Outcome of visit to Bangladesh

Friends

Friends

 

 

For those who are interested, I’m reproducing the joint press statement by the Governments of Bangladesh and Bhutan on my recent official visit to Bangladesh.

 

 

 

  1. At the invitation of H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Hon’ble Prime Minister, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, H.E. Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, Hon’ble Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan paid an official visit to Bangladesh from 06-08 December 2014. The Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bhutan was accompanied by H.E. Mr. Rinzin Dorje, Hon’ble Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Mr. Norbu Wangchuk, Hon’ble Minister of Economic Affairs and other senior officials. There was also a high level business delegation from Bhutan.
  2. During the visit, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bhutan paid a courtesy call on H.E. Mr. Md. Abdul Hamid, Hon’ble President of Bangladesh.
  3. The Prime Minister of Bhutan laid a wreath at the National Martyrs’ Memorial at Savar as a mark of respect to the memory and contribution of the valiant freedom fighters of Bangladesh. He also paid tribute and respect to the memory of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum.
  4. The official talks between Bangladesh and Bhutan were held on 06 December 2014 in an atmosphere of great warmth and cordiality reflecting the excellent bilateral relations and age-old friendship between the two countries. The two Prime Ministers led their respective sides. Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh hosted a banquet in honour of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bhutan and the accompanying delegation.
  5. E. Mr. Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, MP, Hon’ble Foreign Minister; H.E. Mr. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, MP, Hon’ble Finance Minister; H.E. Mr. Tofail Ahmed, MP, Hon’ble Commerce Minister; H.E. Mrs. Raushan Ershad, MP, Hon’ble Leader of the Opposition; H.E. Prof. Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Hon’ble Adviser on International Affairs to the Hon’ble Prime Minister; and some other dignitaries paid courtesy calls on the Prime Minister of Bhutan.
  6. During the official talks, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh recalled with gratitude Bhutan’s invaluable supporting role to the War of Liberation of Bangladesh. She also recalled that Bhutan was the first country to recognize Bangladesh on 6 December 1971. The Bhutanese Prime Minister handed over to the Bangladesh Prime Minister a text of the wireless message that was sent on 06 December 1971 by the Third King of Bhutan to the then Acting President of Bangladesh conveying recognition of Bangladesh by Bhutan as a sovereign independent country.
  7. The two Prime Ministers agreed that this visit by the Prime Minister of Bhutan gave the two sides an opportunity to take stock of the progress in bilateral relations as also to infuse further impetus towards deepening and strengthening the relations between the two countries.
  8. The two sides expressed satisfaction at the excellent Bangladesh-Bhutan relations which have particularly blossomed over the past six years. They discussed ways and means to further intensify their mutually beneficial cooperation, including inter alia, in hydro-power, water resources management, trade and commerce, connectivity, climate change, tourism, culture, education, agriculture, health and human resources development. They noted with satisfaction the institutionalization of regular meetings at the Foreign Secretary and Commerce Secretary levels, which provide the opportunity to further promote the friendly bilateral relations.
  9. The Prime Minister of Bhutan recalled the inspiring leadership of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He lauded Bangladesh’s tremendous socio-economic advancements during the tenure of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The Bhutanese Prime Minister also expressed his admiration for the able leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in forging dynamism into the relations between the two countries and among the countries of the region as also for her contribution towards advancement of global peace.
