictable. It is becoming strangely alien democracy

Recently on 10th September, I blogged on north Thimphu bye election and said that we would see what would be there in 2018. But now this sudden resignation of DPT candidate Chencho has brought forward 2018 scenario to 2016. I feel sorry that this is happening.

I do not know either of the  two candidates of the  opposing Political Parties but anyone who knew the DPT fellow " would they  ever have expected the candidate to withdraw so soon after earnestly seeking the Party ticket and getting it?" I am told that there was quite a competition for the Party Ticket. .

Is this Chencho fellow immature or of dubious character or simply spineless in face of possible defeat or whatever threat and sweetener ? Or was the DPT candidate a " gomchen" in previous life, I just wonder.  ( gomchens are not allowed participation in politics). So I am made to presume that strange politics have taken  hold of the nation. Now, national politics is  a real "SUSPENSE".

However, on the International Front, a suspense has been removed today. On 6th September, I blogged on China and G-20 Summit. And said that American and Japanese pressures on British Prime Minister to dump China on nuclear deal seemed to have failed. Today Prime Minister May of Britain  approved the French, Chinese and Britisn nuclear project of $ 25 billion.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

By Election or Bye Election whichever and whatever.

It is political sunshine time for Taba. The candidates of the two Political Parties are both from Taba. Tshering of PDP and Chencho of DPT. And if you combine their names it is Chencho Tshering who might someday represent from Paro Shaba. Just a humour to ponder nothing serious.

Talking of seriousness, Thimphu the Capital has not taken PDP seriously in the last 2 General Elections. And now DPT has also amply proved that it cannot be taken seriously by north Thimphu voters.

This constituency bye election has far reaching implications. I wonder how the two vying  Political Parties are viewing this contest?  In north Thimphu constituency bye election, we will find out,  how fares Bhutan in 2018 Politics.  

This is a by-election only in name. It is a national battle that will indicate the winner of 2018 political war. PDP has every chance of making a success in this bye election. Both the Prime Minister and Finance Minister have strong residential roots in north Thimphu constituency. In addition the former PDP Foreign Minister Lyonpo Rinzin Dorji has wide family roots in the same constituency. Then there is the unmistakable advantage of being the Political Party in reign.

On the other hand, DPT Party is in the  Opposition seat and their MP of north Thimphu recently dumped the same constituency opting for personal gains.  And worse, it seems that the Party is not in lively communications with its former Party candidates and former MPs let alone grassroot voters and registered supporters. So it is not at all an ideal situation for DPT to face a by- election at this particular juncture. 

Against this political scenario, if PDP loses this by-election, it could very well be goodbye 2018. This is also the time to witness how fragile or tenacious DPT is as a Political Party. And this is also an election that holds equal stakes for non participating Political Parties of Bhutan. Do they or any other new Political Party have a chance to dislodge the two main existing  Parties in 2018?

The result of Bye Election will hinge upon the  Party stalwarts who may or may not join the campaign to support the candidate of their Party. Both the Political Parties have their aces who can work the magic charm today and in 2018. And it all depends on how the active  Party top brasses have positioned themselves  and how the inner Party  working setup has been managed( exclusively or inclusively) during the last 3 years.

There can be decisive impacts from the former Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley and the former Minister Sangay Ngedup the two Founding Presidents of the two main Political Parties. Whether they still are technically Party members or not, they are respected founding fathers who command wide political influence or public sway. So even a photo opportunity with their Party Founder would prove to be the magic wand to capture the votes for the candidates.

Good Luck to Taba Tshering and Taba Chencho. Either way Taba will surely win.  Sweet deals Taabas !

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

China after G- 20 Summit.

The Summit was held in Chinese city of Hangzhou. And if you have been listening to BBC and CNN people, all you would recollect would be the disparaging remarks and conclusions of the western media people. They said nothing important gets done in such meetings.

The western  news channels were in their own way most frustrated. At G- 20 Summit in China, the foreign  journalists got no special  treatment. And worse they were not really briefed on what really went on at  one to one talks between leaders. So though they know a lot had to be achieved during such gatherings yet they as news channels did not have much to report. The world leaders are wary of their media distorting everything to excite their audience.

The G-20 Summit confirmed the crucial role of China at the world order.

1. China and United States made a joint statement to ratify the Climate Change Agreement.

2. Turkey which had been jolted by the attempted coup leaned towards China and Russia. 

3. Britain was coerced by United States and Japan to deny Chinese involvement in the nuclear energy projects but Prime  Minister May refused to buckle. She deferred her decision on the nuclear investments but confirmed that her government wanted to take relation with China forward. It is clear that the joint trio nuclear project of France, China and Britain will take off by end of this month.

