Bonding during a crisis

 

The rupee crisis has not only hit Bhutan’s economy but it has also stung our national pride and confidence. This is not just an economic crisis for the nation but also a painful and uncertain time for every Bhutanese from humble farmers to business tycoons.

However, it is only in adversary that a nation can really discover how great it is. Economic rationales and criticisms aside, it is time for us to rediscover the legendary Bhutanese stoic quality. A quality that enabled this small nation to survive against all challenges that history put its way. A quality that allowed our ancestors to make do with little but still develop a country that we can be proud off. We must believe that Bhutan as a nation is strong enough to withstand such crises.

There no doubt there must be introspection, heads should roll, and systemic corrections must take place. However, for now on we must not allow this crisis to divide us but unite us more than ever in our resolve to come out of this together with joint  efforts.

Each one of us must do our bit to help the nation. For those of us in the media this may involve some stinging and bitter criticism from the government.  The government on its part must take this criticism in the right spirit, as a bitter but necessary pill.

As ordinary citizens we must re-evaluate our needs at the personal level. Do I really need two cars for my family? Do I really need a car when I can walk? Do I really need that loan when I can manage within my own income? Do I really need to take that trip when I can save the money for my child’s future?

We must dig deep and re-discover the frugal and practical ways of our ancestors whose needs were basic but their lives were no less richer. This is important as this crisis has clearly shown that we as a nation are clearly living beyond our means.

On the brighter side, the country also can only come out wiser and stronger out of this crisis. It will give the nation time to stop and reflect and think over where we are going with our current state of development. What has become clear is that our Bhutanese economy cannot be just that of landlords and tenants, shops and buyers or banks and car owners.

On the policy front, Bhutan’s philosophy of Gross National Happiness has received much criticism as being inadequately equipped to address problems like this. There definitely must a thorough evaluation of this basic philosophy that now governs many aspects of our life including our economic policies. However, the choice is not as stark as some may offer of either being happy or be ing wealthy. There still exists a middle path, and this crisis is perhaps a sign that we have steered off the middle path in ignoring the economic ground realities of today.

On the leadership front it would be unfair to blame only the current leadership for the crisis though they must take their share of the blame. Given Bhutan’s developmental needs and limited domestic economy a rupee shortage of sorts always existed but the only difference is that it has become more severe now due to unprecedented economic activities from hydropower to industries.

Ordinary Bhutanese and Bhutan has much to be grateful for to its leadership which has served this country well, pulled its people out of stark poverty and taken this country from a medieval age to a modern one.

There is no doubt on the intentions of our leadership to help the country and its people become more prosperous. However, in hindsight of this crisis, it is time that we re-examine the model of a paternal government which served us well earlier but may not do so in today’s modern global economy. In today’s global economy creativity, free enterprise, innovation, quick thinkers and quick movers are rewarded.

In an age of the facebook media and Apple Inc economy old straps need to be loosened and our people need to be more innovative and more self dependent rather than wait for the next GoI installment or government intervention. .

It is also time that the government gives full and sincere support to the nascent but important private sector that can only truly rescue Bhutan’s economy in the long run. This however must not be done without foregoing its key responsibility of taking care of the weaker sections of our society.

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