Govt. quizzed on strategies to develop private sector

The economic affairs minister outlines numerous plans to boost the private sector

That the government has been supporting the private sector, Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma said it will continue to promote its growth and development in whatever ways possible.

The minister made the statement when quizzed by MP Passang Dorji (PhD) from the Bartsam-Shongphu constituency about the government’s strategies to develop the private sector.

“There are numerous plans in the works to boost the sector in the country, including the preferential trades with Thailand and Nepal which are underway,” the minister said.

According to the minister, they are also planning to mandate economic diplomacy in the embassies solely for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and to increase the export from Bhutan.

Meanwhile, MP Passang Dorji (PhD) said, “Our country is a public sector driven economy; therefore we have to develop a strong private sector in order to have a progressive economy in the country.”

The MP mentioned that the government’s restriction on trade, infrastructure, and difficulties with taxes are impeding the sector’s growth.

Responding to the MP, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said, “While it’s true that the government should help the sector in order for the country to progress, the private sector interprets government’s support as government’s interference and does not like it.”

“When the government tries to help the industry, they complain that the government is restricting its ability to function freely,” the minister added.

Talking about the government’s policies for developing the sector, the minister stated that the government has been completely supportive of the sector since its inception.

“In 2019, the government also established the private sector development committee and they have talked and opened up to the government; as a result of this, we formed various reforms and such,” Lyonpo said.

According to the minister, the government has also done different things to support the sector during the Covid-19 pandemic, such as interest waivers for loans, demand charges waivers, tax rebates for large industries, and lowering their electricity bills.

“We also provided working capital and assisted them with the Non-performing Loan (NPL),” the minister added.

While there are many different ways in which the government supports the development of the sector, the minister said everything must go through the laws, constitution, and order whether it is the private sector or the government.

The minister also said that the country has multiple dry ports in the country, including the Mini Dry Port (MDP) in Pasakha, all of which were developed to facilitate commerce and develop the private sector.

“Industrial parks are another strategy for the government to boost the private sector, but due to the pandemic, it has been delayed. However, it will be completed soon,” Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said.

Another strategy that the ministry is proposing to implement is one window device in the bordering towns for the benefit of the people who import labor and bear quarantine charges.

“Not the facility quarantine, but a different one where workers can stay for the duration of their permit while exiting and entering the country,” Lyonpo added.

According to the minister, they are also investing in waterways for the transfer of commodities to other countries via Sunkosh and Maokhola, and railway tracks are also on the agenda for the farmers, who are exporting goods to third countries.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu