The labor charge incurred for the loading and unloading of construction materials in the mini-dry port in Phuentsholing has raised the transportation cost, said General Secretary, Construction Association of Bhutan (CAB), Tshering Yonten.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the goods and materials procured from neighboring India has to come into country via mini-dry port in Phuentsholing.
“The transportation costs of all the construction materials namely plywood, bamboo, iron rods, electrical equipment and tiles among others have increased,” said Tshering Yonten.
Citing an example, he said it costs Nu 0.25 for loading and unloading a brick however now, it has increased to Nu 3.
A truck carries 2,500 numbers of bricks which would cost around Nu 625 earlier for loading and unloading per truck but now it comes to around Nu 7,500, said Tshering Yonten.
The bricks are imported from India at Nu 6,000 per truck excluding the loading and unloading charge of bricks in a mini-dry port, currently, he added.
Moreover, he said that the contractors complained about the high cost however, there is no hand receipt or official document that could verify the cost of loading and unloading.
“There is no evidence to approach the government,” said Tshering Yonten.
He also claimed that the officials are recruiting their relatives or someone they know as labor for loading and unloading the materials.
Tshering Yonten added that there is no fixed rate and demand for the amount they asked for otherwise they are not willing to work.
However, Regional Director, labor ministry, Phuentsholing regional office, Sonam Tenzin said the laborers are recruited by the labor ministry while the wage of loading and unloading of goods are negotiated between contractors and laborers.
The contractors also requested for time extension of the projects until the COVID-19 situation resumes to normal, said Tshering Yonten.
The Department of National Properties, Ministry of Finance notified on April 8, that all ongoing construction activities and supplies that are affected by COVID-19 are declared force majeure with effect from March 24 until the government rescinds the notification. It further stated that hindrance period would be granted and no penalty shall be imposed.
One of the conditions in the notification was that if the tender committee of the procuring agency is satisfied that the works and supplies have been affected due to COVID-19 pandemic, time extension may be granted accordingly upon proper verification.
However, Tshering Yonten said that the contractors are not able to prove or compile evidence that the works are hampered due to COVID-19 and would need extension.
Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu