Yangchen C Rinzin

To intervene and carry out necessary reforms in the economic and public sectors, the taskforce of 21st Century Economic Roadmap has proposed to establish an Economic Development Board (EDB) under the Prime Minister’s Office.

The proposal is based on the past experience where the taskforce saw that only having good ideas and pronouncing new policies were not enough.  The members stressed that there was a need for real instruments to carry out any reforms through such policies.

A member said that there was a need for EDB after realising that there were several shortcomings when it came to the implementation of various policies under different agencies.

The economic development policies 2010 and 2016 have revealed several policy commitments and identified agencies concerned to support their implementation.

“However, there was no single agency that assumed a lead role in implementing the policy,” the 21st century roadmap said.

The economic development policy contains 252 policy provisions, requiring the engagement and reform commitment of about 38 agencies.  The roadmap document has stated that, although the Gross National Happiness Commission is mandated to undertake overall monitoring of the policy, it does not mandate the organisation’s functions of overall planning and monitoring of budgeted activities.    

For instance, while agencies like the National Land Commission and National Environment Commission (NEC) are identified in the policy document, these agencies have mandates and acts that empower them with a more regulatory role than a facilitative role for economic activities.

The task force has also cited that there were numerous government bodies to assure compliance with various national legislations and policies, like BAFRA for food and agriculture standards, labour ministry for occupational safety and labour protection, ACC for corruption prevention, and NEC for environmental protection.

Besides some agencies said that they promoted the development of these sectors as per their primary mandate, which is regulation and oversight, however, the taskforce mentioned that many of these policies did not facilitate services to the people.

A task force member also said that, in order to execute their functions, all these agencies created frictions in the business environment, which was why there was a need for a dedicated body that would also voice and represent the causes of business in general.

“Such bodies should help facilitate and promote rather than regulate and control,” a task force member pointed out. “People will say that there is BCCI, but BCCI is without a clear legal basis that is made up of sector-based associations, which is often viewed as an outside body that is self-serving.”

This is why the task force in their draft roadmap, which is with the government for review currently, mentions that there is a requirement of a body “within” government that is mandated to promote investment and business to create jobs.

“It is expected that such a body would converse with other government agencies without the fear of being tagged as self-serving or representing only big interests,” the roadmap stated. “The EDB would also facilitate in carrying out many recommendations of the economic roadmap.”

The task force has observed that past economic initiatives such as the economic development policy did not have a mechanism to close the loop of accountability.

“Despite being an extremely critical policy cutting across several agencies, the provisions for various sectors were never incorporated into their Annual Performance Agreements (APA),” the roadmap has stated.

A task force member said that was why it was critical that the EDB should be empowered and resourced adequately with a statutory mandate to raise funds and ensure sustainability.

If established, the EDB can carry out its long-term mandate of promoting investment and businesses, according to the economic roadmap document. “The EDB as a central coordinating agency can also help overcome the silo mentality of agencies.”

EDB should represent the client/user/citizen side in the formulation of the APA targets for agencies dealing with investment, economic and business issues.

Some of the functions and mandates of EDB would be to work with key stakeholders to identify and remove administrative burden and friction in all bureaucratic setups, promote both domestic and foreign investment, act as a one-stop-shop for all foreign direct investment interests, and connect business with interested partners, both local and foreign.

The EBD will also have the authority and funds to engage with potential investors and firms, and provide policy feedback to the government for the promotion of economic activities.