Legal status of BCCI under a cloud as it struggles with funds

The annual allocated budget by the government to the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) stands at Nu 10.05 million (mn), after being almost slashed during the presentation of the Budget Appropriation Bill by the Economic and Finance Committee of the National Assembly (NA).

The committee recommended on slashing the BCCI budget, but the House disapproved it. The Secretary General of BCCI, Sangay Dorji, said, ‘’ The chamber gets Nu 10.05 mn from government as a subsidy, out of which 30 percent is for SAARC activities since the chamber is also the founding member of SAARC Chamber.’’

He also added that BCCI asked the government for extra fund assuring that the chamber will become self-sustainable after 5 years.

When legal status of BCCI was questioned in NA, during the slashing away of budget allocated to BCCI, Bongo-Chapcha MP said, ‘The fact that it was instituted by the Fourth King, itself, is the legal status.’’

Sangay Dorji said that signing of deals with the outsiders is difficult at times, as they expect to see some sort of Act based on which the chamber was started.  He said he consulted with the first president of BCCI on how BCCI came to be established. The answer he received was that it was established under the command of the Fourth King, in order to take care of the private sector, back in 1980 and it was again instituted properly in 1988. He said the issues about the legal status only started to arise after the democracy came in.

“I was also told by the first president of BCCI that there was no such thing as providing signed charters and that it started only during His Majesty The King’s time.  So that is the reason why we do not have a charter signed by His Majesty. During the Fourth King’s time it was all verbal instructions, it was people with him who took notes of his instruction and made it happen.’’

However, BCCI states it was reassured by the support received from the Prime Minister and Economic Affairs Minister in NA, who rejected the recommendation made by the committee.

‘’Such an important committee of the National Assembly does not understand the magnitude and importance of the chamber.  We are supposed to be the representative of the private sector, the highest body of the private sectors, and represent to the government as well as lobby with the government,” BCCI Secretary General said.

Meanwhile, BCCI is able to generate just enough income its daily functioning. It collects Nu 500 as an annual contribution from shops across the country. Sangay Dorji said, ‘’Mileage , TADA, lunch for the guests and all have been reflected as entertainment budget including serving foreign guests during trade fairs ,although we are trying to build relations and benefit our private sector.’’ He added that the perception of the chamber here is different from how it is perceived in outside countries.

BCCI also in the process of forming a traders’ association so that it can intervene and resolve issues faced by the traders.

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