Monday, January 28, 2019

A new direction taking shape in Bhutan's national policy?

1. I recall reading that PM Modi of India had offered 5 billion rupees (  just like UPA government gave PDP government )  during the telephone call to congratulate Bhutan's elect PM Dr. Lotay Tshering. 

2. Then there was a re-commitment from India about the 10,000 megawatt projects in Bhutan around the time of PM Lotay's visit to India. During PDP tenure, India had backtracked on the commitment and even imposed new terms which PDP formed  government  did not accept.

3. Since the visit to India by the Bhutanese PM, there has been no reference to that 5 billion rupees. India did agree to fund 45 billion rupees 12th Plan budget. That commitment was there even before the general election. And an additional Rs. 1 billion to improve custom infrastructures on both sides of Indo- Bhutan international borders to speed up trade after GST adoption in India.

4. Recently the Bhutanese PM has indicated the intention to slow down on  further new hydro projects. The public reasons given are that haste causes difficulties as in Punatsangchu two projects. The actual decision could be based on more concrete factors.

My personal take of events:

I am not fully  sure as yet but all indication points to preserving sovereign dignity. I pray that I am right. Thus this new government needs our support and goodwill in the path chosen. We Bhutanese must bear with our government if it is unable or delays fulfilling campaign pledges. It is necessary to forgo freebies of the present for national larger interest of the future.

Before our PM visit to India, some people were saying that he might get 60 or more billions in grant instead of the 45 billion for 12th Plan from New Delhi. My response was " I hope not though it could be 50 billion if the 5 billion freebie grant ( unattached to identified activities  ) offer was accepted ".

The 5 billion freebee grant offer could have funded most of DNT Party pledges. But thankfully,  it seems PM Lotay did not pursue it. And further, it seems he did not make new hydro projects a priority during his visit to India. 

I believe that pursueing new hydro projects under the terms insisted upon by India is not the best option for Bhutan. Our rivers are our biggest natural resources. But with our hands tied and hydro- project  costs going insanely wild and project completion date overshooting double the years from 5 to over dozen years, the vision of white gold has become a nightnare.  The 10% interest on hydro loan is piling up to original capital project costs.   The envisioned cash cow has become a corpse of national burden.

So yes, Your Excellency, hurry not with new hydro projects. Let us catch our breath and attempt to put a brake on the down hill slide. The land slides  at Puna I dam site is just a prelude to the sinking ship of the nation if interest rate continues at exorbitant 10% and reckless decisions and delays by project managements continue at the 2 mega projects of Punatsangchu. The government of India need to hold to accounts the former CEO of Puna I & II and all the key Indian appointees who were on tours 365 days a year as observed by Royal Bhutan Audit Authority.

I believe Bhutan can still  achieve the white gold vision that our Kings have set. Just a different time and new strategy is required to get to the favourable path. For one take up the Bhutan- Bangladesh proposed hydro project if India approves transit passage through her domain for export of electricity from Bhutan to Bangladesh. A transit fee can be paid. It would be a true case of joint equal partnership successful venture.  

I thank Your Excellency for not taking a easier path of pursuing the 5 billion rupee  candy that could have funded DNT Party  campaign freebee pledges. And I pray that fellow Bhutanese sympathise with our government in making do the maximum with what we as a nation can afford.

Monday, January 14, 2019

BEO/ MoLHR Bhutanese youths in Japan.

1. Optismistic in Government's changing attitude towards the plights of Bhutanese youths in Japan.

2. The deferring of loan repayment to permanent job status is most constructive. Loans should not be waived off as it would be a very destructive trend that would banrupt future financing resources.

3. Would be most beneficial if government could treat the loans in the same category ( same conditions ) as " education loans " granted under PDP government. Afterall " Learn and Earn " is kind of  pay through vocational skill trainning which is part of education process.

4. BEO should immediately take over 15% of each loan of 7 lakhs and 6 lakhs  respectively as liability compensation for rosy  marketting strategy to dupe youths into joining the programme and for overcharging plus trial and error type of management of the programme in Japan.  

