Seminar & Conversation at Gedu College of Business Studies

 

A Druk Journal team conducted a conversation and seminar on “Transforming Bhutan’s Economy” at Gedu College of Business Studies (GCBS) on 15 and 16 March with faculty members and students. The conversation and the seminar brought together 56 faculty members in Conversation on March 15 and 422 students at the seminar on March 16 moderated by the Executive Director of BCMD, Ms. Siok Sian Dorji.

Four speakers – Yangchen Tshogyel, Deputy Governor of the Royal Monetary Authority, The Druk Journal Editor, Dasho Kinley Dorji, and two other writers, Adrian Bernstorff from The Royal Academy and Pema Lama, a consultant, shared with the faculty members and students, thoughts from their articles in the issue, “Transforming Bhutan’s Economy”.

Yangchen Tshogyel spoke on the Priority Sector Lending initiative and on Cottage and Small Industries. She explained the Royal Monetary Authority’s strategies to make access to funding easier, funding being the biggest challenge right now for young Bhutanese venturing into business and entrepreneurship. Yangchen Tshogyel said: “While hydropower will remain important but for a more inclusive, resilient, and diversified economy, CSI has huge untapped potential. However, for the CSIs to realise its full potential, a more integrated ecosystem is required.”

Dasho Kinley Dorji spoke on the One-Gewog-One-Product and how far it has fared and challenges such as transportation to market these products in a landlocked country. He encouraged students to rather be enterprising than always think about government jobs, which are getting fewer by the year. “His Majesty The King keeps telling youth to think out-of-the-box so young people should take up the initiative,” Dasho Kinley Dorji said.

Pema Lama shared her thoughts and analysis on women entrepreneurship and some recommendations to create a more conducive environment to encourage women to venture into businesses, particularly CSIs. One of the recommendations was to put in place activities to help women build confidence and identity as entrepreneurs.

Adrian Bernstorff, who wrote on Bhutan’s organic farming situation, provided some reality check by saying that while organic farming has been the country’s goal, increasing use of pesticides in the farming communities is a serious drawback. “So is Bhutan talking organic but doing the conventional,” said Adrian Bernstorff.

The Conversation with the faculty members also covered “democracy”, where faculty members raised the question of being “apolitical” as a serious issue that needs to be discussed openly in order to give more room for debates and discussions to provide more freedom to participate in the electoral process. Some faculty members through their interaction with students found out that disallowing students and faculty members from openly discussing politics has, in fact, proved disadvantageous because some students neither had logical reasoning for voting for a particular candidate nor an understanding about why they were voting.

Thus they called for further deliberations on creating more room for civil servants and students to discuss politics but without actually compromising the need to remain neutral.

A number of observations, ideas, and recommendations were noted during the Conversation and seminar:

  • Invest in a labour force to diversify our economy
  • Work on ideas to make and export Bhutanese products
  • Inspire more youths by opening up space to sensitise and advocate entrepreneurship
  • Improve links between the farmers and the market to improve agribusiness
  • Improve access to finance for people from poorer economic background to bridge the widening economic inequality
  • Explore more economic opportunities other than tourism and hydropower
  • Make PSL accessible even through private banks
  • Do away with 30 percent equity to access PSL since many who want to take up entrepreneurship in farming are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Invest in human resource
  • Improve access to capital for youth
  • Provide everyone with an equal opportunity to avail PSL and other opportunities
  • Need to look into alternatives to plastics to improve packaging for export of our goods and products since plastics are being banned in the country
  • Introduce entrepreneurship courses and modules in school curricula to encourage youth and women in business
  • More should be taught about entrepreneurship in business college like Gedu College of Business Studies
  • There is a need to study if the government is the reason why there is a budget deficit since they borrow huge amounts of money to fund their pledges
  • The government should focus more on PSL than investing more in other sectors
  • Provide women loan repayment flexibility to encourage entrepreneurship among women
  • Local products should be made affordable
  • Sensitise society on how business proposals are accepted so that youth can come up with effective proposals
  • Develop strategic communication on PSL & CSI to keep young people abreast of opportunities
  • Look into whether insurance could be used as substitute collateral for agri-based PSL?
  • Provide tax incentives and tax waiver for a start-up business to encourage entrepreneurship
  • While intentions are good to provide collateral-free loans, govt. must also provide incentives to financial institutions to encourage banks to sanction loans
  • Business colleges like GCBS can introduce agri-business related course to encourage enterprising minds
  • Introduce international e-commerce
  • Creative policies conducive to entrepreneurship
  • The government must do more to encourage farming technology
  • Revisit our policy on the environment since natural resources could be one area people can try enterprising
  • Improve both demand and supply of finance
  • Create a conducive environment for women to encourage business among women