The main slogan of the current government is ‘Narrowing the gap,’ and one area where the gap needs to be narrowed is in the almost out of control construction boom and rapid development in Thimphu, compared to all other parts of the country.
The construction boom in Thimphu is not a healthy sign as it shows that rural-urban migration is only getting stronger and many youths only see a future in Thimphu’s mainly white collar jobs.
If Bhutan has to truly prosper then it cannot happen in the narrow valley of Thimphu, which is a mostly a government based and consumption driven economy.
Thimphu also has high levels of inequity with ultra-rich people and jobless youth rubbing shoulders on the same street.
Bhutan can only truly grow if its southern belt turns into an industrial and export powerhouse with Bhutanese youth gainfully employed in such industries and businesses.
There can only be balanced regional development if the eastern parts of Bhutan that witness the highest levels of Gung tong can come up with a stronger local economy consisting of agriculture, livestock, tourism, manufacturing and food processing among others to retain the youth there.
Similarly, other regions and Dzongkhags must all develop strong local economies so that the local youth and populace do not need to move and can have a good income.
Thimphu based growth is not only not good for the rest of Bhutan, but it is also taking a heavy toll on Thimphu itself with ugly constructions popping up everywhere, land rates going through the roof, traffic jams, pollution, trash problems and more.
The government, as a start, could encourage certain government agencies to start moving to other parts of the country. Bhutan’s ICT facilities are good enough to allow for communication and coordination across Dzongkhags.
Government linked corporations must be either discouraged from coming to Thimphu or they must be encouraged to move out.
Even private businesses that want to move from Thimphu and establish base elsewhere could be given special incentives.
In this light the government’s initial effort to decongest Thimphu is a welcome move and much more can be done.
“By far the greatest and most admirable form of wisdom is that needed to plan and beautify cities and human communities.”