If one reads the State of the Nation Reports in the last couple of years then one would get a feeling that everything was going on very well and the ‘untrustworthy media’ except for a ‘credible few’ was blowing everything out of proportion.
Even when the rupee and credit crisis was raging, unemployment was visibly high and the economy was going into a nose dive, the last State of the Nation Report of the previous government, using some creative analysis, showed that Bhutan was at its economic peak.
A much more honest contrast would be the National Day Addresses of His Majesty the King, who in his own subtle and gentle ways, kept reminding the nation of the challenges, particularly economic and social in nature. The gentle, and yet firm reminder was especially apparent in His Majesty the King’s National Day Address on December 17, 2012 when the economic crisis had hit the fan, so to speak.
This year’s 106th National Day Address to the nation was no different, and once again, His Majesty, sharing his deep concerns for the nation, highlighted the daunting economic challenges facing the nation, among other issues.
An observer would ask why there is a difference between the State of the Nation Report of the elected government of any party and His Majesty the King’s National Day Address.
The obvious answer is that political parties have to win elections every five years and they hope that, irrespective of the facts or ground realities, the rosier their State of the Nation Report (or list of fulfilled promises), look the more votes they would get.
Bhutanese politicians, like their counterparts in other developing countries, once in power can be extremely shortsighted creatures functioning from election to election- more than willing to grab short-term gains instead of looking at long-term benefits for the nation.
Like politicians elsewhere, Bhutanese politicians seem to undergo a fundamental and automatic change once they get a taste of power. This is becoming increasingly clear after two general elections where there is a visible change in their conduct, tune, availability and promises before and after elections.
By contrast, His Majesty the King, as the Head of the State, has time and again shown himself to take a consistent, subtle and diplomatic, but much more honest view on issues. These views are not guided by electoral compulsions or public image exercises – like in the case of politicians, but with the genuine and long-term National Interest which has the welfare of the people and nation at its heart.
This is part of the reason why while His Majesty the Fourth King guided the nation from a semi-feudal era into a modern era with unprecedented economic, social and political reforms in a 34- year period, the political leaders in other countries with much more resources drove their countries into poverty, civil wars, ruin, corruption, instability, etc.
His Majesty the King, in his seven-year reign, so far has demonstrated the same consistency, stability, long-term vision and wise leadership of his father. However, His Majesty the King faces some unique challenges in a democratic era where ambitious politicians, irrespective of their sincerity, seem to thrive.
It is, therefore, important for the people to realize and recognize that the true State of the Nation will be more apparent in the short and inspirational speech of His Majesty the King than any long and winding PR presentation in Parliament.
It’s a political gimmick to arouse public passions, irrational expectations and anger which our politicians, like some bad friends, seem to be increasingly excelling at, especially during elections. However, it is only great and true leaders, who like good parents, can inspire and influence by the simple examples of their genuine actions and speech. His Majesty the Fourth King, in the previous years, and His Majesty the King, today, are the perfect living examples of forthright, stable and wise leadership qualities that political leaders should emulate and aspire to instead of falling by the wayside.
In the meantime, if Bhutanese citizens want to hear some honest words on where the nation is truly at now, or a few years down the line, one need only to listen to the gentle, but honest National Day Addresses of His Majesty the King.
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson