An Exciting Era of Transformation
Bhutan continues to draw on the wisdom of the ages that cultivated Bhutanese society. As today’s leadership designs and constructs the country’s transformation into a “developed” nation, the values and priorities have evolved but fundamentally not changed. Even on the brink of imperative change that will define a new era, the underlying primacy is sovereignty and security.
A century of Monarchy saw the growth of a small country that dared to be different. But the phenomenal achievements of the forefathers seem to have lulled the government and people into a sense of comfort that resulted in complacency and malaise. Given the current state of affairs today’s generation confronts some discomforting questions and contemplates some critical responses.
With the vision to become a first-world country, the fifth Monarch of the Wangchuck dynasty, His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, has advised the nation, with growing urgency, that Bhutanese society needs a new mindset and work culture, a shift from ingrained procrastination and indifference to action-oriented work ethics. The Bhutanese character needs to be re-tempered with the traditional ngar (resilience, courage, grit). Public service needs to be revitalised, the generation of meaningful employment accelerated, and the economy invigorated.
On National Day 2023, the Royal address was a historic launch of Gelephu Mindfulness City as a special administrative region to establish an economic hub for Bhutan. His Majesty himself described this as his destiny to build a legacy for the future generations. Even more momentous, the 43-year old Monarch declared that he would personally lead the “brightest and most competent Bhutanese as well as the best foreign expertise” to ensure the success of this unique initiative.
Indeed, post-pandemic Bhutan has moved into an era of dramatic transformation. A number of significant national initiatives are underway to reform the government as well as society with a focus on the economy. A fourth elected government will be the executive branch to help implement the vision, potential Bhutanese industrialists and traders are expressing a new tone of anticipation, youth pledge their visibly emotional support, and a credible profile of global investors and experts are already an assuring presence.
The new times promise to reverse collateral challenges that need long-term solutions. For example, the economy, yet to recover from the Covid crisis needs a clear vision and relevant roadmap. An unprecedented wave of Bhutanese seeking employment abroad is leaving services in all vital sectors temporarily understaffed. The situation is evolving into an opportunity to build a more efficient and resilient society, under pressure to adopt a new mindset for a new phase of history.
The spring, 2024, edition of The Druk Journal adopts the theme – An Era of Transformation – to provide a comprehensive analysis of Bhutan’s transformation with in-depth discussions on specific themes. Experts, scholars, journalists are being invited to contribute articles on all aspects of this historic transformation to help define a new phase of governance as Bhutan reforms its government and society.