A high powered Better Business Council is also being finalized and it will include members from the private sector
After coming into power, one of the big economic promises of the government was to improve Bhutan’s dismal 141st ranking in 2014 on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking to the top 100 position within two years.
As a part of this effort the Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay in April 2014 issued an executive order forming a ‘Doing Business Steering Committee’ chaired by the PM with all 10 ministers as members and the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) Joint Secretary Sonam P. Wangdi as a member secretary.
Each Minister in this committee has been given the responsibility of overseeing reforms in improving one indicator each out of the ten Doing Business Indicators (see box on pg 1).
The indicators are starting business, construction permit, getting credit, trading across borders, protecting investors, enforcing contracts, paying taxes, registering property, resolving insolvency and getting electricity.
According to the executive order the steering committee is constituted to oversee the reform initiatives which require inter-sectoral collaboration and partnership with the private sector.
However, the bulk of the technical work will have to be done by a ‘Doing Business Task Force’ which will review, recommend and implement the reforms across the government. The task force shall report the progress as well as issues that require further directives to the steering committee on a monthly basis.
The task force will be chaired by the Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and will comprise of the secretaries of the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, Ministry of Information and Communication, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, National Land Commission, National Environment Commission and Joint Secretary of the MoEA. The task force will also have the Attorney General, Registrar of the Royal Court of Justice, Thimphu Thrompon, Deputy Governor of Royal Monetary Authority, President of Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and head of the Policy and Planning Division as the Member Secretary.
The task force can invite concerned officials from local governments, private and public institutions to assist in the reform initiatives. The order directs all government agencies and the private sector to extend full cooperation in the implementation of the reform measures.
The order says that the despite a number of regulatory reform initiatives to improve public delivery of services Bhutan continues to rank low in the global indexes that measure Ease of Doing Business.
It says such low rankings have a negative perception on the country and affects investor’s confidence and so there is a need to take proactive measures to improve the country’s ranking.
Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said, “We have taken up this challenge and started work in earnest talking with various stakeholders, looking into legislations, economic institutions in place and norms of how people are working.”
The minister said that there were some ‘deep seated challenges’ which was mainly the ‘established way of doing things’ in the government. He said, “We have built up our legislation on this way of doing things and also a certain work culture which needs to change.”
He gave the example of red tape in everyday things like issuing building construction permits, accessing credit, registering property and resolving insolvency.
On how indicators like paying tax for the Education Minister or registering property for the Health Minister would be relevant the Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said that appointing ministers was to show the political will and seriousness of the government. He said that technical components would be handled by bureaucrats and other experts.
He also explained that the improving the indicators was not relevant for only ministries but also involved other key players like the Judiciary, RMA, Thromde and others which is why they were also included in the task force.
Better Business Council
The Prime Minister in his state of the nation address in a single line talked about the formation of the Better Business Council to replace the defunct Private Sector Development Committee.
According to Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk, the Council will be a high powered one chaired by the Prime Minister with other members like the Finance Minister, MoEA Minister, Royal Monetary Authority Governor, Druk Holdings and Investment Chairman, Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry President, Bhutan Industries Association President, and also representation from the Construction Center.
It will meet once a month until the draft Private Sector Development Plan of the new government in finalized and implemented.
The Minister said, “The Council is about creating a robust platform for the government and the private sector to come together and have a meaningful dialogue.”
He said the economy is a top priority for the government and the greatest challenge was that the private sector was not doing well which directly and indirectly affects the economy by way of youth unemployment, rupee problem and poor overall economic performance.
Lyonpo pointed out that to rectify the economy it would be important to strengthen the private sector which would in turn need consultation with the private sector.
The council, according to the minister will allow representatives from the private sector and the government to sit together and look at all the issues affecting the economy and also help create the right investment climate.
The Private Sector Development Plan will also be presented before the Council to make sure it is acceptable to the private sector and the Council will also see to the day to day implementation of the plan.
The Council will also tackle and fast track issues and problems facing the private sector.
Lyonpo said that all the groundwork and preparation has been done after which final step will be an executive order from the Prime Minister.