  10. Referring to the huge hydro-power potential of Bhutan, Bangladesh Prime Minister reiterated interest to obtain hydro-power from Bhutan to Bangladesh and requested for Bangladesh’s partnership in Bhutan’s future power projects. The Bhutanese Prime Minister agreed to work together with Bangladesh in this sector.
  11. Recognizing the utmost importance of enhancing regional connectivity, both sides agreed to jointly work towards that end both bilaterally and sub-regionally.
  12. The Bangladesh side agreed to consider Bhutan’s request for sharing internet redundancy.
  13. Both sides agreed to work together to enhance collaboration in Water Resources Management and Power/Hydro-power and Connectivity in the sub-regional context.
  14. Emphasizing the need for enhancing trade relations for mutual benefit and recognizing the huge potential it holds in bringing prosperity, the two sides agreed to diversify bilateral trade and take further trade facilitations measures for deeper market access. Bangladesh side offered to export more products such as ready-made garments, pharmaceuticals, ceramics, jute and jute goods, agricultural produce to Bhutan. Bhutanese side agreed to look into it.
  15. Recognizing Bangladesh’s lead role in developing global awareness and international partnership on Autism and other neuro-developmental disorders, the two sides agreed to work together to contribute to the process regionally and internationally. Both sides also agreed to actively engage in the work of the Southeast Asian Autism Network (SAAN) and the formulation of a multifaceted Global Action Plan on Autism. The Bhutanese Prime Minister appreciated the personal commitment and leadership of the Bangladesh Prime Minister and Ms. Saima Hossain, Member of WHO’s Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health in promoting the rights and well-being of persons affected by Autism.
  16. Both sides put emphasis on having a Cultural Exchange Programme to further strengthen the common and unique cultural linkages that date back to history.
  17. Recognizing the huge potential of tourism, the two sides agreed to further increase cooperation in this sector.
  18. To enhance cooperation in agriculture, the two sides stressed on early commencement of work by the Joint Technical Committee formed in this regard.
  19. It was also agreed to enhance collaboration in other sectors namely, education, health and human resources development.
  20. Referring to the 18th SAARC Summit, the two leaders exchanged views on various issues under SAARC and reiterated their commitment to strengthen the SAARC process.
  21. The two sides also exchanged views on cooperation in other regional and international fora including UN and BIMSTEC and noted the commonality of their views and positions on all major issues and agreed to continue to work together for mutual benefit.
  22. Expressing concern about the adverse impacts of climate change on the two countries, both the sides put emphasis on securing climate justice and equity based on the principles of UNFCCC; balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation; clear provision of new, adequate and predictable financing; and enhanced technology development and transfer.
  23. As a token of friendship, the Government of Bangladesh provided a piece of land for the Royal Bhutanese Embassy at Baridhara in Dhaka, as a gift to Bhutan and its people.
  24. Following the official talks, two agreements were signed between Bangladesh and Bhutan on 06 December 2014:
    • The bilateral Trade Agreement and its Protocol (renewed for ten years);
    • Agreement on allotment of land to Bhutan for construction of its Embassy Premises at Baridhara diplomatic enclave in Dhaka;
  25. During his stay, the Prime Minister of Bhutan visited a pharmaceutical company and the National Museum.
  26. The Prime Minister of Bhutan expressed his deep appreciation for the cordial welcome and warm hospitality extended to him and the members of his delegation during his stay in Bangladesh.
  27. The Bhutanese Prime Minister, on behalf of His Majesty the King of Bhutan and on his own behalf, extended invitations to the Hon’ble President and Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh to visit Bhutan. The invitations were accepted and it was agreed that the dates of the visits would be finalized in due course.

