From a security state to an economic one

If one looks at why Bhutan does not grow economically or the barriers to economic growth then it often has to do with the security obsessed mentality of Bhutan.

As a small Himalayan country, Bhutan went through the traumatic situation of seeing its cultural and religious cousins being gobbled up by bigger countries.

As a country that always prized its sovereignty, it took a host of internal and external measures to ensure that it is never threatened.

This meant that there was great care into who is allowed into Bhutan and what they can do or not.

When somebody wants to do something innovative like open an international school then various restrictions like visas for parents, dress code, syllabus, impact on culture, unwanted influences etc. would ensure that the plan is killed at conception.

The threat to Bhutan’s stability and well-being has changed, and in fact our restrictive measures have become a threat in themselves stifling growth and innovation.

Bhutan in the process has become a museum of sorts that foreigners want to come and look at and admire, but the youth feel stifled with the lack of economic opportunities and want to head out.

There is no way that the poor-quality growth associated with government spending, tourism, hydropower and the shop economy will do.

If we are to retain our youths heading out or even get them back then a much more different approach is needed.

The first major change we need to accept is we must be prepared to allow into Bhutan a significant number of skilled and even semi-skilled foreign workers along with big investments.

These workers will do skilled work and help generate revenue and taxes and also jobs.

Instead of making them bend to our system we must ensure that our system also suits them.

Instead of hiding behind the mountains we have to accept that the only way to retain our youths is to provide them a global level of prosperity. This can only be done once we tap into the global economy and derive its benefits.

We do not have much by way of resources and so we should be willing to be street smart and strategic and leverage whatever resources and advantages that we have.

A success story and example in this regard is our Bitcoin investments that are paying rich dividends and helping finance the bulk of the civil service pay hike.

A strong economy is the source of national strength.

Yoshihide Suga

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