Bhutan: Small businesses struggling to bounce back


While Phuentsholing’s local economy in general has seen relief with the lifting of movement protocol on April 4, most of the small businesses are finding it difficult to recover.

They attribute unpaid rents as the primary reason their businesses are struggling to pick up. Some are now asking if the government can arrange mortgage-free loans for those affected in Phuentsholing.

A salon owner, Sonam Tshering, said that the government must come up with ways to help the small businesses in Phuentsholing.

“A mortgage-free loan against our shops would help,” he said, adding that it is not interest-free loans they are asking for. Sonam Tshering said he has not paid rent for three months and it may take some time as the business has just started to improve.

“Phuentsholing’s case is special because we have gone through long and repeated lockdowns,” he said. “We have raised this issue several times with the government.”

An electronics shop owner, Pema Khandu, said he was just recovering from the impacts of the 2021 lockdowns when the lockdown in 2022 was announced.

“Today, there is about 10 to 20 percent improvement in business,” he said. “This has been possible only after the movement of people and vehicles was made free.”

Pema Khandu has not paid rent for three months. If the government can help businessmen in Phuentsholing avail loans, he said it would help the local economy bounce back.

A businesswoman, Kezang Choden, said she rents a space in a building owned by the FCBL. Recently, there was a 10 percent rent increase.

“The rent has increased to Nu 50,600 per month,” she said.

Kezang Choden said that she has not paid the rent for this year.

Shopkeepers Aruna Rai and Tshering Wangchuk, who rent the FCBL property space, said they have also not paid their rents. “We were told that even they were in loss,” Kezang Choden said. Aruna Rai said her rent recently increased to Nu 66,550 per month. “I haven’t paid the rent,” she said, adding that might now have to pay heavy penalties. A restaurant owner, Kinley Wangmo, said she was yet to pay Nu 130,000 rent pending from the 2021 lockdown. “This time too I have not paid,” she said. “On top of that I have to pay for a loan. Forget loan payment, I am not able to pay the rent for space.”