The glittery Australian lure and the old mountains back home

The once bustling street of Norzin Lam in the heart of Thimphu, witnessing a decrease in the number of people. (Pic:Tandin Phubz)

Today, the once-bustling Norzin Lam Street is turning into a sparse, desolate city with thousands of natives headed beyond the country’s border in search of greener pastures and better living conditions.

A once bustling metropolis in its own small right, loneliness, and anxiousness has now crept into the few remaining inhabitants and with a dwindling native populace, businesses are at an all-time low.

“I have no friends to call right now because everyone has gone. Hanging out has lost its appeal and it is now becoming a gossip of the town who are all looking to move,” said a resident who harbours a similar dream of heading westwards.

Those that have remained in the country have a lingering desire of following the footsteps of their compatriots who, seemingly, entice them with an entirely new prospect beyond our ageing mountains.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade’s most recent statistics show that 32,258 Bhutanese, living in 113 countries, have further shaken the resolve of those who still dream of a better life here in the country.

By the look at the situation and those applying for passports, it is evident that the number of those opting to move out will further escalate.

Tshering who has been depending on his Taxi business for the last three decades remarks that the number of passengers is decreasing by the day. “With uncertain future, I would recommend my children to go abroad as well,” he said, adding that one day he might as well join the Australian bandwagon where thousands of Bhutanese are pursuing their dreams.

Meanwhile, offices are faced with a new dilemma as employees resign and leave in droves. Bhutanese today speculate about who has received their visas and when that next office chair will be rendered empty.

In 2022 alone, apart from other agencies, more than 1,400 civil servants resigned voluntarily.

Empty restaurants and hotels are left for the dust to settle resulting in locked doors and such issues are becoming more evident by the day. “Maybe, one day those dust will be wiped clean for better,” a restaurant owner laments.

Job vacancies are announced daily in recent times, only to be re-announced after some time. Shortage of manpower is felt in every sector.

Hoteliers who anticipated good returns after the pandemic are now faced with a different scenario. The question of whether they should continue to run their businesses haunts them often. The idea of “Bhutan Believe” has also come as a huge cost for most budget hotels and businesses as tourist arrivals have substantially withered.

Various sectors have run dry whereas those responsible for foreign recruitment and opportunity services are overburdened.

A high school graduate today has this common phrase to say: “Nga Australia jo ni (I want to go to Australia), my close associates are there.” Ask this to a college student, most will come with a similar tone.

A total of 2,543 graduates sat for the preliminary examination last year, while the year 2021 had a total of 3,912. The number of graduates appearing in the Royal Civil Service Examination has decreased while those appearing for IELTS have increased drastically.

The question of ‘will Bhutan become a country filled with the old like in Japan with most of the working group out of the country’ will linger until we see a lasting solution to this problem.