If the National Statistical Bureau conducted a survey of how happy the Bhutanese are they will definitely register a significant drop in the national ‘happiness level’.
The national mood especially in the last one year has become gloomy, grim and depressing.
One of the main reasons would be the worsening state of the economy but there are also other reasons.
Unsecured by any government wages, pension or job security the gloomiest mood would be in Bhutan’s large private sector that employs anywhere between 40,000 to 50,000 Bhutanese citizens.
The credit and rupee crisis has hit this section of the population especially hard. Zimdra laying of 35 people is only one of the many instances of what is happening across various private companies, who unable to cope with the credit crunch are either folding up or are firing staff.
While civil servants have been getting consecutive pay hikes, that on hindsight the government could ill afford, the consequent increase in inflation has hit the poorly paid private sector employees hard.
The civil servants are also not living it up as many of them now discover that they cannot buy their dream house or car as banks no longer are lending money.
Professionally there is an extraordinary level of drop in the morale of civil servants due to what many feel are growing instances of nepotism in the service. The numerous corruption cases have also caused many of them to lose faith in their political leadership.
Bhutanese farmers and rural folk in theory should be shielded from all this, but in reality most rural households depend on their family members working in the urban areas. This is especially so since most Bhutanese farmers are subsistence farmers and do not produce enough to even last them through the year. So any drop in the economic prospects of their family members earning in the urban areas will have a significant effect in the village household as well.
Despite the official figures , rising youth unemployment has hit young and hopeful graduates hard, as jobs have virtually dried up in the economy. Many of the youth feel that they are at the bottom of a system that does not recognize, sympathize, and respect them.
The poor performance of the IT Park and the even poorer state of Foreign Direct Investment has come as a rude shock to us. Our self image of a Shangrila, where foreign companies and foreigners are eager to come to work and invest has been shattered, and in fact it is a challenge to even get their attention.
Bhutan has also discovered that our government and senior leaders are not as clean as they claim to be with some of them involved in multiple cases of graft and irregularities.
In the middle of all this doom and gloom what people look for is leadership, but in many ways the ruling government has been unsatisfactory in fulfilling this important duty.
In many ways we have a government that is democratically elected but dictatorially run.
Instead of providing hope the government plays on and inspires fear among its people. When there is a crisis the government blames them for all ills and problems and passes the buck elsewhere. And finally when people ask for accountability and transparency the government goes into a fit of righteous rage.
The leadership of the government is the combination of a religiously fanatical monk promoting GNH and a feudal lord unable to adapt to changing times.
In Singapore citizens and the press are not encouraged to criticize the government but the government gives little grounds of criticism as all basic needs are fulfilled and the system is efficient and transparent. In India the system is not as efficient but the people and the press are to free to voice their grievances and hold their leaders accountable which results in positive change.
Bhutan under this current government can neither provide a stable economy nor is it tolerant of any democratic criticism.
Bhutan’s mood is gloomy not only because of the big challenges facing it but also because of a leadership that fails to inspire any hope for the future and refuses to listen to its own people.