Enter The Year Of The Female Earth Hog – Bhutan Looks To The Future While Reflecting On The Major Events In 2018
As a new year begins, Bhutan evaluates the major events and milestones that marked 2018, in order to forge ahead.
By Jigme Wangchuk | Kuensel
The dog has done its barking and a new dawn has begun. Looking back, what are the major events and milestones that marked 2018 in Bhutan?
As a small nation, diplomacy reigns supreme in the Kingdom of Happiness. Strong and sustained foreign relations and close interaction with immediate neighbours is the key to Bhutan’s success.
Never has this been more relevant than today when the world is ‘broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls’, born out of dangerously destructive ‘go-it-alone’ politics.
As the world beyond rumbled on, plagued by war, diseases, famine and disasters (man-made and natural), Bhutan continued to enjoy stability and progress in a climate of unprecedented peace.
Although there were ebbs and flows – we had our share of ‘ups and downs’ for sure – but we sailed through all these unruffled.
For Bhutan and the Bhutanese, the long and trying hours of intermittent challenges did not become the ‘dark days’ of our soul.
Bhutan-India diplomatic relations stand strong
In a world divided by changing global realities, Bhutan-India relation stands as a shining example of successful cooperation. His Majesty The King has even granted audience to India’s foreign secretary, Vijay K. Gokhale.
In 2018, Bhutan and India reviewed and updated several areas of developmental cooperation, such as hydropower projects and trade.
Photo: Facebook/India in Bhutan
Last year also saw the golden jubilee celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Most significant of all, Vijay K. Gokhale’s visit reinforced the regular high-level exchanges between Bhutan and India.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay visited India from July 5 to 7 and discussed issues of mutual interests with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
While acknowledging the ‘excellent’ state of bilateral relations, India reiterated her commitment to Bhutan’s socio-economic development and even extended full support for Bhutan’s 12th Five Year Plan.
The two countries recognised the importance of continued hydropower cooperation for mutual benefits.
In addition, Bhutan and Japan discussed the need to further strengthen the existing collaboration in agriculture, infrastructure, human resources development, health, education, information technology, rural development and employment, among others.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay thanked the government and the people of Japan for the friendship and generous assistance for a successful implementation of the 11th Five Year Plan.
The milestones which Bhutan has achieved since its very first Five Year Plan
In fact, Bhutan has achieved remarkable progress since the 1st Five Year Plan. The economic development that Bhutan witnessed over the decades has been nothing short of exemplary.
From a poor, least developed nation, Bhutan is now prepared to graduate to the group of middle-income countries.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Considering that Bhutan’s graduation from the least developed country (LDC) category will happen in 2021, it will also be a historic moment because it will also be 50th anniversary of the country’s membership with the United Nations.
What this means is that Bhutan now has access to better health care and education among others and her national earning power is also growing.
Graduation would also mean that Bhutan could lose preferential access to markets mainly in developed economies during the transition period.
However, Bhutan does not need to be too concerned over this issue. Bhutan’s trade scenario will be largely unaffected since it has not traded extensively with the US or Europe.
As a fiercely environmentally-conscious nation, 2018 saw Bhutan receive the Earth Award at the ITB (International Tourism Bourse) ceremony in Berlin, Germany.
The award served as a recognition for tourist destinations that are working towards developing sustainable and responsible tourism.
Bhutan’s 3rd Election – another major event of 2018
The year of the dog was a busy year, particularly for the election commission. Aimed at making elections more inclusive, the ECB introduced the postal ballot facilitation booths.
The commission set up 69 facilitation booths across the country for the National Council (NC) election.
It also operated mobile facilitation booths for some 800 people with special needs. Tashi Dorji, 36, from Wangdue, got elected as the chair of the House. Subsequently, His Majesty The King granted ‘dhar’ to the new NC members at the Tashichhodzong.
In preparation for the National Assembly elections, His Majesty The King also appointed an interim government.
This was to ensure ‘uninterrupted’ continuance of the routine functions of the government until the newly elected Prime Minister assumed office.
Perhaps the biggest event to have taken place in 2018 was that the National Assembly election saw party candidates debate on important national issues.
The party, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa won 30 constituencies against Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s 17.
Thereafter, His Majesty The King issued a Kasho to Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s President, Dr Lotay Tshering, appointing him as the Prime Minister of Bhutan.
His Majesty The King also conferred Dakyen to the new Cabinet Ministers, Speaker, and the Opposition Leader.
A nation also needs a reference point. How else can it measure her success and failures? At long last, after 12 years, Bhutan finally managed to complete the Population and Housing Census Report (PHCB).
The PHCB 2017, second in the series, will prove significant for the planning of developmental projects in Bhutan as its 12th Five Year Plan will largely be informed by the report.
In a country deeply steeped in culture and tradition, the roles of Bhutan’s regional and religious bodies have always been important. They are responsible for providing information concerning the lives of the people.
In recognition of this, for his long and dedicated service to the nation, His Majesty The King conferred the highest civilian decoration - the Order of The Druk Gyalpo to His Holiness the Je Khenpo Trulku Ngawang Jigme Chhoedra in 2018.
As the Earth Dog Year makes way for the Earth Hog Year, it is time for Bhutan and her people to prepare for the year ahead.
This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.