According to Business Bhutan, Nu 150 billion worth of Bhutanese lottery tickets were printed illegally every year in the Indian state of Kerala alone. That’s a lot of money by any measure. But to get a proper sense of how much Nu 150 billion really is, consider that our entire GDP is only about Nu 60 billion. Or that the Tenth Five Year Plan outlay is Nu 148 billion (the Ninth Plan outlay was Nu 70 billion).
So I was surprised to learn that the prime minister’s fist response to the alleged lottery scam was remarkably casual. The prime minister has admitted that the lottery “business was unethical and not in conformity with the GNH values.” This is an important announcement. But surely it cannot substitute for a complete investigation.
The allegations against the government’s lottery agent are extremely serious. And it would do well to investigate – immediately and thoroughly – if our lottery agent has indeed printed and sold fake Bhutanese lottery tickets in India. We owe as much to the government and people of India who have allowed us to engage in this very lucrative business for the past 25 years.
The prime minister has also been reported as saying that “…his government has nothing to do with the lottery issue and that the decisions were taken by the interim government in 2007.” That may be so. But none-the-less, the government owes the people of Bhutan some explanations.
Why, for instance, did this government, in March 2010, transfer its agreement with Martin Agencies to Monica Agencies even though they both belonged to the same person?
Why did this government extend the duration of the agreement with Monica Agencies by five months?
Why did this government reduce the contract from Nu 470 million per year to Nu 210 million per year, even though Bhutan lottery sales had been re-permitted in Kerala?
And why was one person allowed to run the Bhutan Lottery Directorate since 1987?
The government must provide satisfactory answers to these and other pressing questions. Otherwise, the ACC must investigate.
Photo credit: Outlookindia.com