Local manufacturers of concrete and hollow blocks may suffer a quick death with some business houses supplying imported Autoclaved Aerated concrete (AAC) blocks and setting up FDI to do so.
This was the concern raised by some 31 local brick manufacturers who claim that they have been hit hard. About 11 representatives of local manufacturers met the Prime Minister yesterday and submitted their petition. The group also met with the works and human settlement minister a week ago.
“Our small scale units as citizen’s initiative towards narrowing the gap, generating employment, becoming self reliant and aiding in keeping revenue within the country is now on the brink of collapse,” stated the petition signed by 13 individuals.
In December 2015, the former cabinet issued an executive order making it mandatory for all constructions undertaken by the government and public sector to use locally manufactured concrete bricks, certified by Bhutan Standards Bureau (BSB).
The order stated that import of red clay bricks would be allowed only upon unavailability and non-feasibility of local materials with prior and written certification from concerned agencies and project engineers.
Following the order, some dzongkhags have either discouraged or stopped using the red-clay bricks.
However, the local manufacturers claim that BSB has certified AAC blocks, which are not even locally manufactured but imported from India. The petition states that Yarkey Enterprise has set up an FDI company to produce AAC blocks and is monopolising the business.
“We have seen that some of the public sector under DHI are quoting this block in their BOQ for their constructions whereby locally produced bricks are automatically disqualified,” the letter stated.
Local manufacturers claimed that the locally produced bricks are superior in quality, uses locally available raw materials and are environment-friendly.
Despite the order, the local manufacturers pointed out that imported local bricks are being used in construction undertaken by autonomous agencies and state enterprises.
In their petition, local manufacturers of concrete bricks stated that they generated jobs for both skilled and unskilled Bhutanese workforce. On the other hand, the FDI Company producing AAC employed foreign nationals brought in to run the industry. Sources also said that all the raw materials are imported.
“Such monopoly by few elite businesses will drain out our national wealth,” the letter stated.
The local manufacturers appealed the government to curb monopoly of big businesses and requested to ensure use of locally produced building materials by the government and public sector, in upholding the executive order passed by the former cabinet.
In an earlier interview with the foreign minister and spokesperson of the cabinet, Dr Tandi Dorji said the government would encourage the use of locally produced construction materials to encourage local enterprises and that the government would build on the previous government’s decision.
It is also the government’s pledge to support establishment of import substitution industries, such as construction materials, wood-based industries and agro-industries, among others.