Regaining the lost decade for our youths

In many ways the 2008-18 was a lost decade for private sector development.

The main reason is that the governments and the bureaucracy were obsessed by 10,000 MW by 2020. We were told that hydropower is the silver bullet to our economic woes.

In the middle of the 2012-13 Rupee Crisis ministers told us that once we complete the projects we would have so much Rupee that we would not know what to do with them.

Apparently not, given the state of Punatsangchu 1 and other issues.

A less pertinent but secondary issue is that the governments also resorted to an increasing trend of new government companies and agencies duplicating what the private sector does.

This was with an unfair advantage of state land, state subsidies and state preference for them.

The government now supplies eggs, grows rice, runs shops, owns cows, constructs structures and still owns media houses apart from the many activities it is already doing.

The inability of the private sector to grow has meant that our economy essentially revolves around government spending and civil servants and government corporate servants.

Also, the main aim of our bright youths is to secure a job in the government and then basically become a part of the system there.

However, things are changing now as Bhutan over the last three years has developed a much more nuanced and realistic approach to hydropower. We know that hydropower carries a lot of risk and it cannot generate the jobs that our economy and youths need.

There is now also a major strategic shift to instead focusing on developing Bhutanese youth as entrepreneurs and innovators as the vanguard of the fourth industrial revolution.

This new young crowd, small as it is, is looking to create jobs instead of looking for them and is more keyed into the global economy.

They are the future of the Bhutanese private sector and the Bhutanese economy.

It is good that education and health has been getting increasing focus over the last three governments and especially in this one.

The Fourth Industrial revolution is not about natural resource extraction, trade or factories but its is about using your people as natural resources.

It is in this light that Bhutan must put in place strong and effective policies to let the creativity and innovation of our youth take off backed with regulatory support and financial and other resources.

One immediate step we can take is to stop sending our bright youths for dodgy jobs abroad with the latest being a technical internship program which is a byword for cheap and hard labour in low-end Japanese companies.

This program has a history of abusing foreign workers -visible in many media reports and even a recent official Japanese government report.

Our youths deserve much better.

I believe in tradition and innovation, authenticity and passion.
Jose Andres

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