November 30, 2011 -- EVP and CEO Lars Thunell spoke of the shared values of harmony, sustainability, and balanced growth between Bhutan and IFC in his meetings with the Royal Government of Bhutan and members of the private sector during his recent visit to the country.
“There is a natural fit between the approach the country has adopted and IFC’s own vision of sustainable and inclusive growth,” said Thunell at a dinner hosted by the Bhutan government.
This was Thunell’s first visit to Bhutan. While meeting Bhutan Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Yoezer Thinley, Thunell reiterated IFC’s commitment toward private sector development.
“IFC sees great potential in Bhutan. We believe that the country can continue to grow rapidly in the near future,” Thunell said. He felt extremely welcomed by both senior government leadership and business leaders in a country where the concept of Gross National Happiness is an indicator of balanced, sustainable development in harmony with the community and their cultural values.
During his meeting with Hon. Minister for Economic Affairs Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk, Thunell thanked the government for its support to IFC's ongoing joint business license simplification project with the ministry. He also met with private sector leaders in Thimphu to explore opportunities and IFC’s support to private sector projects.
The minister shared Bhutan government's efforts towards poverty alleviation, electrification, communications, and in creating an enabling environment for rural people to find economic opportunities. The minister believes that small businesses and tourism must find growth opportunities as they had the potential to make important contributions to the country's economy.
Thunell discussed IFC’s continued support towards strengthening the financial sector, promoting public-private partnerships and providing support to small and medium enterprises with Finance Secretary Lam Dorji. He repeated strategic priorities of infrastructure, especially hydropower, tourism, and small enterprises in his media interviews to Kuensel and Business Bhutan.
IFC to Play an Important Role
IFC has an important role to play in the country and signaled its growing commitment to Bhutan’s sustainable growth when it opened a joint office with IBRD earlier in May this year. Bhutan is very clear of the need for development but not at the cost of the environment or losing their cultural identity. The government sees many challenges and opportunities and a clear role for the private sector and for IFC support to the private sector.
Bhutan has been an IFC member country since 2003. Important past and ongoing initiatives by IFC include promoting public-private partnership projects, especially in infrastructure, including urban transport system in the two commercial centers of Thimphu and Phuentsholing. IFC is committed to supporting investment climate improvements, strengthening local financial institutions, improving access to finance, supporting trade, and helping address climate change impacts.
IFC is seen as an important development partner by Bhutan. Karin Finkelston, Vice President, Asia Pacific; Anita George, Director, Infrastructure Asia; and Kyle Kelhofer, Country Manager for Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal joined Thunell during the visit.