5. ACC/ OAG could consider dropping criminal charges against BEO Partners and Labour officials if serious regret is demonstrated in terms of BEO taking over 15% principal loan amounts and Labour officials go all out to find some relief for working conditions and terms of the youths. 

Conclusion: It is not easy to work away from home be it in Middle East or Japan. In Japan language is a huge hurdle whilst Middle East the culture is a pain. But Bhutanese youth can adjust quite rapidly. So any Agency which is serious about helping the youths, do not start with the attitude that Bhutanese youths are lazy and incapable. Some of you adults  may have had easy early life. But many of us did not. Some youths that you know possibly family members or own offsprings may be lazy but it is not correct to generalise.  It was opportunity and hard work that enabled much of Bhutanese populace to come thus far. And so will majority of our youth population succeed in life with little impetus provided at the right stage of life.

Also forget this much quoted figure of 83% of BEO youths are still in Japan and paying loans on time. It is possible that parents of such youths are either sweating more or are in position to pay out. And ofcourse there are always few exceptionals. But government and ministry must look out for the future of the  majority because the few exceptionals can take  care of themselves. 


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Bhutan and her population.

1. Actual Bhutanese population in 2017 was declared to be around 680,000 ( sixhundred eighty thousand ). Residency population was around 735000 which includes foreigners including hydro and other construction workers. Thats what I recollect. The stand of NSB in today's Kuensel varies somewhat but camoflaged under the dubious term resident population.

2. I think Bhutanese population growth is already into negative but according to NSB, it is not so ( barely into negative ).

3. Our genius 3rd King had foreseen this problem of population decline and had discouraged birth control especially of the permanent kinds. 

4. Much later UNFPA came into Bhutan and strategically succeeded in almost forcing Bhutanese families to curtail fertility rate. Vasectomy and tubectomy operations  were carried out with much glee especially among the soldier families the most prolific population production centres ( Family Lines the accommodation provided to soldiers with families).  And in rural areas which again are the source of population growth, annual census days in geogs  were used to identify who must undergo vasectomy or tubectomy.  There were campaigns and posters proclaiming " Small is beautiful " with picture of 2 parents with one or two children.

5. In the 1980s and 1990s, vasectomy was in vogue and later tubectomy operation for mothers during birth of babies.  Birth control became the social fashion with pills and contraceptives for females. Male condom was promoted mainly to prevent contagious diseases " safe sex " which translates to care free sex. Policies on birth control and care free sex have been successful. Now the desire of high standard of living is the main impetus.

6. Even national laws were tailored to discourage birth rate.

My pubic opinion during the height of birth control campaigns was " It is hard to comprehend why UNFPA was out to eradicate the subjects of the King. And in the years to come, Drukpas will be in national zoo of Bhutan  as rare human specimen  ".  Not to be taken literally. I was highlighting the disadvantage of over zealous officials implementing birth control agenda.


Sunday, January 6, 2019

Bhutan mis- used as an irritant in Indian anti-China strategy?

India is not in position to militarily or economically challege China as yet. Maybe never for forseeable future. So India engages in irritating China without suffering direct repercussions by mis- using and manipulating Bhutan and her inexperienced and easily awed elected fresh political leaders.

India's anti- China activities are like sexual aggression of a frustrated partner. And the Kingdom of Bhutan seems to be just a tickle in the clitoris of Indian vagina when she demonstrates frustrations towards China. Lets review the past events since PM Modi came to power in India wherein India mis-used Bhutan to irritate China. It is not to say that Gandhi ruled India did not pawn Bhutan in her game of international politics..

1. In 2014, PM Modi visited Bhutan and he told the Bhutanese Parliament about the possible joint tourism wonders of Bhutan and the 8 North Eastern Frontier States of India which includes Arunachal Pradesh that China also stakes claim to as " South Tibet ".   The political sting came later in the proposal by the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh seeking motor road connection from Arunachal Pradesh to Bhutan's North- South Eastern Highway ( Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar ).

