The business community members of Haa don’t appear to be in a pleasing mood. Their representatives have once again reiterated the same old issue that they say has been plaguing them at the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI)’s annual general meeting few weeks back in Thimphu.
Their main anger and frustration – IMTRAT’s Canteen Stores Department (CSD) eating into their business- was palpable going by their representatives’ arguments.
They say customers bought goods from the CSD instead from local shops given that goods sold by the former were sales tax exempted. Further, the assemblage was apprised that goods sold there were almost 50% cheaper than those available in Haa’s main town.
It has been two years now that these business representatives have been voicing out this issue? And at times, even worth wondering why the voices are louder now? The IMTRAT’s CSD in Haa has been there for more than a few decades. But why wasn’t the issue raised earlier if it was really subverting businesses for the local businessmen? Why the intervention for measures now?
While it was about restricting access of civilians to CSD two years back, Haa business representatives this time want the chamber to approach the government for a possible business sales tax exemption in the district.
The chamber has shown concern about the growth of retail sector in Haa and has also assured to put up the issue in the next meeting, but more needs to be done than the chamber merely approaching the government.
Does it really merit that the whole businesses in the district should be exempted of business sales tax because of a CSD? Are businesses really losing that a sales tax exemption is inevitable? And are prices in the CSD really lower than half the price in the main town?
More studies, particularly how businesses are faring in the area, needs to be done if the problems are as grave as it is shown to be. And how putting a store out of reach from customers will really bring benefits there?
The modus operandi of such stores is different. It’s not only Haa which has a CSD. They are present elsewhere in most of the districts across the country. While it’s meant for army personnel and ex-servicemen, but locals have benefited too as well. For examples, farmers in a place like Yonphula have been spared the trouble of going all the way to Trashigang. Similarly, residents with such stores in the vicinity have benefitted as well.
However, in Haa’s case, there seems to be more than what meets the eye behind business community members’ discontentment. But the dilemma here is over choosing between local people and a handful of business owners. And why isn’t it not worthy if a majority of local people are benefitting?