National and international participants gathered for the first ever Better Business Summit, in the capital, that started on March 26.
The summit was held to promote policies, strengthen institutions and generate ideas to improve the prosperity and well being of Bhutan’s economy through means such as entrepreneurship development and private sector growth.
The Minister of Economic Affairs, Norbu Wangchuk, said that the summit will integrate the three key pillars of accelerating competitive entrepreneurship, employment and green economy. Such exploration will help Bhutan’s economy and provide jobs and stability required for next generation, he added.
“We are excited with the prospect of working closer with our partners from all parts of the society, and about learning, with the help of international experts, to address our challenges and on harnessing our potential,” said Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk.
He said Bhutan has an ambitious 11th FYP and more needs to be done to meet the aspiration of key business sectors and to increase entrepreneurship, FDI and the green economy as a viable growth plan.
During the summit, the Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay highlighted that Bhutan is one of the poorest nations in the world with the GDP of USD 1.6bn in 2013. Despite being a poor nation, Bhutan provides free education to every child and free health care. The government also invests in human resources, hydropower and institutions, he added.
The PM said for a small country with 700 thousand population and barely 350 thousand national workers, to keep pace with development works, there are 22,000 foreign workers hired in Bhutan. He said GNH thrives in rural Bhutan, however, as modern trends go, rural Bhutan is emptying as rural- urban migration is growing and has never been reformed.
“Bhutan is not Shangri-La and other important reason is we are a poor country. In the last two decades, we have achieved a phenomenal growth rate, but if things stay the same as we are now, the result will not be sustainable, now we must work hard,” added Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay.
He further added, “I believe we must collaborate through three sectors, the private, corporate and government. Firstly in private sector, we need to improve our
competencies by investing more on people, being mindful of our environment and culture, but we must work hard, earn more and pay taxes, be an entrepreneur and be innovative. The corporate sector has an important role to play since most of the companies in the corporate sector are owned by government. I, personally, believe that the corporate sector should not compete with private sector, and yet corporate sector must be competitive.”
The PM also said World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index ranks Bhutan at 141. In two years term, the government aims to take Bhutan’s rank from the current 141 to top 100.
PM said there is a need to improve small business centers and industries. He said the government will make it easier to start business in rural Bhutan as small business and micro business in rural areas need not pay taxes.
DHI Chairman, Dasho Sangay Khandu, said that DHI has a strong commitment towards private sector development and provides training for entrepreneurs, free of cost.
DHI is currently thinking about setting up of non-banking financial corporation to help finance larger private sector partnership programs. DHI aims to provide equity investment on partnership with the private sector.
The President, BCCI, Ugen Tshechup Dorji, said that the summit is an important event which will reinforce the important role played by the private sector in the socio-economic development of the country. He said the private sector is an important contributor to security and sovereignty of the nation.
“The summit will come up with issues, such as business trend policy, rules and regulation. It will help in identifying the key areas for Bhutan to focus on, and most importantly, the shifting from sector driven policy to harmonization of functions and priority within the government ministries and departments, moving towards accomplishing the long cherished dream of the private sector as the engine of growth,” he added.
The Better Business Summit was organized by three government agencies, MoEA, GNHC and DHI, in collaboration with BCCI. The inaugural ceremony of the summit was attended by the Prime Minister, MoEA Minister, DHI Chairman, BCCI President, senior government officials and international delegates. Better Business Summit concluded yesterday.