Will the end of the summit mark the start of something new?
The Better Business Summit, the first of its kind ever held at such a grand scale, came to an end last week and there are several things to be taken home and given serious forethought to bring about radical changes in the Bhutanese economy.
The economy as we know today is crippled by a host of issues ranging from a severe shortage of Indian currency, constraints in the balance of payments and current account deficits and restrictions that is constraining private sector growth.
Gross domestic product registered the slowest growth in ten years at a low 4.6 percent, while a high rate of inflation is eating away in to the wallets of many lower and middle-income brackets. Access to credit still remains a big challenge for entrepreneurs.
The earning of rupee by the hydropower sector is negated by the payments made in rupees to buy fuel from India. In other words, import of energy is more than export of hydropower by Rs 700M.
The agriculture sector is in a sorry state with increase in the imports of major food items like rice, meat, edible oil and dairy products. In one year, the economy imports 2 billion worth of rice and a billion worth of meat.
On an average, a Bhutanese individual eat two pigs weighing 70 kg a year. When it comes to food trade balance, there is a deficit of Nu 4.2 billion, more than half the net earning of our hydropower sector.
Therefore, food security still remains far-fetched. 60 percent of the total arable land is left fallow.
Moreover, development is highly concentrated in the hydropower sector that is leading to jobless growth. Economic diversification is still a long way from being achieved.
And while the economy is mired in all this problems, electric vehicles, which only the rich can afford, seem to be the priority.
The summit provided several perspectives to deal with the current situation. First, government policies must be economic-friendly, institutions must be strengthened, and ministries and agencies must collaborate instead of working independently.
Today is the right time for such a summit to take place so that the economy does not receive a secondary treatment.
Now, it all depends on what the next step would be. Will the report that will be compiled post summit gather dust in a government office or will the summit be the first step towards a major economic reformation that will reward all citizens and stakeholders of the country of gross national happiness?
The die has been cast and we look forward to it.