Thukten Zangpo

The Economic Stimulus Programme  (ESP) is open to all Bhutanese with genuine business proposals that can create jobs, enhance exports or substitute imported  products, and contribute to import substitution.

Finance minister Lekey Dorji said this during the Meet-the-Press session yesterday. Out of the Nu 15 billion for the ESP, Bhutan had received Nu 2.5 billion as first tranche from the Government of India.

Aiming to recover the country’s economy, Lekey Dorji said that ESP will focus on strengthening the country’s macro-economic framework and promote domestic production.

He added that the goal is to create more employment opportunities, increase foreign reserves, and attract tourists as the government had targeted 300,000 tourist arrivals annually.

Bhutan has been an import-dependent country with the  country’s imports increasing from Nu 66.64 billion in 2020 to Nu 90.3 billion in 2021, and Nu 108.42 billion in 2023.

However, exports had declined to Nu 52.92 billion in 2023 from Nu 57.99 billion in 2021.

Lyonpo Lekey Dorji said that the ESP would address this trade imbalance by increasing exports and promoting the production of goods that can replace imports. He added that the programme will also support the establishment of new businesses and the growth of existing cottage and small industries. This is expected to enhance the country’s capacity for domestic production and generate employment.

“A significant portion of the ESP funds will be directed towards national schemes and programmes to create employment,” Lekey Dorji said.

According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, the unemployment rate saw an increase  to 4.1 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to 3.5 percent in 2023.

At the same time, the youth unemployment rate increased to 22.9 percent from 15.9 percent during the same period.

The ESP Secretariat under the Prime Minister’s Office and a steering committee chaired by the Prime Minister will oversee the programme. The ESP Secretariat will review project proposals, and plans will be initiated soon.

The programme will involve strict monitoring and evaluation processes by the ESP secretariat and the ministry concerned to ensure the funds are used effectively. 

The ESP secretariat will roll out the details regarding the application process and eligibility criteria shortly soon.