Member of Parliament (MP) of the Bartsham-Shongphu constituency, Passang Dorji, asked the Minister of Economic Affairs, Loknath Sharma, on the government’s specific strategies to develop the private sector.
“The GDP contribution of the private sector to the economy is only about 40 percent, but on the other hand, in order for the economy to be stable globally the private sector should contribute 60-70 percent of the GDP. Firstly, we face the challenge in formulating the plans and policies for trade. Secondly, we are not able to get enough loans. Thirdly, the infrastructure is not good. More over the taxation system is not good. And know-how and skills in trade is not very good. Due to these factors, our country’s economy isn’t very developed. The private sector is ‘an engine of growth’ for the country’s economy. Therefore, my question is; what has the government done to improve the economy and what are the specific plans/strategies to elevate the economy?”
To which the Economic Minister Lyonpo Loknath Sharma replied, “The Government cannot interfere too much into the affairs of the private sector, for instance, the merger and the acquisition will have to be handled by the private sector themselves. In order to enhance the private sector, the private sector development committee was established in 2019. After their establishments, they submitted numerous reports on what course of actions to take, reforms, interventions, etc., of which we could work on some of them and some others could not be fulfilled. Regarding what the government has done to improve the private sector; one was interest waiver during the pandemic times. Not only that, the demand charges were also waived off (e.g. electric bill for industries). Other initiatives include working capital, measures against non-performing loans, monetary measures.
He said some policies and regulatory reforms are still being worked on by the government. For example, some of the guidelines of 1996 have found to be inconsistent and irrelevant to the modern times and they have been reformed and submitted to the Cabinet and are waiting for approval. But this also means that some of the guidelines will have to change depending on the Constitution.
Lyonpo further said the areas being looked into are potential sites for dry ports, like Nganglam, Gelephu, Pasakha, etc., in order to facilitate the trade.
Lyonpo further said, “We are trying to develop the industrial estate within one year considering its development has been impeded by the pandemic situation. The skilling programs, like DeSuup skilling programs are also meant to aid the private sector. Similarly, during the labour importation, the government is facilitating one-window service so that the foreign workers can avail the permit card when going to the work place. The entry points are being enhanced for quarantining the workers while they are availing their permits.”
He said whenever there are trade fairs, the private sector and entrepreneurs are facilitated to meet the investors in places, like Dubai etc. The preferential trade agreement with the Bangladesh has been successfully signed, and now, there are talks with Thailand, Nepal and foreign embassies.
The government is also working on economic diplomacy with the embassies, hunting down FDI interests and facilitating export.
“Moreover, we are in talks with Bangladesh and India regarding the waterways. As for the railways, we could not establish railways for Samtse and Pasakha but we will definitely establish railways between Gelephu and Cooch Behar.”