…58,732 received income support kidu

Thukten Zangpo

Like millions around the world whose source of livelihood disappeared overnight after the strict lockdowns following the coronavirus outbreak, some lasting for months, thousands of Bhutanese lost their jobs soon after the first lockdown.

People, especially in the service and informal sector, were the most affected as their employers closed shops and left many to fend for themselves.

Today, as people gather without the worry of Covid-19 and look back at the years gone by, the benefits of the support in the form of kidu, the fiscal and monetary measures stand out as a saviour for many Bhutanese.

His Majesty The King’s monthly income support and loan interest payment support kidu became the lifeline for people when the country’s economy and people’s livelihood were adversely affected by the pandemic. On the command of His Majesty The King, the National Resilience Fund was set up in April 2020 to provide economic relief to people through the Druk Gyalpo Relief Kidu (DGRK).

One of the beneficiaries of the income support kidu, a hotel worker, Dawa Zangmo recalls the kidu she received. “I had no money to buy essentials and clothes for my children,” said Dawa, who gave birth at the peak of the pandemic. She received a monthly income support of Nu 12,000 in the first four months and Nu 10,000 until September last year.

Like her, 58, 732 people received the relief kidu for a period of 30 months from April 2020 to September 2022. More than 4,000 people have received the relief kidu every month for the last 30 months.

The relief kidu amounted to Nu 5,157.26 million (M) including a child allowance of Nu 155.28M.

Besides, a total of Nu 674.65M was granted as lockdown kidu to 37,762 people.

Phuentsholing experienced the longest lockdown.  During the lockdown, 2,484 households in Phuentsholing were provided a special lockdown kidu amounting to Nu 84.01M.

The kidu also covered those returning from overseas, especially from the Gulf countries. 678 Bhutanese working overseas received an income support of Nu 17.15M for three months.

The majority of the kidu applicants were from the tourism and tourism-dependent sector, with 14,913 applicants.

Loan interest waiver

A 100 percent  loan interest waiver was granted from April until September 2020. The rate of interest was reduced to 50 percent from October 2020 to June 2022 costing the government Nu 12.6 billion (B) as of September 2021 from the interest payment support.

From July 2021 to December 2022, a total of Nu 3.32B was paid as interest payment support to all eligible borrowers. The fund was fully granted from the National Resilience Fund.

President of the Construction Association of Bhutan, Trashi Wangyel said that the construction sector would have drowned during the pandemic if the DGRK and interest waiver support was not there. He expressed heartfelt gratitude to His Majesty The King for the support.

“His Majesty’s Royal command issued under the DGRK helped the private sector to remain afloat during the pandemic,” Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s President Tandy Wangchuk said. “Without such an intervention provided by His Majesty, businesses would not have been able to tide over this phase.”

Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan’s executive director, Sangeeta Rana, said the hotel sector was the hardest hit and the interest waiver and relief kidu has survived the sector with income support that employs over 50,000 people.

Meanwhile, those in the housing sector benefited the most from the interest payment support with Nu 2.85B of the Nu 8.82B the government refunded to just three financial institutions.