His Majesty The King has commanded that the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu (DGRK) be continued for an additional period of 15 months from April 2021 till June next year.
Lyonchhen Dr Dasho Lotay Tshering announced the Royal Command from Simtokha Dzong coinciding with the event Zhabdrung Kuchoe on 22 April.
The DGRK provides income and interest payment support to people who continue to face economic difficulties and uncertainties due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
While finalizing the possible sources of the next tranche of financing for the National Resilience Fund (NRF), the press release from the Prime Minister’s Office states that the NRF Task Force submitted several options, including transfers from government budget, borrowings from domestic market and concessional loans from multilateral development banks.
However, His Majesty commanded that efforts to replenish the NRF should neither disrupt the economy nor affect the development plans and projects of the government.
“Transfers from government budget would reduce resources earmarked for implementing the 12th Plan development projects. Borrowing from the domestic financial market would crowd out the private sector and hinder a speedy economic recovery after the pandemic,” a statement from the Kidu Office stated.
The Royal Command further reiterated that “external borrowings would increase our national debt and burden future generations. These are measures which may be considered at a later time in the event that the pandemic worsens or recovery prolongs, and when other means of addressing our difficulties have been exhausted. In the meantime, even as we hope and pray for the pandemic to end soon, our strategy must be to remain fully prepared.”
Therefore, Royal Command has been granted that the next tranche of the NRF be financed in its entirety from His Majesty’s Kidu Fund and the Sungchob Fund. His Majesty’s Kidu Fund has been used to grant Kidu to thousands of Bhutanese to alleviate hardships and provide the ultimate social safety net.
The Sungchob Fund was established by our Kings as a security fund for the country during times of need.
His Majesty The King has said that in order to safeguard our security and sovereignty, we must invest in our youth. With this in mind, His Majesty had committed both the Kidu Fund and Sungchob Fund for Gyalsung, Bhutan’s National Service.
“However, His Majesty has commanded that the Funds must now be used to support our people through this period of great difficulty, as ensuring the wellbeing of our people must take precedence over even our most important national projects.”
Meanwhile, a total of 52,644 individuals applied for the DGRK in the last one year from 14 April 2020 – 31 March this year. Amongst them, 40 percent had applied in the first month itself.
For those who are wishing to apply, individuals are required to re-apply in each phase. Over 75 percent of the applicants from each phase have re-applied in the subsequent phases. For the phase III, which initially covered October, November and December 2020, was extended for another 3 months till March 2021 without the need for re-application to provide immediate relief during the second national lockdown.
For all phases, 18,867 individuals or 35.8 percent of the total had applied and 14.7 percent had applied in only Phase I, 5 percent in only Phase II, and 9.8 percent in only Phase IV.
According to the summary of income support Relief Kidu granted over the last one year that is from April 2020 – March 2021, the number of new applicants had dropped to 217 in November 2020, increasing to 3,627 in December 2020 and further to 4,725 in January 2021 during the second lockdown. There were only 87 applicants in March 2021.
Of the 52,644 applicants, 45,766 accounting for 86.9 percent of the total, received Kidu at least once. A substantial proportion of them received lockdown support Kidu. 14.2 percent of the total applicants received Kidu for all 12 months while 23.3 percent received Kidu once and 10.8 percent received Kidu twice.
The ratio of number of months a person has received Kidu over the number of months they have remained active is the highest for employees working in the tourism sector which accounts to 86.2 percent followed by returnees with 81.8 percent. The average number of times persons working in the mining sector applied for Kidu is low at around 5.9 as compared to 7.9 for the other two sectors.
Meanwhile, 6,878 applicants which accounts to 13.1 percent did not receive Kidu at all. Of those who did not receive Kidu even once, the majority had applied only in Phase I.
These applicants included the self-operated retail business owners, tour operators, and people working in transport and communication, construction, and restaurant and food services.
“Since there was some confusion on the coverage of the Relief Kidu and the Kidu amount was not announced until the end of April 2020, it is likely that these individuals applied expecting compensation for their business income losses. Most of these applicants have not re-applied,” the press release stated.
A total amount of Nu 2.25-billion has been granted as Kidu for DGRK applicants. The highest increase in Kidu disbursement was observed in August 2020 increase of 71.9 percent and January 2021 which saw an increase of 84.9 percent because of the grant of the lockdown support Kidu.
The Kidu amount includes child support Kidu of Nu 70.89-million which accounted for about 3 percent of the total Kidu granted in the last one year. Child support Kidu was granted to 9,614 applicants accounting to 18.3 percent of the total applicants covering a total of 15,464 children. Among them, the majority, accounting to 53 percent of them had one child while 35.2 percent had two children. Around 6,000 children were supported each month.
By amount, 9,339 individuals have received Nu 100,000 or more as of March 2021 including child allowances if they had children.