Almost seven months after the groundbreaking ceremony for 10 factories in Jigmeling industrial estate in Sarpang, only one investor could start setting up a firm. 

Echo-Tech Bhutan, an eco-friendly packaging material firm, has completed the construction of its boundary wall and is halfway through laying the foundation for the unit. 

Despite the hindrances caused by the pandemic, the investor is hopeful to complete setting up the Kraft paper manufacturing unit by March 2022. The factory was initially planned to complete in November this year. 

The owner of the firm, Gyan Prasad Siwakoti, said that the work progress is good despite the pandemic because of the support from the concerned authority. 

“The bank sanctioned the loan on time and the dzongkhag administration helped in bringing the materials,” he said. 

Echo-Tech Bhutan has currently employed nine technical training institute (TTI)graduates  to meet the labour shortage. The increase in the cost of materials, transportation charges and labour wage has made it costly. 

“We estimated to complete setting up the structure at Nu 240 million. But, with material price hiked, we’d be able to complete it within Nu 300 million. Transportation cost is too high today,” said Gyan Prasad Siwakoti. 

He added that there were no operators or technical experts to install the machinery after the required structures were completed.

 “I need at least 10 of them. I hope the government will allow expatriate workers who are vaccinated to come and work,” he said. 

He is hopeful that he would be able to bring them as expected after the completion and begin operation employing more than 150 youth. 

Echo-Tech Bhutan also plans to retain TTI graduates currently working with the firm. 

However, not everything is well at the country’s largest industrial estate. 

Other nine investors are ready to start construction, as per the report from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, but they could not continue the project as planned. 

Kezang Wangdi, an investor who plans to set up a castor oil manufacturing unit, said that he could not start the work without a loan. 

The investor waited for the loans for more than a year and he is yet to get confirmation. 

“I am ready to start the construction work if I get the loan. I have invested almost Nu 10 million for the plantation so that I could have the raw materials ready for the firm. I’m also planning to apply for  the National Credit Guarantee Scheme,” he said.  

He added that the firm would have nothing to work on if he invested whatever he has for the construction of the factory. 

“Moreover, the electricity supply line is not ready at the industrial estate site. The construction of the unit would be completed within six months. I doubt if there would be enough power ready to run the unit then,” said Kezang Wangdi. 

The building of a permanent water supply at the industrial estate and an electricity duct and trench has begun. 

Investors said that the groundbreaking ceremony for the 10 firms last year was not done at the convenience of investors and it was not required for some firms. 

Officials from the economic affairs ministry said that four out of the 10 investors have started construction and the rest are in various stages of their project such as seeking loans, designing and drawing, and some waiting for foreign investors.

“Due to the 21-day mandatory quarantine period, the foreign investors are not willing to visit for now. However, we facilitate them by providing soil data and a topographical map of their site to help foreign investors to carry out the designs and drawings,” an official said.   

 Of the 73 promoters that were given a provisional letter of interest so far, 37 received business licenses and the rest are processing for land lease certificates, few are submitting designs and drawing, and processing loans to initiate construction, according to the official.

“The overall development of industrial parks would continue and the basic infrastructure such as road, water supply and electricity works would be completed within the 12th Plan,” the official said.

 Water supply for the operation of factories in Jigmeling is expected to be ready towards the end of 2022, and the cable trenching work measuring 5.35 kilometres towards the end of this year.

The plan to establish the biggest industrial park that spans over 700 acres in Jigmeling started in 2009. The project has so far allocated land to more than 50 promoters as of November 2020. 

By Nima |  Gelephu

Edited by Tshering Palden