For the first time in my life, I sat through the whole proceedings of the presentation of a Bill in the National Assembly – the Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022. I watched it on national TV on 20th June as well as day-before-yesterday, the 23rd of June, 2022.
For the record, the National Assembly tasked its Economic & Finance Committee to get an in-depth understanding of the issues relating to the proposed Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022. The 13 Members that make up the Committee met and listened to all the five sectorial agencies that make up the tourism stakeholders of Bhutan: ABTO, HRAB, HAB, GAB and BSTS.
The outstanding and admirable Committee Members of the National Assembly's Committee on Finance & Economics
Having been thoroughly briefed of the complexities of tourism business, today these 13 Committee Members qualify as the most educated, well-informed and most up-to-date among all other Bhutanese. No other individual or agency has the right to make this claim – because none cared to listen to the tourism industry’s side of the story.
And the depth of their understanding was evident in the presentation the Committee Chair made on 23rd June, 2022. The very substantive and eloquent way in which the Chair of the Committee - Honorable Kinga Penjor - presented his case on the floor of the National Assembly was sterling, to say the least. The expanse of his coverage of the subject, the pin-point precision with which he presented the many points that he touched upon, leaves me in no doubt the monumental amount of work the Committee Members would have been required to put in, within two day’s time that was allowed them. I cannot imagine that the Committee would have been able to make such a flawless and forceful presentation to the Members of the Lower House of Bhutan’s Parliament, without having to put in many hours of hard work and research.
And yet, at the end of so much passion and hard work, their recommendations were tossed out the window along with the bath water. That too by a lot who had not listened to even one line of what the industry stakeholders had to say. It is sad – but that is how the cookies crumple. There is no need to get emotional about it.
All things considered, we are not faulting anyone - we are fully aware that the government has the best interest of the country at heart. That is not in contest. Those of us who are apprehensive are so because we believe that the translation of those good intentions on the ground is, in our opinion, inappropriate and hasty. To be fair – we could be totally wrong – but our concerns are borne of the operational difficulties we foresee - as experienced players in the business of tourism – not the policy itself as we have made it very clear. For all we know, the policy may be just what the doctor ordered – that is something time will tell.
Most are of the view that the matter relating to the Tourism Levy Bill of Bhutan 2022 is water under the bride. I do not believe it – the hammer has been raised – but it hasn’t yet struck our heads. Until it does, I will keep up my hope.
For now, on behalf of the Members of Bhutan Sustainable Tourism Society (BSTS) and on behalf of Bhutan’s tourism stakeholders, I would like to record our admiration and appreciation to the thirteen Honorable Members of the Economic & Finance Committee of the National Assembly of Bhutan, for their commitment to the cause and their tireless work. Please know that you could not have done any better.
We would also like to record our gratitude to other Members of the National Assembly who also courageously attempted to alter the course of history. The pursuit of a cause matters - the outcome is obviously not in our hands.
DO NUMBERS MATTER?
I was hired by a Indonesian sporting magazine to cover the Shanghai Masters 2008 and Wimbledon 2009. I was asked to cover the French Open 2010 in Roland-Garros - but declined – just too much leg work.
During the Wimbledon 2009, I noticed that the Grass Courts are numbered from 1 to 19. Having covered all the courts, I counted only 18 Grass Courts. What happened to the 19th? The mystery was solved when I looked at the display board where the plays are listed. Court Number 13 was not listed. The Western world believe that the number 13 is ill-starred.
No Court Number 13 is listed
Closer to home, the officially accepted spelling of Chukha is “Chhukha” – with double “h”. The reason: the Bhutanese consider the number “6” as an inauspicious number! Thus Chhukha Dzongkhag Administration insists that the spelling of their Dzongkhag (District) should contain 7 alphabets.
Is it possible that despite so much hard work and wisdom behind their presentation the Economic & Finance Committee of the National Assembly of Bhutan could not succeed with their presentation – because their cumulative number stands at 13?