NGOP: It was the perfect forum for the 2,700 graduates to question the government when seven members of the Cabinet opened themselves to questions yesterday at the ongoing orientation programme.

High on the priority list was unemployment going by the questions asked. A graduate, Sonam said employers always asked for job experience, which she said was unfair for out of college jobseekers like her.

“When we completed class XII, they look for graduates,” she said. “When we become university graduates, they look for experienced applicants,” she said reflecting one of the biggest concerns of the young graduates.

Another graduate said that the candidates were preselected and that the job vacancies announced was just eyewash. “We come from far away places to the capital for job interviews and most of the time, we hear that candidates are already selected,” he said.

Labour minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo informed the graduates that the ministry has come up with the Guaranteed Employment Program (GEP) scheme to solve the experience problem. GEP scheme allows inexperienced jobseekers to learn on the job.

“I understand the feelings and concerns,” lyonpo said. On the pre-selection accusation, lyonpo said jobseekers should report such incidents. “This could be true and rumours at the same time. If it is true, we will take them to task and repeat the interview,” he said.

The minister also informed graduates that the ministry was looking at means of employing as many Bhutanese in the construction sector.

He said the ministry had dialogues with the hydropower sector to bring down the number of years of experience so that engineers get opportunities to work in the sector as well.

Lyonpo Ngeema Sangay Tshempo informed the graduates that the government would have to create 120,000 jobs in the current 11th Plan. However, the government plans to create 82,000 jobs in five years of the current plan, he said, adding that it would be a “herculean task.”

A graduate from Singapore, Drukda Dorji Penjore, raised concerns about the ease of doing business ranking in the country.

Saying that unemployment would remain one of the biggest challenges to the government, including the future governments, he asked what the government was doing to improve the ranking.

“Our country is ranked 125th in the ease of doing business,” he said. “We say private sector is the engine of our economy but what is the government doing to improve the environment to ease doing business?”

Economic affairs minister lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said the government was able to employ 15,000 jobseekers in the last two years. “This was done when the country’s economy was really down,” lyonpo said. “Although it is a great result, it is not good enough.”

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk also shared with the graduates that there were 11,000 jobseekers just a few days ago. The numbers would increase with the unemployed graduates and a total of 67,000 jobs will have to be created by 2018.

The economic affairs minister also said that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown to 6.8 percent today from a record low 2.05 percent in 2012.

“We are doing our best to ease doing business,” lyonpo said.

In the afternoon, the president of the Bhutan Chamber for Commerce and Industries (BCCI), Ugyen Tshechup Dorji also talked to the graduates. “We need a straight forward policy right now to improve our ranking,” the president said, pointing that the voice of young minds should be considered in pursuing this goal. “Otherwise it will remain at the same level.”

The BCCI president said ministries need to work hand-in-hand with the private sector to improve the ease of doing business ranking. The chamber is also in constant dialogue with the government on this, he said.

Graduates also raised questions about the establishment of a slaughterhouse in Samrang. The ministers explained there would not be any slaughterhouses in the country, until everybody wanted it.

The economic affairs minister also clarified a video being shared on social media accusing the government of installing a slaughterhouse in Samrang. The government, instead, was establishing a mega farm in Samrang on 860 acres of land, he said.

Rajesh Rai