Unemployment, BoIC, MoLHR and fiscal incentives questioned in NA

The MP of Kengkhar Weringla constituency, Rinzin Jamtsho, said that the government has pledged on providing full employment, but in reality, the unemployment situation has worsened in a short span of time, with the unemployment rate at 2.1% to 2.9% over the last one year. He questioned the Minister, Ministry of Labour and Human Resources ( MoLHR) on the latest status of unemployment issues in the country, and how government was addressing the issues.

The MoLHR Minister, Ngeema Sangay Tshempo, said that the unemployment issues have been on the rise from years back. Lyonpo said it is one of the major challenges faced by the present government. He said that the unemployment rate was 2.1% in 2012, and the unemployment rate during the end of December, 2013 stood at 2.9%. He said that rise in the unemployment rate in December 2013 was mainly because of the release of the report on unemployment, which coincided with fresh graduates from universities and institutes entering into the job market.

He said that the GDP growth rate was 2.05% in 2013 when the economic situation was very poor, whereas, the GDP growth rate was 8.6% in 2011 and 4.6% in 2012.

He said that if employment has to be generated then the economic situation has to be improved. Lyonpo said it is difficult for the government to provide employment to job seekers in a poor economic situation, even so, he said, the government have provided employment to 4,774 youths

The MoLHR Minister said that the government is giving importance to private sector growth, and with the help of the Business Opportunity and Information Centre (BOIC), the government aims to create employment opportunities in the country.

The North-Thimphu constituency MP, Kinga Tshering, said it has been a year since the discussion on the Economic Stimulus Plan (ESP). He said that the public has huge expectations, especially after the creation of BOIC, despite many opposing views on the creation of the agency. MP Kinga Tshering said the government has listened to the public and has mandated the Bhutan Development Bank Ltd. (BDBL) to carry out the loan sanctions and related transactions, including the recoveries and others.

The Minister, Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) was questioned on the role BOiC. The MoEA Minister, Norbu Wangchuk, said that BOIC should help the Bhutanese people in establishing small and medium scaled cottage industries in the country.

He said that within two months of BOIC operation, it has received 933 business proposals, of which 232 proposals were rejected because some proposals were not about manufacturing, some were loan defaulters and some had no clear answer about the project proposal in hand.

MoEA Minister also said that BOIC has approved 60 projects from Tashiyangtse, which is the highest, Paro comes in second with 43 projects and 39 projects from Thimphu have been approved.

The MP of Panbang, Dorji Wangdi, questioned the MoLHR Minister on the status of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in the country. He said that with increasing socio-economic development in the country, the issue of OHS has become a major concern. He also cited the incident of the electrocution of four men in the east, mentioned that recent reports, to indicate the deterioration of OHS.

MoLHR Minister, Ngeema Sangay Tshempo, said that the safety guideline for workers has been made in 2007. He said there are mandatory requirement of safety gears, such as helmets, gloves, and goggles, to be worn in several work places. He said the ministry is planning to have safety shoes, such as steel-toe boots, in work places where the worker’s legs are in danger of being damaged.

Lyonpo said that OHS is important to safeguard the safety of the workers. He said the ministry is working with all relevant parties, like the Ministry of Health, Police and others, to promote OHS. He said creating a safe working environment is a collective responsibility.

The MP of Kabji-Talo, Dophu Drukpa, said that Bhutan does not have the expertise for quality seed production leading to imports from India and third countries, and import of seeds from the third countries are taxed. He questioned the Finance Minister if the tax levied on seeds could be revised, and also to amend the fiscal incentive of 2010, considering the lack of expertise in seed production in the country.

The Finance Minister, Namgay Dorji, said ministry’s role is to review taxation policy annually and the economic development also depends on the taxation policy.

He said that government has provided taxation fiscal incentive in 2010, and the incentive will be effective till 2015, and policy clearly provides for granting of fiscal incentives where needed.

He said that the seeds imported from India are not taxed, whereas the seeds imported from third countries are taxed. Lyonpo Namgay Dorji reiterated that the provisions were in place to review the taxation policy, if the need was felt by the Ministry of Finance.

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