 

 

Dhaka

08 December 2014

A birthday greeting

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday!

On the joyous occasion of His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk’s 33rd birth anniversary, the People’s Democratic Party joins the nation in offering our deepest respects, heartfelt felicitations and prayers for His Majesty’s long life and a long prosperous reign.

Long Live the Druk Gyalpo!

Bhutan has been blessed with a succession of enlightened monarchs – selfless and benevolent kings who have always placed the interest of the nation above all else. They have ensured the peace, security and stability of our country; they have bestowed liberty, justice and happiness on our people.

Bhutan continues to be blessed. At a time when our people were enjoying unprecedented peace, prosperity and happiness, His Majesty the King blessed us with democracy. He then worked tirelessly to ensure that the transition to democracy is smooth. When we, the people, were unsure about democracy, His Majesty gave us assurance. When we were confused, His Majesty gave us inspiration. And when the political system seemed to flounder, His Majesty provided steadfast support and counsel.

That is why, within a very short time, the foundations of our democracy have already become unshakable.

On our part, His Majesty’s birth anniversary is an opportune occasion to dedicate ourselves to take democracy forward, and so serve the Tsawa Sum. Political parties, their members and candidates can do so by committing themselves to genuine nation-building instead of pursuing narrow political interests. Civil servants and the clergy can do so by remaining truly apolitical. And, most importantly, every Bhutanese can do so by fulfilling their sacred responsibility to vote in the upcoming elections. The best gift we can offer His Majesty today would be the pledge that we will take our democracy seriously.

Two months ago, on December 17th, during our National Day celebrations, His Majesty the King called on the nation to participate in the upcoming elections “as candidates, members of parties and voters.”

Today, on His Majesty’s birth anniversary, it would be befitting on our part to commit to do so … as a simple, yet heartfelt birthday gift.

Long Live the Druk Gyalpo!

Happy Losar!

nagini-crn

Chime R. Namgyal’s “Nagini”

I am guilty. My last post was on November 23. That means that I have not updated my blog for about two and half months – 79 days to be exact. That’s a long break. I took the break to collect my thoughts. I also took the break to focus on party matters – to consult and work more closely with my PDP colleagues in the lead-up to this year’s elections. I’m happy to report that, so far, our journey to the 2013 elctions is proceeding well. So far, so good.

I have been very fortunate that my blog has received a following far greater than I actully deserve. In fact, many of you have kept visiting this website even though I was not able to update it regularly. I want to thank all of you for visiting, and for participating in and adding to the discussions here, regardless of whether you subscribe to my views or not.

In the past couple of weeks, I have been looking forward to writing again, and, for that, I’ve been thinking about an appropraite day to restart. Today is the first day of the first month of the Bhutanese calendar. Today is losar. So it is as good a day as any to revive this blog, and to reconnect with my readers again.

On this Losar, I would like to wish all of you, your family members and friends, and all your loved ones a very Happy Losar! May my losar greetings bring you peace, prosperity and happiness. May the Year of the Female Water Snake inspire you to achieve your aspirations and fulfill your dreams.

On this Losar, let us remember the peace and prosperity we have enjoyed since Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel united Bhutan, and under the golden reign of our successive monarchs. Let us celebrate the leadership of our monarchs who have worked tirelessly and selflessly to give us a kingdom that we are justifiably proud of.

On this Losar, let us remind ourselves of the sacred responsibility we shoulder – to contribute to making our democracy a success. Before 2008, all of us were united in our reluctance to welcome democracy in our country. But we were also united in accepting it because it was given to us, as a gift from the Golden Throne. Now we must again stand united, each and every one of us, in carrying out our sacred democratic responsibilities, foremost among which is to make sure we vote.

As elections draw near, we must remind ourselves to make our votes count. Your one vote can be the difference between having the right member of parliament or not. More importantly, it can be the differnce between having the government of your choice or not. And most importantly, it could be the difference between whether you get the future of your choice or not.

In 2008, almost 80% of the electorate voted. It is a figure all of us should be proud of. No other liberal democracy can boast of such a huge voter turnout. The extraordinary turnout clearly indicated that our electorate knew the importance of the ballot and was willing to exercise it. That said, not as many voters turned up for the local elections held in the last two years. And that should concern all of us.

Therefore, on this Losar, I would like to call on all my fellow citizens – my brothers and sisters – to commit to exercising your democratic franchise. Think of voting as a duty, a sacred duty, and not a privilege. I hope that all of you would have already decided to vote … in the NC elections, in the primary elections and in the general elections. And please spread the message. Encourage your friends to vote. Encourage your family to vote. Encourage your neighbours to vote.

On this Losar, I would also like to remind all politicians and political parties to keep the interest of the nation above all other things. I am proud of my fellow politicians and more so of all the aspiring politicians, and I am sure that all of us will work to make our Kings and our people proud. Still, I would like to urge our politicians to put personal differences aside, and focus on the important business of nation-building instead.

I am sure my politician friends would agree that we are not in politics to win at any cost. We are not in it to hold on to power at any cost. Instead, we are in it to build stronger Bhutan. We are in it to build a better Bhutan. We are in it to build a country of our dreams.

