Bhutan Gets A Brand New Set Of Cabinet

The madness is behind us – elections are over and we now have a brand new set of Cabinet Members. They may not be the leaders some of us chose – but from here on, they will lead us and our lives will be intrinsically linked to what they do and how they do them.

We know that they will fall far short of their campaign promises. In truth none of us really expect them to live up to every one of their promises. I as a citizen will be happy if they achieve even 30% of their promises. And, in the hope that they will work hard and sincerely at achieving those 30% of their promises, I offer them my congratulations and wish them best of luck.

While the new Cabinet Members and their team prepare to take on the task of governance, I would like to submit my very short wish list – just four simple and achievable ones. I most earnestly urge the new government to focus on the following:

Tourism

For Bhutan Tourism is the most important industry – 10 times more important than hydropower. Thus, first on my wish list is tourism. Its benefit reaches every spectrum of Bhutanese society – the government, airline industry, hoteliers, restaurateurs, waiters, laundry man, the carvers and the weavers, the painters, pony drivers, guides, cooks, vegetable seller, vehicle owners, tour operators, taxi owners – the list is endless. We need the government to get serious with this sector. Please invest some time and money to keep this sector on track.

Agriculture

We have phenomenal climatic variation and our staggering altitudinal range is unmatched – from 97 Meters at the lowest point to 7,570 Meters at the highest point. Our water resources are among the highest in the world. These natural endowments create ideal conditions for agriculture production.

Despite all that, only 5.5% of our land is under agriculture. Energize this sector and reverse rural-urban migration – help eliminate Goongtongs. Make us food self-sufficient and, if possible, let us make agriculture produce as one of our exportable surpluses.

Energy

We need the government to turn Bhutan into an energy self-sufficient state. We already are! But something is amiss somewhere. Why are the citizens of a country that produces so much hydro-electricity, required to queue up at the fuel station for hours and hours, trying to buy imported energy? Why is our own electricity out of the reach of the common people? Why are we importing billions of Ngultrums worth of LPG and kerosene, when we produce hundreds of billions of units of hydro-electricity, in the process depleting Rupee reserve, and causing harm to the environment?

Why are we exporting hydro-electricity at more than two times lower the price than that charged to Bhutanese domestic consumers? Why is the government persistently fixing electricity rates at a level that is higher than the imported kerosene and LPG? What is the reason behind making our own electricity unaffordable as an energy source?

Please unravel the mystery of the mathematics behind electricity tariff fixation for domestic consumption.

Environment

We have done enough of the talk about being the champion of environmental conservation, about being a carbon negative country. Now let’s dispense with the rhetoric and get down to walking the talk.

Stop environmental disasters such as Shingkhar-Gorgan road. The construction of the West-East highway was a disaster to begin with – environmentally and financially. It has already caused a serious dip in the arrivals of dollar paying tourists.

My heart bleeds at the thought of how we are going to be able to maintain such a behemoth of a road, once built. Please do not ever contemplate projects with such colossal environmental destruction.

Here is wishing all the best to the DNT government. May you bring the change you promised – for the better.

The writer is a Charter Member of the Rotary Club of Thimphu. His is also a Paul Harris Fellow. Currently he serves as the Club Secretary for RY 2017-2018. By Profession, Yeshey is a photographer.

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