Rethinking economics festival: sowing the seeds of mutual trust

The Rational Expectations Economics Society at Royal Thimphu College organized a four day event ‘Rethinking Economics Festival’ on 26-29 October 2023. A group of 10 undergraduate economics students and two faculty members from Sri Venkateswara College, Delhi University joined the BA Development Economics students at Royal Thimphu College.

The festival aimed at trust building through knowledge connectivity. Theme draws its inspiration from a study by the World Bank which reflects that mutual trust is a key determinant of the volume of trade and investment between two countries. Trust reduces the sunk cost of seeking partners and gathering market information in a foreign country, and thereby tends to reduce the risk element. Prof. Sudeep Chakravarti, Director, Centre for South Asian Studies, Dhaka delivered an online keynote address. His talk was premised on the increasing talk of enhancing bilateral, trilateral and regional trade between Bhutan, India and Bangladesh.

He emphasized the need to marry new ideas and proposals whose time has come. These include a range of initiatives in power, connectivity, trade, transshipment, investment, standardization, non-hard currency payments, and liberalized visa regimes.

 A panel discussion on “Youth unemployment: trends, challenges, and future pathways’’ was another highlight of the festival. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Milan Thomas, an economist with the Asian Development Bank, Bhutan country office. Other panelists included one faculty member and two students from both the countries.

The panelists concurred that both India and Bhutan not only face uniform challenges related to youth unemployment, but also their policy response is quite similar. Both the countries have recognized the importance of skill development and entrepreneurship to develop a future ready workforce.

The greater focus to strengthen supply side elements of the labour market without any parallel focus on the demand side aspects was identified as one of the drawbacks of the policy response. The panelists recognized that both the countries can learn from each other’s best practices.

In another event, the students from both the countries, in different groups, examined the issue of food security and outlined a collaborative action plan that included  strengthening of collaborative R&D infrastructure, creation of a food bank, and need for collective measures to strengthen supply chains networks between the two countries. Indian students extended an invitation to the Bhutanese students to attend similar events in Delhi in February 2024.   Students from both the countries also proposed creation of a digital platform for more regular academic interactions.  Alongside intense academic interaction, students also participated in   a cultural programme. Chief Engineer of the Project Dantak, Brigadier Jaswinder Singh delivered a special talk during ther vladictory session. Indian students were overwhelmed by the pristine environment and the friendliness of the Bhutanese people.

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