Britain’s May should set resignation date next week: senior lawmaker

Theresa May secured the leadership in the chaos that followed Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 May 2019
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Britain’s May should set resignation date next week: senior lawmaker

  • Theresa May has promised to step down if lawmakers back the deal she struck with Brussels to leave the bloc
  • She has lost heavily on three attempts to get a deal through parliament, defeated by lawmakers in her own party

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May should set a date for her departure next week when she meets leaders of an influential group of Conservative lawmakers to address her future, the group’s chairman said on Saturday.
Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, which can make or break party leaders, told BBC Radio that May had been asked to give “clarity” at next Wednesday’s meeting after she failed to get her Brexit deal through parliament, leaving the government in a state of limbo.
“It would be strange for that not to result in a clear understanding (of when she will leave) at the end of the meeting,” he said.
May, who secured the leadership in the chaos that followed Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union, has promised to step down if lawmakers back the deal she struck with Brussels to leave the bloc.
But the prime minister has lost heavily on three attempts to get it through parliament, defeated by lawmakers in her own party who want a much more comprehensive break from Brussels and those who want a second referendum to reverse the process.
Brady, head of the group which oversees the party’s leadership contests and represents the wishes of backbench lawmakers, said he thought May had been reluctant to set a date because of the impact it would have on any future Brexit vote.
“I think the reticence is the concern that by promising to go on a certain timetable, it might make it less likely she would secure parliamentary approval for the withdrawal agreement, rather than more likely,” he said.
Tensions within the Conservative Party have grown after May failed to deliver Brexit on the original deadline of March 29. The prime minister has since opened talks with the opposition Labour Party to try to find a compromise before the next departure date in October.
The deadlock damaged both parties at local elections earlier this month and could have a similar impact when elections are held for the European Parliament on May 23.
One of the Conservative Party’s prominent financial backers, Jeremy Hosking, told the Financial Times he had donated 200,000 pounds to Nigel Farage’s Brexit party because the European elections had become, by default, a second referendum on Brexit.


Car boom brings gridlock misery to ‘green and happy’ Bhutan

Updated 34 min 16 sec ago
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Car boom brings gridlock misery to ‘green and happy’ Bhutan

  • Bhutan has seen a more than five-fold increase in cars, buses and trucks on its roads in the past two decades
  • Congestion and lack of parking now makes driving stressful in the tiny Himalayan kingdom where there are no traffic light

THUMPHU: Famed for valuing Gross National Happiness over economic growth, Bhutan is a poster child for sustainable development.
But booming car sales may impact efforts to preserve its rare status as a carbon negative country — and an increase in traffic is testing the good humor of its citizens.
Bhutan has seen a more than five-fold increase in cars, buses and trucks on its roads in the past two decades, according to transport authority director general Pemba Wangchuk with capital Thimphu hardest hit by the influx of vehicles.
Phuntsho Wangdi, a media consultant, says the congestion and lack of parking now makes driving stressful in the tiny Himalayan kingdom where there are no traffic lights.
“I wish there were fewer cars. It wasn’t like this before,” he adds of life in Thimpu, which is home to half the cars in the country.
The nation’s economy has grown 7.5 percent each year in the past decade, according to the World Bank. Officials estimate there is now one car for every seven people in Bhutan, which has a total population of 750,000.
But the nation’s narrow country lanes and outdated city roads can barely cope. A lack of infrastructure, along with poor driving etiquette — some simply leave their cars parked in the middle of the road — compounds the problem.
“Every year the number of cars and the number of people are increasing, and the roads have remained the same, and it’s a problem for us,” Lhendup, a taxi driver, tells AFP.
Morning rush hour journeys that once took five minutes now take more than half an hour.
This may seem a small figure compared to the hours of gridlock faced by commuters in Manila, Jakarta, and Bangkok, but it is a step-change for the Bhutanese who say the situation has rapidly deteriorated in the past year.
“Its chaotic. I eat my breakfast in the car now to save time,” says Kuenzang Choden, who drops her four-year-old daughter at school every day before heading to work.
The traffic jams are a sign of the wider economic changes the nation is facing. Bhutan is renowned for prioritizing Gross National Happiness over GDP, and has captured tourists’ imagination as a tranquil, idyllic land, but there are signs of malcontent.
According to the World Bank’s 2018 report, the youth unemployment rate is high, as is rural to urban migration, which puts a strain on the resources of towns and cities. And despite it’s reputation as a place where well-being is prioritized — it ranked 95th out of 156 countries in the 2019 UN World Happiness Report.
The proliferation of the Internet and smartphones are fueling modern desires, while dealers are filling their showrooms with new brands and models from Japan and South Korea to lure buyers.
And while taxes have increased and restrictions put on vehicle loans, car buyers are not discouraged.
Local financial institutions gave 3.2 billion ngultrum ($46 million) in car loans in 2015, but by last year the amount had reached 6.7 billion ngultrum ($96 million).
The figures please local businessmen but worry environmentalists keen to ensure Bhutan remains one of the world’s greenest countries.
Environmental activist Yeshey Dorji explains: “As a nation that prides itself on being a carbon-negative country, the increase in the number of fossil fuel vehicles speaks poorly of our leadership position in environmental conservation.”
Bhutan and Suriname, both with lush forests, are the only two countries to claim they are carbon negative, absorbing more carbon pollution than they give off.
Methane from cows, the burning of crops and other farm activities used to be Bhutan’s main source of greenhouse gases. But that has changed in recent years to industry and cars.
Bhutan’s constitution dictates that at least 60 percent of the country must be forest and the figure is currently above 70 percent.
But Bhutan is now importing more in fossil fuels than it exports in hydropower to India — the country’s biggest revenue earner.
Public transport is poor, particularly in Thimpu, which is home to 100,000 people but barely 40 buses.
The capital’s mayor Kinlay Dorji plans to introduce bus-only lanes on city roads and wants to buy more buses.
“Its time for radical measures,” he says.
“We have to make public transport more attractive and discourage owning cars,” he adds, warning that unless action was taken Thimphu risked grinding to a standstill.
To ease congestion, the city is also constructing its first two multi-story car parks that will each take about 600 cars.
The National Environment Commission insists Bhutan is still carbon negative despite the traffic jams and vehicle boom, but wants to stop things worsening.
Commission secretary Dasho Sonam P. Wangdi explains: “We cannot stop people from buying cars, but we can introduce alternative, less polluting cars such as the hybrid and electric ones to reduce carbon footprint.”