Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The March of Money: Part V

From available records, the first silver Thala was struck in 1928 – corresponding to the year of the Earth Dragon (Tsa Druk), in the Lunar Calendar. Because of an error that was detected in the die, a second lot of 30,000 silver Thalas were struck in the following year, or in the year 1929, corresponding to year of the Earth Snake (Tsa Drue), in the Lunar Calendar. The erroneously spelt “Druk” was duly corrected and the following coin became available in the Bhutanese market as a legal tender:

The Thala that was reissued in 1929 with the corrected word "Druk"

But hang on a minute - the markings on the reverse of the above coin shows that the coin was struck in the Lunar Year of Tsa Druk (1928) and not in the Lunar Year Tsa Drue (1929) when it was actually struck. How is that possible?

It is possible because while the Bongs and the Brits were pointed out that the word “Druk” on the obverse of the coin needed to be corrected because it was erroneously rendered - the careless Drups forgot to tell them that the reverse of the coin’s die also needed to be changed because it depicted the year of coinage. So the clueless Bongs or the Brits of the time used the same old reverse die that was cast with the 1928 year-mark, thinking that a die is, after all, a die!

So the epochal Thala started its journey with a grossly scarred face that got corrected a year later, but ended up taking yet another journey with a contorted behind!

The third leg of the Thala’s journey began in 1950, when a substantial number of them were once again struck in the same Calcutta Mint, this time in nickel. One would have expected that its honor would be redeemed, atleast the third time around. No such luck for the tormented Thala. Once again it was struck with yet another error, as shown below:

The 1950 Thala with correct year of coinage but with the word "Druk" rendered wrongly. It appears that the obverse die of 1928 coinage was used to strike this coin

As you can see, the year of coinage depicted on the reverse of the coin is accurate – “Chaag Taag Lo” – Iron Tiger Year (1950). But look at the obverse - the word “Druk” is yet again erroneously rendered. The “Ba-ra-ta-da” is once again disconnected. This means that the Bongs or the Brits crafted a new die for the reverse of the coin, but used the faulty die of 1928 for the obverse of the coin.

God Almighty! Is this never going to end?

No, because the mistakes are repeated again and again and again – as my next Blog will show - leading me to believe that perhaps the errors were not mistakes. Could that be possible? We will never know.

Rendered below is a calendar depicting the Lunar Years corresponding to the Gregorian Years - so you can make the connections.


Monday, June 24, 2019

The March Of Money: Part IV

Bhutan’s hammered coinage (Betang/Matang) era ended with the advent of two of our earliest milled coinages – the silver Thala and two sizes of the bronze Zangtum, in 1928. The order for the minting of the coins was placed with the Calcutta Mint, Government of India. The engraver of the dies was Mr. A. P. Spencer, an Englishman. It is recognized that the engraving of the Thala die was Mr. Spencer’s finest work. Alas, notwithstanding his exceptional work, his die for the Thala turned out to be erroneous. The Thala die had the word “Druk” wrongly rendered. The following was the flaw:

This error was detected and corrected the following year, with the striking of additional 30,000 silver Thala coins. As you can see from the following, the word “Druk” has now been rendered correctly:

The earliest two Thalas – the erroneous one and the corrected one looked thus:

The Thala with the word "Druk" incorrectly rendered

The Thala with the word "Druk' correctly rendered

The following are the other milled coins that were struck in 1928 – the bronze Zangtum. It was struck in two different sizes - a large one and a small one (Large: 7.0g,  26.5 mm; and Small: 4.9g,  25.1 mm):

One of the two earliest of Bhutan's milled coinage - the bronze Zangtum of 1928

As you can see, the engraving of the die was flawless. The word “Druk” is correctly rendered. It is a matter of wonder why the Thala’s die was in error.

