Losar is upon us and as we leave an old year behind and start a new Water Female Snake Year, it is time for reflection of the past and renewal for the future.
As we are about to start the New Year, Bhutan is in the midst of important economic, political and social changes.
On the economic front Bhutan has just taken an additional rupee loan of Rs 4 billion reminding us about the ongoing rupee shortage.
This is coupled with the fact that Banks are still unable to give loans to many sectors in the economy creating a credit crunch.
In the New Year these two crises will serve as important reminders that the government needs to do a lot more to encourage exports and achieve self reliance. It is also a reminder to citizens to have a more frugal lifestyle well within ones means as the economic crisis is predicted to continue for a few years.
On the political front the 2013 General Election are fast approaching and the nation will soon have to make its choice for the next five years.
For the sake of a healthy democracy, people will have to vote for the best party or candidates based on sound judgment.
However, it will be important to ensure that the election process does not affect the national unity and harmony, for Bhutan is too small a country to have too many factions.
With the fifth year of democracy nearing completion it is important to remember that the quality and strength of our democracy does not depend solely on political parties but, more importantly, on our participation in it especially after the election process is over.
Democracy is a system to govern ourselves and our daily lives and if we don’t ensure that this system is healthy, clean and strong then there will be a direct implication on the quality of our lives. Which is why, it is so important to ensure accountability, free speech, free press, right to criticize, right to information and right to question any government that comes and goes. Democracy ultimately should be about empowering the average the Bhutanese.
Bhutan in many ways is undergoing tremendous social change and upheaval. With democratization and economic development Bhutanese people are increasingly becoming more conscious of their rights and duties. Women rights and empowerment is also taking a welcome center stage. Rural Urban migration is still unchecked as cities become choked and farmlands become empty.
Bhutan also has a huge youth demographic that constitutes 60% of the population. A lot more needs to be done to address youth issues like unemployment, substance abuse, violence etc. In many ways the future of Bhutan will depend on how this huge youth demographic can be made a constructive part of society.
An event to look forward to after Losar will be the birthday of His Majesty the King.
The New Year and His Majesty’s upcoming birthday is also a time to reflect on the important contributions made by the Monarchy.
For a small and vulnerable nation in a neighborhood of giants the Monarchy, above all , has ensured our independence and sovereignty. The Monarchy has done much to take Bhutan from a medieval feudal era to a modern one and then at the height of its power and prestige handed the reigns over to the people.
As we enter, in many ways, an uncertain new year the institution of the Monarchy will be more important than ever to guide us through what are both tumultuous and interesting times, as the symbol of Bhutan’s unity, stability, security and sovereignty.
For many Bhutanese the New Year should also serve as a reminder to live healthier lives and adopt a healthier diet.
The sharp increase in the number of lifestyle diseases like diabetes, blood pressure, hyper tension and also to some extent cancer is a warning sign for all Bhutanese.
We can no longer spend sedentary lifestyles and also eat a rich diet originally meant for our ancestors who were much more physically active.
The New Year is also a time for renewing and strengthening family and social ties that are key facets of Bhutanese society.
With increasing cases of broken families, divorces and people not visiting their rural relatives the New Year should also serve as a reminder for strengthening our family ties. It is important to be more loving, patient and understanding of family members. Hedonism and personal development without responsibility and sacrifice for others will mean a shallow and unfulfilling life.
We here at the The Bhutanese wish all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.