The need to diversify Bhutan’s trade with India

While Bhutan’s major export to India is electricity, which accounts for a major source of revenue besides tourism, the discussions on the challenges and opportunity in doing business with India event saw other areas which could have promising results for the Bhutanese economy.

According to the Indian Ambassador Jaideep Sarker, inter-regional trade is very low and only 4-5% of trade comes within the SAARC countries. “If India is going to grow, all the south Asian countries should benefit from it,” he said.

Former President of Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) Ugen Tsechup Dorji, stressed on striving towards inter-dependent trade with India rather than being dependent by focusing on other avenues specially agriculture and also by addressing private sector needs.

79% of Bhutan’s imports are from India alone with 53.7 bn worth of import in 2015 as per the trade statistics. 31.2 bn out of the total 35.2 bn of exports went to India comprising more than 90% of the total exports to India.

“We need to look ahead and understand where we need to go. With the huge export of power we are still at a trade deficit” said Ugen Tsechup Dorji. He said that Bhutan has a huge market in India even if not for the whole country but states like West Bangal, North East India and Bihar are in close proximity with Bhutan.

According to him, a lot of other products can be exported to India and the rest of the world. “Bhutan has been growing despite the challenges it has faced like the rupee parity in the recent years and Bhutan can be a clean green food basket of Asia” he said adding that presently people all over the world are conscious about what they are eating as to whether it is adulterated or genetically modified and Bhutan can provide organic products it has been producing in a much larger scale.

The new industrials estates, Montenga, Dhamdum and Jigmiling are also seen as a major opportunity for economic growth in Bhutan.

Jaideep Sarkar, said that Bhutan can be an IT destination addressing the well-educated and English speaking population of Bhutan and the high quality telecommunications infrastructure which can be further enhanced. “In efforts of the Indian Embassy, it is a priority” the Ambassador said.

“The youths of Bhutan are like in any other country, looking for jobs and opportunities, this can be a major economic and political challenge. We will work towards a bilateral economic activity which is directed not only in skill development but in creating jobs.”

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