The loan interest waiver and continuation of Druk Gyalpos Relief Kidu through His Majesty’s command, deferment of loans for 12 months, soft loans and various other monetary and fiscal measures have come as a huge relief for businesses.
Chimi Zangmo of Dorji Elements said “This was way more than expected. It felt like a huge boulder has been lifted from my back”.
She added “If the interest waiver and loan deferment was not granted, there would have been a lot of disharmony with the financial institutions. FIs would be pressed to do their jobs to recover and send us reminders and legal notices, and we would not be able to do anything to repay”.
“The ripple effect of social unrest would be in great magnitude and with this single bold decision, that stems from our His Majesty’s compassion and wisdom, the social unrest has been avoided. And this is profound leadership” she added.
She said that although her business is closed, the interest waiver and the loan deferment erased the burden of having consistent thoughts of paying debts with no income in hand.
She added “That would have been the biggest challenge. However, at the moment, the challenge has been on how to keep our team gainfully employed. However, in times like these, and with our beloved Majesty leading by example and the government doing their best, I am inspired and shall invoke the best version of myself and be creative in the ways of doing business. We must keep creating and keep going”.
Sonam Wangchuk, Chairman of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan (HRAB) said that the monetary and fiscal measures are especially very helpful to the hospitality sector being at the frontline of the impacted sectors.
He said that with this the hoteliers would be at least be a in a position to retain some cash and further retain the hotel; as if not for these measures there might be default on payments by them and then there would be a concern of owners losing their properties to Financial Institutions.
He added “Kidu has been granted and now it is the responsibility of hotels, tour operators and the other beneficiaries of the kidu to not lay back and stay idle. I feel that this is the time we should capitalize on the situation”.
He said the industry needs to come up with strategic ideas on how to promote one’s product in the market.
He said that with the blessing of Bhutanese’ ‘guardian angel’ the King, Bhutan being a small economy has really contained the virus situation well even in comparison to the bigger economies in the world who have better health facilities and bigger economies.
He said that due to this, there should be a bright side for Bhutan in the post COVID-19 world and he feels that Bhutan would be seen as a safe haven destination having contained the virus situation up until now. He said this would be good for the tourism industry and the economy.
Therefore, he called upon the public to adhere to the basic health requirements of effectively using masks, maintaining social distancing and bodily hygiene among other things.
Sonam Dorji, Executive Director, Association of Bhutan Tour Operator (ABTO) said that the fiscal measures would help reduce debt burden and keep companies afloat even though there is no business and help provide avenues to initiate alternative business and livelihood through various loan schemes provided.
He added “Deferment would definitely help in maintaining cash flow for sustenance currently”.
He said that challenges specific to the tourism sector would be in terms of gaining visitors’ confidence to travel to Bhutan, following and implementing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for post COVID-19, customizing travel itineraries fitting into the new normal situation among others.
He added “However, looking forward to enhanced capacity and skills of the tourism personnel through various trainings provided currently, having crisis management protocols in place, new products and packages in place could account for a brighter side to the post COVID-19 reaction”.
In regard to the tourism front he added that having specific crisis management, a good understanding of target markets, strategies to promote domestic tourism, having relief fund for tourism and introducing company liability insurance schemes could be essential in going forward for Bhutan’s tourism sector.
Speaking on behalf of the construction sector, General Secretary of Construction Association of Bhutan (CAB), Tshering Yonten said “It was a great relief towards the construction sector, especially when the works are hampered and we had to let off our staffs being unable to make payments”.
He added “there would have been blacklisting from Financial Institutions if not for the relief measures, if we are unable to pay consecutively for 3 months”.
He said that it would be difficult to be resilient in the current times despite the measures, given the present situation since the import of workers is difficult and it may be some time for the sector to pick up momentum.
For the post COVID-19 situation he said that it is doubtful for some years until the government compensates in the form of rates or revising the Bhutan Schedule of Rate (BSR).
He said that pumping more fund to the market through tender or work orders would result in job-at-hand for contractors and would in turn help keep their staffs and machineries engaged.
As per the Financial Institution Association of Bhutan members they said that deferment would help them and the clients, but ensuring payment from businesses who can pay would be pertinent to avoiding liquidity problems.
Ms. Tandin, Proprietor of City Hotel in Thimphu said “It is indeed a huge relief. Until April we did not apply for the kidu programme but for the month of May and June, we had registered some of our staffs for it. The relief comes not only in the form of waiver and fiscal measures but also the continued generous support provided to our staff in such a difficult time”.
“I feel as a citizen to the country, people would have a renewed approach and outlook towards being guided under a Gross National Happiness (GNH) Leadership of His Majesty the King and although we do often utter GNH in our hearts we may not have actually realised how fortunate we are to be GNH citizens” she added.
“Here on I believe it becomes even more unquestionable that we as GNH citizens prove our worth of being guided under such great leadership, through actions of contributing the nation consciously and with renewed zest in our own small ways” she added.