It was not just about road connection. It was getting Bhutan to side with India in border dispute between China and India. Bhutan is in no position to side with any party.

2. Then the Arunachal ploy to entrap Bhutan was followed by India preventing  Bhutan from constructing the South Bhutan Highway citing Indian security misgivings.

3. The PDP leadership of Bhutan meekly  accepted the Indian manufactured security dictate and cancelled the ADB funded South Bhutan Highway construction Project. Nevertheless, the PDP government did go about trying to connect pockets of settlements in South Bhutan by constructing local road networks in few Southern Dzongkhags.  And also despite enforced snail pace, did manage to complete the Amochu bridge at the end of her tenure. So today Samtse and Chukha Dzongkgags are connected by road network built inside South Bhutan.

However, sadly the South Bhutan Highway is long way off awaiting a true Palden Drukpa hearted PM in the future. Right now,  South Bhutan lies dangerously under indirect control of India and looks like the well heeled  anti- national forces settled out in the West, too, is angling to separate part of  the South from rest of Bhutan. Such anti-nationals do not want South Bhutan Highway because the Highway  strengthens the overall physical control and security of the Kingdom. Why PM Tshering Tobgay of PDP Party was and why PM Lotay Tshering of DNT Party is against South Bhutan Highway baffles me.  I presume that the wise leadership at the very summit of authority is aware of the precarious path the nation is treading upon.

4. Then there was that new electricity power import bully regulation introduced  by India in December, 2016. It was actually to put a brake on Nepal- China hydro projects and ofcourse to intimidate Bhutan to further concessions in hydro ventures. At the same time, India back tracked on her commitment made during  DPT government to assist Bhutan in contructing  a total of 10,000 megawatt hydro projects. PDP government also had given in to Indian objections to 2 major projects including Amochu hydro project agreed to by India during DPT government. 

Recently India did away with the hydro-bully regulation of Dec, 2016 because :

i). The threat did not stop Nepal- China joint hydro-ventures and co- operations in all other economic and political spheres.   Infact Nepal even went on to have a joint Nepal-China Army exercise after cancelling a scheduled similar exercise with Indian Army.

ii). The political scenario of Bhutan 2018 election also jolted Indian political pandits in New Delhi. So India in addition to doing away with her bully hydro regulation, hastily reconfirmed this time her commitment made to the 1st Bhutanese democratic government's  national goal of 10,000 megawatt hydro projects. ( By the way the white gold national vision was set by the Institution of Monarchy. DPT Party was just translating it into deeds).

5. India finally took a huge political gamble in June, 2017 to domicile Bhutan once and for all time by invading Doklam and telling China and the world that Bhutan asked for help. Ofcourse that Indian claim was a blatant lie. No King of Bhutan would ever stoop so low or be so reckless to hand over his Kingdom to one foreign Army to prevent takeover by another " supposed aggressor ".  To do so would be the beginning of a quick end to Bhutan as a Kingdom. An India instigated war with China over Doklam or Bhutan would have made Bhutan the battle ground. The consequences of such a war cannot be all good for India, Bhutan and even the institution of Monarchy. The Bhutanese people would be shattered by the betrayal.

5. This time during Bhutanese PM Lotay Tshering 's maiden visit to India, again Indian government converted the visit to a collusion pact against China. At the Joint  Press Conference of the two Prime Ministers of Bhutan and India, the Indian PM Narendra Modi declared  that ISRO ( Indian Space Research Organisation) was about to complete a satellite receiving station in Bhutan.  And slyly later had  Indian Media construe that the satellite receiving station in Thimphu was ISRO counter measure to the one in Tibet.

The satellite station is for getting datas from the  SAARC Satellite put in the orbit by India for all saarc members. It is a small station built in Thimphu with assistance from ISRO.  And despite the international political ramifications that Indian Prime Minister tried to promote, many knowledgeable agencies must be laughing out aloud. Surely ISRO has far bigger and better equipped satellite stations in the Indian States of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh or elsewhere in India to counter China. Why did the Indian PM try to convey the impression that Bhutan was colluding with India to counter China in the satellite spying game? It was another Indian political ploy to misuse and manipulate the presence of " over- awed  and politically naive Bhutanese PM " at the press conference in New Delhi.

