Three Rude Shocks

For a long time, Bhutan has been content to not be like countries in the neighbourhood, and we have rightly been proud about our clean environment, small population, stability and relatively better social and economic indicators than most of our immediate neighbours.

However, a series of rude economic shocks in the last decade has come as a wake up call.

It first started with the Rupee crisis in 2012 when the realization of the limitations of our import driven economy hit and imports of cars, foreign alcohol and furniture had to be stopped for a long time to save our reserves.

Around the same time a series of austerity measures that actually started from 2010 have accompanied every government.

While the first elected government went out in austerity mode the second elected government also came in an austerity mode and the same can be said for the third elected government.

The austerity happened due to our limited revenue not matching our expenditure.

It was hoped that 10,000 MW by 2020 or even a limited version of it would make Bhutan rich from 2020 and we would float in hydro money like Arabs floating in oil money.

We even talked worriedly about setting up a separate fund as so much money would flow in.

The second major shock hit  gradually as it became clear that hydro which had been trumped us as our economic savior from 2008 onwards would not be so with only one project taking off in Mangdechu.

Now the third major shock which is both economic and social has come in the form of large numbers of our youths and even professionals heading to Australia. The uptick started from around 2016 but it really shot up after the pandemic.

These people going out finally made us face up to reality that many young and bright Bhutanese do not see a future for themselves in Bhutan.

Yes, they love the fresh air, environment, culture, family etc. but they are not able to get the jobs and careers they want.

Reality has also hit us that while our neighbors may be worse off but their large sizes helps to insulate them.

As we stand now the stark reality now hits us that we are a poor Himalayan kingdom, with a small population made worse by a decreasing birth rate and now a large migration of our workforce.

All is not lost as we are facing up to our reality and that will be our first step towards strengthening our people and nation.

Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.
Jack Welch

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