His Majesty’s ad­dress at the RUB con­vo­ca­tion

Bhutan Times - - Front Page -

Your par­ents, rel­a­tives, and friends would be very proud of what you have achieved. At your age, to have com­pleted your stud­ies is your per­sonal ac­com­plish­ment. Your knowl­edge and ca­pa­bil­i­ties are a great as­set for the na­tion. I con­grat­u­late you for your achieve­ments.

I am very happy to be among you, to share some of my thoughts about our coun­try, hop­ing that it will be of some ben­e­fit to you.

Our coun­try of Pelden Drukpa, is a blessed and sa­cred land. The legacy of our ances­tors and lead­ers in the past, achieved through their hard work, is a trea­sure that we have in­her­ited.

In spite of hav­ing to em­brace a lot of changes over the decades with moder­nity, our core val­ues, based on our tra­di­tions and eti­quette, spir­i­tu­al­ity and in­tegrity, sense of loy­alty and pa­tri­o­tism, has not di­min­ished. It re­mains deeply in­grained in our youth who un­der­stand them and con­tinue to pre­serve them.

The se­cu­rity and sovereignty of our na­tion, our unity and har­mony, and sense of peace and hap­pi­ness are stronger today than ever be­fore. This is the legacy that we have been for­tu­nate to in­herit from our lead­ers who achieved in 30 years what has some­times taken hu­man­ity more than 300 years.

I re­gard our coun­try with special pride, and feel a grave sense of re- spon­si­bil­ity for the fu­ture.

This brings us to a ques­tion we must re­flect upon: what is our vi­sion for our coun­try?

Our vi­sion, sim­ply put, is ex­pressed in the phi­los­o­phy of Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness.

And what is our en­dob­jec­tive when we talk about Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness?

It is to en­sure that we have a just, equal, and har­mo­nious so­ci­ety. When our peo­ple are able to live happy and se­cure lives, we know that we have achieved our ob­jec­tives. That is what Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness means.

The peo­ple of Bhutan are cen­tral to this endeavor. It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of our peo­ple to bring all our na­tional goals to fruition, and there­fore, it is vi­tal that our poli­cies and strate­gies are aimed at em­pow­er­ing our peo­ple to be­come strong, ca­pa­ble and re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens.

Democ­racy is a means to achieve this in the 21st cen­tury. To achieve great re­sults, it is im­per­a­tive that we work to­wards es­tab­lish­ing a very suc­cess­ful and strong demo­cratic sys­tem.

I have been King for 10 years, and I will reign for around 30 years more. What are the pri­or­i­ties of our time?

I be­lieve that it is to pur­sue pros­per­ity and progress. There has to be syn­ergy be­tween pros­per­ity and progress. It is

cer­tainly de­sir­able that our peo­ple be­come pros­per­ous, and a pros­per­ous state with ad­e­quate funds will give us all a sense of greater se­cu­rity.

But along with pros­per­ity, we must also strive for progress. It is easy to lose ma­te­rial wealth- but not our ca­pa­bil­ity and in­tel­li­gence. I de­fine progress as cul­tural, so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

As we take our na­tion for­ward, we must con­tinue to forge our own path. In the past, our poli­cies were made with a clar­ity of vi­sion, and the con­vic­tion that we have the best so­lu­tions, based on our own sense of iden­tity.

For ex­am­ple, in the 1970’s, tourism as an in­dus­try was only in­tro­duced af­ter the coro­na­tion of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. It was sug­gested to us then that Bhutan would ben­e­fit eco­nom­i­cally from bring­ing in as many tourists as pos­si­ble into the coun­try. At that time, Bhutan was largely un­known to the out­side world. And yet, with Druk­gyal Zhipa at the helm, we had the con­fi­dence to make our own de­ci­sions- to de­cide that our ap­proach to tourism pol­icy would be that of high value low vol­ume. It seemed counter-in­tu­itive at a time when tourists to Bhutan were so few. There were many skep­tics. But be­cause of that pol­icy, Brand Bhutan emerged. And you see the re­sults of that pol­icy for your­selves today. Peo­ple who make it to Bhutan feel priv­i­leged to be our guest. In hind­sight, we re­al­ize the pro­found wis­dom of that de­ci­sion, but we could have eas­ily gone the other way, had it not been for that con­vic­tion we had to forge our own path, our fu­ture, and our des­tiny.

An­other ex­am­ple is the na­tional dress. Today, we wear our na­tional dress with a great deal of pride as part of our iden­tity. But in the 70’s, as many of the younger gen­er­a­tion re­ceived for­eign ed­u­ca­tion, they were per­ceived in so­ci­ety as the achiev­ers who would lead the fu­ture. It be­came com­mon for them to wear western suits to of­fice to set them­selves apart as the ed­u­cated gen­er­a­tion. With the re­al­iza­tion that there was a real risk of los­ing our unique iden­tity in the de­mog­ra­phy of large neigh­bours and a pop­u­lous re­gion, at a time when it was more im­por­tant than ever to stand apart, it was made manda­tory to con­tinue wear­ing gho and kira. The stand that we took re­ceived a lot of crit­i­cism; many peo­ple felt that we were mov­ing back­wards. But again, that pol­icy has re­sulted in the chance to build a com­mon na­tional iden­tity that tran­scends other dif­fer­ences be­tween our peo­ple. Our par­ents took dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions and stood by their be­liefs to give us a fight­ing chance for a bright fu­ture.

