Friday, November 24, 2017

School Exams and the accompanying stress.

" Grandpa, tomorrow is the last exam day for achu SR, Gyamtsho and Lhamo " my grand daughter who had finished her annual Exams two days back happily reminds me. School exams is such a stress. And therefore, I guess she would be only fully and completely stress free when all the siblings,too, have finished their exams.  

Exams weigh heavily upon the mind and life of both school families and home families. Students, teachers, parents and all who are in some ways affliated share the concerns for annual exams.

I am grateful that the academic year went smoothly for the kids. I know they do alright in studies. All I pray is for their good health.

Every morning of school day the grandchildren visit the Chhoshoum as their parents have done in their school days and now before going to office. I guess during exam time they pray to do well in exams.

I am simply contended to see them in good health that enables them to go for the exams. Studies to a large extent is within one's abilities but good health is only for Triple Gem to grant. Thank you Kenchhosoum.

Monday, November 20, 2017

PSL (private sector lending) policy promoted by RMA. Reference Kuensel 20th November, 2017

This new lending scheme introduced by RMA for farmers and small sectors at reduced interest rate of 8% and 8.5% from Banks will not require collateral or guarantor. Banks will in turn be  compensated through tax holiday incentive.
Banks would not have to pay tax on income from interest earned from the loans given under the PSL scheme. So for all practical purpose,  the Banks do not suffer income loss from lowering the lending rate as the same is offset from tax holiday.

A better deal would have been Banks charge the normal 10% interest rate for PSL loans as is being done by BDBL. And upon faithful repayment of the loan with interest, the government refund 1.5 % to 2% as applicable to the loanees. That way unscrupulous loanees do not receive subsidy and others would benefit.  This method  also would ensure that loanees invested the PSL money for the purpose it was taken. And not misused for other activities as RMA has pointed out.

There is, however, a legal hitch to the whole scheme. RMA may have authority to play around with interest rates but when it comes to tax holiday, that is a domain of Finance Ministry. And any financial incentives or tax holiday now falls under Money Bill that has to go through the Parliamentary process.

So now how come RMA is announcing Tax Holiday for Banks without approval from the Parliament? 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The pros and cons of royalty waiver for tourists visiting Eastern Dzongkhags.

The exchanges of views between the  Opposition and the Government in the National Assembly on this royalty waiver Money Bill is respectfully healthy debate and of worthy substance. One hopes that the Financial Committee of the National Assembly would come up with a overall beneficial tourism promotion oriernted Money Bill.

I also hope Zhemgang Dzongkhag gets clubbed with the Eastern Dzongkhag as that Dzongkhag also needs close attention of the nation in all development spheres. From the heartland of Central Bhutan this Dzongkhag rolls down right to the Southern border with India. It is endowed with the widest valleys and perhaps has potential to be Bhutan's agriculture bowl.  It was at one time densely infested with Indian militant camps and insurgents. Bhutan has to bring Zhemgang to the central fold of development.

There is validity in the arguement that it could be lack of amenities and hostile travel route rather than restrictions of  tourist pockets that have hindered tourist visits to the East. However, there is no harm in providing an extra impetus by way of royalty waiver for a limitted number of years.

The government has proposed 3 years of royalty waiver. With my professional background and field experiences in the marketting of tour packages, 3 Years is rather tight and make not be as effective as one would hope. The real impact of royalty free policy would follow from the second year and at least another 2 additional years would be necessary to condition mind set of both foreign travel agents and potential tourists to think of Eastern Bhutan as attractive destination.

I am quite impressed with the proposal of the Opposition leader in regards to ensuring royalty free benefits only for the authentic Eastern Bhutan visitors. There is chance of manipulation. Afterall,  profit is the central objective of all commercial enterprises. And any loophole would adversely affect the success of promoting Eastern Bhutan as a tourist destination after the end of royalty free period.

There is one weakness in Bhutan's foreign
exchange earning system from tourism. The overall rate is fixed by the government including the royalty. However, in order to be competitive, Bhutanese tour operators are engaged in under cutting the tour prices. That means tourists are visiting Bhutan even at lesser rate than the officially set. The loss is primarily borne by the respective Bhutanese tour operators. However, the nation suffers by way of flow back of hard currency that actually should be staying in Bhutan. If some mechanism can be developed and enforced to prevent under table tour pricing, that would in the long run benefit the nation and the operators themselves.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Royalty Free Tourist visit to Eastern Bhutan ( Kuensel front page news today the 14th November)

The government is proposing to waive off
the US $ 65 per tourist per day royalty for visit to Eastern Bhutan. This should really help to push tourism share of Eastern Bhutan.

