A few large wholesale and retail outlets in Thimphu are of the opinion that the people who are willing to take up manual work, like loading, unloading and other related activities along the border side, remain skeptical about taking such work and despite the government’s efforts and assurance of helping out with manpower, there are not enough locals to cater to it.
Many of the business relied on Indian workforce or dayworkers along the border prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. They said that the Bhutanese workforce that have been hired currently cost almost double the wage rate, and that the work output is almost half of what the previously hired workers from across the border had to offer. However, the wholesalers and retailers are willing to employ local workers at higher wages in the effort to boost the economy and contribute to nation in their own capacity.
They said that the DeSuups who had been previously deployed to assist the facility of distributions were required to prioritize patrolling areas. There is also a lack of local volunteers.
Wholesale outlets, like Tashi Commercial Corporation has been stocking up on goods as per the government’s direction to store and distribute and keep a minimal amount of stock. As per their report, they have been storing commodities least three months worth of stock quantity since March. They have also been monitoring the needs of their consumers in order to bring about more goods as the situation progresses. In terms of unloading and loading, they have their outlet workers to help them.
Similarly, My Mart store has also had a few hassles along the way, in terms of certain works being delayed due to adhoc work distributions, but according to their manager, the management has dealt with the problems by coming together as a unit, and taking on additional responsibilities within the store premise.
Shopper’s Store and Lhatshog Shop Number 7 have not had many problems in storing essential items or even luxury items as the demand has not been substantial. They feel that there could be a threat of overstocking since even the smaller outlets have been stocking up quite a bit of similar commodities in the recent times, however they are concerned that products from Thailand or parts of Asia, like Koka noodles or commonly sold out goods could run out, in case the COVID-19 situation prolongs through the year.
As for the workforce, the shops have not had quite the problems as some other general stores and major outlets that have had to get chain supplies through across the border.
8 Eleven store, in particular, distributes from ground up to deal with the emerging situation of the cost of overheads. Their staff are being sent with TA/DA and hotel charges plus the transit fees to bring in their stocks till Thimphu. 8 Eleven said that they are currently carrying on business in somewhat of a social welfare service-like mode with very minimal profit margin.
However, in their case they said that they have not had to incur extra costs in terms of good being brought from outside since their partner companies have taken the transit cost until Phuentsholing by themselves.
In case of some other local dealers who also get their supplies from India, they said that they do not have such kind of support from their suppliers, and that they have to bear the extra cost of transportation of goods during the COVID-19 times.