Sunday, March 30, 2014

Better Business Summit

Will the end of the summit mark the start of something new?

The Better Business Summit, the first of its kind ever held at such a grand scale, came to an end last week and there are several things to be taken home and given serious forethought to bring about radical changes in the Bhutanese economy.

The economy as we know today is crippled by a host of issues ranging from a severe shortage of Indian currency, constraints in the balance of payments and current account deficits and restrictions that is constraining private sector growth.

Gross domestic product registered the slowest growth in ten years at a low 4.6 percent, while a high rate of inflation is eating away in to the wallets of many lower and middle-income brackets. Access to credit still remains a big challenge for entrepreneurs.

The earning of rupee by the hydropower sector is negated by the payments made in rupees to buy fuel from India. In other words, import of energy is more than export of hydropower by Rs 700M.

The agriculture sector is in a sorry state with increase in the imports of major food items like rice, meat, edible oil and dairy products. In one year, the economy imports 2 billion worth of rice and a billion worth of meat.

On an average, a Bhutanese individual eat two pigs weighing 70 kg a year. When it comes to food trade balance, there is a deficit of Nu 4.2 billion, more than half the net earning of our hydropower sector.

Therefore, food security still remains far-fetched. 60 percent of the total arable land is left fallow.

Moreover, development is highly concentrated in the hydropower sector that is leading to jobless growth. Economic diversification is still a long way from being achieved.

And while the economy is mired in all this problems, electric vehicles, which only the rich can afford, seem to be the priority.

The summit provided several perspectives to deal with the current situation. First, government policies must be economic-friendly, institutions must be strengthened, and ministries and agencies must collaborate instead of working independently.

Today is the right time for such a summit to take place so that the economy does not receive a secondary treatment.

Now, it all depends on what the next step would be. Will the report that will be compiled post summit gather dust in a government office or will the summit be the first step towards a major economic reformation that will reward all citizens and stakeholders of the country of gross national happiness?

The die has been cast and we look forward to it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

On Marriage

Lately I've been troubled by the thought of marriage, am I taking a leap of faith? do I know what lies underneath if I fall? Is it a beginning or an end? am I ready? Will she love me till the end? Will I be a good father, a good husband? and questions so and so had invaded the most part of my mind, leaving me baffled. 

This morning, I quickly grabbed a magazine while headed to the washroom to relieve a part of that gargantuan breakfast I had in the morning, my first glance dropped on this beautiful piece of poetry which was incidentally read while on the potty.

"So lately come to it, it troubles me 

when someone speaks of “marriage” as a thing 
apart, abstract; some alien entity — 
a separable prefix, a gold ring —

And when I hear “a marriage on the rocks” 
(I’m sorry but) I cannot help but see 
some murky, over-complicated cocktail 
whose bitters have obscured all trace of sweet.

“How goes the marriage?” “It goes swimmingly,” 
I answer, thinking, “You should ask a fish 
to talk about her feelings for the sea, 
the muscling of ebbs and flows, the shifts 
in temperature, degrees of salt and sweet"
how, if removed from it, she couldn’t breathe.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spiralling Prices start to pinch

