Mixed reactions amidst discontinuation of user fees at the pedestrian terminal

Mixed reactions amidst discontinuation of user fees at the pedestrian terminal

The Nu 10 user fee was introduced to generate income for the upkeep and maintenance of the posh pedestrian terminal which roofed immigration, RBP, Dessung, BFDA and other officials on duty

A mixed feeling has engulfed the residents of Phuentsholing a fortnight after the entry fee of Nu 10 at the pedestrian terminal has been lifted through an executive order from the new government.

Passang Choden, a shopkeeper from Phuentsholing takes the discontinuation of user fee collection at the terminal as a good move.  She said that the visitors and residents of Phuentsholing have to visit Jaigaon now and again. She said it involved lengthy procedures at the terminal.

Similarly, a resident, Kinzang Lhamo also shared that the new step will benefit common people.

The discontinuation of user fee has not only excited the Bhutanese but also locals from the bordering town.

Bhoraj Chetri, a vegetable vendor in Jaigaon said that activities between the two towns are reviving to normalcy gradually after the pandemic. He said that the people of both the sides depend on each other and their daily activities should be facilitated conveniently.

He said, “The new step will benefit people from both sides. There will be more visitors if entry/exit services are provided free of cost.”

Karuna Chetri, who runs a travel agency in Jaigaon said that the business in Phuentsholing and Jaigoan will go well hereafter. She said, “Entry and exit will be convenient and more people visit both towns.”

She shared that after the announcement of discontinuation of user fee collection at the pedestrian terminal gate, more tourists have started to come.

However, an equal number of people shared that the user fee collection should have been continued owing to the economic benefits it reaps for the Thromde administration.

A civil servant in Phuentsholing, Ugyen Choden said that the discontinuation of user fee collection has a dual impact. “Though it will be easier to enter via the terminal gate befitting the common people, the nation is losing source of revenue,” she said.

Another civil servant, Pema Tenzin said that though the fee was not substantial, it atleast contributed something to the state coffer when more numbers passes through the gate.

The pedestrian terminal was officially opened in September 2022, along with the implementation of a user fee system. This system was initially established to cover the expenses associated with the terminal, such as electricity bills, staff salaries, and terminal maintenance.

From November 2022 to December 2023, the Regional Immigration Office (RIO) generated approximately Nu 64 million (M) in revenue through the user fees collected at the pedestrian terminal.

On a daily basis, the terminal witnesses the arrival or departure of approximately 10,000 to 12,000 individuals, including Bhutanese nationals and other individuals from the region. This amount estimated to a monthly revenue of around Nu 4.5M in user fees paid, according to Thromde officials.

However, the Prime Minister, Dasho Tshering Tobgay said, “Government will ensure sufficient funds are made available for the upkeep and operation of the terminal.”

Leading up to the National Assembly Elections of 2023-2024, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) introduced a set of 13 pledges as part of their campaign. These pledges were intended to be promptly endorsed once the new cabinet was formed. The discontinuation of user fee at the pedestrian terminal was one of the 13 pledges that the PDP government made to be executed during their first day in office. Consequently, it was discontinued from January 30 this year.

Sangay Rabten from Thimphu