November 1st 2014 is the sixth anniversary of the Coronation of His Majesty the King, and close to the eight year since His Majesty the King took over the responsibilities of the Golden Throne from His Majesty the Fourth King on 9th December 2006.
In this span of eight years or so, His Majesty the King has lead the nation through a series of changes ensuring stability and unity at each important turn.
This eight year period of His Majesty’s reign saw important political, economic and social changes in Bhutan.
His Majesty the King was closely involved along with His Majesty the Fourth King, in consulting the people of 20 Dzongkhags in drafting a Constitution that enshrines some of the best qualities and principles of a democratic Constitution. The Constitution not only gave Bhutan a strong democracy and stable governance, but it also empowered the people, and gave them an array of rights and freedoms.
His Majesty oversaw the successful transition to democracy seen ultimately in the 2008 general elections, where the first democratic government Druk Phuensum Tshogpa came into power. It is notable that before the 2008 elections His Majesty the King like in 2013 exhorted the people to come out and vote and strengthen Bhutan’s democracy. This is also in the context of a majority of Bhutanese people not wanting democracy.
In fact, the Global Peace Index, drawn up by a host of international think-tanks including the Economist Intelligence Unit has given Bhutan the highest ever ranking of the 16th position in 2014 out of 162 countries primarily on account of this successful transition. Bhutan’s ranking was even higher than many western and European nations we admire.
His Majesty the King will continue to remain as a source of stability, unity and continuity in a system where government’s come and go every five years.
An important economic reform by His Majesty the King was the issuance of a Royal Charter in 2007 that lead to the formation of the Druk Holdings Investment (DHI), with the main aim of holding and managing the existing and future investments of the Royal Government for the long term benefit of the people of Bhutan.
In other neighbouring countries state owned corporations have ordinarily become huge loss making enterprises guzzling up huge amount of state resources. This is due to political interference, short term populism and corruption by politicians who treat them as cash cows and also poor corporate governance. Politicians in Bhutan have shown over the years that they are not very different from their counterparts in other countries. DHI in becoming the commercial arm of the government with adequate checks and balances has avoided the above and has instead been at the forefront of good corporate governance in Bhutan making huge profits and contributing handsomely to the state revenue.
His Majesty the King in 2007 also signed a new Friendship treaty with India that strengthened and reaffirmed Bhutan’s sovereign status and actions.
In 2009 under the initiative from His Majesty the King a National Cadastral Resurvey program was launched to solve major land issues affecting ordinary Bhutanese people. At the same time his Majesty granted both new and excess land to citizens strengthening the economic status of people across the country. The large numbers of land Kidu of His Majesty the King given mainly to the weakest sections has been the main factor in the rapidly reducing poverty rates in Bhutan.
The country was affected by a series of natural disasters from floods to earthquakes to fire in the last few years. At each instance without any regard to His Majesty’s own safety and comfort, His Majesty the King has been there at all disaster zones granting immediate relief in the form of Kidu that cuts through red tape and delays that plague other countries in such disasters. It was timely action led from the front by His Majesty the King that could ensure that many relics could be saved in the Wangdue Phodrang fire. His Majesty the King’s Nu 100 million grant to the reconstruction effort and other support gave a major boost to the reconstruction efforts.
His Majesty the King as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces has been at the helm of a modernization and up gradation program for Bhutan’s armed forces. The face of army camps across the country has changed with better living quarters that have been constructed in the last few years. His Majesty’s visits to Bhutan’s border regions have strengthened the morale of the security forces there.
His Majesty the King’s visit to foreign destinations like India and Japan, who are also the largest donors to Bhutan, has further strengthened their ties with Bhutan. In spite of some misunderstanding between the former government and India the presence of His Majesty the King ensured that relations were brought back on an even keel.
Youth in Bhutan comprise over 60 percent of the population, and by virtue of their age they have little or no connection to the past. With a new generation come various issues including the challenge of preserving Bhutan’s culture, unity, stability and integrating the energy of youth into nation building. His Majesty the King has been a very able Monarch in inspiring, guiding and leading this large youth segment towards strengthening and serving the country. His Majesty has also been at the forefront advising both the former and current governments on the importance of taking care of youth and looking after their needs like education and employment for a stronger Bhutan.
Bhutan’s small population of around 700,000 has a combination of various ethnicities, regions and races. His Majesty the King as they symbol of the nation’s unity has been successful in integrating everyone into the mainstream. It is interesting to note that even in border regions like Southern Bhutan and other regions there is a high level of integration, unity, patriotism and positive national spirit due to the efforts of His Majesty the King.
It must be noted that despite the people not wanting democracy and the strong affinity of the people for the Monarchy, His Majesty the King has let both the current and former government chart out their own course and learn from their own mistakes and achievements. This was even in many instances when people openly requested the Monarchy to step in for certain major governance issues like abuse of power and corruption by politicians.
At the same time, His Majesty the King’s moral support to democratic institutions like the Parliament, Anti Corruption Commission, Election Commission, Royal Audit Authority, Media, Judiciary and others have not only strengthened our democratic institutions but our democracy as a whole.
Bhutan was gripped with an Economic crisis with Rupee shortage and Credit Crunch from 2012 onwards. Studies by experts have shown that the small Bhutanese economy was unable to cope with the huge expenditure and fiscal irresponsibility of the then government coupled with huge imports which was also a result of the fiscal expansion.
His Majesty the King in many key speeches advised and alerted the nation to guard against such crises and work towards strengthening Bhutan’s economy. The nation and the government’s attention are now fully focused on strengthening the economy given the gravity of the situation.
His Majesty has been popularly and rightfully described as the Peoples King given His Majesty’s popularity from His Majesty’s early days. At the same it is now clear that His Majesty the King in addition to his popularity has a lot of maturity, depth, character, strength, intellect, foresight and most of all a deep and abiding love and concern for the country and the people.
When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’