The government has breached the foreign workers ceiling in the country to meet demands of the hydropower projects, home minister Dawa Gyaltshen said.

National Assembly in 2004 decided the ceiling at 45,000 foreign workers. Today, there are 53,042 foreign workers in the country. This figure excludes the foreign diplomats, employees of Project DANTAK and IMTRAT.

Lyonpo Dawa Gyaltshen said additional 8,042 labourers mainly work for the three ongoing hydropower projects, Punatsangchhu I and II, and Mangdechhu hydropower projects.

“Almost 60 percent of the 11th Plan budget is on infrastructure building, which is why there was a huge demand for labourers,” the minister said.

The minister was answering to Trashiyangtse’s National Council (NC) member Tashi Phuntsho, who asked   on the status of the foreign workers’ ceiling and related issues.

As of today, there are 3,811 employees of Project DANTAK and IMTRAT, 322 UN and other diplomats.

The minister said that with the completion of the hydropower projects within two years, the number is expected to drop drastically.

NC members asked the minister what the government thinks of the violation of the ceiling and why the issue was not raised.

The minister said that the cabinet discussed numerous times if the ceiling should be raised but decided not to. If the government raised the ceiling, he said, it could open the floodgates to foreign workers, which could have adverse implications.

“If we revise it, then we also start the precedence for the successive governments to do the same which is not in the interest of the country,” Lyonpo Dawa Gyaltshen said.

According to the hydropower project agreements the government is obliged to supply enough labourers, which is why there was no way to restrict them.

“We tried to keep the numbers as low as possible, and moreover there are strict procedures in place to issue permits to foreign workers in the labour and home ministries,” Lyonpo Dawa Gyaltshen said.

National Council’s chairperson Sonam Kinga (PhD) thanked the government for implementing its recommendations concerning the foreign workers in the country and illegal immigration.

National Council members and the home minister thanked Project DANTAK and IMTRAT for their cooperation in bringing their non-uniformed employees within the purview of the country’s immigration and labour laws.

Tshering Palden