Standards: The government recognises the important frameworks to boost international and regional trade, standards being one of them. Nonetheless a clear delineation of policy making and regulatory functions is needed.

Economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji said the policy will improve quality, technology and human safety, during a consultation workshop on the draft National quality infrastructure policy held yesterday.

Lyonpo reminded the stakeholders to consider the size, population and economy of the country when maintaining the quality of goods and services at par with international standards.

Differences used for certification, testing and standards by different countries, as per the Bhutan Standards Bureau (BSB) is one of the main challenges in the international trading system.

The BSB believes that it is an appropriate time to table a national quality infrastructure policy to harmonise standards, measurements and accreditation of conformity assessment bodies.

“A kilogramme in Bhutan should be the same as a kilogramme somewhere in Europe,” said Hanspeter Ischi, a consultant with Physikalish-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), the national metrology institute of Germany.

In terms of standards, he said certification plays a crucial role in knowing whether a patient is rightly diagnosed, for instance. Even if you are travelling in a high-speed train or on top of a ferris wheel, he said customers know that another organisation has tested and certified the goods or services.

He said that the policy is a recommended practice of how things are done and how agencies work together to create and enable development of competent and efficient conformity assessment bodies that can be used by industries and various organisations.

“It promotes the use of national standards and international standards wherever possible to ensure that these standards support the country’s trade,” he said. He added that national standards should be in line with international standards.

The CEO of Dungsam Cement Corporation Ltd, Dorji Norbu, also shared his experience on how certification augmented the sales of cement and its production.

Products of Dungsam Cement had obtained an Indian standards license to compete with cements manufactured in India.

Bhutan, he said, has supplied USD 4M worth of stones to construct the Jamuna bridge in Bangladesh in 1995. But the demand from the contractors is such that Bhutanese stones had to be ASTM, Indian and Bangladesh standards certified. ASTM is an international standards organisation that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services.

Because Penden Cement in 1998 has already obtained Indian Standards certification, as per the will of the contractors, the company fetched Nu 630 million worth of supplies to Kurichhu hydropower project. However in 2002, it missed an opportunity to supply Nu 20 million worth of supplies for another project because contractors demanded ISO certification. After obtaining the certification, Dorji Norbu said it again secured Nu 30M worth of contracts.

The policy meanwhile states that by the end of 2019, all the technical regulations would be reviewed to retain only those which are inevitable.

From January 1, 2020, it is the policy target for the government to accept only conformity assessment provided by accredited bodies affiliated with the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation and international Accreditation Forum. The assessment bodies shall also ensure uniformity of measurement in industries and commercial services.

While some participants said that the policy does not provide a broad direction on how things should be done, others questioned the due process being followed in coming up with this policy.

Director general of BSB, Sonam Phuntsho said all comments and feedback would be reviewed until September 7. He said an independent committee would be put in place to incorporate necessary changes to the draft policy. By December, he hopes the policy will be approved for implementation.

Tshering  Dorji