His Majesty’s 109th National Day address was unique in not only coinciding with His Majesty’s 10th year of Reign but also for its multilayered symbolism of being held in Trongsa.
The address, as always, touched on some consistent and important national aims and vision like sovereignty, unity, democracy, decentralization and environment.
The speech, in the beginning, showed how it is important for Bhutan to be aware of and in touch with global developments given its possible impact on Bhutan. His Majesty highlighted important global challenges and uncertainties and then gradually brought it back to Bhutan highlighting how unity among the people and ‘Tha Damtsi’ between the people, the government and the King is important for Bhutan’s success as a nation.
It is interesting to note in His Majesty’s address that His Majesty has highlighted the importance of building a democracy that is exemplary. This show’s His Majesty’s commitment to not be satisfied with a successful transition to democracy but to continue working on strengthening democracy. It is in this vein that His Majesty has focused on the importance of continued decentralization as an important marker for a successful democracy. For His Majesty, decentralization is all about empowering the common person and in doing so empowering Bhutan.
As highlighted in His Majesty’s address on the 60th Birth anniversary celebrations of His Majesty The Fourth King, His Majesty again highlighted the issue of a clean Bhutan, that is not only close to the heart of His Majesty’s father and His Majesty himself but it is more so in our collective national interest.
Cleanliness is not just a government responsibility. It can only be achieved by changing mindsets and changing individual behavior, and so His Majesty’s address is in a way a call for collective societal change. A clean environment is also at the heart of Bhutan’s GNH philosophy.
The longest part of His Majesty’s speech this year was dedicated to agriculture and it is important to understand why.
Bhutan is a landlocked and primarily agrarian country with only seven percent arable land. This is in the face of Bhutan not even being able to produce enough food for its own consumption. It is also in the face of widespread youth unemployment and growing rural-urban migration with many rural areas starting to empty out its primarily young and capable people who come to overcrowded urban areas to only be frustrated and deluded.
Here His Majesty’s long term vision and innate instincts combined with a strong commonsense to recognize ground realities have come together to propose simple but far reaching solution to many of the nation’s problems. This is by making use of the resources and investments around us.
His Majesty over the years has been granting an unprecedented amount of Land Kidu and instituting important land reforms recognizing the ground reality that most Bhutanese still live off the land and that land is still the main asset in Bhutan.
This has complemented the tremendous rural infrastructure investments made by the government over several plan periods including this one.
Bhutan also has a huge youth potential brimming with energy, and what better opportunity then to harness these bright minds.
If final bottlenecks like access to credit and other areas that have mainly to do with inter-agency coordination are resolved then Bhutan’s lands stands to produce gold and prosperity for its people.
The result will not only be food self sufficiency but it also strengthens Bhutan both internally and externally in an era when issues like ‘Food Sovereignty’ and the use of economic tools in geostrategic politics is gaining ground.
His Majesty’s solutions are like a strong beam of light in a fog of confusion that Bhutan occasionally gets into, especially in these times.
The solutions are important because they are not only simple and based on ground realities but they are eminently doable with a little bit of extra effort on all our parts.
Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.
Robert H. Schuller