Elections for chamber President and executive committee to be held on the 19th of next month. The elections was marked by a poor voter turnout
The Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) in collaboration with Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) elected 40 representatives, two from each Dzongkhag meticulously aimed at optimum participation in decision making, discussions and policies from all levels of the business community across the country.
The term is a three year one from 2012-2015.
The elections have come at a time when the country, since the past eight months, faced a severe INR shortfall worsened by the credit crisis that followed. Various issues were raised by the private sector and meetings were held with the government. While a few issues have been addressed for a few big business houses , the majority of the business community continue to bear the brunt of the economic situation.
Small and medium scale enterprises (SME) are one of the worst hit and among the more disgruntled that their “voices are not heard.”
The month long election process for representatives by electronic voting machines (EVM), facilitated by Dzongkhag authorities and ECB ends today. The voter turn-out according to BCCI officials is low despite more than 27,000 business license holders in the country who are eligible to vote.
“The business community of Thimphu makes up thousands of voters but only about 86 turned up,” BCCI’s head of general affairs department, Chhimi Dorjee said.
The elected representatives will act as a bridge between the concerned business community, the chamber and government among others.
Chhimi Dorji said, till date, the post was held by respective Thromde Thuemis (mayors) who don’t represent their business community in particular or the BCCI as they are more centered on local governance.
The move, BCCI officials said was focused on equal representation from the small and medium scale enterprises as well. That apparently isn’t happening as of now.
Sakhi Gurung, a sole proprietor in Khuruthang town of Punakha is one of the many across the country who said “we are either bothered or not aware of what happens in the business meetings in the capital because our issues never get through and are not addressed”.
Meanwhile a few businessmen in the capital that this paper talked to said the government was biased while addressing the issues raised by the private sector recently. “The cabinet has approved to provide assistance to private companies that can generate foreign currency which of course are the big companies. It’s been eight months and no one has any idea of when we can resume normal business,” a retailer in Norzin Lam said.
SMEs, which constitute almost 98% of the private sector in the country, are not happy. Some of the representatives cited that their voice wasn’t heard at the decision making level nor were their problems addressed by concerned authorities.
BCCI officials, along with certain rebuttals agreed to the fact.
A senior BCCI official said SMEs have had little or no say in the private sector because almost all the sector associations were of large scale businesses. “We don’t have a trader’s association to represent the small and medium enterprises,” Chhimi Dorji of BCCI said.
Currently the private sector consists of 12 sector associations of which the most active includes the ‘bigger’ ones such as the construction association of Bhutan (CAB), association of Bhutanese Industries (ABI), automobile dealers’ association, association of Bhutanese tour operators (ABTO), Hoteliers’ association of Bhutan (HAB), exporter’s association of Bhutan (EAB) and motion pictures association of Bhutan (MPAB) among others.
“These sector associations are concerned about their own stakeholders and businesses, so they talk less about issues or achievements of the small scale enterprises,” a chamber official said.
To curb this issue, the chamber’s executive committee shall now have six additional members from various regions, in addition to the existing members which comprises the 12 sector association presidents.
A date for the election of members has been slated for mid December.
However, BCCI president Tobgyal Dorji said the chamber has made a point that voices from all levels of the business community is heard.
“I don’t think it can be true because during my term, we have tried our best such as the rural scheme for all sectors,” he said.BCCI stands as an institutional guarantee for the SMEs who are qualified to avail loans or funds from the Bhutan Development Bank Limited (BDBL).
“Maybe some may not have qualified although I have tried that all levels of the private sector have equal say,” the president said.
BCCI Presidential elections
As the term for the incumbent draws to an end, BCCI is all set to elect a new president and two vice presidents along with 18 executive committee members. The nominees, in consultation with concerned parties, will be presented by the 40 Dzongkhag representatives and the executive committee who will also be the voters.
While the annual general meeting (AGM) has been scheduled for 20 December, voters will go to polls a day earlier on the 19th in the capital.
CAB has nominated their president; Ugyen Tshechup for the chamber president’s post while some quarter of the business fraternity vouched for the incumbent, Tobgyal Dorji, Chamber officials said.
Ugyen Tshechup who also owns Singye Group said “all business people should shoulder one’s responsibility and if the community thinks I will make a good president, I will do my best to fulfill all the responsibilities.”
The current president Tobgyal Dorji who is also the co-owner of Tashi Group of Companies said he is happy and content with where BCCI stands now. “I am happy as I have served well during my term and the chamber is now in a stronger position,” he said.
However, he has no intention to lead the chamber for another term. “I don’t know if the information about my nomination is true but I would like to step down for I will not be able to commit enough time because of my own business,” he revealed.
Tobgyal Dorji in 2009 succeeded Ugyen Dorji who served as the BCCI President for over 18 years.
Two vice presidents will also be elected to succeed Chen Chen Dorji and Thinley Palden Dorji. BCCI was established in 1980 to promote private sector in Bhutan.