We may question the government motive at this near term end. However, one must take into account the East West highway condition during intense road widening activities in the past years and Yangphula airport that was closed. So any such earlier waiver of royalty would have had very minimal or no  impact at all for the Eastern Dzongkhags due to travel difficulties..

Hereafter, is the right time to waive off the royalty and promote tours to the region.  The airport in the East is open and Druk Air provided with subsidy to make flights financially viable and the East West highway widening is nearing completion. So it is economically and facility wise the right decision at the right time. And politically, too, for all who are part of the Parliament including all MPs of NC, NA and also at varying level  both Government and Opposion can share the credit.

My one prayer to the government is please include Shemgang Dzongkhag in your submission to the Parliament. I hope the Parliament will favourably not just pass the Fiscal Incentive Money Bill  to promote foreign tourists tours to Eastern Bhutan but also club Shemgang Dzongkhag within the fiscal incentive entitlement.

This Fiscal Incentive Money Bill to promote foreign tourists visit to Eastern Bhutan and Shemgang should have a time period built into it. The most appropriate would be 5 years from the date of receiving the Royal assent. After that such tourist promotional incentive should be allocated to different regions like high altitude regions in the north and far flung
Samtse Dzongkhag and Samdrup Jongkhar ( if it is not included in Eastern Dzongkhag promotional incentive ). 

May tourism flourish along the designed  concept that nourish the economy and preserve the cultural and natural environments of Druk Yul.         

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Petrolium Politics again.

The huge reduction in petrol and diesel price announced by Bhutan Government must be making every driver jubilant. It could also have a rippling relief effect down the line in transportation fares and ultimately to lowering cost of goods at retail level. There is a huge positive boost to overall Bhutanese economy if proper effective monitoring can be implemented.

I have one dark worry about this excise relief provided by India on petrol and diesel imported by Bhutan on the pretext of which Bhutan government has reduced the retail price of petrol and deisel. Surely so many Bhutanese hearts are won by this.

This Indian excise decision comes so close to the heel of the recenlty concluded Bhutanese  Royal Family visit to India. I just hate the possibility of India candy treating our King. Druk Yul cannot afford the return expectations ( candy price ) of the Government of India. And I am quite suspicious of the move of our own government in delivering this appearance of Indian gift to the Bhutanese drivers. I call it " appearance of gift " because there is no real value since Bhutan is eligible to the refund of the excise levied. The difference is timing. 

The excise amount that India levies on petrol and diesel imported by Bhutan is in any case refundable to Bhutan under existing Agreement. So this excise waiver now at source at the time of import is not too different in monetary value from refunding the same at a later date. Therefore Bhutan as a nation neither looses nor gains by this decision of India. 

However, the people of Bhutan are made to feel grateful to India for nothing by this action of Bhutanese Government in passing the excise amount benefit to the consumers now.  The Government could have passed the excise benefit to the consumer long time back if it wanted as it was always getting full refund from India. 

The Bhutanese government could have kept the excise duty in place and instead waived off the 5% sales tax on petrol and diesel that it had levied since coming to power. That way the reduction in price would be less but uncalled for gratitude to India nil. 

I really wish that Bhutan Governnent had not brought the dignity of the 4th King into this politics of the Governments of India and Bhutan. The Kingships of Bhutan are not commodities. It is high time that all involved parties India, Bhutanese Government and our Kings respected the very essence of the Institution of Bhutanese  Monarchy that was  installed by the people of Bhutan on 17th December, 1907. If the 4th King rejoices at this political play on his birthday then Druk Yul is in a more severe second Doklam stage. Along with future diplomatic relationship with China and necessary conclusion of  Northern Border Talks, we would be writting off total sovereignty too.  

A better and uniform BirthDay gift if the government wanted to disburse to the people to celebrate the auspicious occasion would have been waiving off the 5% sales tax on mobile voucher. Though under democracy I would never go for associating the Kings with taxation whether waiver or hiking.

And definitely I am against cash gift to the nation by India when our King visits Delhi. A proper goodwill and true friendship gesture would be according sovereign respect and dignity to Bhutan. And that India never intends. So Bhutan needs a combined dedicated national will power of democracy and Monarchy to assert our own sovereign respect and dignity.



Friday, November 10, 2017

Seeking strength to be an honest simple being during this spiritual day the Descending Day of Lord Buddha.

