Neten Dorji | Trashigang
It was the perfect time to invest in manufacturing bricks. The Kholongchhu hydro project was finalised, the then government issued an executive order requiring all construction of public infrastructure by government agencies to use locally manufactured bricks.
The idea was seen as a viable approach towards enhancing the economy and creating employment.
Local manufacturers sprung up from Phuentsholing to Gelephu to Trashigang.
Today, almost all the manufacturers are pleading for government interventions with nobody following the executive order. Some are claiming of going out of business.
The latest is in Trashigang and Trashiyangtse.
Manufacturers there said contactors and government agencies continue importing construction materials such as hollow bricks and red bricks to build public infrastructures.
“Reducing import, becoming self-reliant and aiding in keeping revenue within the country would remain a dream, if import continues,” said local a brick factory owner.
Kinzang Duba, owner of hollow blocks and bricks at Ranjung started manufacturing local bricks in 2015. He said that there is no demand for local bricks despite the surge in constructions in the dzongkhags. “ Most of the contractors are using imported bricks even if local bricks are superior in quality and cheaper.”
Another brick factory owner at Buna, Tshering Lhamo, said the business is not viable anymore. Some are questioning if the Bhutan Standards Bureau certified some of the bricks imported.
Tshering Lhamo is worried about the loan repayment. She availed a loan Nu 0.50 million from RICBL to start the business in 2018. “If the import is not restricted, we could go out of business and default,” she said.
Desperate, Tshering Lhamo also suggested government imposing higher tax on imported bricks. “This would help us and help the government create jobs,” she said.
The proprietor of Jampel Sambhava Bricks in Trashiyangtse shut down a few years ago. “I started the factory after I heard that the Kholongchhu hydropower project would commenced soon,” said Jampel Tenzin.
Local brick owners said concerned agencies and dzongkhags are responsible and accountable to ensure that local bricks are used in construction of any public and private infrastructure. “They failed to implement the government order,” said an owner.
Another owner said contractors should not be allowed to use import bricks while constructing public infrastructures. “Government agreed to encouraged private construction owner to use locally produced blocks, but we don’t see that,” he said.
Most of the local manufacturers claimed that locally produced bricks are superior in quality than imported red bricks and white hollow blocks.
“There is a gap between government policy and implementing agencies. With an executive order, how could authorities let people import bricks,” said one. “An executive order should be in effect unless the present government issues another to cancel it. The present government has not done that. Who is failing?” he said.