DASHO BAP KINGA SAYS
Software giant India can help Bhutan build up a strong IT sector

THE development of information technology presents vast potential for Bhutan to overcome the constraints arising from the landlockedness. About 16 private entrepreneurs have emerged in the IT business in Bhutan, says Dasho Bap Kinga, Vice President, Bhutan Chamber of Commerce & Industry and BCCI's SAARC Desk Chief. In an interview with Amitabha Sen he said "India being a Software giant, can help Bhutan in terms of technical know-how, expatriate skills, etc. The main goal is the promotion of e-governance & promotion of private sector participation. BCCI's suggestion to the Bhutanese government would be to build their human resource capacity. Fiscal concessions to this nascent sector could boost the growth of IT industry in Bhutan. India continues to be Bhutan's major trading partner with food, fuel, consumer goods & capital equipment as the main items of import. Electricity sales to India will continue to be the main export item."

AS: Not only as a neighboring country but, in the SAARC region as a whole, Bhutan assumes a significant place in India's policy and planning for SAARC member-nations. As chief of SAARC Desk in Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, if I may describe so, how would you like to assess Indo-Bhutan bilateral trade relations?

Mr. Dasho: Bhutan & India are enjoying free trade since they signed a treaty of friendship in 1949. A formal agreement on trade & commerce was signed in 1972. The two countries would continue to take full advantage of this arrangement through bilateral consultations on issues relating to trade & transit. The Bhutan Chamber would continue to support for greater liberalization initiatives within the South Asian Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) framework & also work towards a South Asian Trade Area (SAFTA). Bhutan is also in the process of joining WTO. India continues to be Bhutan's major trading partner with food, fuel, consumer goods & capital equipment as the main items of import. Electricity sales to India will continue to be the main export item.

AS: BCCI has a special role in the economic growth of Bhutan. To what extent it can strengthen the bilateral ties between these two countries?

Mr. Dasho: The BCCI is entrusted with the role of advocator while formulation of economic development policy and take part as facilitators for the promotion of business in the country. BCCI can always develop facilities and create platform to have the opportunity of getting people to people contract of two countries. The BCCI conduct workshop, seminar and exhibition to promote business between two countries.

The BCCI as a national business organization would encourage more and more to grow our business relationship as two countries enjoy age-old economic relations, India would obviously be a potential partner for the economic development of Bhutan.

AS: Which are the areas, you feel, that offer vast scope for joint Indo-Bhutan ventures?

Mr. Dasho: To identify & invest in growth sectors such as the energy sector, tourism, utilization of mineral resources & enhancement of agricultural production.

AS: Hydel Power in Bhutan is a sector that can offer unlimited opportunity to explore and exploit. It is strongly felt that Bhutan alone can, if tapped properly, take care of the power requirement of many power importers of neighboring countries, if an integrated approach is taken? Chukha is a glaring example. Your comment please. What steps do you think could be taken to achieve this?

Mr. Dasho: Bhutan is blessed with enormous water resources to generate any amount of Energy to supply to any neighboring countries. Bhutan should forge ahead in conducting extensive geo-physical survey for establishing more power projects. Establishment of mega hydropower projects should however place utmost importance on the eco-system. Any compromise on this aspect, I believe, would be suicidal.

AS: Tourism is yet another area that can generate higher revenues if tourism related infrastructure including communication infrastructure is improved. To what extend SAARC member – countries can help Bhutan in this sector?

Mr. Dasho: Promoting & maintaining Bhutan, as a high quality tourist destination is the policy of Bhutan Government. Since Bhutan Tourism sector is still in infancy stage SAARC member-countries can help in marketing and providing training to acquire the required skill, which is most important in the service industries. More joint venture in Hotel Industries should be incourage among SAARC member countries.

AS: Which are the areas where Bhutan can register significant export growth?

Mr. Dasho: The most important field where Bhutan can have a significant export growth is the hydropower sector. Bhutan has been exporting electricity to India. As many other hydropower projects are under implementation, the export of electricity will be surely increasing. The other areas for export are Handicraft products, Agro products & the Bhutanese textile, which is now at an infant stage but progressing very fast within the limited time of recognition.

AS: As BCCI Vice-President, do you think country's existing foreign investment policy is luring enough or needs to be reframed or the scope to be expanded further to include other sectors?

Mr. Dasho: The sector coverage under the FDI policy of Bhutan, I believe, is wide. However, there are areas that need to be made more flexible for encouraging FDI to Bhutan.

AS: Information Technology is order of the day. Leveraging IT towards the over all Growth of the country is becoming increasing important. What could be BCCI's suggestions to the Bhutanese government to expand the IT industry and utilize the IT facility in all segments of the economy? How India as a software giant can help Bhutan?

Mr. Dasho: The development of information technology presents vast potential for Bhutan to overcome the constraints arising from the landlockedness. About 16 private entrepreneurs have emerged in the IT business in Bhutan. The main goal is the promotion of e-governance & promotion of private sector participation. BCCI's suggestion to the Bhutanese government would be to build their human resource capacity. Fiscal concessions to this nascent sector could boost the growth of IT industry in Bhutan.

India being a Software giant, can help Bhutan in terms of technical know-how, expatriate skills, etc.

AS: What is Bhutan's share in intra-SAARC trade and how it could be raised?

Mr. Dasho: As Bhutan share a bilateral trade with India & the Bhutanese Ngultrum is pegged with one to one parity with the Indian Rupees. The import from India & export to India is more than 90%.

Overall Bhutan’s import from SAARC Countries is 92.8% & Bhutan export to SAARC countries is 95%.

AS: SAARC Chamber of Commerce (SCCI) has a very important role to help the region emerge as a strong regional trade center. What would be BCCI's suggestions to ensure a stronger SAARC trade region?

Mr. Dasho: BCCI considers essential on the part of the bigger member nations to accord special provisions/preferences to the landlocked nations within the group. This could be in the field of tariff, movement of people and goods, transit facilities, etc.

AS: What is the scope of cooperation between SAARC and other regional bodies like ASEAN in the field of international trade?

Mr. Dasho: I feel that SAARC & other regional bodies like ASEAN would have a good relation in the international trade. Beside, their own regional bodies, they are common members of other international organizations. As Bhutan is in the process of joining WTO, Bhutan would enable to get bettermarket access to the markets of member countries.

August 10, 2004


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