I am a Buddhist in faith and in spirit a free soul. By call of national duty I have to place the sovereign interests of Bhutan above all else and by fortune of birth I am bonded son of of Haa Valley. And by choice of love I must be a responsible head of S.K.Y Family.

I have bid farewell to my beloved Mother and Father along with several fondly  loved ones few too young to let go  on their journey to the next happier world. The journey has many scars. However, I am blessed and healed with the love and affections of my super Parents and my family. And above all by the infinite Graces of Lord Buddha, Guru Rimpoche and the Triple Gem. I cherish the large immediate and extended families that surround me and rejoice that all near and dear ones are at able stages of looking after themselves and in caring for each other. To each I extend my affections and blessings. In their well being lies my sense of happiness.   

I do not control my birth nor my death. But I do wish to have control of who I am whilst I live. It is something I always believed and I endeavoured to achieve. Since several years ago, I have abandoned serving in any organisation be these of government, corporate, private or public. I do not desire to be part of political or religious or cultural association nor civil societies. However, I am not aloof from their activities as these influence the qualities of life and living in the environment I exist.  

Simply said I am free from all trappings of organised mandates and identities. Just want be only  Wangcha Sangey a citizen of Druk Yul who puts faith in Kuencho Sum and continue the journey on the path of truth, say the truth and write the truth. All in good faith nothing to do with absence of fear but certainly free of prejudice or malice. 

I love Druk Yul. My Country is beautiful and the environnent of life and living almost heavenly here in Druk Yul when compared to many  nations I have travelled through and societies I came across in personal contacts and through other mediums. May Druk Yul be always protected and guided well in her sovereign path by the Deities the Most Precious Pelden Lhamo and Yeshey Gonpo.

Wishing all a happy Lhabaab Dhuechhen Day. May Druk Yul recieve more heavenly Beings in the likeness of Lord Buddha to bless the land and the people.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The wolf preys on the lamb for its own protection says India.

Following is a quote from the Press Release of the Rashtrapati Bhavan of the President of India : 01.11.2017.  It seems that Shri Ram Nath Kovind the new Indian President appointed by BJP Government was engaged in attempts to salvage Indian Governnent Doklam Blunder.

Quote "The President said that security concerns of India and Bhutan are indivisible and mutual. He conveyed deep appreciation for the King of Bhutan’s personal involvement and guidance and the support provided by Bhutan in addressing the recent situation in the Doklam area. He added that the manner in which both India and Bhutan stood together to address the situation in the Doklam area is a clear testimony to our friendship." Unquote.

Bhutan could never have stood with India at Doklam transgression. Bhutan was invaded by Indian Army. Why did the President of India stoop so low in protocol dignity? Shameless Indian Government misusing the Office of their President and making a mockery of the Royal visit.

According to sources connected to Indian official sources, the King of Bhutan had told India that Bhutan did not seek third party assistance in Bhutan-China Border TalK. It seems that His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck took a sovereign stand. This time Indian Leaderships may have got a glimpse of true grit of the Bhutanese Dragon Majesty.

I felt that the Royal visit happened only at the earnest request of the Indian Government. Perhaps that was one of the reasons of Indian Foreign Secretary's visit to Bhutan along with Acting American Ambassador to India..

I cannot confirm what His Majesty told Indian Prime Minister or what reply was given to President of India. Nor how the Royal visit came about. But one thing I observed from the TV footages of the Royal  meetings  with the President and the Prime Minister of India. Apart from the Bhutanese Ambassador to India, there were no other Bhutanese officials. I perceive this a "  diplomatic frost "  from Bhutan side. Bhutan does not need an invading friend who betrays all trusts and breaches the fundamental basis of 2007 Bhutan- India revised 1949 Agreement. 

The Indian media was all about our prince charming. There were no other news to write about. Our King accepted invitation for a State Visit next year. Bhutan has General Election next year. So the State Visit to India can get deferred. Meanwhile maybe India and Bhutan would stick to small talks like how to celebrate the 50 years diplomatic relation that got burnt at Doklam. . Betrayal is shocking and injury is grave to forget for a nation which was invaded. 


Thursday, November 2, 2017

China at the centre of world stage.

Soon after 19th CPC Congress of China, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev came on 1st November to congratulate President Xi Jinping and convey the good wishes of President Putin and to renew the friendship of the two giant nations.

