President elect of the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Dasho Ugen Tshechup Dorji vowed to fortify the credibility of the chamber, revolutionize perception of rural population towards mainstream business houses and unify the sector associations within his three years term.
This, he disclosed in an exclusive interview with The Bhutanese after he was elected president of the apex body for private sector development during the chamber’s 27th annual general meeting (AGM) on Thursday.
Ugen Tshechup who is also the Vice Chairman of Singye Group and Chairman of Zimdra Group private Limited said it is now his primary responsibility “not just as an individual businessman but as a representative of the private sector at all levels to further enhance the image of the Chamber and work towards developing the business community for the betterment of the country’s economy”.
Another vital scheme on his list, Ugen Tshechup said is to remove the mental barriers within the rural populace towards urban businessmen with the prime objective of ‘making the farmers rich’.
“Unless and until our rural people become richer, the digital divide between the rich and poor is never going to be erased,” he said.
He said the focus should be on rural but not in a socialistic way where poor are made rich and rich ones are kept stagnant. “We should ensure that the rich getting richer will allow the poor to grow rich with them. We should believe in equitable distribution where everyone has an equal opportunity,” he said.
He said the revenue generated from sources such as hydropower or tourism among others belongs to the government which doesn’t make the farmers any richer. He said “people may benefit from farm roads, bridges or electricity among others but that doesn’t enrich the rural people directly in terms of wealth or money, like in some middle-east countries where the government actually gives money to the people.”
He said the business community and farmers need to work as partners for it is the only way to directly benefit the rural section. “The proceeds can be divided between the two and it becomes a win-win situation,” he added.
He said business people need to join hands and get involved into agriculture for which there is always a huge market to tap.
Head of international department of the Danish Federation of SMEs, Jens Kvorning told The Bhutanese that “Bhutan is changing at a rapid rate which sometimes worries me. Rural people and agriculture will play a great role in development of the nation”.
Ugen Tshechup said such partnerships should change the general perception of farmers toward urban businessmen and thereby eradicate the distinction between the two. “They will no longer see us as a separate entity coming in from the cities to help them but will consider us a partner to grow along with,” he said.
The president hopes to convince the rural and urban people through his Dzongkhag and Gewog tours across the country.
One of the most important task that lies ahead he said, as the President is to “unify all the sector associations and work together for the benefit of the entire business community and the economy as a whole. “
He said “currently there are 11 business sector associations working independently some of whom even have the feeling that there is no need of a chamber as maximum issues are resolved within or by the associations.”
It led to association members not willing to pay the voluntary membership fees to the chamber. “Funding is of utmost importance if chamber needs to move forward and deliver all the commitments and promises to the business community. I need to convince the associations that the chamber is there not to look after their day to day affairs but to represent their issues or proposals which shall enhance their businesses on a major and general level,” he said.
On the current Rupee and liquidity crunch, Ugen Tshechup said “banning products and banning businesses is not the way to go forward as these are short term solutions which will have long term impacts which business friendly governments understand very well.”
He said “the government has always maintained that the Rupee shortfall will be solved once all the hydro projects are complete but we have always made it clear that the main cause of the shortfall can be attributed to these projects.”
He said the chamber needs to work closely with the government and there has to be think tanks, economists and resource people in the system who shall look at the issue on a long term basis and its impact on the economy.
Ugen Tshechup stressed on the importance of the legislation of the federation of the BCCI bill. The BCCI currently functions under a Memorandum of Understanding known as Article of the Association of the Chamber. Over the years the chamber has felt the need for a legal backing for it to function like any other business federations.
He is hopeful that the government discuss it and approve the bill. “I don’t see the bill as being a threat or negative to anybody because we are not a political party nor organizations that would cause social unrest in the country. We are solely to represent the business community and to be a bridge between the private sector and government,” the president said.
Ugen Tshechup attended primary school at St Joseph’s (North Point), Darjeeling, India. Later he went to Modern High School, Barakhamba, New Delhi, India and graduated with a History Honors degree from the prestigious St Stephens College at the same city.
He served as a BCCI representative for 13 years as member and two years as president of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC- CCI). He was bestowed gold medal in recognition of his service as the former SAARC-CCI President. He is also the honorary consul of Thailand in Thimphu.
Ugen Tshechup also served as chairman during the inception stage of Youth Development Fund (YDF) for a few years and also on the board of Bhutan Telecom Limited. He was an elected town committee member representing Motithang and Changangkha till the election of the Thrompon.
In the past he also served as president of basketball, cricket and indigenous sports federations. He also served as the first President of association of Bhutanese tour operators (ABTO) for six years, President of Bhutan Football Federation (BFF) and Body Building Federation.
He is also a member of the private sector development committee (PSDC).
As required by the chamber’s charter, he would step down as president of the Construction Association of Bhutan (CAB) for which he held office for eight years and also from his post as president of motion pictures association of Bhutan (MPAB).
Ugen Tshechup succeeds Tobgyal Dorji as the seventh president of BCCI.
Among a total of five nominees, Dechen Wangmo, 32 from Samdrup Jongkhar became the chamber’s first and youngest female vice president.
Chen Chen Dorji who runs a private IT institute in Thimphu was reelected as the other vice president. The other candidates were Phub Zam, Rinzin Dorji and Dorji Tshering.
The six executive committee members; Ugyen Sangay from Bumthang, Phuntsho Wangdi from Chhukha, Tshewang from Mongar, Jigyel Phuntsho Dargyel from Pemagatshel, Ugyen Rabten from Sarpang and Tshering Wangmo from Thimphu were elected by the chamber from among the 40 BCCI dzongkhag representatives to represent small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across all regions.