KP Sharma

The mandatory cooling period imposed by the immigration department on the hiring of foreign workers has had a direct impact on Foreign Direct Investment Companies (FDI) and other private enterprises that rely on foreign professionals for their business operations.

Under the revised immigration rules and regulations of 2015, foreign workers are required to leave the country for a period of six months after completing three years of service in the country.

FDI companies argue that these rules disproportionately affect them and other private entities, as government-owned enterprises are not subjected to similar constraints.

They contend that such policies create an unfriendly business environment which discourages individuals from investing in the country. Despite the government’s efforts to reduce the duration of the cooling period, the immigration department has not cooperated in implementing the revised rules.

Critics question the immigration department’s justification for not implementing the revision, citing concerns about national security. They wonder why only FDI and private companies are perceived as posing a risk to national security, while government-owned companies face lesser regulations.

“What about the government-owned companies? Are only FDI and private companies posing risks to national security?” a proprietor asked.

The requirement for foreign workers to depart for six months places an additional financial burden on companies, as they must continue paying these workers to retain their expertise. This interruption in projects directly impacts company productivity, according to an FDI company owner.

FDI company proprietors emphasise the importance of their businesses in generating employment opportunities in the country, beyond their profits.

They argue that such restrictions make it challenging to attract foreign companies to invest in the country, as these regulations create an unfriendly business climate that dissuades potential investors.

“We play our part in creating job opportunities that directly contribute to the country’s economy,” a DHI official said.

The regulations are viewed as unfriendly and detrimental to attracting foreign investors, causing many to opt out of investing in the country when faced with these constraints.

A manager from an FDI company highlighted that despite the private sector being considered the driving force behind economic development in the country, it faces numerous obstacles due to government policies and regulations that hinder its growth.

They emphasised the need for the government to create a favourable business environment to attract foreign companies and facilitate the growth of the private sector.

Lyonpo Karma Dorji, the minister for Industry, Commerce and Employment, clarified that the regulation applies to all companies hiring foreign workers, not just FDI companies. He explained that the labour department lacks the authority to change it as the jurisdiction falls under the immigration department.

He said that he has raised this issue with the prime minister, adding that the Home Ministry is responsible for making the necessary changes.

Efforts to reach Home Minister Ugyen Dorji for comments on the issue have been unsuccessful despite multiple attempts through calls and texts.