Then on 8th November, President Trump visits Beijing. Naturally President Xi Jinping will be congratulated by President Trump. And admists all the controversies of Noth Korea, South China Sea, Doklam and Trade Imbalance and Dollar Yuan Equations, the two Presidents of America and China will be negotiating on the terms of sharing world power. Rhetorics of western media cannot change the realities of the new world order. And Washington knows it all too well. 

America is the long time Super Power which has dominated world orders till now and China is the rising Super Power. There is no other way but to come to terms with with each other's political and money clouts. Then there is Russia which has risen from the ashes of former Super Power known as USSR. The powers that be have to adjust and learn to share sphere of influence and dominance.

There is no stopping the BRI regardless of what obsticles of delay are put forth by the trio of America, India and Japan plus Australia. Perhaps participation to full advantage could be the wisest path for global goodness and peace. There will be more clarity after this President Trump tour of pacific region centered on China Summit between the two Presidents. 

The lessor but important players like European Union, Australia, India and Saudi Arabia have realised the new changes in world order and are grudgingly adjusting their national aspirations and goals.

On the fringes and fences are notable nations but America dependents like Canada, Israel and Japan. Canada pursues a more independent sovereign policies and have better realations with China whilst Israel has good relationship with Russia. Japan is declining with the ebbing current of Abe- nomics and in futile sabre rattling motion as the advance guard of American contain China strategy.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Fiscal Incentives battle between DNT and the Government at High Court.

I do not favour the Government induced Parliament decision regarding Fiscal Incentive. At the fag end of its term this government had surrendered the " fiscal incentive " power of the Cabinet to the Parliament. But only after having exercised what it wanted. So the restriction is upon the next elected government if formed by another political party. PDP Cabinet will not be handicapped even if re-elected because it had already done what it desired during this term.

I was most disappointed with DNT choosing fiscal incentive pretext in the middle of Doklam crisis to distract national attention from critical sovereign dangers.That was playing into the hands of the transgressing foreign aggressor. A sure case of national red light alert when a registered national political party behaves in such manner. I question the timing and therefore the motive of DNT but not  the right to file the case.  
Now I am keenly interested in finding out  whether the Laws of the Land allow an individual or a registered political party from approaching a court of law in matters of deemed wrong doing by a sitting government.

I am convined that for the good of democracy an elected government has to have some leeway and thereby some independent say in running a nation. If everything including every economic matters such as fiscal incentives  must be processed through the Parliament (NA and NC) and be granted royal assent, then we are back to pre 2008. An era where people choose representatives to represent their views in Royal Advisory Council and the National Assembly but His Majesty the King shoulderrd full responsibility. A kind of tampered absolute Monarchy and not blind absolute Monarchy  because the voices of the representatives were always heard and mostly taken into considerations. 

Under the limitted democracy  arrangement since 2008, the Constitution appears to have divided national responsibilities to some extent whereby an elected government had more leeway in social and economic affairs whilst the King exercised the all important national security and welfare affairs including land distribution.

However it must be noted that the same  constitution reserves the authority of His Majesty to convey royal concerns in any matter for dicussion in the Parliament. Also in general Bhutanese people by and large would expect the government of the day headed by the Prime Minister to fully respect the royal  thoughts and visions.

I am certainly not against all powers reverting back  to the Throne especially if a sitting cabinet is unsure of its own capability. The wisest course is to refer to His Majesty when not sure or complication of sovereign nature arises. But here the fiscal incentive politics of both PDP and DNT have different purpose and objective. Both are pursuing selfish party goals.

But I am considering the real possibility that when democracy was " gifted " it was so done with the royal intent " entrusting responsibility " to the people. I cannot recall the exact royal words but His Majesty had commanded something to this effect when Bhutan was a year or so into democracy infancy. The King had commanded that democracy was not a " gift " from the Thorne. It was a grave " responsibility " for people to uphold.   

This royal vision behind the democracy gift must be taken into consideration by the Judiciary of Bhutan whilst conducting the judicial process and forming the all vital opinion on the responsibility and power of an elected Cabinet. Responsibility cannot be upheld in power vaccum. A namesake cabinet cannot represent democratic governance.

Also the verdict of previous landmark constitutional case between PDP the Opposition and DPT the Government needs to be revisited and confirmed because the two political parties have recently expounded differing versions of the verdict in regards to fiscal incentives. I do not recall previous verdict covering the fiscal incentive aspect. So this time there could be a final determination whether fiscal incentive stays a government pre- rogative or not even if DNT case is not admitted for judicial process.