Deferring loan repayment for the youth in Japan may take time because the Bhutan Development Bank Limited (BDBL) requires the client to sign the agreement of deferment in person, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said.

At the Friday Meet yesterday, Lyonchhen said that after the government decided to defer the loan repayment, discussions have ongoing and it was found that the loan agreement was between the bank and youth in Japan.

“It would be inconvenient if the client who availed the loan is not in Bhutan in person to sign the agreement,” Lyonchhen said. “This issue is not something that we would commit to do and it would be done by tomorrow. If it was possible, it would’ve been solved long time back.”

More than three weeks after labour minister Ugyen Dorji announced that the government had decided to defer the loan repayment, the decision was not implemented. The BDBL was yet to receive directives from the government.

Deferment of loan repayment meant that the Bhutanese currently in Japan could discontinue repaying their loan. Graduates working and studying in Japan could continue the repayment after two years while class XII graduates could repay after four years.

The students take a loan of about Nu 700, 000 each under the overseas education and skill development loan scheme to study and work in Japan. They are given five years to repay the loan and also get six months grace period before they start the repayment.

Lyonchhen said the bank would not agree to defer the loan with the government because it would require the clients’ signatures as per procedures, as the bank would be required to draw up new agreements.

“However, we’re still discussing on this issue. Either we should pack the agreements, put it inside the bag, send a staff and get it all signed because it is not possible for all 800 youth to come to Bhutan to sign the agreement.”

He said the government would continue to work on this issue and try to implement the loan deferment in about two or three months.

“I talked with the labour minister also and he has informed that they are in continuous talk with the bank. We are working and we could not implement immediately not because we don’t want to work on it but because of the time and situation.”

Lyonchhen also said that the government has cancelled its plans to send a team to Japan to study the situation for now.

At the National Assembly on January 4, he had said that a team headed by officials from the labour ministry would go to Japan to study the situation.

“We had to cancel because when we studied the purpose of going there to investigate, we saw that there was not much benefit in doing so,” Lyonchhen said. “If we were going there to learn about their plights, which we were not aware of or to learn the problem between youth and agent, then we won’t be getting any new ideas to address the issue.”

Lyonchhen added that a team of about 10 officials would have to be sent, which would incur huge expenditure. “This would also make Japanese government unhappy for sending a team where there is no need of serious investigation.”

However, he said the government might send a team if it is really required.

“The problems are here and whatever is needed to be done is here only, which we cannot solve by going there,” he said. “We’re already working on it to solve these issues and if it is only about getting the signature, we hope it would be solved.”

Yangchen C Rinzin