And until we stop importing so much goods and services from India, we won’t be able to solve the Indian Rupee shortage that we face today. Given the small population that we have compared to one of the most populated countries on the planet, it is both a blessing and a curse; blessing because we do not need to import as much, but if our population is big, we would end up importing much more than what we currently do. However, it is curse in that being a small country, we are unable to produce as much as we should to counter huge demand both at home and India.
If we are able to produce at good speed and quality, we have a ready and a big market in India. But this is not so. One thing that impedes this is lack of our capacity to inspire more people to build more industries. And because there are not many production houses, what we produce here is far more expensive than those produced in India. That’s why our business houses do not have advantage and the inspiration of producing goods here. In the process, they end up importing more and more of goods that are made in India and cater to Bhutanese markets. That’s how the need for Indian rupee heightens.
So, we need to promote entrepreneurship at all levels. People who dare to start new businesses must be rewarded with government support in building physical infrastructure and tax exemption. The products that they come up with must be given preference in the market. The government of the day, as they are doing already, must continue to support such initiatives and create enough awareness on the need to go local. The government also must explain to our people that it is important to buy our own products. And I am sure at some point we will achieve self-sufficiency – one product at a time.
Other factor that drains our Indian rupee reserve is our heavy dependence on Indian workforce in the construction industry. Bhutan failed to attract its people in what it calls blue-collared jobs. I think we are unsuccessful until now because we are making such jobs menial and low. That is all to do with marketing and branding of such ideas. In the first place, we must not have called it blue-collared jobs. That makes all the difference.
If their children land up in the so-called blue-collared jobs, parents feel that their children’s education until now has been wasted. And these parents have always dreamed that their children would one day go on to become some important officers in the government offices.
One thing that we all should be proud is the new generation of Bhutanese who have entered construction industry. These youth have braved the odd and have gone onto become the builders of our future. They do not fear reputation. At some day in future, we would be able to employ our own people in major projects including hydro-power projects, which until now have used only Indian labor. And we also have young educated Bhutanese opting to become entrepreneurs.
Good times are ahead for this country!
Opinion by Nawang P Phuntsho
The writer works in an NGO and lives in Thimphu