Members of the private sector are virtually in prayers BCCI will take up the issue while the chamber expects a written complaint
While the government hasn’t shown any signs to let-up on the Pedestrian day, various business houses in the country from small shops to industries are faced with difficulties on different scales and in situation.
President of the Construction Association of Bhutan (CAB) Ugyen Tshechup Dorji who is also the chair of Singye Group argued trucks ferrying industrial products and materials should be allowed on the pedestrian day. “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,” he added.
Asked if the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) are taking up the issue, the Secretary General Phub Tshering said there haven’t been any complaints received by the chamber yet. “If private sector doesn’t complain, chamber cannot take its independent view and take it up,” he said.
He also added that the chamber needs to receive complaints in writing for documentary evidence.
However, Ugyen Tshechup said, “we do complain but the chamber doesn’t seem to take up the issue as we want them to”. He said it is the responsibility of BCCI to address this issue being the representative of private sector. “We hope they do that,” he concluded.
General Secretary of CAB Chheku Dukpa said it goes without saying that the pedestrian day has caused a lot of inconvenience. “Definitely there is no denying that there is direct implications on everyone and you don’t need to ask,” he said.
“I also see that civil servants are becoming unproductive on Tuesdays as they just sit idle in their offices,” he said.
The CAB secretary general questioned the government’s implementation of such rules without much consultation. “If it concerns the sovereignty and security of the nation, we wouldn’t complain but when it comes to this, it’s not right on the part of government to impose such rules,” he added.
On the service sector such as vehicle repairs, Ugyen Tshechup said the loss is inevitable as his company cannot deliver a single car on the pedestrian day nor bring in cars to the shop for repair.
He said it also adds to the already huge overhead expenses. “We can’t tell the workers that their salary will be reduced because the government has declared Tuesday as a pedestrian day and there’s no work. It’s almost two months of no work in a year”.
Horticulturists are also worried as Orange season starts in a few months time. Orange, which is one of Bhutan’s vital fruit export item is highly perishable and cannot be stored in open air for long. “It has to get dispatched immediately after packing,” general secretary of the Bhutan Exporter’s Association (BEA) Tshering Yeshey said. “Our export has to go on continuously and even a day’s hold up will result in huge loss to the exporters,” he added.
He said industries and factories also face problem as raw materials needs to come in on a regular basis. “At least they can hold for a day as it is not perishable,” he added. However, an exporter of minerals said there is a huge impact on business “even if it is once a week”.
Talking on behalf of Zimdra Automobiles Ugyen Tshechup said electric cars should be allowed on Tuesdays. “Why is the government not allowing electric cars if the main purpose is to reduce emission because while Taxi that burns fuel are allowed,” he said.
He said all the raw materials coming in on that day get stuck as well as the finished products moving out.
He said the very motive of environmental conservation is not met by not allowing vehicles during the day as industrial vehicles are allowed to ply early in the morning. “It’s not that I am not going to dispatch my goods on that day, I am going to do it at six o’clock so it’s just causing congestion and inconvenience,” he said.
Meanwhile, president of the Association of Bhutanese Industries (ABI) Rinchen Dorji said the situation has improved after industrial vehicles have been allowed to ply between Phuentsholing and Pasakha.
Vice president of BCCI Chenchen Dorji said “Why should private sector raise any issue because it’s good for everybody,” he said. “If they can’t deliver services on Tuesday, they can do it on Monday.”