If you observe closely, the obverse of the 1928 Thala and the Zangtum is exact replica of each other. Thus, it would have been possible to use the same die to cast both the obverse side of the coins, since both of them contained exactly the same information and detailing. Then how is it that the Thala had the error and not the Zangtum? Obviously the dies for the reserve side of the coins have to be different since they carry two different sets of information.

Is it possible that another engraver, and not Mr. A. P. Spencer, engraved the Zangtum die? It cannot be because if you take a careful look at the  rendition of the Dzongkha characters on both the coins, the engraving is unmistakably the same:

The engraving of the obverse of the Thala and the Zangtum are a perfect match - except for the error with the word "Druk"

The perplexities of the journey of the Thala does not end here --- there are more coming --- I will deal with them in subsequent postings.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The March Of Money: Part III

Records of Bhutan’s earliest coinage are none existent. However we can make some educated conjectures. We know from the notes made by the Bengali Moshai Kishenkant Bose that there were mints already in existence much before his arrival in the country in 1815. Before that, records show that Bhutan used to strike coins in a mint in Cooch Behar.

Unfortunately, the British closed down the Cooch Behar mint in 1789 - leaving Bhutan nowhere else to turn to for minting coins. This provably forced Bhutan to start minting within the country. As reported in my earlier post, along with the Maharaja of Cooch Behar, the Bhutanese also carried away some dies. This twin incident occurred in 1772.

From records available, Bhutan’s earliest coin (copper) is dated 1790–1840. Thus I believe that the following is most likely Bhutan’s first domestic coinage:

Betam/Matam: Copper (1790-1840)

The historical records tie in nicely:

~  Dies from Cooch Behar were plundered in 1772, along with its Maharaja;
~  The British closed down the Cooch Behar mint in 1789; leaving Bhutan nowhere to turn to for minting;
~  The first coin that is said to be minted in the country is dated 1790-1840;
~  Kishenkant Bose reports the existence of mints in Bhutan much before 1815.

The following were the earliest of Bhutan’s coins. They were known as Deb 1/2 Rupee coins. They were all hammered coinage:

Matam/Betam denominated at half a Ngultrum: Silver (1820 - 1835)

Matam/Betam denominated at half a Ngultrum: Copper (1835)

Matam/Betam denominated at half a Ngultrum: Copper (1910)

Matam/Betam denominated at half a Ngultrum: Copper (1910-1927)

In 1928, the second King finally gave up minting within the country and embarked on our fist milled coinage - with the placement of order for 20,000 silver Thala coins - on Calcutta Mint, India.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The March of Money: Part II

For a country that did not use money, Bhutan was flooded with overabundance of metal currency - from six different countries and perhaps more than half a dozen mintage of our own.

The most abundant coins were those from the then independent Kingdom of Cooch Behar known as the “Narayani Rupee”. Cooch Behar had extensive trade relations with Bhutan. Not only that they travelled to Tibet through Bhutan. The Cooch Beharis suffered overlording by the Bhutanese. They were repeatedly robbed, plundered and enslaved. In fact it is recorded that two villages in Bhutan are populated with the descendants of Cooch Beharis enslaved by the Bhutanese few centuries back. Cooch Behar was the state that Bhutan interacted with most. Some of the coins from Cooch Behar were the following:

Examples of Narayani Rupee coins from the reigns of five different Maharajas of Cooh Behar

The other nation whose coins were preferred in Bhutan and became freely available plentifully were those of British India. In fact, British India used its metal currency to keep Bhutan within its sphere of influence. Bhutan’s request for supply of dies to mint coins was denied outright - to ensure that Bhutan did not have the capability to have our own currency. British India took drastic measures to exert influence over Bhutan, to the extent that at one point they even closed down Cooch Behari mint – to cut off supplies of coins to Bhutan so that the Bhutanese are forced to continue to use British India coins. The following were some of the coins of British India that could be found in Bhutan:

Coins of British India period

The other most abundantly available coins in the country were those from Tibet. Bhutan had good relations with Tibet – trade, political, social and religious. Due to an active trade with that country, lot of Tibetan coins found its way into Bhutan. Even the Chinese coins that entered Bhutan came through Tibet. The following are examples of the Tibetan coins that were available in the country:

Tibetan silver coins

Quite a lot of Chinese coins were also available in Bhutan. They were principally treasured for their bullion value - they were hardly ever used as currency. China also pressurized Bhutan - in fact they issued a proclamation requiring Bhutan to use the Chinese coins, particularly after the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1910. Bhutan remained unimpressed, and continued to prefer the British India coins since the bulk of our trade was with India in the south.

