Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

With full relaxation, Phuentsholing is slowly returning to pre-pandemic days.

But there is one thing the town residents are worried about. Many are saying goods and commodities, including services, are becoming increasingly more expensive in Phuentsholing than in Thimphu.

A corporate employee said she found even vegetables were cheaper in Thimphu.

“A bunch of spinach is Nu 50 in Phuentsholing,” she said.

A packet of cigarettes that costs Nu 100 in Thimphu is still being sold at Nu 120 to Nu 150 in Phuentsholing.

A businessman who deals in transportation said that Thimphu was expensive when the Sorchen driver-switching point was there.

“After it was lifted, transportation charges decreased, making the rates cheaper in Thimphu,” he said.

However, he said that the main reason why Thimphu is cheaper is because the businessmen in Thimphu are bigger distributors and import directly from the manufacturers. In Phuentsholing, there are not many who buy from manufacturers, he added.

Phuentsholing businessmen mostly buy from Jaigaon. And importing from Jaigaon includes extra transportation, which is increasing by the day, and loading charges.

There are many who say prices of goods are still expensive in Thimphu.

“For example, a product I sell at Nu 80 in my shop is Nu 150 in Thimphu,” Namgay, a shopkeeper, said.

However, Namgay said that importing using container and cargo (air) mode of transport may be making the difference.

“I import using containers,” he said.

However, Namgay said that Thimphu and Paro are far better off in terms of availability of varieties of goods and commodities—even in terms of hardware products.

“This is because these cities have a bigger market today,” he said. “There are more people. It is all the aftermath of Covid-19.”

The businessman said that relevant agencies must now look into the prospects of bringing back Phuentsholing’s economy to what it was before the pandemic hit the country.

Once the international gate opens, Phuentsholing will also have to compete with business across the border, he said, pointing out that at least 40 percent of the business would get diverted then.

The trade office in Phuentsholing has not received any complaints about the rate or pricing issues. However, owing to the speculation of such an increase in rates in Phuentsholing, the trade office on May 23 notified all business establishments that include automobile workshops, salons and parlors, hotels and restaurants, shops and enterprises, to display service charges or rates.

The information should be displayed in prominent areas, clear and legible to the customers, the notification said.

The officiating regional director with the trade office in Phuentsholing, Sonam Dhendup, said the price of oil, particularly of Saffola, was cheaper in Thimphu than in Phuentsholing.

“However, we have not received any complaints,” he said.

About the rates being cheaper in Thimphu, Sonam Dhendup said that they would be able to understand clearly only after the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) comes out with a report in June.

“We have submitted the Market Price Information (MPI) data to the OCP,” he said.

Sonam Dhendup said that with all Covid-19 protocols lifted, the prices should come down.

“There will not be much difference.”