Drinking our own Kool-Aid

Bhutan is set to graduate from the Least Developed Countries (LDC) category of the poorest and most vulnerable countries by December 2023.

This comes at a time when Bhutan is facing a series of crises like an economic crisis, depleting reserves, huge migration outwards of its professionals and youths and more.

However, Bhutan is not seeking an extension like Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Nepal, Bangladesh etc who are concerned they will lose trade, grant, financing and other concessions after graduating.

Bhutan is keen to graduate as it largely meets the 14 indicators used for graduation, and the impact is assessed to be minimal by the UN.

In LDC conference speeches by political leaders Bhutan had the most upbeat speech, but most other LDC leaders talked of challenges in their countries, expressed fears and wanted more to be done.

It is not a problem if Bhutan’s willingness to graduate is based on real economic resilience, but we all know how weak and vulnerable we are.

A UN report on vulnerability itself contradicts the indicators used for Bhutan’s graduation saying many of them do not apply to Bhutan or give Bhutan the impression of being better off than it actually is.

It instead points to lasting vulnerability for Bhutan due to its small population, unstable agriculture and landlocked geography.

Two more reasons we want to graduate are that our officials are embarrassed to be in the LDC category, and Bhutan wants to be known as a successful role model to others.

Bhutan has tremendous international goodwill and positive image due to our natural beauty, clean environment, ‘happiness’ and a mythical Shangri-La charm.

It is nice to be appreciated and recognized internationally, however, we should avoid the two mistakes that we are committing out of this.

The first mistake is that we have drunk our own Kool-Aid and we actually believe we are a cut above the rest, though we are facing very real and pressing problems. Even if we have deep problems we downplay them as long as the surface is shiny.

The second mistake is that we work very hard to keep this shiny image and lecture the world even though there is a growing rust below the surface. These are mistakes committed by all three elected governments so far.

It is time to stop playing to the gallery and instead focus on the real and pressing issues below the shiny but increasingly thin surface.

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”
John Lennon

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