A staggering figure of INR 8.3 million was disbursed yesterday soon after Royal Monetary Authority reopened INR exchange counters in Thimphu and Phuentsholing.

RMA will inject INR 200 million into the counters every month. Considering that people continue to exchange Ngultrum for INR at this rate, counters will face shortage of about INR 40 million every month. Stretched into months, it will work out to a colossal amount.

The authority decided to make this arrangement available for the Bhutanese, particularly for the pilgrims going to India for annual pilgrimage. A Bhutanese citizen going on a pilgrimage may, in person, avail of INR 50,000 from the exchange counters upon producing personal CID at the exchange counter.

The need to grasp fully is this: At the core of the RMA initiative is to re-enforce the national policy of maintaining one-to-one parity between Ngultrum and INR by making INR freely accessible to the general public for all legitimate transactions.

What we need to remind ourselves of is that it has not been long since we got back to our feet. Shortage of INR in the country caused serious economic challenges. Urgent measures had to be employed to ease the shortage, the success of which enabled us to create INR 15 million reserve today.

Although in varying degrees, we have always faced shortage of INR in the country. In the future too, if we are not prudent with our finance, we will be compelled to countenance the same problem because our economy is defined by sustained trade deficit. Our economy is growing, but ours will always be an import driven economy.

Because major portion of our trade engagement is with India, it is vital that we maintain significant, or at least comfortable reserve of INR. We may be able to create healthy INR reserve in the country, but if we are not able to manage the reserve efficiently, we will yet again face serious economic situations.

Therefore, it is important that every Bhutanese avail of RMA’s special exchange arrangement only for lawful transactions. It is often in such economic times that our people engage in illegal business of buying and selling INR for their personal gain. What we must understand is that every Rupee that goes out of the country makes our economy by that much weaker.

RMA’s Financial Intelligence Unit should, therefore, be not only robust, but also vigilant to stop people from misusing or abusing the facility. We must, at all cost, refrain from engaging in illegal currency trade, which in the long run, will pose serious threat to our economy.

Fragile economy is a serious threat to national sovereignty. Let’s use the RMA facility responsibly.