I offer my warm Tashi Delek to all the people in the 20 dzongkhags who are gathered to celebrate this most auspicious occasion, our National Day, to all the people who are offering prayers at home and at lhakhangs, and to all the Bhutanese working and studying around the world who have organised various events to be a part of the festivities.
This momentous event is a convergence of time that embraces our glorious past, our vibrant present, and our aspirations for the future. Reflecting on the past we pay homage, from the depth of our hearts, to our forefathers who, through their sacrifices and tireless service, ensured the well being of our country and people. It is an opportunity for today’s generation to reaffirm our pledge to serve the country and people with the aspirations and prayers that the future may be brighter than ever.
We are celebrating the 110th National Day of Bhutan on the hallowed grounds of Lhakhang Karp. We are joyfully united in the warmth of the special fidelity between the people, the government, and the King. It is our good fortune to be blessed by the aura of the His Majesty Drukgyal Zhipa Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Nothing could be more gratifying than the Royal presence of our revered parent and guardian. It is also most fortuitous and I am particularly delighted that we are celebrating National Day this year providentially coinciding with the Lomba (New Year) celebrations in Haa.
We have enjoyed a year of peace and tranquility in 2017. I am very happy that this has been a productive year during which we made tremendous progress in socio-economic development. We have faced no major obstacles, and the government led by Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay has achieved our development goals through the culmination of hard work and clarity of vision.
Next year, 2018, is an important year of the third general elections in Bhutan’s democracy. The Election Commission of Bhutan has taken the lead in making all the preparations and setting the stage for successful elections. The political parties are all excited and more people are joining the electoral process. There is already genuine enthusiasm and spontaneous public response and people from all walks of life are coming forward to participate in national politics. This is a good sign and evidence that they have the capability and the confidence, and that they have the will to serve the nation and people.
Democracy is a timeless process in our collective endeavor to build a peaceful and prosperous nation. Democracy is the foundation of peace and tranquility, and the source of shared values for wellbeing and happiness. It is also the life-force of national governance.
I am gratified that we have succeeded so far because our people have participated in governance, shouldered their full responsibility as citizens, and provided full support to the government. I would like to extend my appreciation to all our people.
This is also an opportune time for me to share my views on the vital issue of our national sovereignty and security. There are two dimensions to the threats that can undermine the sovereignty and security of a nation – external and internal conditions and factors.
Regarding external threats, as the ancient Bhutanese saying goes, “Even if it rains on the other side we will feel the spray of the rebounding droplets.” Likewise, in today’s interconnected world, any event in a distant part of the world has repercussions in our own country.
For example, economic recession in a distant economy has a direct impact on our own economy. As such, inflation due to economic policies in another country leads to immediate impact on prices in our own country. Similarly, if there are conflicts among countries in the neighborhood, we cannot avoid some of the negative repercussions.
When we look at the future, we see the world in a state of ominous uncertainty. Human activities have led to imbalance in nature and ecological shifts that cause growing problems like climate change and natural calamities. Interminable human conflict and the rise of terrorism, as well as natural disasters, have ravaged sections of society and forced mass migration and demographic shifts. The rapid growth of human population will only exacerbate these problems.
For us, it is most important that, no matter how grave the external threats may be, nothing can harm us if we are united like members of a closely bonded family. Our society, as small as it is, cannot be threatened if we are conscious of the potential threats and remain steadfast in protecting our common interests.
But more than external factors, we can become more vulnerable with internal instability. The history of global and regional trends in other countries have shown that the downfall of countries are caused by failure of governments, breakdown in the rule of law, economic crises, and the growing economic disparities between the rich and the poor. People feel helpless, and lose faith and trust in their governments and in each other. Their frustrations lead to internal skirmishes extenuating religious, political and racial differences leading to political clashes, anarchy, and wars. This has destabilised economies, disintegrated governance structures, and destroyed societies and countries.
Bhutan has been most fortunate to be a close-knit community. Even as a small society we are resilient because of the tha damtshi (loyalty and dedication) in our personal bonds and age-old rapport that continue to be very strong. We must safe guard the integrity of our mutual relationships. It is vital that this fidelity is preserved because it is the quintessential strength of our sovereignty and security, well being, and happiness.
There will always be challenges but we can face and overcome the most perilous crises as long as we are internally resolute and strong. I have great confidence in the core values stemming from our spiritual heritage, our consensual beliefs, and our shared values. With this spirit we will be able to fulfill all our aspirations and objectives far beyond our expectations.
Some countries face insurmountable economic problems. One perennial problem is that developing countries are perpetually plagued by the lack of experience and inadequate funds. Development can be beleaguered by economic deficiencies and uncertainty unless they attain a certain level of self-reliance and economic stability. There is no end to the challenges faced by these countries.
Bhutan is also a developing country but capable and competent people can be our most important asset. The character and nature of our people is commendable and can become an example for others. We have experienced phenomenal progress since the start of planned economic development in 1961. Our greatest achievement in the evolution of governance has been the establishment of Democracy.
The 11th Plan has been a success and I have no doubts about the positive outcomes of the 12th Plan. I am fully optimistic about our future. If we continue to be resilient, intelligent, conscientious and work hard, guided by the philosophy and shared national vision of Gross National Happiness, we will not lose our direction.
Some countries are very successful and people enjoy the benefits of amazing legacies in socio-economic progress and technological advancements. This is the result of the efforts of their ancestors who gave everything to develop their countries. But I have known that some of these countries come to ruins. They lose what they have. As they say, success breeds complacency and complacency leads to failure. The next generation does not value the hardships of their parents and ancestors, and lose the drive and determination, and the mettle which were the very basis of their parents’ successes. They become lazy, complacent, and incapable of sustaining the legacy of their parents. They succumb to mediocrity, which, leading to mismanagement of resources and opportunities, inevitably deteriorates into corruption. This is how societies have disintegrated and nations have failed.
Bhutan cannot afford to be complacent. We are a small vulnerable country landlocked between two large neighbours. India and China together have more than two and a half billion people. A large proportion of their population are young and capable, highly educated, and skilled. They do not shirk from hardship and they are not averse to hard work. And there are hundreds of thousands of them for each one of us. So for us to achieve equal standards of living, we have no choice but to work harder and become more capable.
The resilience of a society is its ability to compete and excel in a highly competitive world. It is important that future generations of our people become the best among the best to safeguard our sovereignty and security, and strengthen the values that have held our society together and shaped the identity of the Bhutanese people.
We must avoid problems faced by other countries and we must be internally strong. There are many national policies and plans to prioritise but most important of all, we must empower the next generation. No matter how we think and reflect, study and analyse the situation, the answer lies in strengthening the youth – our children.
In Bhutan, with a population of about 700,000, most are below the age of 28 years and 230,000 of them are in schools and colleges. Most of them were born after 1990. Knowing the character of our Bhutanese people, I have full confidence in our youth and I sincerely hope and pray that they will be able to serve their country.
Our youth, in turn, must not wait for government initiatives and handouts, and for parents to push them to launch their careers. In a fast moving high tech world, where the only limit is your imagination, you must learn to take charge of the transition and inevitable evolution. You must take the first step forward.
Finally, I am delighted to have been able to meet all of you. I am particularly happy that I was able to share my thoughts and hopes for the sovereignty and security of the country. I conclude with my prayer for everlasting happiness in this Beyul blessed by Guru Rinpoche, home to ancient and sacred relics, a land safeguarded by our ancestors, from Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
May this special land be blessed with everlasting peace and tranquility.