The capital may see a silent protest, if the government chooses not to pay heed to the business community’s proposal
Members of the business community said they have waited enough for the government to look into the Pedestrian day policy and declared they will hold a ‘silent protest’ against the policy , if nothing comes out 30 days after their proposal.
For this, members of the business community sought support and cooperation from the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI).
Some members of the private sector during a meeting with local banks earlier this week in the capital said various business houses in the country from small shops to industries face difficulties on different scales and in situation owing to the “ad-hoc policy”.
BCCI president Tobgyal Dorji said the chamber would do whatever possible to support the business community to remove problems caused by the pedestrian day.
A businessman, Tshering Tobgyel at the forum said at least Nu 20mn worth of business is lost by the business community each Tuesday while truckers lose more than Nu 0.4mn a year as 52 days are wasted. He said that home builders, contractors and government projects have to be stalled and common people with families spend a minimum of Nu 500 on Tuesdays as taxi fares.
He added that “If we weigh out the advantages and disadvantages, there are only two advantages which I needn’t mention here as it may become personal”.
The BCCI president said “We’re not going against the government, but are concerned about businesses which will ultimately affect the economy.”
“We’ll gather together at the clock tower and perform a silent protest. We’ll do it according to our rights that democracy provides,” a businessman said.
Earlier, in July this year, some members of the business community in Thimphu and other Dzongkhags representing Industries, Hotels, Shops and other business outlets had planned to close shop for a day as a last resort, silent and peaceful protest against the pedestrian day.
Another businessman said it will be a very “civilized” protest with “nothing personal” against any institution.
Till date, sixteen days has been observed as Pedestrian Day after it was first introduced on 5 June, 2012. Since day one the initiative came under the public scanner with some arguing that there is no legality in this enforcement as it was an executive order unlike a proper law.
While a few supported the idea, some ranted on social media that the government had no right to interfere in the daily lives of people.
The worst hit according to private sector representatives, further underscored by the BCCI president are contractors, importers, exporters and transport agencies. Many businessmen at the meet said the initiative doesn’t serve any purpose when it comes to conservation of environment. They said people left their cars at home and used cabs for transport.
However, President of the Hotels Association of Bhutan (HAB), Dasho Tobgye Dorji said though it is obvious that there is huge inconvenience caused, there haven’t been any complaints or responses even after inquiring from the hoteliers on the inconvenience caused by the pedestrian day.
“While I sympathize with the business communities, I on behalf of the association cannot join this consensus,” he said.
Chairman of Singye Group who is also the President of construction association of Bhutan (CAB) Ugen Tsechup said if tourists had the right to travel in cars, citizens has the right as well to do so. “A lot of tour operators are misusing the opportunity as well,” he added.
He said the silent protest is in the interest of the all individuals, shops, industries and private sector and the chamber is welcome if they wish to join.
He earlier said “If it can be adjusted for the tourism sector, they should allow for industries and construction too because the loss of 52 days in a year is huge.”
A trader at the forum pointed out that while business is stranded on Tuesdays across the country ,“business houses in developed countries has no time to spare even for meals”. “If you weigh the pros and cons, I feel like the pedestrian day does more harm than good,” he added.
“We need to analyze the importance and weigh between the economy of the country and the international publicity gained by such a policy.”
The BCCI president assured full support from the chamber’s side on all the issues including the pedestrian day. He said the private sector isn’t going against the government or the system but is worried about the economy and the future if this economic crisis continues.
“This is my last term and last meeting as president of the chamber and I will take up all the matters to the government and hopefully the government will respond to us and if the government doesn’t listen I will come back to you for solutions or the way forward,” he concluded.