Examples of Chinese coins that became available in Bhutan were the following:

Chinese silver coins

Since Assam bordered Bhutan, their coins also found their way into the country. They were mostly melted down to make ornaments since their silver content was very high. Examples of their coins that were available in Bhutan are the following:

Coins from the independent state of Assam

Strangely even the French Indian coins from their Arcot mint were available in Bhutan. In fact they were highly prized for their superior silver content. French India had a outpost at Goalpara – now in Assam - to carry out trade with Assam. The following is an example of their coin that found its way into Bhutan:

Coins of French India that entered Bhutan through Goalpara, currently part of the Indian state of Assam

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The March of Money: Part I

A Bengali babu - a civil servant - by the name of Kishenkant Bose visited Bhutan in 1815. His comments in relation to coinage in the country are perhaps among the first references to the existence of minting in Bhutan - many years prior to his visit. What he writes is not very flattering though - he traces our minting history to acts of aggression and plunder. He records as follows:

"There was formerly no mint in Bhutan, but when the Bhuteas carried away the late Raja of Cooch Behar**, they got hold of the dies, with which they still stamp the Narainy rupees…….”

He further reports; “….. there are mints at Paro, Tongsa and Tagna*. Most of the metal working in Bhutan, including the minting of coins, was carried out by slaves, often Muslims, captured from the Cooch Behar area.”

Selectively quoted from:
Oriental Numismatic Society
Information Sheet No.16
The Coinage of Bhutan
By Nicholas Rhodes
January, 1977
* Tagna is most likely Dagana.
** The Maharaja of Cooch Behar that the Bhutanese abducted would have to be either Bijendra Narayan (1772 – 1774) or Maharaja Rajendra Narayan (1770 – 1772).

This firmly establishes that by 1815, Bhutan already had at least three mints – one each at Paro, Trongsa and Dagana. In addition to these three mints, it is also recorded that more of them were pressed into service in later years. The report also names exact locations of the mints – Sisina in Thimphu and Enduchhoeling in Trongsa.

Bhutan apparently sent silver to mints in Cooch Behar to be struck into coins – and coming worst off it, at occasions. On 17th January, 1785 Bhutan’s Deb Raja wrote to the Governor General of India seeking help in recovering silver worth Rs.5,000.00 that was sent to Cooch Behar to be struck into coins, but was never returned.

Records show that the Bhutanese did a very poor job of minting coins. Their design was poor, the weight was inconsistent and the silver content nothing much of value. Thus, finally in 1928, the second King gave up and ordered the coins to be struck at the Calcutta Mint. Since then all our coins have been struck in India, and in later years, in various other countries.

Going by available records, it appears that the Bhutanese people were in possession of a medley of coins - struck independently by the 6 most powerful regional chieftains of the time - Trongsa Penlop, Paro Penlop, Daga Penlop, Thimphu Dzongpen, Puna Dzongpen, and Wangdue Dzongpen. Not to forget the coins struck by a number of Druk Desis and Deb Rajas through the centuries. To add to the madding numbers, coins from the following 6 independent nation states were also freely available:

British India
Cooch Behar
French India

Cooch Behar and Assam are listed as independent countries since they became part of the Indian Union only in 1950.

