The Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering said that while there has always been Bhutanese going out, the trend has become more alarming in the last couple of years.
He said that apart from civil servants there are large numbers of graduates also leaving because when civil servants themselves are resigning and going out then the graduates find it a better option to go directly instead of sitting for RCSC.
When asked what the government was doing, the PM said a lot of things can be done like immediately stopping issuance of passports, but that is not what the government wants.
“It is human nature to go look for opportunities in life and Bhutanese are not doing anything different. They are leaving because they are not able to meet their expectations here which is to earn a decent livelihood. So it is only right that human beings look for better opportunities in life,” said the PM.
“It is sad that we are realizing it a bit late. If the Bhutan government knew that this sort of trend will pick up two to three decades ahead then things could have happened a little differently and urgency would have set in much ahead of time. But I am not going back in time,” added the PM.
He said things cannot be left like this and so changes must be brought at a faster pace.
The PM said His Majesty has repeatedly mentioned to create a local environment conducive enough to meet people’s expectations, make them earn enough, create opportunities for them to do what they feel like doing based on their talents and skills.
“If you translate it directly into income than I don’t think anything less than four times of what we are earning now will be enough,” said the PM.
“So due to this all the transformation, reforms and sectoral audiences that we are getting from His Majesty is geared towards this. That is the only target we have which is to create a conducive environment for the Bhutanese to tell themselves that the opportunity is as good,” added the PM.
“The target for now is to create an environment in such a way that we might be able invite talents from other countries once our environment changes, once the way we do things changes, once opportunities in the country changes. And it is opportunities not only for Bhutanese but opportunities for the global youth and young minds.”
He said ultimately with that aim they must first immediately slow down the trend, halt it and reverse it.
He said they must create the conducive environment to firstly decide not to go, secondly for those of who have gone to welcome them back and thirdly in the event that they decide not come back, create opportunities for them to invest in Bhutan with what they earn outside.
The PM pointed out that of all the countries facing brain drain and migration Bhutan is the best quality because most of the Bhutanese going out are to Australia and almost all going out are for education purpose.
“This is like a mass education and reskilling of the country’s youth. Any additional skills a Bhutanese learns, any extra knowledge that a Bhutanese gets, any exposure a Bhutanese gets is actually our future.”
He said right now Bhutanese going out is a concern as they are educated and they could have invested their talents in the country.
“As of today since we don’t have that environment we are not able to meet their expectations.
They are going to earn, study and gain experience and knowledge and while they are doing this we must improve our system at a pace like at no other times.”
The PM said that Information Technology will be the main focus for the turnaround as it is because we did not focus on IT that we are losing.
“Because we have not focused on IT we have not been able to keep pace in the development of other sectors as IT is the driver of development in all sectors.”
He said it is only through heavy investment in IT that Bhutanese experts who are stationed outside can work for the country, and Bhutanese who are experts can work from Bhutan for those companies outside and bring in revenue while they are spending time with their parents and family.
“We must reverse our understanding, investment and thinking on Agriculture and food self sufficiency and food security,” said the PM.
He said even now and going forward we will not have enough Bhutanese going back to their villages to till their farm.
“It cannot be expected, absolutely is not acceptable and is not fair also because of the very less number we have, the physical hardship that they have to bear and return on investment being one of the least.”
Today almost 19% of the GDP contribution comes from Agriculture but almost 45% of employment is also in agriculture. The PM said this is not good and this figure shows that we are not wise in investing in agriculture. He said it is not worth it.
He said Bhutan must redesign or redefine food self sufficiency and change the way we do agriculture by making it technology based.
Rather than on farms the PM said we should do agriculture in high rise buildings as otherwise there is no way we can say that we will have enough food and enough youth growing food.
He said since school enrollment is almost 100% and every Bhutanese is getting education and there is a lot of focus on reforming education.
“From this year until the next decade it will be the educational decade. It will be the watershed line for the education sector to be living up to its 21st century expectation. When we have to invest so heavily in that. I don’t think it will be wise to invest heavily to educate our youth in all the 21st century skills them and let them do the agricultural sector in the way we do it. This is something that we really have too look from a totally different landscape,” said the PM.