The Opposition Party has demanded the government to do everything in its capacity to address the problems faced by the Bhutanese youth studying and living in Japan under the “Learn and Earn Programme.”

In the press release issued by the party, it states that the government’s persistent inaction to address the problems as soon as possible was surprising.

“The Government cannot be indifferent and negligent of its duty to a national problem affecting hundreds of our youth,” read the press release. “The government has failed to act on its two recent commitment to defer the loan repayment and send a team of officials, led by labour minister to Japan to study, verify and look into ways to help the youth.”

The government should consider the matter that merits immediate action, the party said. “More than 100 students have already returned to the country because of numerous unavoidable problems they faced. It shows the seriousness of the issue.”

The party has also said that more than a 100 Bhutanese youth would have to return to the country by the end of March because of immigration and work-related issues, added to distress of the parents and students.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering during one of the Friday Meet programmes said that deferring loan repayment could take time because the Bhutan Development Bank (BDBL) required the client to sign the agreement of deferment in person.

Lyonchhen had also said that the government cancelled its plans to send a team 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.”

Labour minister Ugyen Dorji in a telephone interview told Kuensel that the government was not being negligent or indifferent to the problems facing Bhutanese youth in Japan. He added that modalities were being worked out to implement the decision. On the officials’ visit to Japan, Lyonpo said that the initial plan to visit Japan was never to specifically investigate the issue, but to achieve a broader objective and advance relations between the two countries. “The visit was to explore new areas in the field of employment and other opportunities. But we had planned to use this visit as an opportunity to meet and learn about the issues faced by youth there.”

Lyonpo said that the government’s decision would not change and the government would implement it as soon as possible. “Cabinet decision is broad but to implement the decision, it would require consultation with relevant stakeholders, which takes time,” Lyonpo said. “I am surprised by the Opposition Party’s reaction. They know better that implementation of any decision takes some time,” Lyonpo said. “It involves complex process and we’re planning and consulting thoroughly.”

Yangchen C Rinzin