Sim­i­larly, in those days, many peo­ple of­fered dif­fer­ent ideas for how the gov­ern­ment could be­come rich. They of­fered to bring in in­vest­ments in­clud­ing black money, and gam­bling busi­nesses like casi­nos. They of­fered to mine our min­eral re­sources and ex­ploit tim­ber from our huge forests, promis­ing rich div­i­dends. But we re­sisted- be­cause it was not our ob­jec­tive to make the gov­ern­ment rich. It was im­per­a­tive that our peo­ple pros­pered. So in­stead, we came up with the vi­sion­ary con­cepts of bal­anced so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, the preser­va­tion of our cul­ture and pris­tine en­vi­ron­ment and bio­di­ver­sity.

Now af­ter look­ing at the lessons from the past, let me talk about our fu­ture, start­ing with some of the con­cerns I have about our coun­try. I al­ways say that it is good to have con­cerns- for that is a sign of be­ing com­mit­ted to the well­be­ing of our coun­try.

We are a small coun­try, sand­wiched be­tween two coun­tries that to­gether are home to one third of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, and con­sti­tute one fourth of the global GDP in PPP terms.

Be­sides be­ing small, our coun­try’s ter­rain is such that only 7-8 per­cent of our to­tal land is arable. As fam­i­lies grow, we are faced with frag­men­ta­tion of land, and I worry about what will hap­pen af­ter a few more gen­er­a­tions. I also worry a great deal about the econ­omy. We have been mov­ing for­ward in quan­tum leaps when it comes to in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment. Today we have about 12,600 kilo­me­tres of motor-able road. We are bet­ter con­nected today than ever be­fore. But last year alone, we im­ported 9,500 ve­hi­cles. We are now im­port­ing 1,000 ve­hi­cles each month. And to run these ve­hi­cles, we spend an­nu­ally Nu 8 bil­lion to import fuel. We also spend Nu 6 bil­lion on food items, and Nu 11 bil­lion to import con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als. All these things are of con­cern.

I pay close at­ten­tion to ru­ral-ur­ban mi­gra­tion, un­em­ploy­ment, and cor­rup­tion, which is one of big­gest prob­lems plagu­ing our re­gion. With the ex­pan­sion of the de­vel­op­ment process, I worry about such prob­lems emerg­ing in Bhutan.

But, as con­cerned as I am, there is much more rea­son for me to be con­fi­dent and op­ti­mistic about our fu­ture.

One per­spec­tive is that we are reap­ing the ben­e­fits of be­ing small. Com­pare the num­ber of reg­is­tered vot­ers, for ex­am­ple 902 in the Kha­toed-Laya con­stituency, or even the largest voter bases - about 14,000 in Sarpang-Gele­phu, and 12,000 in Bongo-Chukha, with 1 mil­lion in one In­dian MP’s con­stituency.

There are more than 18 mil­lion res­i­dents in New Delhi and Tokyo has more than 13 mil­lion while our en­tire coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion is just over 660,000.

Bhutan has one MP for 9,000 cit­i­zens. The mar­gin be­tween those who serve our coun­try and the pop­u­la­tion they serve is very nar­row. In many coun­tries, elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives will never get to know all their peo­ple, even if they spend an en­tire life­time try­ing to do so. We have one elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive for 380 cit­i­zens, one pub­lic ser­vant to look af­ter the needs of 14 cit­i­zens. As I have said be­fore, it is not a ques­tion of whether we can do some­thing or not, whether we have enough or not, whether we are per­mit­ted or not. The ques­tion is, are we go­ing to do it or not.

Be­ing small is our great­est ad­van­tage. We can do things bet­ter, more ef­fi­ciently, and faster, than any other na­tion in the 21st cen­tury. So I am con­cerned, but I have no doubt that we can over­come all our chal­lenges and that our peo­ple and na­tion will ex­pe­ri­ence phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess within our life­time.

In con­clu­sion, I will leave you with 2 mes­sages about our coun­try, and 3 things which I think you should know about your­selves.

Firstly, as a coun­try, we must con­tinue to fo­cus on the pur­suit of higher stan­dards. What­ever we do, we have to strive for ex­cel­lence. As I al­ways say, good is not good enough. It is a sim­ple but ef­fec­tive rule.

Se­condly, we will never go wrong if we in­vest in hu­man re­sources and build­ing in­tel­li­gent in­sti­tu­tions. We have to em­power the peo­ple to achieve their full po­ten­tial. What we lack in num­bers, we must make up in tal­ent.

As my part­ing words, I ask that you al­ways re­mem­ber that you are the guardians of our peace and sta­bil­ity. It is your duty to en­sure that we set aside dif­fer­ences, and live as mem­bers of a sin­gle fam­ily. Our great­est strength comes from unity.

You must also re­mem­ber that you are the cus­to­di­ans of our na­tional iden­tity. It is your re­spon­si­bil­ity to pass on our com­mon na­tional iden­tity, which tran­scends eth­nic, spir­i­tual, and re­gional dif­fer­ences, to the next gen­er­a­tion.

Fi­nally, your ca­pa­bil­i­ties and pre­dis­po­si­tion to­wards hard work will in­vari­ably shape the fu­ture of Bhutan. You must work with in­tegrity, you must keep learn­ing, keep work­ing hard, and you must have the au­dac­ity to dream big.

I con­sider my­self hugely priv­i­leged to have at­tended ev­ery sin­gle con­vo­ca­tion cer­e­mony since I be­came King. I am pleased to have had this op­por­tu­nity yet again, and I have full con­fi­dence in all of you. I am ex­cited about our fu­ture, and greatly look for­ward to work­ing with you over the next few decades.

7th June 2016: His Majesty graced the 11th Con­vo­ca­tion of the Royal Univer­sity of Bhutan at the Royal In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment.

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