The prolonged lockdown have affected small scale business owners of Phuentsholing. They are now worried if the lockdown prolong, they cannot run the business and expects special scheme to support their businesses.
One of the restaurant owners of Phuentsholing Karma Tshering Dorji said that the lockdown in Phuentsholing is probably longest lockdown in the world and has affected small business owners the most.
He said that large business owners, vegetable vendors and groceries were still allowed to operate their business and they could earn a lot despite the long closure. However, small entrepreneurs are affected lot and they don’t have capital to open the business after the lockdown lifts.
He pointed out that same protocol should be applied to all. He said: “If not for the number of people gathering in groceries, vegetable market are same with restaurants. But then why are restaurant owners not allow to run business?”
Karma Tsherig Dorji recollects the Prime Minister informing the nation during the recent National Assembly session that the government will look for possibilities to uplift restrictions in Phuentsholing. He also pointed that the Prime Minister informed to lift restriction in the town after the vaccination. “But the vaccination has been delayed and the lockdown keeps extending,” he said.
He said that till now people of Phuentsholing had been following the protocol “but number of COVID-19 positive case keeps increasing.” He questioned “where is the loophole?” He added that residents of Phuentsholing do not cross border, neither there is no much case in Jiagoan.
He shared the problems of not being able to pay rent and sustain family livelihood. For continuity of the business, he said, the government should look for other opportunities. Otherwise the government should let the small business operate too.
Karma Tshering Dorji said the government should provide free interest loan.” He also shared that it is time to change the members of COVID-19 task force.
Pema Dorji who run a book store in the town said that 95 percent of business is affected. He said that his business totally have to depend on school children. “Now schools are closed and students were shifted and will be shifted to other dzongkhags. Who will buy my books,” he said.
He pointed out that the lockdown have created gap and created rich and poor in the community. “Four months lockdown have made us bankrupt. How can we reopen our business? Special consideration should be given to us,” he said.
Pema Dorji said that about 30,000 residents are affected badly and the government should have taken care. He said: “Government should have taken extra care and vaccinated us earlier than other dzongkhag.”
He also shared that experts should have studied the fault why there is local transmission despite Indo-Bhutan border is closed.
Namgay a footwear and cloth trader said that people are left with no work and no income for almost five months. He said that though Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) is framed it is questionable how far it is being utilized.
He also said that though it is important to impose lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus it has been way too long and extended. He added that despite lockdown there is no result and community cases keeps increasing by the day.
Namgay said that the increasing positive case is not because of behavior of Phuentsholing residents but it is situation. “It could be due to the failure in applying protocol and there should be strict punishment to the defaulters,” he said.
The resident’s demands for special schemes and say the concern authority should come up with monetary framework and equity policies to bail them out.