The following is an article I wrote for Kuensel newspaper dated 15 March 2014

From drinking black tea to cutting down on meat/cheese, belts are beginning to tighten
Inflation: When Tshittim, a security guard in one of Thimphu’s corporate offices, gets home to his old government quarter, which has broad newspapers shielding the cold wind from between the gaps on the wall, he asks his wife for a cup of hot tea and begins changing.  Minutes later, his wife comes with a hot cup of tea.
Creamy, thick and sweet tea is what he loves.
Today, however, the colour of the tea has changed.  It is thin and dark maroon.  Phika (tea without milk) is what they have decided to settle on with the sharp rise in price of consumer items.
“Of course we buy milk, but we want to offer milk tea only during special occasions, whenever we have guests coming in,” said Tshittim.
Rapid increase in price of commodities today is hurting the wallet of people, especially those in the lower and middle-income groups.
The price of packaged everyday milk powder, for instance, has gone up to Nu 342 – Nu 62 up.  While the prices of essential commodities continue to increase, income of the poor does not increase correspondingly.
Food prices tend to increase automatically when the price of fuel increases.  Price of diesel has increased by more than Nu 14 a litre in just one year.  Thus, when fuel price increases, transportation charges also increase.  That ratchets up the price of food.
Budhiman, a corporate employee in Thimphu, said the constant increase in price of essential items, particularly food, is affecting his family in terms of nutritional intake.
“Majority of our income goes as rent and other essential expenditures like electricity bills, school fees and transportation costs,” said Budhiman.
As income does not rise with the rise in the price of things, arrangements have to be made.  Budhiman, for instance, has decided to consume less meat and buy cheaper quality rice.
Nima, also a corporate employee, has starting becoming careful with the amount of cheese he uses in his favourite dish, emadatshi. “These are hard times we live in. We need to adjust to the situation. There is no way out.”
For others, however, the rise in price of essential commodities has brought some kind of discipline in their style of living.  Some have cut down on smokes and drinks, among others.
“I realised I was borrowing too much money because of rise in price of things. Something had to be done about it. I didn’t know it was inflation, until it got to a state I could no longer handle,” said Karma, civil servant.
Dan Maya, who earns a minimum wage, said her salary is barely enough to pay off the debts she’s in.
“As soon as I get my salary, I have to pay. And the cycle keeps going,” she said.
Tshittim does not like the way in which salaries are revised, the way it affects poor.  The salary revision doesn’t much help the poor, as it is calculated on the basic pay.  He would prefer a lump sum, should there be a salary revision.
An economist said that inflation must be controlled, because it could push a number of people below the poverty line. “The government should implement policies that look at controlling inflation, because basically inflation is a tax on the poor.”
An official from the national statistics bureau said that imported inflation contributed around 53 percent to total inflation, while domestic inflation contributed 47 percent.
The government, therefore, can at least manage within that 47 percent margin, he said.
By Nidup Gyeltshen 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Heavy Metal is not just heavy

I still don’t have an answer when people ask me why I love to listen to someone screaming their nut sacks off, its too loud, heavy, illegible, you don’t even know what the hell they are singing about.

I love heavy metal but I don’t despise other genres. My listening ear can range from country, punk, rock, jazz, blues, classical, rap and hip-hop. (Did I miss anything?)

The Internet is full of stuffs that say if you like heavy metal, you are sick or depressed. I am not, I am a perfectly normal and a happy human being and I am not depressed.

Of course I am not that big a fan of metal music, I just like them, (sometimes I even catch myself humming Just give me a reason, just a little bits enough…)

If you were a big metal fan, you would know the genre gets even more violent, sickening, dark and gory. It doesn’t seem to make sense; those black metal bands that growl half the time with their terrifying appearances.

But bands like Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine (RATM) and Slip Knot, to name a few are good heavy metal/rock bands. If you read some of their lyrics you will realize, rests of the bands in the music industry are all shallow and garbage.

RATM, a rap metal band, from I don’t know where, for instance has the most revolutionary, powerful lyrics ever written. The following are some of the pullouts from their songs.

‘You can kill a revolutionary but you can’t kill the revolution,’

‘As I recall our downfall and the business that burned us all, see through the news that twists reality,’

‘They murdered ex and blamed it on Islam,’ and the classic ‘fuck you I won’t do what you tell me’

I love such lines in a song they are powerful. And they express in a way they really would want to. And the music if you really listen is not just a flurry of drums and guitars; they are carefully composed and rhythmic.

Dream Theater, besides being one of the best musicians, is also one of the most intelligent lyricists the music industry has ever seen. And no, they just don’t scream out their nut sacks, they have many soft, sad songs too. If you want to check it out yourself, listen to Spirit carries on and beneath the surface, it will make you cry if you have your heart in the right place.

If you listen to John Petrucci’s Hourglass and State of Grace, you would know how great a musician they are. These instrumentals will make you happy and sad at the same time.

So I would like to tell you that I love heavy metal as much as you love contemporary music or a soundtrack from vampire diaries. Don’t tell me I am depressed, I just have my taste elsewhere.

You see, you love good charlotte, and I love Metallica, there is no such thing as ‘bad’ music.