Drayangs will not open until major reforms are initiated: PM

Monetary compensation inadequate: Drayang owners

They say they were excluded from the consultation meeting while deciding on the compensation amount

Drayang owners are extremely frustrated over the inadequate compensation package declared by the government for putting an abrupt end to their business, which has also left many artists associated with the industry in despair.

Although a lucrative venture, the real crisis for the industry began with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced them to close their business indefinitely, and now any hope of reopening has also been put to rest by the

Prime Minister, who issued an executive order to cease all Drayang operations in the country. The government has declared Nu 1.5mn compensation to those Drayang owners who had retained their space till date and Nu 1mn to those who had surrendered their outlets in 2020.

Monetary compensation inadequate: Drayang owners

Further, those operators who had availed the bridging loan from the National CSI Development Bank, an extension of the government support during the pandemic, will have to reimburse the principal amount to the bank, while the interest accrued would be waived off.

However, Drayang owners are unsettled by the way the three ministries – labor, finance and economic affairs – excluded them from the consultation meeting while deciding on the compensation amount.

“We are still reeling from the shock, ever since the Prime Minister directed us to close our business permanently,” said a Drayang owner, who kept asking why it took the government two years to decide their fate.

If the government that decided earlier, he explained, he would not have waited this long, incurring heavy loss. “I would have explored other avenues for investment,” he added.

Meanwhile, many claim that the compensation amount does not cover their losses, let alone recover their initial investment.

The owner of the Highlander Club in the capital, Kencho Dorji, bluntly pointed out how the amount earmarked for them will barely cover 50% of his losses.

“After deducting our loan with the NCSI bank, we are left with very little surplus to pay the rental dues,” he said. “Personally, I have spent Nu 2.6mn solely on rent hoping I will reopen and recover after the pandemic.”

His hopes were especially high after receiving approval from the government officials who visited his Drayang for inspection, but his joy was short lived because in the following week the Prime Minister issued the executive order.

After the loan deduction, the owner of the Yangchen Drayang will only receive Nu 10,000 from his compensation money. Despite being apprehensive initially when the officials approached him for change, later he welcomed the reform.

Monetary compensation inadequate: Drayang owners

“But they were not conducting research to initiate reform; rather they were discussing closing us down permanently,” he said, adding that he anticipated the government to make the working environment in Drayang safe and conducive for his employees, contrary to what actually transpired.

The president of the Drayang Association of Bhutan (DAB), Kelzang Phuntsho, is planning to appeal to the government for bigger compensation, one that adequately covers the losses of his fellow operators.

Last year, the government created a set of standard methods for Drayang operations, strictly recommending reforms in their modus operandi to continue operating.

“Despite agreeing to initiate the change, the government continued to keep us on hold, reasoning that monitoring our operation would be hard,” the president added.

Meanwhile, there are 60 Drayangs in the country that employ almost 900 youths.

And during the Opposition Party’s press conference with the media personnel yesterday afternoon, the party stated that it agreed with the Drayang owners on both the insufficient compensation amount and the direct order to ban the Drayangs.

“The government did not keep the promises it made to the Drayangs for two years,” Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi said, adding that everyone would have benefited if the government had a reform kit instead of issuing a ban order.

“The compensation amount is also not adequate,” he added.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu