Where are we heading?

ambulance.jpgThe last several days have been a time for all of us as a nation to look deep within and reflect on a fundamental question, where are we heading? It is not a rhetorical question but everything that touches the very soul of what we aspire to become as Bhutanese; S.M.A.R.T as His Majesty The King described us.

The news of an unfortunate life lost in faraway Dagana brought many of us together like so many hundreds of times before, from far and near in prayer for the departed and the mourning. This one however has left a big gaping hole and question that begs an honest answer. A response with integrity. What was an ambulance for emergencies doing there without fuel when one arose?

Several explanations have been thrown out in the media and many fingers pointed outwards to others.

I cannot imagine what a harrowing experience it must have been for the parents, to lose their baby right infront of their eyes. Anyone in their position would wonder if a little more could have been done to save the precious life. It is a time of great loss and deep pain, emotion is expected.

However, like many, I would like to believe that every effort was made to save the little baby’s life and that no short-coming will be found. The on-going investigation should be revealing. What is alarming though has been the non-discussion of a disquieting fact. An ambulance supposedly there to service emergencies stood still, unable to service without fuel.

Many statements by individuals including the Hon. Prime Minister this evening appears to glance away from this fact and instead is seen distracted in finding a link between the ambulance’s serviceability and the eventuality of the baby’s passing. I hope this is not a way of saying that even if the ambulance were fueled to the brim and conveyed the patient to a hospital, she wasn’t going to survive and therefore, it was immaterial whether the ambulance was fueled or not and call it the end of the matter. This would be a grave mistake in the line of several we have already committed over the years.

The fact remains an ambulance was found without fuel and unable to service an emergency when it was required. How can we forget so many in the past? The fall of an iron gate crushing the life out of a little child playing at Thimphu Centenary park or the unsuspecting victim of tumbling hume pipes carelessly piled around a residential neigbourhood in north Thimphu or do we go on, praying and forgetting, only to return again. Where are we heading?

Posted in Bhutan, Public service, Thoughts | Leave a comment

ཤེས་རབ་རྩེ་གཞི་བཙུགས་ལོ་གྲངས ༥༠ འགྱོ་ཡོདཔ – Sherubtse turns 50

Photo: Facebook

I join thousands of sherubtseans on this special day today to remember in reverence and gratitude His Majesty the Third Drukgyalpo. Sherubtse, the peak of learning emanated from a royal vision to mould the next generation of Bhutanese. Thousands upon thousands from across the country were given opportunity for higher studies here and like most of us, children from average Bhutanese families continue to go there to learn. It continues to symbolize hope and opportunity. True appreciation for the decision to establish Sherubtse remains unfathomable, yet in every single of us who have studied there, as we understand the world a little more with passage of time, our gratitude for the opportunity deepens ever more.

As we celebrate the golden jubilee of the establishment of our alma mater, I take this opportunity to remember and thank our good fortunes of having enlightened and endearing Kings who serve more than rule, both in the past and present. It is also the perfect time to thank all others who have contributed in the making of the most celebrated institution of learning. I would be remiss if I did not extend appreciation to all the teachers, past and present, the heart and soul of any place of learning.

Beneficiaries continue to grow. When I graduated from Sherubtse in 2001 and attended orientation, we were only a few a hundreds. I was asked to facilitate interaction of the graduates with the Government 2 years ago during the national orientation, the RIM hall was full with a few thousands in attendance; Sherubtse’s contribution has increased significantly too. Reflecting back, it makes me wonder just how many of us have studied there till date. A number would help us try and fathom atleast a numeric extend of the opportunity.

Tashidelek and may Sherubtse continue to reach newer heights of learning as envisioned by our beloved Father of Modern Bhutan.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Was the recent decision of the Government that increased taxes on vehicles legally correct?

