…BCCI plans to start investment unit to attract FDIs

Thukten Zangpo 

A group of Swiss investors has expressed interest in introducing gliding services as a foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunity in Bhutan. 

According to the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), the initiative could be the first of its kind in the entire Himalayan region, with promising potential to promote in-bound tourism.

In the 13th Plan, the tourism sector aims to double government revenue, increase arrivals by 150 percent to 473,398. from pre-pandemic levels, and generate an additional 30, 000 jobs. 

The Chamber has asked interested Bhutanese businesses to pursue the venture since three Swiss investors will be in the country between February 21 and April 13 to meet with the relevant authorities and explore potential business partnerships. 

The Bhutan Air Navigation Regulations 2019 identifies Bumthang as an area for paragliding. The Department of Civil Aviation and the dzongkhag authorities, however, can approve or disapprove paragliding operations in any other specified area.

BCCI’s president, Tandy Wangchuk, shared the plan to start an investment unit under the Chamber to attract investors. 

He added that investors have also shown interest in establishing a high-quality university, which will focus on 97 percent of foreign students covering 30 acres of area. 

Tandy Wangchuk also said that there are plans to generate electricity with hydrokinetic turbine technology through FDI and commissioning could take only a year. The electricity generated from this technology will be connected into the national grid and can provide power during the country’s lean season when Bhutan imports power from India, he added. 

As directed by the Prime minister’s Office, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment is reviewing the FDI policy to be submitted to the government by March 1 this year. 

One of the main issues in the FDI policy, the private sector pointed out, was that the foreign investors are usually wary of liquidation and domestic stock exchange does not have the capacity to serve the purpose. 

They recommended allowing the foreign investors to list their equity shares in the Indian Stock Market which will not affect the ownership of Bhutanese equity holding both its national ownership and management control.

Another, the private sector expressed that the convertible currency is not adequate with the provision of securing convertible currency not exceeding the local investor’s share of equity.

According to the FDI annual report, Bhutan has 108 FDI projects worth Nu 48.61 billion with 12 new projects approved last year. 

The hotel sector retains the highest number of FDI with 34.9 percent and information technology and information technology-enabled services with 21.7 percent. 

The government has plans to increase FDI inflow to Nu 500 billion in the next five years, more ambitious than the 13th Plan’s target of Nu 100 billion by 2029.