4. United States has been encouraging Philippines to resist China on the South China Sea issues. Unfortunately, things went haywire and Obama ended up cancelling a pre-scheduled meeting at Loas with the President of Philippine. They may still meet but the antagonism has become public.

5. Philippine may not be prepared to throw off the red dragon. But to placate America, Philippine maybe prepared to agree to an increase in  American naval base.

6. The young Prime Minister of Canada publicly critised China on human rights records.  And then to the chagrin of United States,  signed up to Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank spearheaded by China. AIIB is Chinese equivalent of World Bank spearheaded by China.

7. China and Russia had the meeting of minds on the issues of Middle East especially Syria. But United States and Russia could not make much headway in their talks on how to go about the wars in Syria.

8. India and United States signed a logistic agreement to assure the service of their defence facilities to each other's forces. And Prime Minister Modi signed a $500million aid to Vietnam to buy armaments and United States is giving Loas $90 million to destroy US bombs dropped on Loas decades back and still lying unexploded.  In other words India and United States are propping up the immediate neighbours of China. But nothing really much can console either United States and India. It is not in the national interests of Vietnam and Loas to be anti China.

9. Pakistan is so crucial to United States and India in their quest to contain China policy and the war in Afghanistan.   And here both are badly disconnected. The $ 46 billion economic corridor of China and Pakistan that includes Pakistan occupied Kashmir is simply a political tsunami and cannot be resisted. Prime Minister Modi found no softening of Chinese Policy in backing Pakistan. 

10. Iran is partnering with Russia in the Syrian war. And Iran is turning to Chinese investment and technology in revamping her economy that was shredded under many years of sanctions imposed by United States and allies.

11. China did not hesitate to pay off the protocol snuffs of the United States security teams when XI Jinping visited visited America. The missing red carpet for Obama may have been a mishap rather than deliberate plan. But protocol hostility was a payback which even President Obama also acknowledged gamely.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Forget selective treatment of few at specially catered education facilities. Promote one for all and all for one nation schools.

Why have several Central Schools or think of few more well equipped schools? What is the national objective? Special political interest groups to cater to or vote banks or well to do or less to do? Do not segregate youths and do not create barriers and different levels of Bhutanese young generation. 

All youths of Bhutan need and deserve the best that the nation can afford to give. Education service among all national services must be fair and equal. You cannot distinguish poor and rich kids, political kids or army kids or farmer kids or businessmen kids or bureaucratic kids or male kids or female kids.  The whole concept of segregation is morally and strategically wrong. And nationally most disturbing and disintegrating in nature and philosophy. Too far and under GNH.

Let us go for good and adequate for all youths Central Schools. And not limited numbers of  the kind that this Government is promoting for certain percentage of Bhutanese youths. It is financially not feasible to provide total free education. And definitely wrong to cater to just preferred groups.

Bhutan just does not have the means to provide  School facilities to all Bhutanese youth in the manner that this Government is proposing to do in few Central Schools. National resources  for education must be fairly accessible to any and all Bhutanese youths. Not just to Eastern, or Southern or Western youths or different social or economic or political youth groups.

Please realise that there is a constitutional national responsibility to provide education to all youths till Class X. No Bhutanese official  authority / Agency can arrange separate and unequal equipped schools or varying education services or facilities for  Bhutanese children. The Constitution does not segregate which Bhutanese child deserves to study in PDP promoted well equipped Central School types  and which child can only avail poorly equipped and run Day schools. The Guardians of the Constitutions must guide the Government and the Education Ministry.

Therefore, the Bhutanese nation must go for well administered Boarding Schools for all students.  Such Schools must have adequate hostel facilities and good fooding arrangements. There must be adequate sports areas and facilities.  There must be adequate classroom space, books and skilled teachers. Such must be the central responsibilities of the Government and the nation.

Let the parents provide the hostel beddings and other personal needs of the students. Let the parents provide the school uniforms and sports wears. And for those really poor and orphans, the Royal Kidu system could graciously step in. 

Education system must be overhauled but not in the way that is being done presently. Please think nationally not regionally or politically or group society. Think of the right of every Bhutanese child. Do not take into considerations  the  status of their parents or communities or varying clouts. One Bhutanese child has the same equal right as the next Bhutsnese child. This must be the guiding philosophy in catering to the education need of all children of the Kingdom.

Encourage development of Private Schools to meet demands and conveniences of those that prefer such schooling. But such  private schools should be par choice not forced choice because of lack of school seats or sub standard education quality in Government Schools.

Please join hands in good will and  prayers so that the nation succeeds in thinking for all Bhutanese and cater equally to the education of all Bhutanese children.