On this Losar, let us commit to making the Female Water Snake Year a year of destiny for Bhutan. I am confident that each and every one of us will do our part in the upcoming national elections. I am confident that we will vote, that we will vote responsibly, and that we will vote for the change that we can believe in. And I am confident that, with the blessings of Guru Rimpoche, the protection of our guardian deities, and the guidance of our beloved Kings, we will secure an even better and brighter future for Bhutan.

HAPPY LOSAR ONCE AGAIN!

The banner features a detail of Chime R Namgyal’s depiction of a “Nagini” that he created for Tashi Delek, Druk Air’s inflight magazine.

 

Amazing social media

Social animal

Social media is amazing. Click on a few buttons, like a page, follow a friend, and, voila!, you know everything that’s going on around you.

To politicians, that knowledge is invaluable. It allows them to hear the people, to listen to them, to feel their pulse.

But social media has an even bigger gift for politicians. It facilitates communication. It allows politicians to interact continuously with people, easily and directly.

Yes, social media is amazing. That’s why I, as a politician, am active on Twitter and Facebook. That’s also why I’m on Youtube and Bambuser and Linkedin and Instagram. And that’s why I maintain this blog.

Over the years, I’ve received many messages, mainly on Facebook. Many of them have carried good wishes and words of encouragement … and criticism

But I’ve received many other types of messages as well: some giving me advice, some complaining about public policy, some explaining their personal problems, some asking for help with their school research, some asking for money, some asking if I know their long lost friend, and some simply to say “hi!”

Of the thousands of messages I’ve received, my all time favorite came from a young boy. He sent me this desperate message last week:

“Uncle, I have a cute little pug dog who I love very much. Last time, my mummy has given to your brother as he has a female pug. And my mummy cannot remember his no. Please ask him to bring back my pug. I miss him very much. Please uncle!!!”

I had to attend to his request immediately. I tracked down my brother, then went back on Facebook. But before I could tell him the good news, this message was waiting for me:

“Thank you uncle. He brought it back. Me and my sister are very happy now. Mummy wanted to send him with Aunty but we didn’t let her send him. Please tell other uncle, he can bring his dog to our home to meet my dog sometime. We will also send our dog to his home. Again, thank you uncle.”

Social media is amazing.

Observing anticorruption day

Here’s how I observed International Anticorruption Day yesterday:

One, I went through Transparency International’s Corruption Perception index report for 2011. Bhutan is rated 5.7 (10 means perceived to be very clean; 0 means very corrupt) and is ranked a decent 38 out of the 182 countries and territories that were studied. Bhutan’s rating of 5.7 remains unchanged from the 2010 corruption perception levels. Not bad, but we can, and must, do better.

Two, I tuned in to see BBS’s live debate on the topic “Is Bhutan doing enough in fighting corruption?” The debate, which was organised jointly with IMS, had six panelists, all honourable members of the Parliament. The debate would have been a lot more meaningful if the panelists were chosen to defend two different sides of the motion – one team contending that Bhutan is doing enough to fight corruption; the other arguing that Bhutan is not doing enough.

Three, I closed my poll that asked “Is ACC taking too long to start investigating the Gyelpozhing land case?” The big majority – 300 of the 352 who took the poll – answered “yes” the ACC is taking too long.

Four, I drafted a letter to the ACC encouraging them to investigate and resolve the Gyelpozhing land case as soon as possible. The case is significant as it raises serious questions on the conduct of our senior-most public officials, many of whom hold powerful offices. Did they, for example, violate laws in the way that land was acquired and distributed? And was conflict of interest standards compromised by senior officials who applied for and received land?

Five, I drafted a letter to the Royal Audit Authority requesting them for a copy of their report on the special investigations that they carried out on the lottery operations. I had asked for the report in June this year, but was denied it. I’m hopeful that, for the sake of transparency and accountability, the RAA is now prepared to make the report public.

On tour

Dear friends,

I’m continuing my tour to the dzongkhags – to congratulate the new local governments, to report on the work of the opposition party, and to discuss what we should focus on during the remainder of our term.

I’m in Dagana. Today, after we visit the Impressive Daga Tashi yangtse Dzong, we go to Dagapela, and from there we trek to Lhamoizingkha. I’m looking forward to visiting this part of our country before they become accessible by car.

