… following PM’s concerns on its revised rates 

Thukten Zangpo 

The Natural Resources Pricing Committee (NRPC) met on April 14 and approved the proposed revision of timber, sand and stone prices ranging from about 13 to 84 percent across the country.

A notification on the revised prices was signed on the same day by the NRPC’s chairperson and Energy and Natural Resources secretary. However, it was declared “null and void” before it was issued to the public.

NRPC’s chairperson Karma Tshering said that the notification is on hold and it is “null and void” requiring further review. “It was not notified officially and if somebody is found circulating it, it is illegal.”

A contractor shared a copy of the notification with Kuensel claiming that a sawmiller was charging him the revised rates.

Energy and Natural Resources Minister Loknath Sharma said, “If some are taking advantage of finding it somewhere and showing that, it is very unfair.”

It was learnt that the pricing of timber, sand and stone is under review after the Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering raised concerns regarding prices during a presentation last week.

It is expected that the committee will release the revised notification soon. “What will come out ultimately, we cannot say,” Karma Tshering said.

The NRPC comprises members from the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment, Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited, and Association of Wood-based Industries, with its secretariat at the Department of Forests and Park Services.

“Any increase in prices of raw materials or construction materials will have an adverse effect on the construction project costs,” President of the Construction Association (CAB) of Bhutan Trashi Wangyel said.

However, he said that the old contract works should be eligible for cost escalations and any new or upcoming projects should have these revised costs inculcated in their estimates, he added.

Executive Director of the CAB, Tshering Younten said if the government does not give the cost escalation for the on-going projects, it could hamper the timely completion of works because of cost over-run.

A private building owner, who is currently constructing a building in Thimphu, said that the increase in the costs of construction raw materials will impact his equated monthly instalments paid to the banks.

“To compensate for this, it would show in higher house rents when construction completes,” he said.

Another private building owner asked why should the prices of natural resources in the country go up when the costs of materials for construction are already high and people are struggling.

He added that tenants blame the house owners for the increase in rents. However, the building owners have no options than to transfer the costs to the tenants. The other concern being the high lending rates on housing loans by banks.