Yangchen C Rinzin 

Lengthy approval procedures, incompetent project appraisal officials at the banks, delay in issuance of environment clearances and land lease certificate are some of the reasons establishment of industries is delayed.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering met with 45 applicants along with the officials from Department of Industry yesterday to discuss and understand the status of industry establishment at the four identified industrial estates.

The meeting followed after the prime minister’s meeting with the department of industry and Gross National Happiness Commission’s officials last week to discuss why the establishment of the industrial estates was delayed.

Lyonchhen asked the applicants to work together to solve the hurdles that are affecting the establishment. “This is also an opportunity to give us suggestions and discuss a way forward instead of only complaining. Let us know what kind of workers you all need so that we could work and train the youth to be employed by you all.”

More than 150 applications to set up industries have been kept pending because of incomplete infrastructure at the industrial estates. Although the department of industry wrote and called almost all the applicants, some did not respond while others could not be reached. Many could not make it to the meeting because of time constraints.

Dhamdum Industrial Park in Samtse, Bondeyma Industrial Park in Mongar, Motanga Industrial Park in Samdrupjongkhar, and Jigmeling Industrial Estate in Gelephu were identified since the first government’s term.

The applicants expressed that although they had the business proposals ready, there are many sectors involved delaying the business establishment.

One of the applicants who wanted to start a handloom business in Jigmeling said that they followed all the due processes but approvals led to delay.

“It is tiring having to route right from gewog tshogde to dzongkhag tshogdu to ministry to agencies. And still nothing gets done in the end,” another applicant said. “Ours is an FDI and if we take time they will withdraw, which would affect the country’s economy only.”

Many shared similar issues with the issuance of a clearance from the National Environment Commission (NEC) where the applicants never got a straight response from them on why it was rejected or prolonging the approval.

Majority of the applicants have been waiting for the clearance for more than a year to start the business.

An applicant who wanted to establish a ferroalloy unit asked what was the logic behind for asking another environment assessment when the particular industrial park was identified and approved for the said industries.

“They keep asking for additional information every time we go to follow up on the clearance,” she said. “There is no expertise in the NEC but only acts based on the Acts and does everything in piecemeal.”

One said NEC asks for additional information and delays the approval even when it is for the same business that is already established. Some suggested government intervention to ask NEC to give evidence-based rejection.

The applicants also questioned the competency of project appraisal officials at the banks who rejected the business proposals based on the documents submitted to them.

It was shared that without even understanding the business proposal or making an effort to research by visiting the place, the official rejected the loan application because a similar businesses had failed in the past.

“The banks only look at their profit and not at the country’s economy. These officials should move out of their chair to study the proposal because even when we’ve everything ready, it gets delayed only because of their incompetence,” one of the applicants said.

They suggested Lyonchhen to also look into bank interest rates, modes of loan and have new ideas to give the loan.

Another reason for the delay was because of the delay in the issuance of lease certificates by the National Land Commission. Although the department of trade submits the applications to the land commission for the land certificate, it takes time to get the approval.

They shared that even if it is approved the commission did not issue the certificate directly to the applicants. Certificates are sent to the dzongkhag, furthering delaying the whole process.

Some applicants who want to start the business at Bjeima, Thimphu also met the prime minister and shared similar stories about the land allotment by the land commission.

Lyonchhen said he would look into all these issues with the agencies concerned and get back to the applicants. Lyonchhen also informed that the government was already looking into having a common centre to ease the procedures. “It’s the system that has made the officials like that. Clearance is important but too many hands are involved and we must minimise this.”

The planning for industrial estates began in the 10th Plan but the economic affairs ministry received budget only in the middle of the 11th Plan. Projects such as providing electricity, temporary water supply and access roads began from 2016.