I haven’t been able to get my laptop online. That’s why I haven’t posted anything new. But I can access the Internet on my phone. So I’m able to update my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Please stay in touch through them.

With my best wishes,

Tshering

Sorry!

I have not been able to update this blog – not because I’ve been busy touring our country, but because the data card I use to connect my laptop to the Internet is broken. So while I’ve been able to post updates on Twitter and on Facebook using my cell phone, I have not been able to work on my blog. I am sorry.

We are now back in Trongsa, our first stop on the tour. From here we had traveled to Bumthang and then on to Lhuntse, Mongar, Trashiyangtse, Trashigang, Samdrup Jongkhar, Sarpang and Zhemgang. Tomorrow we head to Wangdiphodrang, and then to Thimphu.

In these dzongkhags I reported to local government leaders and civil servants to describe the opposition party’s roles and responsibilities and to explain the priorities of the opposition during the past three and a half years. I also solicited feedback on any weaknesses, mistakes and shortcomings of the opposition party, and called for issues that we should focus on during our remaining 18 months in office.

I’m now back in Trongsa, where I’m enjoying Yangkhil Resort’s painfully slow wireless services!

Pension benefits

We talked about pensions two years ago.

First, we voiced concern that the NPPF pension scheme was sustainable for only 30 years.

Then, we discussed the merits of a defined-contribution plan over the existing defined-benefit plan.

And then, we expressed alarm that the government was interfering in how our pension scheme was being run.

Let’s keep talking about pensions. There’s good news. And there’s bad news.

The good news is that, despite increased competition in the financial sector, NPPF seems to be performing well. In the last year, the membership base has increased by 5.4%, from 40,222 to 42,393 members. Revenue generated increased by 14.57%. And the total fund grew by 18.6% to Nu 8.97 billion.

The good news is also that NPPF’s pension scheme could soon become available for workers in the orgranized private sector.

The bad news is that our pension scheme is become even more defined by benefits. Retirement pension benefits have now been increased to 40% of final salaries. This is bound to make our pension scheme unsustainable, especially after returns on NPPF’s investments start to inevitably drop due to the growing competition in the financial sector.

The bad news is also that some six serving ministers are already drawing pension benefits.

Our ministers collect pensions because they have retired from the civil service. And because they’ve reached the retirement age. They’re entitled to draw pensions. But, as serving ministers, they still have regular incomes. So the very purpose of pensions – i.e., to provide predictable income when income from formal employment is not longer available – seems to be lost.

In a defined-benefit plan, pension rates are based on the salary of a member with little regard to how much that member has contributed.  Such a scheme naturally encourages members to collect their pensions as soon as they reach retirement age, even if they are still formally employed. That’s why our ministers collect their pensions although they have regular salaries. The system encourages them to do so.

In a defined-contribution plan, pension rates are based on the contributions of individual members. So the more a member contributes, the more that member will collect during retirement. Such a scheme would encourage members to make contributions as long as they have regular jobs, so that they enjoy bigger benefits when they no longer have regular jobs.

NPPF knows that defined-benefit plans are not sustainable. The experience of many countries has already demonstrated that.

So NPPF should migrate to a defined-contribution plan. The transition will be difficult. And it will be painful, especially for members who will retire in the next few years. But it is possible, now. Our pension scheme is still young; contributing members outnumber pensioners by a huge margin; and returns on the pension investments have been good. Plus, our government may be willing to chip in to defray some of the immediate costs associated with migrating to the more sustainable defined-contribution plan.

Big picture – 10

We haven’t done this for a while. The first person to get the big picture wins a copy of “Treasures of the Thunder Dragon: A Portrait of Bhutan”.

Australia floods

Safe, sound and dry

I just got off the phone with Colin McCowan, popularly known as “Mister Col” by Bhutanese studying in Brisbane, Australia.

Col says that he’s in touch with all 25 Bhutanese students in the Brisbane area. And that all of them and their families are safe.

The floods have wrecked unimaginable damage in Queensland. So I’m grateful that our students and their families – all 60 of them – are safe and sound.

Mister Col: thank you for taking care of our students.