One of the biggest fortunes for Bhutan has been that the right King has always been there at the right time, or conversely our Kings have adapted themselves well to the situation around them and led from the front.
His Majesty The First King helped complete the task of a unified leadership for Bhutan started by his father Desi Jigme Namgyel and in many ways was the ‘founder’.
His Majesty The Second King is known as the ‘consolidator’ who helped consolidate the achievements of His Majesty The First King, and helped navigate Bhutan at a time when India became independent.
His Majesty The Third King is known as the ‘Father of Modern Bhutan’, not only in terms of the start of modern economic development but also important political and governance reforms.
His Majesty The Fourth King also known as the ‘The Great Fourth,’ for his many achievements, not only accelerated economic and social development, but like his predecessors, strengthened the country’s security and sovereignty, even taking a big personal risk on the frontlines.
Bhutan also gained the important philosophy of GNH, which was not a new fangled concept, but brought together Bhutan’s best qualities and traditions and a wise and long-term vision for the nation.
This was followed by the greatest ever political and governance reform with Bhutan’s transition to democracy.
In that sense His Majesty The King, in the last 14 years of His Reign, has shown that he is more than a suitable and competent King for Bhutan in our times of democracy, digital age, fast paced economic and social change, a more open Bhutan, impactful global changes, growing youth demographics and more.
His Majesty The King was 26 years of age when His Majesty ascended on the Throne in December 2006 and is 40 today.
The last 14 years has been some of the most eventful in Bhutan’s history, and it still continues to unfold in an array of areas. Bhutan, in this period, has ridden all kinds of waves, big and small, and undergone major changes, but the country is only getting more secure, prosperous, smarter, healthier and stronger.
And a lot of it is down to the visionary leadership of His Majesty The King and visionary leadership is, in fact, what really defines His Majesty.
In a time when short-term political interests of parties and politicians is a feature of electoral politics, and at times threatens to unravel the hard won gains of the past for short-term objectives, His Majesty is the only leader who constantly gives stability and a long-term vision for the country.
It is a vision, not only in words or speech, but one that inspires and gives much needed direction to the country’s future path.
His Majesty’s vision is not a five-year plan or an annual budget of an elected government, but much more important in challenging Bhutan and Bhutanese to be the best version of themselves and to achieve excellence.
It is not a vision of sweet words of politicians that promises the sun and moon and paints a rosy picture, but it is a very different vision that is honest and alive to the challenges faced by Bhutan, and exhorts Bhutanese to come forward as one nation and one people to face and overcome them.
The Bhutanese during the 10th Anniversary of His Majesty’s reign in December 2016 called His Majesty, ‘The Great Reformer,’ and this is what His Majesty continues to do to this day. It is important to note that His Majesty’s reforms do not eat into the five-year plans of elected governments or annual budgets, but they are far more important and strategic changes for the nation in the long run.
The reforms are drawn from His Majesty’s long term vision for the country and its people. From the start of His Majesty’s reign, the number of reforms have been many and very impactful in not only bringing a positive change in the lives of ordinary citizens now, but also for the future.
These include poverty alleviation through land reform, land kidu and resettlement; better corporate governance and accountability through DHI; volunteerism and service through DeSuung; a more intellectual and informed leadership through RIGSS; cutting edge research in education through REC and the Royal Academy; improved government coordination through GNHC; a more modern fighting force through reforms in the armed forces; proactive Kidu to seek out and help the most needy; Gyalpoi Tozey to help poor but promising students; promotion of ICT; the start Bhutan’s space journey and more.
His Majesty has also successfully carried out the biggest reform of all, till date, which is a successful and stable transition into a Parliamentary Democracy.
If there is a common thread in His Majesty’s reforms till date, it is challenging and pushing Bhutan and Bhutanese to achieve excellence as a nation and people. It is also about taking care of every section of Bhutanese society to ensure that no one is left behind.
His Majesty now stands at the cusp of two very big and important reforms that will not only define the future of Bhutan in the coming decades, but also overcome its traditional impediments of being a small country with a small population in a neighbourhood of giants.
The more important one and the biggest reform of His Majesty, going forward, is the Gyalsung program or National Service. This program is revolutionary in that it takes all of Bhutan’s biggest weaknesses and problems and converts them into strengths and opportunities.
Apart from being a small and poor country, Bhutan currently has a problem of having a small and mainly young population and yet coupled with high unemployment and youth issues. Though the military component of the program is only three months of the 12 months, it will ensure a competent and large fighting fit force in addition to disaster relief and other national services. This takes care of security and disaster relief and ensures Bhutan, in due time, can punch way above its weight on this front.
The main focus of the Gyalsung program, however, is giving important skills and options to our youth and this is where Bhutan’s predominantly young population can be turned into an important national resource. The strategic placement of the program just after class 12, which is an important and formative stage, will be hugely important in helping give the youth information, skills and orientation, where they know what they are doing next and are equipped for it.
Another area that His Majesty has laid emphasis on is Bhutan being a part of the digital economy and revolution. As an international Tech Leader from Singapore, Serguie Beloussov, pointed out recently, Bhutan has every potential to become one of the global players in Information Technology and the Digital Age, and the limitation of size or population is not an issue.
His Majesty’s focus on IT is also almost uncanny, as this is exactly an area which does not depend on how small your country is or even how poor it is as long as there is focus and determination to do what is necessary.
This field also holds enormous potential for not only Bhutan’s economic development, but also in terms of providing tens of thousands of high paying jobs and major changes in every sphere of economy and governance.
Now to take a step back, one would have to ask where does all this vision, drive and energy come from.
As His Majesty said in the past, it is important for him to strive to be a good human being first to do his job as best as he can. This is coupled with his strong sense of duty to the country and its people instilled and ingrained into his very being, from a very young age with the Great Fourth as a tutor and role model.
His Majesty is not like a corporate CEO or chairman taking decisions, but the heart of His Majesty’s management style or leadership is being a good human being and a concerned leader, and then projecting that on to bigger things. It is about both the head and the heart.
This good human being aspect can easily be seen in His Majesty’s tours and dealings with even the simplest folk in the most remote areas. One untold story of the large scale reduction of extreme poverty in Bhutan in the last one decade is a massive land kidu and resettlement program where the poorest have been given an asset and means of production.
It is important to note that His Majesty dispenses such Kidu, not as a leader granting favors, but in a humble and humane manner, encouraging remote communities and people and respecting and enhancing their sense of dignity and worth by being among them and doing among them.
It must be noted that most of the above is in the context of elected governments and leaders who control the five-year plans, annual budget and the government since 2008.
However, given that His Majesty’s vision is motivated by a basic human goodness and sincere concern for country and people and gains public support -even politicians and political parties soon find themselves totally convinced and ready to support His Majesty’s long term vision.
In that sense the current Prime Minister and government is no exception.
His Majesty is also different from other international leaders in one more extraordinary respect. His Majesty genuinely respects his people in placing his faith in them and expecting and exhorting his people to be the best in every sense, not only at the national level, but also among the global community.
A popular Bhutanese saying is, ‘A King’s Command is heavier than the mountains and more precious than gold.’
It would be fair to say that His Majesty has redefined and exceeded this saying as His Majesty’s vision is more powerful than any command in inspiring an entire people and nation to be the best version of themselves and to reach for the very stars.