Like in many countries, consultancy is a lucrative business in Bhutan. It is so lucrative that many leave government or corporate jobs to fill in the expert gap as consultants.
The development in the consulting field is impressive. Within a short span of time, we have changed from a country that was dependent on qualified experts from development partners to our own experts providing substantial experience in specialised areas. It is a good trend.
However, the scope for good money could blind us in differentiating experts and mere middlemen in providing services. A good example is in the education sector. With increasing number of Bhutanese looking for jobs and higher studies outside the country, many have become dependent on the so-called education consultancies.
Education is a big business. In Australia, the favourite destination for higher studies, education is a billion dollar industry with export income from international education reaching AUD 37.6B in 2019.
The department of adult and higher education recently found two unregistered firms and alerted the Department of Cottage and Small Industries about the firms.
The number of students completing second-level education is on the rise. Tertiary institutions in the country cannot absorb them all. So thousands leave to continue studies aboard. Most depend on the middlemen or the placement firms. The quality of education depends on the colleges or schools they attend. Many parents unfortunately depend on the placement firms to make that critical decision.
Beyond education, we are seeing more and more jobs being outsourced to consultancies. There is the need for studies,surveys and experts in many fields to fill in the void. We are also convinced that it is not necessary to bring in consultancies from abroad for every job.
We have qualified experts with substantial experience in specialised areas that could provide professional perspectives and advice to enable us to make decisions and take on projects. Besides, there are advantages if our own people can fill the gap. It is cheaper and the money remains within the economy.
Studies and surveys are important as they form the basis of policymaking. While we should encourage the private sector complementing in many areas, there are also problems. Like in many businesses, there are risks of cutting corners. The real problem starts when corruption sets in and quality is not monitored.
We have survey findings that became controversial and reports that have not been made public, defeating the purpose of the work. It is a bigger problem when such firms are not blacklisted and encouraged to participate in more works with flowery recommendations.