Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The government yesterday announced more austerity measures to curb spending and ensure prudence of scarce resources as the country faces increasing financial pressures.

The printing and publication sector will be hit the most as all government agencies will immediately discontinue printing of annual, quarterly, and monthly reports and eliminate paper publications.

“All such reports and information should be posted on agencies’ websites and distributed electronically,” the finance ministry notification stated.

Further, all office orders, circulars, notifications and intra-office memos will have to be circulated electronically through emails, official web page, official social media pages, and other possible virtual platforms unless absolutely required to observe confidentiality. However, office copies must be maintained in PDF.

The head of the agencies will also ensure the procurement of dedicated printers per employee must be discontinued and promote the use of network printers or initiate consolidation of printers in offices.

Those involved in the printing sector say the move will worsen their already dwindling business situation.

A proprietor of a private printing press in Thimphu said: “The decision to discontinue the printing of reports and publications from the government agencies will have an adverse impact on the whole of the printing industry in the country.”

“If we are to break it down, almost 80 to 90 percent of the printing jobs are from the government agencies and remaining from other sectors. The decision comes at such a time when the entire private sector is struggling with the after-effects of the pandemic.”   The printing owner said printing presses generate a lot of employment and the decision might force some of the presses to either reduce their workforce or close down their business in the coming days.

Another printing proprietor said he is worried about the 11 staff he has.

“We solely depend on the government projects,” he said, adding there are not many private works in the printing sector.

“I am confused right now. If we don’t have jobs, we will not be able to keep our staff and office going.”

Kuensel’s printing manager, Tshering Pelden said that the government had already started cutting down on printing and publication.

“If they went for 1,000 copies before, they were going with 100 to 200 last year,” she said, adding that the government agencies were printing at least 20 to 25 copies just for their office this year.

“Today’s notification means even this is out.”

Tshering Pelden said the tourism sector used to print brochures and posters, which are not there anymore, adding that other corporate and private offices also don’t spend much these days.

Another area the government has targeted as a cost control measure is ex-country travel. Under this, foreign travel will be restricted to unavoidable official engagements. Agency heads must prohibit study tours, participation in seminars, workshops, conferences and training funded by the government except for formal meetings of bilateral or multilateral bodies approved by the Lhengye Zhungtshog.

In case of unavoidable international meetings, the agencies must use the diplomats in the mission abroad to represent the agencies to reduce the size of the official delegations.  The notification also said that agency heads must rationalise the serving of working lunch and refreshments during the internal meetings.

Utmost austerity will also be observed in regards to in-country training, conferences, workshops and meetings. All such activities must be adequately substantiated and justified to be approved by the head of the agencies.