His Majesty’s vision and the road ahead

Addressing the nation on the opening ceremony of the 8th Session of the Third Parliament, His Majesty the King spoke at length of the struggles faced by the common men and the hopes and aspirations they carry in their endeavours to make their lives better.

Using the analogy of a young woman who toiled in the streets of Thimphu just to keep her home fires burning, His Majesty said that there are thousands of young Bhutanese who have come to the capital to eke out a decent living in the midst of rising living costs and rents while ferrying the dream of a generation who are bent on making the lives of their families and loved ones better.

As a nation, His Majesty the King said, we are at an inflection point. Our actions today will determine the course of our future, and put us either in the path of success or failure. There will not be any more opportunities, and we have no choice but to work with the greatest sense of urgency.

Speaking on the economic front, His Majesty said that the country in the past relied heavily on income from hydropower to drive national development and growth which is no longer the case. He said major projects like Punatshangchu 1 and Kholongchu have cost us heavy losses and increased national debt while they remain incomplete even after more than a decade.

His Majesty asserted that given the bleak economic progress and other unfavourable economic scenario, it is impossible to drastically raise wages in such a situation, unless the country irresponsibly borrows large amounts of money to distribute freely to supplement incomes.

Given the circumstances, our youth are left with no choice but to seek opportunities elsewhere. While Australia has become emblematic of this trend, we know that there are Bhutanese working in almost 100 countries across the world. His Majesty said we can only expect more of them to leave in the coming years, if our situation does not improve.

Though we are a small country with a small population, and though it should have been easier for Bhutan to achieve our goals we are impeded as we have some major administration and management issues. Our operating costs and the cost of delivering services are high while our operational efficiency is low.

His Majesty added that there are systemic weaknesses, gaps, and inefficiencies, leading to huge wastage while there is little accountability. The amount of resources, time and effort spent does not produce corresponding results and it takes four people to do one person’s job, costs two or three times more, and takes two or three times longer. His Majesty said it is important that our people identify the nature and extent of our problems and recognise that now is the time to take ownership to fix them.

The urgency of the nation’s progress and our future goals and endeavours were best summed up as His Majesty said: “If we are in the middle of a great river, and our only option is to swim ashore, we cannot expect to emerge dry and comfortable. I firmly believe that we must act as swiftly as possible to address all our problems, and avert the risks that threaten our very future.”