Notwithstanding the fact that a huge variety of coins were available in the country, Bhutanese rarely used coins for trade or to pay off debts or dues - they treasured them as items of value. High ranking officials passed them around as items of gift, rather than anything of monetary value. The Bhutanese had no use for money during those early times since they bartered for everything they needed. Coins minted in Bhutan as well as most of those minted in Cooch Behar were of hammered coinage. The history of milled coinage in the country begins with the minting of the silver 1/2 Rupee that came to be known as the Thala or the Tickchung and the copper Paise. The 1/2 Rupee silver coin was denominated "Ja Trum Ched" and the copper Paise coin was named "Zangtum". They were designed and minted at the Calcutta Mint in 1928.

The practice of the use of money for payment for goods and services came into being only towards early 1960’s. Bhutan issued its first paper currency in 1974. Until then, monetary transections were all done in coins – Thalas and Tickchungs – by the sack loads, literally!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Tenzing Lamsang’s Drive for MP Vehicle Fund

In the last issue of the TheBhutanese newspaper, its Editor Tenzing Lamsang proposed the idea that the Bhutanese farmers and the private sector employees consider contributing to the MP’s Vehicle Fund. Frankly the joke is in poor taste. It is not really funny any more.

But I see the point Tenzing Lamsang makes. Our MPs are not so stupid to accept monetization of their quotas - they know that they can sell their quotas in the open market for as high as Nu.2.00 - 2.50 million, close to half a million or a million more than that offered by monetization. So they will fight tooth and nail to hang on to their quota allocation. I am the prize idiot to have believed that there can be some good and honest politicians too.

However, I am not done being the un-put-downable-naïve: I still believe that there may yet be some small chance that the vehicle quota may be fully monetized - without segregation of the special class of people - because the National Assembly session is not yet over. Something may still come up and offer our elected leaders their moment for redemption.

Until the National Assembly session is over - I am going to shift focus and do a series of articles on the history of MONEY in the country - the one thing that seems to define our elected leaders' morality and holds sway over their minds and hearts.

You can already see that I have started the journey - from the change in the Masthead of my Blog. Watch this space for some very interesting posts on the country's journey towards monetization.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Bhutan's Historic Laser Surgery At The JDWNRH

Dear Rotarians,
We successfully conducted Bhutan’s first laser surgery last week on a patient suffering from precancerous lesion in her oral cavity. She was discharged the following day. I just want to express my sincere gratitude to all the Thimphu Rotarians for doing such a meaningful project. Without the Rotary initiative, the country would never have such state of the art technology at our disposal. The main advantages of laser being precise cutting, minimal tissue destruction, and very good wound healing. It has the capacity to nip the cancerous lesion at the bud when detected early.

Thank you all once again.
Phub Tshering
Consultant Head & Neck Surgeon
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital

Dr. Phub is a Member of the Rotary Club of Thimphu. He is talking of the country’s first laser medical equipment that the Rotary Club of Thimphu donated to the Jigme Dorji National Referral Hospital in Thimphu, in collaboration with some Clubs in Taiwan and the Rotary Foundation. The project cost a whooping Nu.12.00++ million including training course for 3 JDWNRH medical staff in Taiwan, in the use and care of the CO2 laser equipment.

The donation of the CO2 laser is our Club’s latest donation to the country’s health sector. This is also our single largest service project. With the successful delivery of this project, the Rotary Club of Thimphu’s cumulative donation in the health sector totals Nu.26.342 million. But that is still less than half of our support to the Education sector.

Lasers  in ENT and Head Neck Surgery 
Laser stands for Light Amplication by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. There are different lasers in use such as the CO2 Laser, Nd: YAG, KTP, Argon etc. Their main differentiating features is their wavelength which can be used in contact and non contact modes. Out of these many choices, CO2 laser is the mainstay of lasers for use in ENT and head neck surgery.

CO2 lasers is the most widely used, well understood and well studied of the medical lasers. It is used for incision, excision and vaporization of tissues. It has a wavelength of 10.6 micron, which is ideal as a precise cutting tool for lesions located on delicate structures. CO2 Laser is a proven technology that is now adopted all over the world by the department of ENT and Head Neck surgery.

