Companies ready to help govt. fight Covid-19

Staff Reporter

The Druk Holding and Investments (DHI), the commercial arm of the government and its subsidiary companies has proposed to contribute more than Nu 1.50 billion (B) to the government in response of a possible economic slowdown due to the Covid-19 health emergency.

The contribution is in addition to the normal dividend and taxes, which DHI will remit to the finance ministry in the coming months for 2019 financial year.

Besides, to ensure all essential services like electricity, communication, air-transport and banking running in times of emergency, a press release from DHI stated that its subsidiary companies will continue to provide their services to ease all constraints as a result of the Covid-19 situations.

DHI’s subsidiary companies like Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC), Bhutan Telecom (BT), Drukair, Bank of Bhutan (BoB) and Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) have stocked up all necessary spares and input materials to last for at least a year.


Service delivery 

With the education ministry developing online contents for students following the indefinite closure of schools, Bhutan Telecom is working with the government to ensure availability of affordable and reliable voice and data connectivity. BT also ensures to provide uninterrupted communication service to hospitals and facilities set-up to fight Covid-19.

Bhutan Telecom officials said they could slash rates to help the government facilitate online education. The company is in discussions with the education and information and communication ministries for details. “We need details of where we could extend our assistance. It is possible and we are comfortable,” said an official. However, he said that details are important to ensure that there is no congestion in some areas, which if not planned could defeat the whole purpose.”

The national airline, Drukair will ensure the continuity of its services to help Bhutanese living abroad to return home. In addition, should there be a need, Drukair, the press release stated, stands committed to help in air transport of mass cargo and also for mass evacuation of the Bhutanese residing outside the country.

DGPC has adequate reserves of essential spares and commodities in its power plants to ensure generation of power at all times, while BPC has a manned a team to attend to any electricity related problem that may occur in hospitals and quarantine facilities.

BoB has also extended its full support to the initiatives and measures the Royal Monetary Authority could outline to ease challenges related to monetary issues. A BoB official said they are exploring possibilities to help those affected by the virus and are in discussions with the central bank through the Financial Institute Association of Bhutan.  A detailed proposal is expected to be announced next week.


Facilities and other supports

In the fight against Covid-19, DHI has procured and supplied facemasks and hand sanitisers for all its frontline staff of its subsidiary companies. The company has also supplied about 4,000 facemasks to the national referral hospital.

It has offered the use of its guesthouses, human resources and equipment from across the country to support local governments fight the disease. DHI has offered to leverage its network and relationships outside the country to source essentials commodities including medicine.

While the situation is expected to improve eventually with measures put up by the government, the economic impacts could be felt for a long time, stated the press release. “DHI is exploring and evaluating projects that could be undertaken soon to help jump start the economy.”

On March 15, DHI presented a detailed presentation of its initiatives to the Prime Minister outlining its plans and preparedness against Covid-19.