In conclusion, I would as a sincere well wisher for respectable and sound Indo- Bhutan relationship, humbly offer the following  advice to Indian leaders. 

It is high time that Indian PMs and Indian government agencies realised that the Wangchuck dynasty has to stand for Bhutan not for India.  And that contrary to the presumptions of Indian policy makers, the Kings cannot always serve Indian national and regional goals.  Wise, polite, friendly to India but not at all a willing pawn of India in her China strategy. Everytime India attempts to portray the Kingdom of Bhutan as hers to rule, the Monarchy would be more wary of such aggressive domination and take silent counter measures. The 5th King is young in health but not a first timer or just a 12 year reign experienced Royal. Political education starts from as young an age as the present Crown Prince and survival instinct is groomed in the womb itself.

Kingship in Bhutan is hereditary but position of crown prince is by destiny only ( the 1st born prince). That ensures a born leader. So India, do not treat the Kingdom of Bhutan as a tickle for your passion whilst courting or challenging China. Enough is enough.

Bhutan's last two PMs Tshering Tobgay and Lotay Tshering maybe fresh and gullible from the start. But King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck has over a century of royal leadership experience  behind him and unlike 5 year term PMs, the King has generations of future reasons that destine him to stand up for Bhutan. Bhutan cannot be the surrogate Indian general against China. India must settle her own border disputes and regional power tussle with China directly and not behind shadow of the little Kingdom of Bhutan.

The government of India may tread less recklessly, hereafter, in her dealings with Bhutanese people's aspirations despite a combination of two pro- India political Parties ensuring a win for DNT Party in the Bhutanese General Election of 2018.   Regardless of assurrances from PDP and  DNT leaders that Indo- Bhutan serf-master relationship is still valid, the government of India and her political pandits have realised that general Bhutanese people aspired for sovereign dignity.   So  sooner or later, India would have to deal with a DPT or DPT like Bhutanese democratic government who has the courage and determination to seek more economic and political independence for Bhutan. It is a belated awakening but political think tanks in India have now understood that there is a simmering political steam underneath the gnh lid awaiting to cook dead this serfdom mentality of PDP and DNT leaderships. I also think that our political leaders cannot forever bury national aspiration and self determination choice in a political environment exposed to democratic and economic breeze of the outside world.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Mandechu electricity sales tariff to India.

1. The rate of Rs 4.12 per unit is said to be highest compared to Chukha and Tala. How come the comparision came about?  The figure maybe high but value is low. To understand it, compare the cost of construction per megawatt for Chukha, Tala and Mangdechu. Economy is all about inflation and rising cost of living. So why make a fool of oneself by drawing irrelevant comparisions and reaching false conclusions? 

2. To evaluate the reasonability of export tariff  accepted by India for Mangdechu hydroproject electricity export, Bhutan needs to look into the repayment of hydro loan and interests. The initial worked out loan repayment period was 15 years. Now it is deferred to 17 years. The culprit is low export rate. If rate was fair as per investment incurred, Bhutan would have repaid loan liabilities in 15 years. But the expirt tariff is low  so now Bhutan will take additional 2 years to repay the full hydro loan + 10% interest.

3. It is said that India is giving Bhutan this time a  Rs.1 billion to compensate for the lower export tariff.  Why could India not give a fair rate for Bhutanese electricity that she imports. Why force Bhutan into a position of accepting alms instead of giving Bhutan a fair electricity tariff?  India wants Bhutanese leaders on their knees begging so that Bhutan is easy to manipulate.

Please note revision of export rate after 5 years  is based on Rs. 4.12 per unit. Does this mean that India will give additional sum of more than present Rs.1 billion after every tariff  revision to compensate for the loss Bhutan will continue to  suffer in export tariff ?