For more than a year or so, the country has been going through a period of unprecedented change and soul searching.
Bhutan off late has been experiencing far reaching changes affecting our economy, governance, foreign policy, democratic institutions, media, social media, politics, and etc.
The biggest change has been in the economy with the country realizing that our economy is not as resilient or strong as we thought it was. Terms like ‘Rupee Crisis’, ‘Credit Crunch’ and even ‘Financial Crisis’ which were virtually unheard of before has now become a part of the common lingo.
The economic pain that the country is going through has made the government and citizens alike realize that much more needs to be done to achieve economic self sufficiency and stability.
In governance a government which was traditionally used to doing what it felt was best for the country now has to listen to an array of voices and institutions that besides good governance also demand accountability, transparency and democratic standards.
For example, a move like the Pedestrian day introduced with the best of intentions has backfired especially among the business community and the private sector that have strong feelings against it.
The government which was used to dealing with an educated but obedient intelligentsia in the traditional civil service is seeing the emergence of a bolder and bigger intelligentsia.
One of the strongest components of the new intelligentsia is a bolder media which has been at the forefront of analyzing and critiquing government actions, policies, laws and programs in the public space. The government has responded at times by blaming the messengers rather than focusing on the message.
A series of scams and acts of omissions and commissions have been brought before the public exposing flaws in our system which need to be fixed.
The rapid rise of the social media as a tool of taking part in political and social discourse and even influencing them has been a revelation. The influence of social media has become so potent that the even the Election Commission of Bhutan has come out with a Social Media policy.
In the middle of all this democratic institutions like the ACC, RAA, ECB and Judiciary have been slowly but steadily establishing their own roles in a young democracy led by seasoned and experienced heads. The democratic institutions in the fulfillment of their duties have also come into conflict at times with the government which in the long run is good for democracy.
A major area of public discourse of late has been Bhutan’s foreign policy moves. While there are many who feel that the Prime Minister is doing a good job as the de-facto foreign minister of Bhutan by increasing the international image and profile of Bhutan there are others who urge caution and real-politick. In terms of foreign relations Bhutan stands at a cross roads and any choice right or wrong can have far reaching effects on our national security and economy.
The political field is also ripe with opportunities in Bhutan with new parties vying with each other to form the next opposition party as of now. Politicians, however, are a breed rarely satisfied with small achievements and so the 2013 elections will be much more competitive than the one sided contest in 2008.
Some may question all the above changes and ferment and even find it painful but the reality is that it is inevitable. It must be remebered that change even of the good kind causes discomfort. The only choice we have is to make the best choices possible.
A lot of what is happening is also the offshoot of democratic transition, the nature of our economic growth and world events. Whatever the reasons, Bhutan in the end is thinking hard like never before.