MB Subba

Despite interest waivers on housing loans for three months starting April, most building owners have not announced any rent waivers for hotel and restaurants. 

Representatives of hotels and restaurants raised this issue during a meeting with Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) officials in Thimphu yesterday. 

The representatives said that their incomes had dropped by 80-85 percent because they have to now depend solely on local customers. They said that they faced difficulties with paying rents and salaries to their employees.

Former BCCI president Ugen Tshechup who chaired the meeting, said that he would apprise the government about the issues. 

Restaurant and hotel operators said that almost everyone was affected by the pandemic. They were quick to thank His Majesty The King and the government for the relief measures. 

“The gracious support from His Majesty The King and the government has been beneficial to deal with the situation,” one of the participants said. 

The representatives said that hotels were paying their salaries and other benefits as per the law. 

Ugen Tshechup said that landlords who were eligible for interest waivers were expected to waive rents.

“The interest waiver is to benefit people who have problems. The kidu benefit is expected to be shared among the affected people,” he said. 

The representative also said that the government’s recent decision to close all shops by 7pm had further affected their business.

Ugen Tshechup said that businesses were expected to open gradually. He also assured that he would apprise the government of these issues. 

Although the drop in business began in March, a hotel operator told Kuensel that he had paid the rent in full last month. 

“The month is ending. But there is no sign of any reduction in rent for my hotel space,” he said. 

A restaurant operator said that the affected businesses should share the benefit of the rent waivers. He said that it was the landlords who should come forward instead of tenants lobbying for exemptions.

One of the objectives of the interest waivers on loans was to encourage landlords to waive off house rents. 

However, the government and financial institutions (FIs) are of the view that waiver of rents should be left to house owners. Officials say that it is a moral responsibility of landlords to see if the loan deferment could benefit their tenants. 

Officials said that landlords are expected to come forward voluntarily as the relief measure is expected to generate confidence and positive vibes during the pandemic for a “better and more prepared tomorrow”.