FDI: With the launch of the online “Investment guide (iGuide) to Bhutan” yesterday, investors – local and foreign alike – can now access information for setting up business at the click of a mouse.
The iGuide, however, is to help the government get the right information closer to potential investors to attract foreign direct investment (FDI).
The website (www.theiguides.org/bhutan) provides a snapshot of all the steps the promoter should follow and contact information of relevant agencies. The iGuide can be translated into various languages online.
Economic affairs minister Norbu Wangchuk, who launched the iGuide, said the online platform had come at a time when the country was ranked low on the global competitiveness index. Bhutan was ranked 103rd from 147 economies in the global competitiveness report, 2015.
However, the minister expressed hope that the iGuide would help promote good governance and create better environment for business. “Efforts to create smart business policies are being made by the government,” he said.
Also on the iGuide will be information on taxes, wages, operating costs and rents that can be inserted into an investor’s business model. The information will be updated as and when there are changes on the government policies and priorities.
The head of investment and policies at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Joerg Weber, reminded the gathering that the iGuide was only a part of the solution, and that the government had an essential role to play in identifying and targeting investors and facilitating business establishment.
“This requires a significant investment in terms of capacity,” he said, adding, “The UNCTAD stands ready to assist.”
UN resident coordinator, Christina Carlson, said the iGuide would generate new investments for the economy. “Trade initiatives, such as this, will play a major role in helping the economy bounce back,” she said.
Although FDI will help generate export earnings, tax revenue and foreign exchange reserves, Christina Carlson said the effectiveness of the iGuide would depend on its ability to create jobs – particularly for young people – and to reduce rural urban migration. She added, that during the last five years, the economy had been through a rough patch.
To get the best of the initiative, Christina Carlson said investment in infrastructures should be complemented by upgrading the country’s human capital capacity to match its relatively high wages. “Small firms and cottage industries should be engaged in supplying material for foreign investors.”
Though a guide to “Opportunities and Conditions 2013” was published earlier, given the fact that it was in hard copy, its usage was limited.
Also speaking during the launch was economic affairs joint secretary, Sonam P Wangdi, who said the iGuide would be yet another milestone in the country’s effort to attract FDI. Although Bhutan has a good FDI policy, the country has not been able bring enough FDI investments primarily due to fund constraints.
“We have one of the good FDI policies. But still we’re way behind,” he said.
The online platform was developed by the industry department, in collaboration with UNCTAD.
Economic affairs officer at UNCTAD, Ian Richards, demonstrated how the iGuide provides critical information for investment decisions. Work on the guide started in 2012.