More power to BCCI?

March 11 | Kuensel
By Tshering Dorji

The private sector is expected to get the much-needed fuel to kick-start it’s engine with the government forming a 10-member private sector development committee (PSDC) chaired by the economic affairs minister.

The government had pledged to establish the PSDC in partnership with the Bhutan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (BCCI). The PSDC was established on March 5 and is reviewing the Private Sector Development – The Way Forward, 2016, the chamber’s recommendation on developing the sector.

At the Friday meet the press session, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said the government is contemplating on handing over some of the economic affairs ministry’s charges to the chambers

“The economic affairs ministry has been asked to relook into its activities and handover those that BCCI could do. We need to draw a clear line on what the government could do and what the BCCI could,” he said.

From his interactions with the BCCI, Lyonchhen said that BCCI is on the verge of closing its shop because of financial constraints. “This explains the state of private sector and that it needs attention.”

The government has also directed all ministries to relook into the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) for proper review so that the SOEs do not impede private sector development. On the road to private sector development, the government is also reviewing FDI and CSI policies.

Lyonchhen said that too much of concerns have been raised on private sector development but there are too many state enterprises. “When there are too many state enterprises, private sector cannot grow,” Lyonchhen said.

He said that every ministry has been asked to relook at its mandate in dealing with state enterprises under its umbrella.

As for the Druk Holding and Investments (DHI), Lyonchhen said DHI has to convince the government that it would manage the companies under its radar more efficiently and make investment wisely. “The government would, otherwise, have to ruminate as to how much should the DHI hold.”

The Prime Minister also pointed out that policies must change for the private sector to grow. The government Lyonchhen said is reviewing the foreign direct investment policy and CSI policy. Works have already been initiated to harmonise existing laws and regulations.

However, he said it is not always relaxing the policies that help private sector growth. Sometimes, he added, tightening policies also helps.

The government’s 120 day’s pledge states that it will implement the BCCI’s recommendation documented as ‘Private sector development- the way forward, 2016.’

However, Lyonchhen said that the government will not necessarily implement all the recommendations. This, he said is because the BCCI secretary general is already on the private sector development board, which will come up with their recommendations.

“Ease of doing business is an international measure and we will take that very seriously,” Prime Minister said. However, in promoting ease of doing business, he said that fairness is lost. “As we improve the ease of doing business, we will ensure fairness.”

One of the BCCI’s recommendations in the past is to accelerate hydropower development to make electricity accessible for the power intensive industries.

However, Lyonchhen said that the government’s priority is to complete the ongoing projects, streamline the issues and then embark on a mega project of Sunkosh. “We are not fast-tracking on the hydropower development but we are at a right pace,”

Lyonchhen also presented a scenario if the country went ahead with the target of 10,000MW by 2020. “If that happened, we would be having millions of foreign workers and our debt would have crossed Nu 500B besides the problems of delay and cost escalation,” he said.

The government, he said has reformulated an experts committee to work on a hydropower policy and that it would be ready anytime soon.

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