Even as thousands of businesses, big and small, feared the worst with the relief measures of loan interest waiver and loan payment deferment coming to an end, His Majesty The King’s kidu has lifted the burden off the people providing immediate relief.
There were three days left for the kidu month to end when the Prime Minister announced the fiscal and monetary measures and the continuation of the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu, benefiting thousands of Bhutanese whose lives and livelihood are robbed by the impact of the pandemic. There are 23,000 recipients from the first kidu programme. Many had returned to their village, taken up odd jobs and some are working in agriculture projects that sprang up to absorb the affected.
Relieved and comforted by the kidu, gratitude started overflowing on social media while discussions over the weekend mostly surrounded the relief measures. If the Relief Kidu came as a blessing, the decision to continue it for three more months, despite the loss it is incurring on the government and the banks, is unprecedented.
The pandemic has affected the entire world. Economies have crumbled, livelihoods are affected and people are dying, both from the virus and its impact. We have managed to literally contain the virus within the quarantine centres.
The leadership provided by His Majesty The King, always leading from the front and the preparedness and hard work of the health ministry and health workers, and the thousands of volunteers have prevented a community transmission, the most feared, so far. With this safety ensured, the focus is on protecting the lives and livelihood.
With June, the last month of the relief tenure coming to an end, all those affected, worried and distraught, were lost of ideas. Deep inside, some said they prayed, as the situation was not improving. The prayers were answered.
If the first phase incurred huge loss on the government, the second phase covers more and looks beyond just another three months with some loan interest arrangement that will extend until March 2021. To lift pressure from debt, there will be no penalty charged for deferment of loans for a year, highly concessional loans and micro loans for interest as low as two percent is provided and borrowers willing and able to service their loans during this period will receive a one percent reduction in interest rates.
The burden on the national exchequer is going to be huge. It is estimated that the cost of the interest payment for the period of nine months alone is going to cost Nu 7.5 billion. Then there are additional costs from tax deferment, waivers on rent, utility, electricity charges for industries among others.
This is the most generous soelra from the Golden Throne. Some might have expected some interventions, but not many would have imagined the profundity of His Majesty The King’s extraordinary and compassionate support to his people.
This reminds all of us for what His Majesty said in His Coronation address: “Throughout my reign I will never rule you as a King. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother and serve you as a son. I shall give you everything and keep nothing; I shall live such a life as a good human being that you may find it worthy to serve as an example for your children; I have no personal goals other than to fulfill your hopes and aspirations. I shall always serve you, day and night, in the spirit of kindness, justice and equality.”
We are so fortunate to be living in such a time, crisis or no crisis, with His Majesty The King at the helm.