Financial services, hydropower projects,advanced mining, and construction of international airports dominated the discussions between a top Canadian delegation and local agencies here last week. Led by the Canadian Ambassador, Stewart G. Beck, a 21 member team from 14 world renowned companies were in the country on a five days business mission.
Four of the 14 Canadian companies were part of the high powered delegation that visited Bhutan with similar objectives in May 2010, a few days after the revision of the Foreign Direct Investment policy by the government. One such company on it’s second visit is SNC- Lavalin Inc (SNC), one of the leading engineering and construction groups in the world. Talking to The Bhutanese, the ambassador said, “They have done business after the 2010 trip and they see more business which has resulted in the visit this time”.
The 2010 visit was led by Canada’s senior trade minister to India, Mario Ste-Marie who said Canada is interested to contribute to the untapped hydropower potential in India.
“ Our understanding is that, Bhutan has an agreement with India to develop 10,000mw but Bhutan has the capacity to generate another 15,000mw. That was the purpose of our discussion as Canada is specialized not only in big projects but also in smaller sectors. We saw on the Bhutanese side that not only the government but also the private sector shown their interest to explore further,” he then said.
The Vice President of Hydro division, SNC-Lavalin – India, Vinod Batta said they are pleased to have formed a base in Bhutan since his first visit in 2010. SNC has been associated with Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) with human resources and also in building the Dagachu project.
He plans to provide the Bhutanese construction market with highly skilled engineers at actual worksites particularly for underground works. We can also assist in equipment planning,” he said.
He also said that along with major collaborations with India in the hydro power sector, SNC can play an effective role in implementing the projects with India and new domestic projects. “Apart from the existing ones, DGPC is looking at developing some projects on their own but in both cases we can assist”, he added.
SNC has received two business proposals for hydropower construction and two for collaboration in the mining sector from local partners.
The vice-chairman of the Singye Group of Companies, Ugen Tshechup Dorji told The Bhutanese that his company is looking for expertise in optimum extraction of mines. “Lot of the mines in the country suffer underproduction,”he said stressing on the need to maximize output.
Ugen Tshechup Dorji also said a private consortium of 25 to 30 members has been set up to propose for hydropower projects. “We haven’t tied up with SNC as of now but are definitely looking for potential partners who will mutually benefit all the shareholders,” he said.
Canada has been the major player for India in the hydro sector for 50 years, and now they hope to tap the potential here.
The ambassador said one of the challenges for Bhutan in brining in FDI is the geography. He said proper development in aviation would help meet such hurdles. He said, three of the companies in the delegation are from the aviation sector, looking to collaborate with Bhutan in building capacity in a cost effective way.
“What we have today here are a really good group of Canadian companies looking at working with you and not necessarily selling to you but working with you to develop the economic opportunities in Bhutan,” he said.
The Export Import (EXIM) Bank of Canada wishes to assist investment in Bhutan. Regional Manager, Canadian High Commission in New Delhi, Vibhav Agrawal said the company can offer innovative financing, insurance and risk management solutions.
Representatives from Blyth Academy,
and Seneca are looking to invest in the education sector. This is one area where Bhutan and Canada have worked closely since the 1960s. The ambassador said the two countries could work together to provide educational services not just for Bhutanese citizens but provide to people from other countries in the region as well.
He said the success of the second visit will only be achieved if the delegates come back again. “The only way you maintain momentum is by not just coming once and not coming back. You have to come, explore the opportunities and make contacts because that’s very important and then you have to return. If you don’t return its difficult to establish the credibility necessary to be considered a good partner”, he said.
Ugen Tshechup Dorji said that Canada could actually provide services through Bhutan to neighboring countries despite huge competition from India. “The FDI policy, political stability, a strong rule of law, increasingly educated youth and other factors gives Bhutan a comparative advantage over India”, he said.