Kidu to the Rescue

Study in Phuentsholing reveals depth of Kidu Upon the command of His Majesty the King, the National Resilience Fund was established in April 2020 to provide economic relief to people through the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu (DGKR). While thousands of Bhutanese continue to benefit immensely from the Relief Kidu through monthly income support and loan interest payment support, a study conducted by the Royal Institute of Governance and Strategic Studies (RIGSS), Phuentsholing, “Comprehensive Household Census of Phuentsholing Thromde and Peri – urban Areas,” that was released recently, sheds light on the number and demography of people who were beneficiaries of the Kidu. According to the study, of the 16,144 persons aged 15 years and above in Phuentsholing, 1,535 individuals were beneficiaries of the DGKR. The Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu is a monthly relief package provided to individuals who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Most of the beneficiaries are/ were the employees of the tourism and hospitality sectors. The individual receives Nu. 10000 or Nu. 7000 per month. The average monthly income of the beneficiaries were Nu. 9,009. “About 55.6% of the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu recipients were females, most of whom were in the age group of 20 to 39 years. Overall, most of the beneficiaries of the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu in Phuentsholing were aged 25-34 years. Of the 1,535 recipients, 304 were not working or involved in any economic activity,” the study says. The study also states that people in Phuentsholing were beneficiaries of the Lockdown and Special Kidus. While the fomer is a monthly relief package of Nu. 7,000 provided to the individuals whose income was affected by the lockdown, Special Kidu was offered to the residents of hardest hit towns like Phuentsholing and Gomtu as they had to undergo frequent and prolonged lockdowns. According to the study, 2,372 persons reported having received Lockdown Kidu in Phuentsholing and the average monthly individual income of the recipients of the Lockdown Kidu was Nu. 9,032. “Following a similar trend as that of the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu, a majority of the recipients of the Lockdown Kidu were also in the age group of 20 to 39 years,” it says. The study notes that, Special Kidu, “which is a one-time lump sum amount of Nu. 30000 or Nu. 40000 provided at the household level,” was provide to a total of 1,500 households. “Overall, the average income of the 1,500 households is Nu. 21091 and the average expenditure is Nu. 17101,” it states. Shedding light on the immense relief and economic support that the DGKR would have provided, the study reveals that while analyzing the main sources of household income, both prepandemic and during the census to determine impact of the pandemic on the financial status of the household, it was found that the main source of livelihood for 90 households during the census was the DGRK. “Of the 90 households, 61 were previously dependent on their monthly salary,” it states. While studying the “Difficulty in Affording Basic Amenities,” the study found that 1,753 households in Phuentsholing faced some difficulty to afford essential food items in the past twelve months. “In the context of the 2021 CHCP, everyday food items like rice, salt, and oil have been identified as essential food items. Additionally, around 16% of the households could not afford to pay bills for water and electricity services,” it says adding that “in the past 12 months, 1,401 households could not afford to pay rent, of whom only 411 of them received rent waivers at one point during the pandemic.” “On average, these households pay a sum of Nu. 8188 as the house rent. The average household size of these households is 3.5 and 294 of these households were beneficiaries of the Special Kidu,” it says. Meanwhile, since establishment of the National Resilience Fund, in between April 2020 to March 2021, 52,644 individuals nationwide applied for kidu and a total of Nu 2.25 billion was granted as kidu. With the pandemic continuing to affect people, on April 22, 2021, coinciding with the auspicious occasion of Zhabdrung Kuchoe, His Majesty commanded the continuation of the DGRK for 15 more months, beginning April 2021. 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. His Majesty was against using government budget and borrowing from within and outside Bhutan. In an unprecedented move, the NRF was funded in its entirety from His Majesty’s Kidu Fund and the Sungchob Fund. Between June 15 and July 15, 2021, 15,640,000 shares held in the names of Sungchob Fund and Kidu Fund were sold. According to RIGGS, the 2021 Comprehensive Household Census of Phuentsholing Thromde and Peri-urban Areas was solely born out of His Majesty’s concern for the welfare of residents during the pandemic. The project’s main objectives were “to collect comprehensive household information for timely interventions as may be necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, augment data-driven Thromde governance, and help establish an interoperable database to enhance public service delivery.” The household census was conducted from 21st to 27th October 2021, preceded by a pre-census listing of households from 17th to 24th September 2021.