The Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) has formed committees to resolve the legal status of the chamber as the apex body of the private sector.
The BCCI’s legal mandate and legitimacy for operation have come into question after a performance audit report of the chamber published last year stated that BCCI was not recognised under any law.
“We have formed about two to three committees that will work on how to position BCCI as the apex body of the private sector,” the chamber’s Secretary-General Sangay Dorji told Kuensel.
The chamber sees enactment of a law that will define and outline clear legal mandate and legitimacy for its operation as the most appropriate solution to the legality issue. The secretary-general said that discussions were being held on drafting of a Bill.
The BCCI had drafted a Bill for the chamber in 2006 and submitted to the parliament but it could not be turned into a law as the then Speaker did not accept the Bill. The chamber’s effort to push for a BCCI Act failed again in 2012 due to lack of support from the government.
The concept note prepared by the secretary-general in 2012 for BCCI Bill states that the proposed Bill would not only provide a legal basis for the existence of the chamber, but also enhance the participation of the chamber in the country’s economic development.
Sangay Dorji said that the government has agreed to render its support on all the issues, including the one on the chamber’s legal status. However, he said that there should not be issues on the chamber’s legal status, as far as he was concerned.
Labour and Human Resources Minister Ugyen Dorji said the government would support the BCCI on resolving the chamber’s legal status issue as part of its support for the private sector. The government, he said, was working closely with the chamber.
In absence of a proper legal status, the legality of the MoUs signed by BCCI with international and local bodies has been questioned. The BCCI have signed 12 MoUs with international and local partners including SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industries and project agreements.
Suggestions to register BCCI as a civil society organisation (CSO) were also made. But BCCI says that the chamber’s role as an interest-group representing the business sector is different from that of CSOs, whose mandate is social.
The secretary-general said that the chamber works for the interest of the private sector by making policy recommendations to the government since the government cannot take up every issue of the business sector. The BCCI, he said, also needed to be proactive in helping the private sector grow.
The RAA in the performance report stated that it was vital for the apex body of private sector development and representation to have a legal basis. “Legally, BCCI is in a state of quandary and existence of BCCI is not recognised under any law,” stated the audit report, which covered the period from January 2013 to December 2017.
The chamber in 1996 ratified the BCCI Charter and currently its operations are governed by it.
The BCCI in its 26th Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on October 31, 2011 had also discussed the need for a legal basis. Uncertainty over its legal status has become an issue at the following AGMs since.
BCCI members at the 32nd AGM held last week in Thimphu also expressed concerns on the questions being raised on its legal status. Officials from the chamber assured them that the issue would be resolved.
BCCI was supposedly formed in 1980 and remained without operation until 1988.