Lumenis  Acu pulse  CO2 Laser system  (the one donated by Rotary Club of Thimphu)  enjoys reputation as one of the leading CO2 laser systems in the world and Lumenis is the leading company for manufacturer of laser systems worldwide.

CO2 laser has the following applications in the Department for ENT and Head & Neck surgery:

1. Oral cavity – excision of early cancerous lesions, benign lesions and precancerous lesions.
2. Larynx – excision of lesions of the such as polyps, laryngeal papillomatosis, cysts, granulomas, vaporization of bulky obstructing, phonosurgery, vocal cord cordectomy etc.
3. Nose – excision and debulking of turbinates. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Imported Energy Cheaper Than Our Own

Wangcha Sangey says it all in his Blog:

“…….. Presently Bhutan gets less than Rs. 2.00 per unit for export to India. And domestic average rate is around Nu: 3 to 4 per unit…..

Many CEOs related to electricity production and distribution in Bhutan have received red scarfs. In return each of them have come up with different calculations of high domestic power rate to oppress the Bhutanese home consumers…..”

He is obviously livid with frustration. So am I … this is precisely the point I have been making for years.

We are supposed to be a net exporter of electricity. We say that we generate thousands of megawatts of electricity. In doing the hydropower projects, we devastate our ecology. We shackle our river systems to eternal bondage. We enslave many generations of Bhutanese with hundreds of billions of loan money at 10% interest. And after all that, we queue up at the fuel stations for hours, to buy imported energy.

Why is our own energy source beyond our reach? What explanation can there be that the owners of the hydropower projects – the Bhutanese people – have to pay twice the amount charged for export? Where is the logic in exporting energy, only to spend more to import? Please do not tell me that we do so to earn Indian Rupees. That reason would be totally flawed. If that were true, Indian Rupee would be oozing out of our ears. On the contrary, the truth is that we are strapped with billions of Ngultrums in Indian Rupee loans, at 10% interest.

Successive governments have suffered paucity of morality. Today the issue of vehicle quota remains sidelined. Each of the country’s regulatory authorities know of the crime that continues to be committed. All the luminaries that make up the Pay Commissions constituted so far did nothing about this shameful and blatant act of crime - because all of them gained personally by allowing this corruption to be perpetuated.

We all look up to our leaders to provide leadership, to lead by example, to do the honorable thing, to work for the good of the country and the people. But when they fail time and again, when they think of their own benefits over national interests, we as a nation is in great danger of peril.

I feel very sad and discouraged.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Looking for Old Bhutanese Coins

The Royal Government of Bhutan struck Thala coins for the first time in 1928. Some 20,000 of them were struck. The design of the coin was done by the Englishman Mr. A. P. Spencer of the Calcutta Mint, India. It is said that this design was his finest work. The following is one of the pieces. Unfortunately, as you can see, the word “DRUK” was wrongly rendered.

Click on the image to enlarge

The mistake was detected and corrected in 1929 when 30,000 of the coins were struck. The following is the corrected version.

Click on the image to enlarge

I have been trying to locate the above corrected version but cannot find them. They seem to have disappeared from the face of the earth. I fear that whole lot of them have been melted down and turned into Chakar or Trimi or Koma or Koma Jabtha. If you posses any, please let me know so that I can take a photo of it.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Vehicle Quota - A State Sponsored Crime

The KUENSEL of 6th June, 2019 reporting on the issue the Vehicle Quota writes as follows:

“The Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and equivalent positions, members of parliament, and term-based appointments also have an option to monetize their vehicle quota for Nu.1.5 million (M).

The introduction of such options comes with certain conditions. The finance ministry will strictly enforce that the vehicle quota shall not be transferred/sold, the quotable holder shall be liable to pay the applicable taxes and duties on the original CIF value of the vehicle……..”.

