Business associations have submitted its views in writing to the BCCI including options for the government
In a recent submission to the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI), the private sector laid down thier pedestrian day-views and its impact in a 10- page report titled ‘views of private sector on pedestrian day’.
This is yet another move from the private business community’s side on the government’s pedestrian day initiative which has been the apple of discord between government and the many. members of the business community which also declared a possible silent protest.
The business community pointed out serious implications of the rule and suggested various options to the government.
Calling it an ‘ad-hoc policy’ imposed by the government, some sectors recommended that the pedestrian day rule be lifted, some provided alternative solutions such as identifying appropriate days.
The report states that losses incurred by each automobile workshop or repair center on one pedestrian day is Nu 30,000 which amounts to more than Nu 1.5mn in a year considering 52 pedestrian days.
The automobiles services community demanded that the chamber recommend the government to lift the pedestrian day rule immediately due to the substantial economic losses caused. There are about 50 workshops in the capital alone with approximately 250 across the country.
One of the worst hit by the pedestrian day rule is the construction and transportation sector as works such as government projects and other activities get delayed. “While there is a day-long halt of trucks on Tuesday on the way, the movement of construction materials that needs to be delivered gets delayed, subsequently the whole working schedule get disturbed and completion deadline gets extended,” states the report.
This in turn has serious impact on contractors due to increased overhead cost from extra payments of labour wages and overtime works among others. Contractors are also liable for a penalty of 10% contract value if one fails to complete a government project within the scheduled deadline.
The case study shows that almost 250 trucks enter the country with consignment of different items between Phuentsholing and Thimphu highway. Economic loss incurred by a transport company on a Tuesday amounts to more than Nu 0.2mn as per the case study.
Members of the construction association called on the government to relook and consider an appropriate day to observe the pedestrian day so that work flow in the construction sector is not hampered.
Hotels and restaurants cited decreased customer counts on Tuesdays and constraints with regard to procurement of essential items needed for hotels and restaurants. Like in the case of all the sectors, while expenses such as rent and wages for employees remained the same, overhead costs have increased significantly owing to decreased proceeds from business.
The retail sector along with Bhutan Export’s Association (BEA) also vouched for a no pedestrian day, citing various issues. While BEA referred to losses incurred from perishable goods, the retailers cited substantial dip in revenue generation on Tuesdays.
Wood-based industries haven’t been spared as well with a loss in gross sales revenue by a sawmill firm to the tune of Nu 0.7mn a year. Sawmill operators in the capital said sales touched about Nu 14,000 on a non- pedestrian day and urged that the rule be lifted.
However the handicrafts, manufacturing and tourism sectors had no issues with regard to the rule as vehicles ferrying tourists and industrial products are allowed to ply on any day across the country.
The ICT sector cited failure to render quality and efficient services to the general public or clients due to non- movement of vehicles on the day. This has had adverse effects on other sectors that affect the business activities of the entire economy.
The Motion Pictures Association of Bhutan and Association of cable operators among others have also vented that the rule be changed immediate effect due to the losses caused by it.
Another option submitted by the private sector was to observe an annual pedestrian day like any other international day with restriction on vehicle movement except for emergency service vehicles, tourism duty cars and trucks ferrying industrial goods in border towns.
The third option suggested was to observe every first Sunday of each month with no vehicle movements including taxis in the core town areas. “Core town areas in respective dzongkhags need to be discussed and defined in consultation with relevant stakeholders,” the report stated.