Regional trade office’s service delivery irks business owners

Trade: The government’s effort to deliver public services in a seamless and accessible manner is not working if the long queues for license renewal at the Thimphu regional trade and industry office (RTIO), Changzamtog, are any indication.

For the last few days, business license holders have been queuing since dawn for hours every day to ensure that they are among the first 60, who are issued the tokens everyday.  The RTIO issues slightly over 60 tokens a day, the number they can handle until 3pm, after which the revenue collected has to be deposited in the bank.

While the last minute rush has been partly attributed to the laid back nature of most Bhutanese, the coupon system has left business owners frustrated. The deadline to renew business licenses ended on June 30. Starting yesterday, a penalty of Nu 20 is imposed for each renewal.

A Thimphu based tour operator said he had been visiting the RTIO every morning but only to return unsuccessful. “They give only a certain number of tokens; it’s so frustrating to come here every day as if we have no other work,” he said requesting anonymity. “As soon as it is 3pm they shut the counters.”

According to the government’s “public service delivery initiative”, the standard service delivery time for renewal of micro trade certificate is one working day after the documents are submitted. However, the business owners said the rule makes no sense if they cannot submit their documents even in days.

Besides Thimphu, people from Paro, Haa, Wangdue, Gasa and Punakha dzongkhags have also been thronging the office every morning for the last few days.

A contractor from Paro said although the problem has been occurring every year, the RTIO and the ministry of economic affairs have done nothing to ease the inconvenience. “They have not worked out a solution,” he said.

He said there was a queue of about 200 business owners at the RTIO yesterday morning and on June 30 the queue was even longer. “This is torture by a government agency,” he said.

Another businessman pointed out flaws in the token system. “One tax payer had about five licenses and there is no difference between the holder of single license and multiple licenses,” he said.

He said the office could give coupons to all so that they know when to come rather than coming everyday and returning without a token. “People come here from 3am without breakfast, walking miles and many other difficulties,” he said.

The business owners called for the government to address this problem in the system. “These are small issues if dealt rightly, because people are coming forward to pay taxes early.”

A businessman said he was also disappointed with the public servants’ attitude at the office. “You won’t believe their incompetency and attitude,” he said.

He said the RTIO could have opened some extra counters by employing temporary employees and to a large number of clients. “If they had put in proper arrangements in the system, people won’t be squabbling over who came first or who took whose place,”

However, officials from the RTIO said the office couldn’t be blamed for the inconvenience. The regional director Sangay Phuntsho said the renewal season started in April and that the business owners could have come in the earlier months.

“We have been informing people to renew their licenses but everyone rushes at the last minute,” he said.

He said teams from the RTIO also travelled to all the dzongkhags covered by the region and camped there so that business people could renew their licenses without travelling to Thimphu.

According to records maintained by the economic affairs ministry, there were 12,382 license holders in the Thimphu region as of December 2014. Thimphu has the highest of 7,626 license holders followed by Paro with 1,919. Punakha, Wangdue, Haa and Gasa have 765, 1,589, 336 and 147, respectively.

Staff Reporter

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