I am not too clear on what is being said – but I get the sense that what this means is that the above named posts are being allowed vehicle quota with an option to monetize them, should they choose to. But what is coming through very clearly is that these select beneficiaries will be monitored by the Finance Ministry and the vehicle quota rule will be enforced “strictly”.

We already have a vehicle quota rule in place, since many decades – the most recent one being the one that was revised in 2014 under the PDP government. Therefore it is not correct to speak as if the rule was never there. Please read about the rule at the following:

Since the vehicle quota came into being from the mid 70’s, thousands of vehicle quota entitlements have been issued. And we all know - the RAA, the ACC, the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader, the Chief Justice, the Chief of Police - even the rat catcher in the streets - that the bulk of the quotas would have been sold with impunity. These people knew very well that they were breaking a law - but that did not prevent them from committing the crime. And yet, think of one incident where a criminal has been charged for the crime of selling the vehicle quota - not a single one to date!

Therefore please do not say that the Ministry of Finance will this time be able to curtail this shameful crime that is becoming a state sponsored corruption. If you think this “strict Finance Ministry enforcement” will change anything, you are mistaken. Please read the following and wisen up!

During the talk I gave to 48 guide trainees few weeks back, I had said that it is simple to be yourself – you cannot make a mistake in being what you naturally are. It is when you try to be someone else whom you are not, the trouble begins. Let us therefore understand ourselves and design our regulations accordingly.

It is for this reason I believe that the only way to effectively fight “fronting” and “undercutting” is to bring some morality into our value system. If not our endeavors will continue to remain a challenge forever. Remember that the malice that is fronting has been in existence since the advent of modernity. The battle to eradicate fronting is not new - we have not succeeded so far because the most unexpected of them are into it.

Consider this:
The first thing the lawmakers - the MPs - do is begin their law making journey by committing an act of crime - selling their vehicle quota. The first thing the civil servants do when they attain a P3A level, they start by breaking a law. Obviously not all do it - but more than most do it.

You know it would be interesting to go through the records of the Ministry of Finance and find out which of the quota receivers have received how many quota vehicles and where they are now. In fact it would be quite revealing to know which persons took how many quota allocation letters in their life time - nothing of malice - merely an exercise in academia.

We would all provably be shocked at the findings!

I urge the DNT government and the present set of law makers to monetize all the vehicle quota entitlements - if they believe that we have the financial resources to do so. But there should be no quota system at all.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

DNT’s Daant: Khaane Ke Ya Dikhaane Ke?

The present set of lawmakers need to seriously consider what they will be imperiling – should they choose not to be responsible – when they discuss the issue of vehicle quota in the coming days.

I spoke about this on this Blog some four years back – but I want to speak about it once again so that the issue remains in the public attention.

I believe that not many of the Hon’ble Members of Parliament of the NA & NC are aware of the fact that the payments for the hydropower projects – both 70% loan at 10% interest and 30% grant – do not come into the coffers of either the GNH or the Ministry of Finance. It goes directly into various bank accounts of the power projects – most likely in the Indian banks in Hasimara or Alipur Duars.

Against the above backdrop, consider that almost 70% of the fossil fuel imported by Bhutan is said to be consumed by various hydropower projects around the country. So, what is the implication here? The implication here is that this scam has long term implications the impact of which we have already felt in a variety of forms – energy trade imbalance, Rupee crisis, depleting foreign currency reserve, poor control over project fund disbursement, poor stewardship resulting in rampant corruption etc.

The vehicle quota exasperates this problem further - because every vehicle quota generates two vehicle imports - the more you import the more you compromise the hydropower benefit, if any.

In Bhutan’s context hydropower is not an end to a means – it has to be seen as a means to an end.

The Parliamentarians will do well to remember what the World Bank's economist Dr. Martin Rama said about Bhutan’s duty exemptions and tax holidays:

 “…… the decline in tax revenue in relation to GDP is not due to a change in tax instruments or in tax rates, but because of policy decisions of tax holidays and exemptions. Sales Tax exemptions result in 50 percent of foregone revenue. Further around 63 percent of all imported commodities are exempted from Custom Duties.”