With the implementation of Goods & Service Tax (GST) in India, imports of goods have generally become cheaper in Bhutan. Consumption is expected to grow which could cause considerable strain on our rupee reserve, especially when considering import of vehicles. Governments use fiscal policy tools to manage the economy and taxes are an important and legitimate tool. Oxford dictionary defines tax as ‘A compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government on workers’ income and business profits, or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions. It is not possible to directly link the recent executive decision by the Government in changing tax evaluation as a response growing worries of over consumption without an official statement from the Government, it however, appears to be a control measure nonetheless and one that involves tax alteration. The timing, intent and impact corroborate the suggestion that it is tax alteration. I do not question the merit of the decision. The concern surrounds the non-compliance to legislative process in altering taxes.
This is because during the 1st constitutional case between the Government and the Opposition regarding taxes, the Government had increased taxes and applied it to vehicles without bringing it to the Parliament. The decision was challenged and eventually taken to court. The Supreme Court’s judgment in essence stated that any alteration to taxes must be done through the Parliament. An excerpt from judgment 6.6 of the Supreme Court is presented below:
Under no circumstances the authority to impose or alter taxes may be delegated to the Executive. The alleged authority to impose or alter indirect taxes has no legal basis under the Constitution. Therefore, the imposition or alteration of taxes must comply with the legislative process for making laws at all times as provided under Sections 234 -238 of the National Assembly Act 2008.
Reading from this, the executive decision by the Government in changing tax evaluation from the point of entry to the point of sale, has resulted in an increase in tax. This is the first time since 2008 that such a change in evaluation has happened and vehicles have been the focus of the decision. Similar change in tax evaluation happened only before 2008; beer was one such product. Even as we try and comprehend what has happened, the recently announced policy decision has received another tinkering and green taxes have once again been reverted back to point of entry evaluation. The optical may show suggest something else but applicable taxes have increased and hence, altered.
Recognizing that managing the economy is one of the many responsibilities of the Government, upholding the rule of law is an equally compelling duty. These serious concerns of violating the principle of non-delegation of legislation enshrined in the Constitution and circumventing legislative process in altering taxes against a clearly articulated judgment of the Supreme Court is a cause for worry. It requires deeper reflection and appropriate action on the part of both the Government and the Parliament.
Posted in Bhutan, General, Good Governance, Legislation, Questions, Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Question on telecom service providers and connectivity issues

Question raised to the Hon’ble Minister for Information and Communications

Telecommunication connectivity and service standards

Raised by Gasa Theumi Sangay Khandu

Source: National Council

The number of call drops and failure to access internet on both data cards and mobile phone have been visible and increasing for some time now. Even as we make references to G2C services available online and continue to bring more online services like online banking and mobile banking, significant number of users have been expressing frustration at the quality of service. This is worst in Thimphu. Bhutan Telecom Corporation continues to refer, as in the past, to on-going works to unclog the network. However, it has not had any positive impact. With decreasing reliability of service, many online services that the Royal Government advocates may not be accessible. The problems have, ironically, become more acute after the increase in taxes on mobile phone and internet services.

The National Council would like to know if the Royal Government has put in place any service regulatory standards that are comparable to ones applicable to such businesses in other parts of the world. What has it done to address this problem? Continue reading

Posted in General, Questions | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Question on support to local content development

Questioned raised to the Hon’ble Minister Home and Cultural Affairs

Local content generation and culture

Raised by Gasa Thuemi Sangay Khandu

After a hugely popular Ap Bokto animation was publicly released, children as far and remote as Laya and Lunana, hum, sing and mimic the characters. The love for a Bhutanese cartoon character is evident in how almost any parent knows Ap Bokto. There is no dearth of Bhutanese stories. Bhutanese have decent technological ability and enough creativity to make good, local and meaningful films for children. There is a critical need to encourage and support such and other categories of film makers for young Bhutanese.
In promoting our national language, we have expressed difficulty in terms of reading and writing by blaming school system, teachers, curriculum and the experts. In most cases, this is possibly happening because of the inadequacy of our own content generation in multimedia. Dominance by foreign content and its effects on society has been discussed several times. Culture is the fabric of our national identity, and language is the loudest and most active part of our culture.

Therefore, the National Council would like to know the policies, plans and programs of the Royal Government in supporting greater local content generation especially for young Bhutanese. Continue reading

Posted in General, Questions | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Written question on Govt decision on the post of Geydrungs

Written question raised to the Hon’ble Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs

Government position concerning the post of Geydrungs

Raised by Gasa Theumi Sangay Khandu

Source: National Council

The local government office has been using the services of geydrungs for a long time. It started with their writing skills that were critical to local government functionaries at a time when many gups could not read or write. However, as more and more gups were able to read and write (as required by law), the role of geydrungs have now evolved from simply writing for the gup to writing for the public. Our experiences at the villages have shown us that the convenience of having geydrungs at the office allows members of the public to use them for a wide array of services ranging from writing letters, agreements, tax collection, office record keeping.While Parliament has discussed and also tabled both the pay hike proposal and the Local Government Amendment Act (primary revolved around thromde), it left out issues concerning geydrungs. It was then thought that their issue was best taken up during pay revision deliberations (when discussions for local governments arise) and later under the civil service category when the Local Government Amendment Bill was discussed. While members shared concerns on the matter, there was no conclusive debate when discussions took place both times. Continue reading

Posted in Questions | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Question seeking progress report on Government e-library project

Question rasied to the Hon’ble Education Minister
Status report on E-library project
Raised by Gasa Thuemi Sangay Khandu
Source: National Council

The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, H.E. Sri Narendra Modi spoke of access to large database of e-library for education institutions in Bhutan during his visit to Bhutan in mid-2014. This was later reiterated by our own Prime Minister at several occasions. However, there has been no visible development concerning e-library.

Therefore, the National Council would like to ask the Royal Government concerning developments, progress, reach and connectivity of e-library. Continue reading

Posted in Questions | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment