Migration the biggest challenge facing the country: PM

DECHEN PEM

Thimphu

While presenting the state of the nation in the joint sitting of the parliament on 4 July, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that the most pressing issue facing our nation today is our people leaving the country in search of better employment opportunities overseas.

He said that approximately 64,000 Bhutanese, which is around nine percent of our population, have migrated. “While it offers our people opportunities to find jobs, acquire skills, and earn income to support their families, it would also present potential risks and challenges if this trend continues.”

The Prime Minister stressed that Bhutan a tiny country with a small population, human resources are pivotal, especially foreconomic progress. Any further decrease in our population could adversely impact the foundations of our economy and potentially lead to an economic downturn.

“As the skilled workforce leaves the country, it not only impacts the economy but also disrupts the effective delivery of public services.”

Giving the example of teacher’s resignations which affect the quality of education, the departures of doctors and nurses lead to deteriorating health services.

Lyonchhen said that the ongoing shortage of skilled professionals, including technicians, engineers, and experts in banking and law, exacerbates the current situation and impedes our country’s development.

He added that if we are not able to address the situation today, our youth abroad will not be motivated to return home.

“Should these challenges persist, there is a real possibility of our country becoming increasingly depopulated. Under ideal circumstances, our people would choose to stay back in Bhutan. However, many endure the challenges of travelling and living abroad due to limited job opportunities and business prospects in the country.”

This issue Lyonchhen said relates to the small size of our economy. As mentioned, despite its size, our economy has grown steadily, guided by principles of sustainability and equality. However, he said that our country has faced challenges in aligning economic progress with social development.

“For example, after completing their education, many of our youth struggle to find meaningful employment. They are well-educated, proficient in English, hardworking, and trustworthy. As a result, foreign countries eagerly recruit and employthem, leading to a growing number of Bhutanese youths seeking opportunities abroad.”

Lyonchhen said that to provide meaningful employment opportunities for our youth within the country will be determined by the current state and growth prospects of our economy.

“However, our small economy has not yet fully recovered from the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many businesses continue to remain adversely affected. Those who wish to expand their businesses are unable to secure loans, and many are struggling to repay existing loans. This has led to imports outstripping exports, a sharp decline in foreign reserves, and an increase in external debt.”

Lyonchhen added that today, Bhutan stands at a crossroads. “If we are not able to unite, work together andchoose the right path, our country will suffer serious repercussions. Our beloved countryfaces an unprecedented existential crisis. Make no doubt about it. We ignore this crisis at our own peril.” Lyonchhen added that to address this urgent crisis, we must first acknowledge the challenges and risks we face.

“To overcome them, we must unite as one people to fortify and protect our country. This is our most urgent responsibility, our most sacred duty. Each and every one of us musttake part in nation-building, for the simple reason that no one else will do it for us,” he said.

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