Economic Affairs Minister outlines a gamut of strategies identified by the ministry to revive the economy
The COVID-19 has stalled the economy as a whole and in particular, trading, hotel and tourism, and the construction sector. Along with it, cottage and small manufacturing units have taken a severe hit.
However, according to the Minister of Economic Affairs, Loknath Sharma, the ministry has identified a gamut of strategies to revive the economy.
“It is important to know that the economy is a holistic activity and the whole country is involved and not confined to a single ministry. How the economy performs depends on the communities and local government units,” said Lyonpo.
To recuperate from the impact of the pandemic, the ministry will make documents and reports available for wider scrutiny including ‘import substitution’, ‘the strategy for revitalizing manufacturing sector’ and ‘investment opportunity’ so that the private sector is aware of the opportunities and potential. “The ministry also plans to support and pursue establishment of new industries that can substitute imports and boost exports, support upcoming industrial parks including cottage and small industry estate and pursue a few start-up centers.”
The ministry also hopes to enhance trade through product and market diversification and implement the recently signed PTA with Bangladesh to boost export.
“We will also facilitate and simplify licensing procedures and requirements for cottage and small industries, and pursue ‘ease of doing business’ reform towards a single-window licensing system in a digital platform,” said Lyonpo.
The ministry will pursue, support and ensure timely completion of ongoing hydropower projects and start construction of the Kholongchhu Hydroelectric Project. “We will also start to streamline the trading sector to create employment as well as professionalized trading.”
The focus will be on the development of infrastructure that supports trading like dry ports, production and manufacturing industries and technology sectors.
“The ministry will support strategies for the private sector to resume functioning at full capacity, diversify industries and participate in recognizing new industry potentials, support measures that give access to finance, ease import and export formalities, and facilitate easy access to raw materials and work force, and other monetary and fiscal support.”
Lyonpo mentioned that the authorities understood how difficult it was for people whose livelihood has been affected by the pandemic as the ministry also undergoes a kind of “trauma” whenever a lockdown has to be imposed.
“The economy was just picking up in 2019, and with the pandemic, 2020 was expended trying to manage the crisis rather than for progress and achievement.”
“Lockdown has impacted all businesses; and trading sector, import and export, construction sector, hydropower, transportation sector, arts and craft industry and production and manufacturing sector,” he said.
According to the Lyonpo, the first lockdown has taught them a lesson to be prepared for such scenarios in the future. “Government is continuing to provide support wherever possible to ensure minimal disruption particularly in supply of essential consumer goods under all circumstances.”
Strategies and Standard Operating Procedures for factories and industries were also developed to operate in the self-contained mode, adequate raw materials were stockpiled and finished goods exported in line with the health protocols.
Lyonpo mentioned that the second lockdown is better managed and coordinated than the first. “At this period of time, it is the peak season for orange export to Bangladesh. The export may not have been as smooth as in the past years but the government is doing everything in its power to facilitate the export of oranges to Bangladesh.”
“Similarly, export of boulders resumed a few months ago in self-contained mode and it is functioning smoothly despite the lockdown. Mining and mineral export is also sustaining except in Dzongkhags that have been hard hit by the COVID or zones like Paro and Thimphu,” added Lyonpo.
Lyonpo said that hopefully, economic activities will resume with unlocking and people will find new ways to create business, market and produce.
“The economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic offers a moment of introspection and retrospection, and the need to build economic resilience to withstand external and internal shocks.”
Dechen Dolker from Thimphu