Baggage allowance draws mixed public reaction

The news of baggage allowance for Bhutanese crossing the border for shopping has drawn mixed reactions from the people. While most people are against the idea, local businesses in the southern border districts are in favour of it. A baggage allowance would allow Bhutanese going to Indian border towns to bring in personal goods not exceeding Nu 3,000. Meanwhile, the Finance Minister said there is no such allowance.

While most residents are happy with the decision, most of the businessmen in Phuentshogling, especially those who deal with the sale of shoes, garments, and vegetables are upset that there will be no baggage allowance as previously announced.

“If there is no tax system then all residents here will go to Jaigaon to buy all necessary items. As a businessman here, I am worried as we will not be having enough customers. We were already severely hampered in the last few years. We are worried about the rent and other bills concerning our shops. Government should come up with a solution sooner,” said Lhab Dorji, a businessman.

“We are worried about the sudden change in the decision. We are getting a feeling of the government not wanting us to do good business here in Phuentshogling. I would like the government to think of another solution and think about the businessmen here,” said Tshering Dorji, another businessman.

“We are now very worried about losing our customers to the other side. We don’t know what to do. Once the border gate opens, everyone will rush to the Indian markets to buy vegetables. We will face a shortage of customers here. It would be better if there are certain restrictions,” said Kencho Lham, a vegetable vendor.

A letter dated 13th September signed by the officiating Director General of the Department of Revenue and Customs went viral which people said was shared first by government agencies.

According to the letter, people would be given a duty and tax-free allowance of Nu 3,000. It means goods brought from across the border and exceeding the specified amount would probably be taxed. This, the letter stated is to facilitate the seamless movement of people and goods through the land borders and also to minimise the administrative burden on the offices.

Meanwhile, the Finance Minister said there is no such allowance and that there had only been discussions on starting such a measure. He said the letter which was not supposed to be shared in public got leaked which led to confusion.

“People need not panic, because both entry and exit will be formalised but that doesn’t mean that whatever baggage allowances are made applicable at Paro international airport will be made applicable down there. This is because of the sheer number of visitors entering and exiting Bhutan. This is going to create a lot of hue and cry and inconvenience.”

Asked whether the allowance would be implemented in the future, he said no.

Passang Dorji/Phurba/Kelzang Choden

Edited by Yeshi Gyaltshen

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