“Instead of losing the tax revenue to exemptions that are not rational, management of taxation could also play a vital role in attaining fiscal self-sufficiency.”

The vehicle quota debate has been going on for a long time – nothing has come of it so far. Look at what the Ex-Prime Minister had written in 2009, when he was the Opposition Leader:

There is a very nice Indian saying that goes, Hathi ke daant dikhaane ke kuch aur khaane ke kuch aur. Meaning: The elephant is equipped with two sets of teeth – one for display and the other to chew with.

During PDP’s five years tenure, the RSTA reported that the country recorded the highest percentage increase in new motor vehicle registrations. Obviously the PDP’s teeth that were on display was the display set.

Lets see what the DNT will display.

Friday, June 7, 2019

No More IDEC For Import of Private Vehicles

I became entitled to a Vehicle Quota in 1979. I wanted to buy a TOYOTA Corona sedan. The CIF Phuentsholing price then was Nu.64,000.00. The problem was - I did not have the money. However, the Bank of Bhutan was offering 50% of the cost price as loan which meant that I needed Nu.32,000.00. I did not have that either. So I travelled all the way to Gelephu to speak to my favorite uncle to ask him for a loan. He looked at me and said; "You are asking the bank for 50% loan of the cost … and you are asking me for the other 50% as a loan. This means you are buying your famous TOYOTA Corona car with 100% loan. Tell me, how are you going to be able to repay the loan?" I said; "I do not know."

He said; "Forget it – I will give you the asking Nu.32,000.00 free – go and buy your car." Nu.32,000.00 in 1979 was a whole lot of money – but my late uncle loved me dearly.

When I returned to the STCB in Phuentsholing to make my portion of the down payment of Nu.32,000.00, I was informed that I need to put in Nu.34,000.00 and not Nu.32,000.00, because the price of the car had appreciated since I last spoke to them. I was crestfallen – I did not have the additional Nu.2,000.00. Thus my chance to use my vehicle quota to import a car slipped away and that was the first and last time I ever attempted to use a vehicle quota in my life.

Those days the civil servants were of a different vein – they never misused the vehicle quota entitlement for monetary gains.

Much later, after I resigned from the civil service and became successful in business, I became financially capable to own a car – I did own few of them over the years - but I never bought a vehicle quota. I do not intend to begin to do so now.

Truth be told, the most significant segment of my life’s journey began as a consequence of this vehicle quota and my inability to use it – a story to be told another day.

Having posted my article on the Vehicle Quota issue yesterday, I learnt from the KUENSEL that the vehicle quota is being proposed to be monetized. I am encouraged – but not entirely happy with all of the proposals.

It seems that some will still be allowed quota and import of vehicles. It is said that the Ministry of Finance will monitor and enforce the rules strictly. Is this a joke? Are we saying that the rule that the vehicle quotas shall not be sold or transferred was not there already? Has it prevented the beneficiaries from selling them with impunity? In fact the talk going around sometime back was that the MPs had formed a syndicate and had fixed a TOYOTA Prado’s quota selling price at Nu.2.5 million.

I urge the government and the lawmakers to forget this import allocation to some select group of people. I can guarantee you that it will continue to be misused, as in the past. The morality of the Bhutanese people has not undergone a sea change in the last year or so. Recall the shameful incident that occurred with respect to vehicle quota, at the start of the PDP tenure. If the government is in the mood to be generous, allocate a fixed sum of vehicle allowance to this select group of people – but please do away entirely with the quota. No IDEC should be issued ever for import of private vehicles – everyone should pay the duties and taxes. The select group of people for whom import quota is contemplated can use the allowance to pay for the duties and taxes.

Let us begin the process of mending the moral decay that has set in into the Bhutanese morality.