Private sector submits proposal to waive SDF for investor’s on feasibility visits

In order to boost the economy of the country and attract more foreign investors to invest in the country, the private sectors has proposed to the government to waive off the Sustainable Development Fee(SDF) for potential investors who have shown interest to invest and is willing to come to Bhutan  for feasibility tours and studies.

Meanwhile, the President of the Bhutan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) said that he is positive that suggestions will be taken into consideration by the government.

“No investor will come with money in the first place without being aware of the potential of the firm, so they must first come for feasibility studies,” the President said. Speaking about his personal visits, he added that he had been to Geneva recently and that there are interested investors who are looking into the prospects of investing in Bhutan. “There are also interests shown by investors from Dubai,” he said.

According to the approved SDF list for foreigners (other than tourists) by the Department of Immigration, SDF would be waived for established FDI companies in the kingdom but no waiver of SDF would be provided during the feasibility visits.

On this, the BCCI president said that, although the whole Tourism Act cannot be changed, it can be adjusted like. He further stated that there are ongoing conversations between the public and private sectors and that “SDF of USD $ 200 discount package will be developed from the BCCI’s side and presented to the government.”

“The investor must travel to Bhutan for the feasibility period, and we have proposed to waive the SDF when the investor comes for the feasibility period for the first time. If the investor decides to invest in the country with a local partner after the feasibility period, they may need to travel again for the MoU signing and other procedures, so we have suggested to the government that they waive the SDF two times for the investor,“ said the president.

The president added that the private sector would assume responsibility of business prospects and attracting foreign investors if the government waives the SDF for the investor.

Towards this end, the President said that BCCI is meticulously preparing a prospective commercial package. “So when we call the investors, we will send all the potential business details. So if they are interested, they would be receiving the details like government incentives to FDI, government support, and then if they are still interested after seeing the details, they will be invited here,” he said.

“It will all be action oriented. They won’t be just coming here and leave, without any follow-up” he added.

Meanwhile, the president said that foreign investors are more interested to invest in the IT sector. “The hotel business after the Covid 19 pandemic in Bhutan is not much attractive to the foreigners; but they are exploring the IT sector,” he said.

The President said that they are hoping that the investor’s SDF will be waived off after the proposal.

Meanwhile, on 30th March 2023, the cabinet secretariat issued a notification, stating that SDF shall be waived for casual visitors for up to 24 hours in the border towns of Samtse, Phuntsholing, Gelephu and Samdrup Jongkhar, so long as they do not travel beyond the designated zone of the border towns. 

The notification also states that this arrangement shall remain in force for a period of 12 months with effect from 14th April 2023.

Meanwhile, user fee of Nu 10 per person shall be levied only for entry into Phuentsholing via the pedestrian terminal with the effect from 14th April 2023.

Although the government has revised the SDF for the casual visitors, there is no mention of investors and promoters of the FDI.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu