Every corner you turn, the topic that is currently in vogue is the transformation exercise that is ongoing. It has been long overdue. No doubt the process will cause some misery but the sum total of the initiative should amount to progress and ease of doing things over the long haul. But I hope that the transformation is not “Cock-Eyed”. Cock-Eyed is defined as:
Looking East but seeing West
Happily for me the Kuensel has been unfailing in their reporting on the depleting foreign currency reserve situation - a subject that worries me greatly. Unfortunately the RMA is silent on the issue. The Finance Minister did make a limpid mention on the matter. The Prime Minister did better by cautioning the nation that the foreign currency reserve will run out soon, if things do not improve.
Unfailing and responsible reporting by the Kuensel on the matter concerning the worrisome issue of the country's falling foreign currency reserve
The biggest drain on the foreign exchange reserve is caused by the unchecked, black-market bound vehicles imported under the vehicle quota entitlement, and the import of non-essential goods. As far back as January 28 of 2020, in a blog article titled “Gross National Hypocrisy: How the vehicle quota hurts Bhutan”, I wrote as follows:
According to the RSTA Bhutan’s total vehicle population at the end of December, 2019 stood at 106,681. Of this, 55,801 are in Thimphu – which is more than 50% of the national total. Considering that Thimphu has a human population of 115,000 persons, this translates into 1 vehicle for every 2 persons in Thimphu.
Recently it was discovered that 70% children between 1-4 years tested in Thimphu had EBLLs (Elevated Blood Lead Levels). This is extremely, dangerously high. There is an effort underway to determine the source of this poisoning. But there is paucity of funds to take the study forward.
You can read about my thoughts on the subject at the following:
The following is how the World Bank's economist, Dr. Martin Rama, euphemistically worded his worry 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.”
On September 18, 2009, our Ex-Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, in his capacity as the Opposition Leader, wrote as follows:
“……… But I wonder if our government has thought about the most obvious way to control traffic congestion: scrap the import quota system. Import quotas, which are given only to public servants, are directly responsible for the growth in vehicle numbers. Every quota is used. And, it’s common knowledge that, many times, the quotas are sold, illegally, to private individuals.”
His full blog article can be accessed at:
Will someone finally show some courage and dismantle this evil, now that transformation is happening and that the country is all poised for disaster?
As I have recently said during the proceedings of the 50th Bhutan Dialogues, greatness is not necessarily achieved because you have done great things – it is also because you had the courage to dismantle great evil.