With the proprietor of Serzang automobile workshop in Trashigang deciding to downsize his workforce by the end of November, 23 mechanics working for the workshop are worried.

The proprietor, Tshewang Namgyel, is contemplating on downsizing his workforce given the limited amount of work his firm currently receives.

His effort to expand the business and increase employment opportunities has failed to materialise after his proposal for a Priority Sector Lending (PSL) loan has been on hold for more than two months now.

“I was actually planning to recruit another 10 to 15 more workers if I could expand my workshop,” he said. “If my proposal is not sanctioned by the bank soon, it would leave me with no choice but to downsize.”

It was learnt that the dzongkhag PSL committee cleared his application and was forwarded to one of the financial institutions some two months ago. “The ground officials (PSL committee and bank officials) are all aware of how genuine my proposal is. But once it is sent to the headquarters, it gets delayed,” said Tshewang Namgyel.

Tshewang Namgyel’s case is not an isolated one.

Trashigang dzongkhag PSL committee secretary, Wangchuk, said he receives complaints from applicants on the delay regularly.

He said that the dzongkhag PSL committee, after receiving an application from gewogs and individuals work it out within 10 days. “Sometimes the process is completed within a few days.”

The application is then presented to the committee where it is discussed on its viability and the availability of all the necessary documents. “The cleared proposals are then forwarded to respective banks where further scrutiny of the documents is carried out,” said Wangchuk. “Once the documents are forwarded, it is the banks who will be responsible thereafter.”

Trashigang dzongkhag PSL committee has cleared 39 proposals worth Nu 24,437,609 from a total of 41 that were submitted to the committee as of September 24.

The three financial institutions – Bank of Bhutan (BoB), Bhutan National Bank (BNB) and Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Ltd (RIBCL) has sanctioned 14 proposals worth Nu 16.17 million (M) so far.

BNB in Trashigang has received 17 proposals of which it has sanctioned 10 projects as of September 24. There were no rejections from the bank.

Officials in the branch office said that once the proposals are received from the dzongkhag committee, an initial screening of the document is carried out. Once completed, the branch office recommends the proposal and forwards it to the headquarters for further verification and scrutiny.

Initially, when the number of applications was less, it would take less than a week to verify and release the amount to respective clients according to branch officials.

Officials say it now takes a maximum of two weeks to complete the procedure.

RICBL branch manager in Trashigang, Jigme, said that the office has received three proposals from the committee so far. It has released an amount worth Nu 3M to a client already and one was in the process. One proposal was rejected.

The manager said that while the dzongkhag committee conducts a surface evaluation of the proposals, the ultimate right to approve the proposals are vested on the individual financial institutions. “Issues related to finance might arise once the scrutiny by banks are conducted. The delay could be because of such lengthy processes.”

BoB officials refused to comment. However, it was learnt that the remaining 19 proposals were forwarded to BoB. With three sanctioned proposals, BoB has 16 projects that are yet to be sanctioned.

Meanwhile, one of the first recipients of the PSL loan in Trashigang, Yeshi Norbu, is successfully running a poultry farm in Yangnyer gewog.

The 29-year-old entrepreneur applied for Nu 0.5M loan under the PSL scheme.

However, despite the success of this business, Yeshi Norbu is concerned that the business is not making enough profit. “The profit from the farm is just enough to buy feed for the chickens. There is no additional income that would come to me as hard cash profit.”

He said that his request to expand his business under the same scheme was denied by bank officials. “The dzongkhag PSL committee assured me that the help for expansion would be provided as per my request but the bank in Thimphu refused.”

Of the 545 chickens at the farm, Yeshi Norbu collects some 200 eggs daily. The eggs, however, are consumed in the village itself. “There are markets for eggs in Trashigang but it is not enough even for my own village people,” he said.

Yeshi Norbu said he invested an additional of Nu 75,000 on his own to buy some more chickens.

Younten Tshedup | Trashigang