Dechen Dolkar 

The construction of the power sub-station in Panbang would cost around Nu 350 million, according to the minister for economic affairs, Loknath Sharma.

During the question hour session at National Assembly on November 22, MP for Bardo-Trong, Gyambo Tshering, said that the people of Zhemgang requested the government to consider establishing a power sub-station in Panbang to resolve power shortages and frequent power outages in the dzongkhag. The MP said that the dzongkhag requested the same from the ministry in 2021 and but the issue persists.

Responding to the question, Lyonpo said that he received a letter a week before through the MP.

Lyonpo said that in Zhemgang, there are around 5,055 consumers and Panbang has around 600. In total, they consume about 1 mega watt of energy.

“To construct a substation would cost around Nu 350M. Technically, it is possible to construct, but if we look at it financially, it is not possible to construct soon,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo said that for now, to resolve the power shortage, feeder automation for power distribution is being carried out. So far, 28 feeder automations have been completed, he said.

Lyonpo said that the ministry is also trying to shorten the line and is carrying out re-alignment from the Panbang-Nganglam highway, which will be completed by June next year. 

The Opposition Leader, Dorji Wangdi, said that the main challenge is that due to dense forests, officials are having difficulties restoring the power outages, especially during summer.

Panbang is also identified as a satellite town and BPC is ready to construct a substation if the ministry approves and feels that it is necessary to construct. “Even land has been identified for construction.”

MP for Draagteng-Langthil, Gyem Dorji, questioned the economic affairs minister on business licence renewal fees of Kuenga Rabten restaurants in Trongsa which was increased from Nu 3,000 to Nu 7,000. 

The MP said that the people are paying satellite town rate fees already. However, the town, he said, is not given facilities such as streetlights, drainage system, and roads. 

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma responded that before the amendment of rules and regulations, fees were imposed in four categorised town—A, B, C, and others. Fee renewal charges range from Nu 15,000, Nu 10,000, Nu 5,000, and Nu 3,000. The “other” refers to restaurants in rural areas. 

Lyonpo said that with the new rules and regulations fees are imposed in three categories. Town A, B, and others. Town B and C were merged.

Lyonpo said that Kuenga Rabten cannot be considered a remote area. “The fee earlier was Nu 10,000; now it is Nu 7,000…If people are not happy, the government will look into the matter.”

MP for Khar-Yurung, Tshering Chhoden, said that with the current increase in taxation and civil service pay structure reform, the prices of commodities are expected to increase. 

The MP questioned the minister about measures being put in place to control market prices.

Lyonpo said that salary was not increased for civil servants; instead, their allowance and benefits are merged with monthly income. “This will increase their purchasing power.”

Lyonpo mentioned that in the month of September the inflation rate was 6.05 percent. The good thing was that compared with last year, the prices have not increased much on food items. 

The inflation rate on food items was 4.24 percent. 

“To curb inflation, the government has decided to keep zero tax on essential items,” Lyonpo said.

He urged people to buy only the essential items to curb inflation.