Monday, January 16, 2023

Goofs A Galore

If all Bhutanese were to be females, it would appear that we are stuck in the cusp between puberty and womanhood - we appear to be out of puberty but not yet a woman. The following are some examples:

It looks like the team at Thimphu Thromde needs to be re-admitted into school. Science tells us that the color black is the ONLY color that will not reflect heat. The color of rainbow is accepted to be the most beautiful color combination - not a bicolor consisting only of red and green. What is revealing is that the enforcement of this rule does not seem to be applicable to other Thromdes or Dzongkhags since we have not heard of such a requirement being imposed anywhere else. So, is this Thimphu Thromde specific rule? Can such a rule/law be legitimate?

I am told that the social media (where I am not) is ablaze with the issue related to the unfair selection process of the new CEO of BDBL. Now that I saw her photograph, Aum Tshering Om certainly looks winsome - surely she merits to be the new CEO of BDBL. Who is impressed that the matter is still with the ACC? Mr. General Manager Pema Wangdi can go count ducks at the Babesa sewerage ponds.

The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) first entices its members into opting for early retirement - with the promise of financial reward, under their Early Retirement Scheme (ERS). Then when the members do so, the rule is suspended and the promised reward is withdrawn. If that were not enough, the rule is applied retrospectively and some of the members, whose resignations were accepted by the RCSC in writing before the rule came into effect, are denied their rightful ERS benefit.

Other than seeking to be reinstated on the ground that the very purpose for which they sought to retire early is no longer valid, I do not see any way out for the poor blighters. If that right of restitution is also denied them, they have the option to go to Phobjikha to count Black-necked Cranes.

The government encouraged the tourism industry players to create enabling conditions to boost tourism business in the country. One of the sectors targeted was the hotel industry - they were encouraged to upscale their operations and upgrade their properties to 3-Star category. They did - investing hundreds of millions with borrowed capital. Then the government springs a surprise - they introduce SDF of US$200.00 per person per night halt - effectively rendering Bhutan as an expensive destination for tourism.

Tourist arrivals plummet - in frustration and defeat tour operators and guides make a beeline for Australia, while hotel owners are reduced to squashing flies and chasing rodents that now infest their property. The financial institutions’ None Performing Loans (NPL) figures rise to dangerous levels - in its wake setting off alarm bells of a looming economic collapse.

The county’s Foreign Currency (FC) Reserve is on a downhill spiral. The situation is said to be approaching dangerous levels. The cause is blamed on falling inward remittances from Bhutanese abroad. This year, and for many years hereafter, the country is expected to record unprecedented dip in foreign exchange earnings from the tourism sector - by far the single largest foreign exchange earner. Also, what is not publicly admitted is that there is large-scale unreported diversion of FC remittances, to destinations other than Bhutan.

In the meantime, whatever little FC we have is spent on import of luxury goods, such as chocolates, toilet paper, potato chips and facial tissue, manufactured in China and elsewhere. Tragically, we cannot even make an attempt to feed our school children with food that can be grown within our own country - the Ministry of Education continues to spend hundreds of millions of Rupees, year after year, importing unsafe food under their School Feeding Program. And farmers lament that they have no market for their farm produces.

The large-scale exodus of Bhutanese youth to Australia and other destinations is a cause for serious concern. And yet, we cannot ignore the good side of it  - doubtless a strange Catch-22 situation. But this is a situation the government must not try and torpedo. Nor should it ignore it. We must not be too complacent about the happy situation that currently prevails. The government should do all it must - to ensure that the conditions currently prevailing are not jeopardized through lack of monitoring, stewardship and regulation.

It is in our interest to ensure that the goodwill of the Australian people and the government is not abused - it is to our mutual benefit to ensure that the Bhutanese who go there are worthy of their hospitality and that they present Bhutan and the Bhutanese people in the best of light. The responsibility is on them - to ensure that the preferential treatment we have thus far received from Australia, over other nationalities, is not jeopardized.

The 4th Parliamentary Elections are fast approaching. The two elections - to the Upper and the Lower Houses - will cost the nation upwards of hundred million Ngultrum. Do we need this expense at a time when we are going through uncertain times? Can we consider deferring them to a later date when conditions are more favorable? After all, if we weigh the cost against benefit, we will come off worst either way. What meaningful change can be expected from a change in government? - it cannot be anything more than a sheep for a goat.

In the meantime, we must not let our guard down - countries around the world are gearing up to battle the return of the menace called COVID-19.

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