Construction sector suggests 50:50 expense on the cost incurred for the entry of foreign workers

Since the entry of skilled workers into the country would have huge cost implications on the contractors, the construction sector suggests that the cost should be borne 50:50 by the government and contractors, according to General Secretary, Construction Association of Bhutan (CAB), Tshering Yonten.

The Department of Immigration notified that foreign workers’ entry in the professional and skilled categories in priority sectors determined by the government would be allowed in the country from June 4 this year.

However, it also states that a separate notification would be issued in due course for the entry of foreign workers in the labor category that would be facilitated after quarantine facilities have been identified and approved by health ministry.

According to the labor ministry, the ministry is working on the standard operating procedures for entry of professional and skilled labors in the country.

Further the notification states that all costs related to quarantine, testing and medical treatment, intervention, and evacuation if required are to be borne by the foreign worker or the employer.

There is capacity within the country for workers as laborers and helpers however, there is shortage of skilled labor for those working in welding, rod binding, and carpentry among others, said Tshering Yonten.

Additionally, he said the contractors or private construction companies would not be able to bear the total cost of bringing in skilled workers requiring compulsory quarantine for 21 days.

“The projects the contractors quoted were before the pandemic and for each worker to stay for quarantine would come around Nu 21,000,” said Tshering Yonten.

Moreover, he said the workers are also asking for the daily wage for 21 days during their stay in quarantine.

For example, he said providing a daily wage of Nu 500 would come around Nu 10, 500 per worker.

The workers would also have to do medical screening and processing of work permit card and it is not assured that the workers would come to work site because there are high chances of getting rejected, said Tshering Yonten.

“Normally around 30% of the workers get rejected, if so the expenses would be gone waste,” he added.

Additionally, Tshering Yonten said including the cost for the coronavirus test, approximately it would cost around Nu 40,000 per worker.

Earlier, he said, the cost of quarantine and testing was not included in the quotation and CAB plans to include in post quotations.

“With limited budget, government coffer is not in a good situation and CAB would recommend 50:50 cost sharing on the total cost incurred for bringing skilled foreign workers in the country,” said Tshering Yonten.

Additionally, he said that new foreign skilled workers are not willing to come however, those workers who were on vacation to India and could not come back because of the restriction of entry and exit in the country are.

“These people who have some account to settle with the Bhutanese contractors are willing to come back and stay for 21 days quarantine,’ said Tshering Yonten.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu