MoEA Minister quizzed on increasing prices of commodities

Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma responded that the prices of commodities have increased because of manufacturers hiking up the costs during the question and answer session of the National Assembly yesterday.

The minister was responding to the question from the Member of Parliament from the Dramedtse-Ngatshang constituency, Ugyen Wangdi, who questioned about the exorbitant price rise of essential food items as well as other goods in the market.

The MP added that the exports of domestic goods, on the other hand, are facing huge problems, and asked the minister about the measures and the support systems put in place to solve these problems.

Responding to the question, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that prices have increased due to the COVID-19. “For instance, if we import products from Thailand to Kolkata port the price has increased by 55%. From Kolkata to Phuentsholing, the price has increased by 33%.”

“The price has increased from the manufacturers. The price has also increased due to the COVID-19 protocols.  The price has increased due to increase in fuel cost and transportation charge,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo said that the export of local goods like fruits and vegetables are having issues because the production in India has increased and prices have decreased.

And to facilitate exports, the minister said the government has identified a dry port at Phuentsholing at the truck parking area.  

“It is facing difficulties in exporting local commodities since the trading of these products were not channeled formally before, and their rules and regulations change every time,” Lyonpo said. 

Lyonpo said that the ministry’s secretary and some officials went to meet the commerce secretary of India to solve this issue.

Lyonpo said that the government is also encouraging a wholesale and distribution system and that the government is also providing subsidies to local farm producers and dairy producers to produce more. “We are also encouraging e-commerce.”  

Similarly, the MP from Khar-Yurung constituency, Tshering Chhoden, questioned the Economic Affairs Minister on the policies and measures being formulated to benefit the small businesses.

 The MP said that one of the pledges of the government is to formulate policies for the development of the small and medium economic businesses.

 “In the current scenario the small and micro economic businesses are not benefited and some are not able to continue their business. In Phuentsholing itself, around 115 business licenses were cancelled due to fronting and out of which around 55 are restaurant and bar and small and micro economic businesses,” she added.  

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma responded that the government has come up with the Cottage and Small Industry (CSI) policies in 2019 and the CSI flagship program.

 According to Lyonpo, this year only around 2,984 cottage registration licenses were issued. Last year 183 businesses licenses were issued without requirement of fees and no objection certificate.

 In 2020, 1,481 licenses were issued. For the small businesses this year 106 and last year 616 licenses were issued.

 Lyonpo also mentioned that from 2020 till now the National CSI Development Bank alone has disbursed loans of Nu 1,813mn. The National Credit Guarantee Scheme has disbursed loans to 169 entrepreneurs with the loan amount of Nu 649mn.

 Lyonpo said that the CSI estate was also established in Tsirang and a startup center was also established in Samste.

 Lyonpo said that the government has built the CSI Market in Changzamtok to facilitate entrepreneurs to sell the products.

 “There are around more than 1,000 products displayed in the CSI market produced by 600 entrepreneurs. The government is supporting the CSI,” Lyonpo said.

 Lyonpo said that the government has facilitated the export of around 120 local products to Dubai and that the government is looking into the possibility of providing working capital to the entrepreneurs.

  “The government also has a plan to initiate trade shows for CSI products in the future,” the minister added.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu