A certain amount of revenue generated from tourism should be transferred to the Cultural Heritage Trust Fund annually, National Council (NC) member from Mongar, Sonam Pelzom, said during the annual budget deliberation on June 19.

The trust fund was established in 1999 with an initial fund of Nu 31.267 million (M).

Currently deposited with the Bhutan National Bank Limited, the fund position as of March 31 this year is Nu 68.356M. However, the NC member said that the fund received no contributions besides the interest.

Sonam Pelzom said that the trust fund was managed by the Department of Culture for projects related to culture. However, as per the Royal Charter, she said, the fund cannot be used until the amount reaches USD 5M.

“If a certain amount of revenue from tourism is deposited into the trust fund, the size of fund would reach the permissible amount so that we can use it for projects related to culture,” she said. In 20 years, she said that the fund had not seen the required growth.

She said that preservation and promotion of culture was a national issue and funds are required for the purpose.

Citing an example of her dzongkhag, she said there was a tradition of celebrating Kharphuu (local festival) in the gewogs of Tsamang, Gongdu, Silambi, Chhali and Tsakaling. Similarly, Dueza (local festival) is celebrated in Mongar, Drametsi and Ngatshang gewogs, she said.

Sonam Pelzom said that the festivals are held in summer, when the land becomes muddy because of rains. She said the festivals’ popularity could decline if no proper funds were available.

“A significant amount of revenue is generated from tourism, which is related to culture,” she said.

Punakha’s member, Lhaki Dolma, supported the submission, emphasising the importance of preservation and promotion of culture. Culture, she said, was an asset of the country.

“If the community festivals are not celebrated there is a belief that natural calamities would occur,” she said, adding that community festivals were a vital part of culture.

Trust funds are part of the innovative financing mechanism the government implemented since 1992. Trust funds are established as per Royal Charters and provisions of related laws such as the Public Finance Act 2007 and amendments thereof.

There are currently four Trust Funds, four Endowment Funds and a Stabilisation Fund.

Sonam Pelzom said the government should allow a certain amount of budget allocated for preservation of culture for celebration of local festivals such as gewog tshechus.

The government has allocated Nu 2,025M in fiscal year 2019-20 for preservation of traditional and cultural heritage and to continue reinforcement of identity and sovereignty.

MB Subba