I am pleased to be here today to address the closing ceremony of the 7th Session of the Second Parliament.
As we carry out the immensely important duties related to nation building, the members of the National Assembly and the National Council, who together constitute the 72 Members of Parliament of Bhutan, carry with them a sacred responsibility.
It is my personal observation over the years that our parliamentarians have carried out their responsibilities dutifully and well.
An important responsibility of the members of parliament, as representatives of the people, is to understand the views, concerns, and the ground realities of our people, to consult with them on national development activities and policies in the process of lawmaking, to keep them informed, and ensure that the will of the people is reflected adequately in all decisions of national importance.
Likewise, parliamentarians have the duty to ensure that a strong system of check and balance exists. Our parliamentarians have been fulfilling these duties exceptionally well.
In the span of eight-and-a-half years since the transition to parliamentary democracy, the first and second parliaments together have convened a total of 18 sessions. During this period, 35 laws were enacted, 14 amended, 18 repealed, and 25 international conventions ratified by the legislative body.
In the course of their duties, our parliamentarians have been judicious in the selection of bills for discussion, choosing those which are relevant and beneficial to our people. In addition, they have researched the various issues comprehensively, and finally, carried out extensive deliberations in parliament, in order to endorse their final decisions after arriving at a consensus.
Our democracy is strengthened each year as we gain invaluable experience. The members of the parliament have conducted themselves impeccably, and have prescribed to excellent standards of decorum during parliamentary proceedings, and as a result, we have been able to set a good precedence for the future. I commend our parliamentarians and express my heartfelt appreciation.
The current government, since it took over in 2013, has been working towards the wellbeing and progress of our people and country. Balanced socio-economic development is central to this endeavor, as outlined in the 11th Five Year Plan. The outlay for the 11th plan is Nu 213 billion, which makes it by far, the largest plan we have ever undertaken.
In addition to this, there are numerous other projects outside the plan, including the major hydropower projects. These activities are being carried out successfully across the 20 dzongkhags and 205 gewogs, as reflected in the mid-term review that was completed recently. I extend my full support to the government as it carries out these important activities.
This is the tenth year since I became King, and it has been eight-and-a-half years since we transitioned to parliamentary democracy. Our experience so far has been one of success. But more importantly, when I look ahead, I find that there are many reasons to be happy and confident about our future.
Let me broadly elaborate on four of these reasons.
Firstly, our country is getting smaller due to increased connectivity. The road network throughout the country has become better and more extensive, making it much easier for our people to travel, work and trade. The number of mobile phones in the country is fast catching up to our population, enabling our people to connect to each other from different parts of the country with ease. Internet reach has expanded, allowing our people, especially the youth, to access information and news more easily than ever before. Through television, people are up to date with the news and current events. All these have brought our people closer to each other and have closed the gap between the government and people, thereby greatly helping with socio-economic development activities, and enhancing the prosperity of our people. More importantly, this will greatly benefit our democracy.
Secondly, with greater access to information and experiences, our people are better educated and more confident, and our society as a whole smarter than ever before.
Thirdly, our institutions are getting stronger. For our new democratic system, we established new democratic institutions, and enacted new laws. We began with limited experience, and were certainly faced with challenges. Along the way, we were able to identify our weaknesses, respond to change, and address problems in a timely manner. That is the true mark of a strong and capable institution. As a result of our dedication and commitment, our institutions continue to grow stronger each year.
And finally, tremendous work has been put in over the course of many years, to lay firm foundations for our democracy. All this was new to us, and we didn’t have a lot of experience to fall back upon. Moreover, party politics was an entirely new concept for Bhutan. Yet, we managed to steer our country in the right direction from the very beginning, and in the course of 8 years, we have gained invaluable experience and built a stable democracy.
The King, country, and people of Bhutan have a common aspiration for our democracy– we aspire for a democracy with rule of law, democracy with unity, democracy with integrity, democracy with talent and meritocracy, democracy that is responsible, and democracy that serves.
Our democracy must meet the needs of the people and country, while at the same time, our people must always have confidence in the future of our democracy. If, through these endeavors, we create a just and harmonious society, we will truly have a people’s democracy.
Democracy is regarded as the best form of governance around the world, and we consider it among our most important national objectives. But democracy has failed in many countries. Therefore, we cannot be complacent that things are going well for us, but remain cautious and continue to serve to the best of our abilities.
Jetsun and I have been filled with a profound sense of joy since the day of the birth of our son in February this year. I now have an added responsibility– to raise my son in the manner that I was brought up by my Father. I must ensure that when his time comes, my son is able to serve his people and country in an exceptional and exemplary manner. My endeavor will be to impart all that I know to him. While I will be his teacher today, my prayer is that one day, I will be the one who learns from him.
Elders often say that when you have children, your entire perspective changes. Perhaps some of you have wondered how the responsibility of fatherhood has affected me.
I have always worked with an overwhelming sense of responsibility for the future. As a father, when I hold my son and look into his eyes, I realize that I am not the only parent in our country. As parents, we all want the future of our children to be brighter than our own. It is our collective responsibility to hand over a country that is stronger, more peaceful, and more prosperous, to our children.
That is why, we must be the ones to make sacrifices, take calculated risks and to take on the responsibility of making tough decisions– to do everything that needs to be done to secure the future.
To return to the question, have my perspectives changed after I became a father? The answer is no. They have only been reinforced since the birth of my son.
In 2008, the people of Bhutan came together to celebrate my Coronation with great rejoicing. Our people celebrated the Royal Wedding, the 60th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, and the birth of my son, in a similar manner.
During the military action in 2003, the people of Bhutan were united and loyal in their service to the nation. In 2008, the entire country responded with wholehearted participation to the royal initiative to establish democracy. To this day, whenever a natural disaster strikes, every citizen of Bhutan steps forward instinctively in support and solidarity.
The people of Bhutan celebrated the birth of Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck with profound joy and togetherness, and offered their heartfelt wishes and prayers. The reason for the special manner of celebration went beyond the occasion of the birth of a Prince.
The way in which we come together in times of happiness or difficulties, shows that more than ever before, we are united by a strong sense of a shared identity, and take immense pride in being Bhutanese. We are bound as members of a single family, with tremendous concern and care for each other’s wellbeing.
On this auspicious occasion, I take the opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude to our beloved Drukgyal Zhipa, to whom we owe all our happiness and success as a nation and people, for His Majesty’s precious blessings during the birth of our son.
I would also like to express my gratitude to Jetsun – my partner and my best friend, for her constant love and support, and for being an extraordinary mother to our son.
And lastly, I thank the people of the twenty dzongkhags for your never-ending support and affection. All my endeavours in this lifetime remain pledged in service to you.