BCCI beset by a gamut of challenges

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Financial instability is one among them as the Chamber’s revenue is not enough to meet BCCI’s recurring expenditure

Inadequate cooperation from the government, the private sector and lack of financial sustainability pose critical challenges to the effective functioning of Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI).

The Secretary General of BCCI, Sangay Dorji, said the Chamber failed to position itself as the apex body for the private sector since a proper institutionalized arrangement between the Chamber, the government agencies and with the private sector did not exist.

He said the Chamber’s ideal function is to bridge the issues, grievances and ideas of the private sector routing through the chamber and reach out to the government and vice versa. However, the consultations had been taking place in a haphazard way. “The government would reach out directly to business houses for consultations and thus the Chamber is not optimally utilized.”

According to him, the private sector is involved in direct consultation with their known officials in the government, which disrupts the steady flow and function of the Chamber. “Utilizing the Chamber will create an ideal situation for everyone,” he said, adding that identification of larger issues and those affecting the whole sector or cross sector can be prioritized over smaller individual issues.

Eleven associations have been brought under the umbrella of BCCI to work together since fragmentation of individual sector leads to various implications.

Sangay Dorji cited an example of how the tourism sector comes in conflict with the entertainment sector like the hoteliers.

Lack of awareness and advocacy about the existence of the chamber and its functions remain a challenge. Trade-fares, expos and exhibitions are the core mandates of such chambers around the world. “However, for BCCI to organize trade fairs, the chamber has to seek permission from the Department of Trade,” Sangay Dorji said.

Financial sustainability is a critical challenge for the chamber at the moment. Membership fees are a source of revenue and it has been deteriorating over the years. The chamber has been sustaining from the budget subsidy from the government.

The chamber gets Nu 10.05mn annually and 20% goes to the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

However, the chamber’s revenue is not enough to meet BCCI’s recurring expenditure.

“Right now, our energies are focused on ways to get financial assistance and pay employees rather than the core mandates of the chamber.  Trade fairs were organized to generate revenue for the chamber though it has a more vital role to play,” said Sangay Dorji, adding that the chamber’s financial instability distracts the focus of the officials to carry out functions effectively.

Meanwhile, the Secretary General acknowledged the government for involving the chamber in private sector development. He is hopeful the subsidy to the chamber can be increased till it can sustain on its own and the chamber can focus on effective private sector development. “Though the government has allocated certain resources for the private sector, the trickledown effect has left the chamber with limited resources,” he said. He added that the private sector’s capacities are undermined while understanding the priorities of the nation and therefore the chamber should position its existence.

Deputy Secretary General of BCCI, Chandra B Chhetri said the chamber’s functions within the region are mostly government delegated. “Governments have access to budgets and donors and through them the chambers are sustained unlike BCCI,” he said, “However, programs and activities in Bhutan are handheld by the government and pay for services is not taken seriously.”

Chandra B Chhetri said the government should provide human resources and business development services to create visibility of the chamber.

In addition, to enhance inclusive private sector development, the Secretary General and a team of officials visited 17 dzongkhags to create awareness among the private sector about the mandate, roles and functions of the chamber.

The Secretary General said the trading sector is the largest sector in the country and is the least represented in most of the forums and meetings. “BCCI is working towards establishing a traders’ association. This will represent both formal and informal traders,” he said.

Meanwhile, BCCI has elected representatives in every dzongkhag to cater to issues and there are five regional offices in various regions to enable easier access.

The BCCI was established as a non-government and non-profit service-oriented organization in 1980 under the Royal Command of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo with the objectives of augmenting and supplementing the efforts of the Royal Government towards developing a formal private sector.

Phub Dem from Thimphu

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