I wonder if Dasho Karma Ura, Sonam Gyamtsho, Lyonchhen Jigme Yoser Thinley, Dr Saamdu Chettri happened to catch this article, ‘Bhutan drops six places in business ease index’, and the overwhelming implications it has for Bhutan or the Bhutanese people. The irony and paradox of this article appearing just a few short days after receiving the news of Bhutan’s failed bid to secure a seat on the UN Security council is palpable.
To fall six places on an internationally regarded measure of business practices at precisely the time when these and other intellectual, political, thought leaders are out trumpeting the virtues and values of GNH speaks volumes about the disconnect between their perceptions and the cold hard realities confronting most Bhutanese people. Incidentally, and to be fair, this measure has nothing or relatively little to do with GNH or GDP save for the fact that one would hope that the pursuit of GNH would lead Bhutan to be moving up rather than down on this index. In short, it is yet another indicator that despite all “official proclamations” to the contrary and despite all the rhetoric being promulgated by far too many in power, Bhutan is not trending toward the hope and promise of either GNH or GDP.
Growing the private sector, promoting entrepreneurial thinking, and supporting the development of homegrown small to midsize businesses in everything from producing goods to rendering services is where leaders at levels in the Bhutanese political-educational complex should be devoting their time and attention. Instead of running off to New York, Brazil and points around the globe promoting GNH and bidding for “seats”/”acclaims” from the world community, it’s high time the people of Bhutan demand that their political leaders stay home and focus on the real needs and issues of the Bhutanese people.
Reports of this nature are proof positive that real reform is necessary in everything from the way business is taught to the way business is practiced in Bhutan. However, few things could be more beneficial to the average person on the streets of Bhutan than for the world in general and the world business sector particular to view this nation as place that is both easy and inviting to do business. More importantly the reliance and dependence on issues related to the Rupee would fall dramatically to the extent that other nations began setting up operations and trading more vigorously with Bhutan.
Rather than seen as bad news, which it is, a report like this could and should spur serious conversations about the real and viable routes to move Bhutan forward. It’s time for political and educational leaders in Bhutan to start talking, teaching and addressing the pragmatic issues of “micro-economic policy implementation” not ethereal and largely untested notions like GNH. Perhaps instead of pursuing “happiness” the new mantra could be what’s good for Bhutanese Business will be good for the Bhutanese. I hope to see Bhutan moving up the rankings the next time this report is issued.
By Dr David Luechauer