A trans­la­tion of His Majesty’s Ad­dress at the Na­tional Grad­u­ates’ Ori­en­ta­tion Pro­gram on 17 Au­gust 2018

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Ihave made it a point to be at the Na­tional Grad­u­ates’ Ori­en­ta­tion Pro­gramme each year since the age of 21. I am 38 this year, so I have had the priv­i­lege of speak­ing to grad­u­ates for many years now, and this op­por­tu­nity is very pre­cious to me.

I have very lim­ited time to­day to speak to you- I have a flight to Delhi im­me­di­ately af­ter this. As you may know, the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter of In­dia, Shri Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee has passed away. He has been a cher­ished friend of Bhutan, and I would like to at­tend his fu­neral and pay my last re­spects.

I am un­able to spend time with you on the fi­nal day of the Na­tional Grad­u­ates’ Ori­en­ta­tion Pro­gram as planned orig­i­nally. Nev­er­the­less, I did not want to miss the op­por­tu­nity to speak to you– so I am glad that we man­aged to ar­range this brief time to­gether be­fore I leave.

I want to say a few things to you that I have said in the past to your pre­de­ces­sors as well: As a na­tion, it is very im­por­tant for us to learn our past in or­der to bet­ter un­der­stand our present, and get a clearer pic­ture of where we are headed in the fu­ture.

There are many sig­nif­i­cant as­pects of our his­tory from which to draw lessons from, since the time of Guru Rin­poche, but I will fo­cus on our more re­cent past for to­day. If you look back at 1961, that was when we started our first Five Year Plan. It was a mere 57 years ago, yet we have come so far and achieved so much. We have strength­ened our sovereignty as a na­tion, we re­main united and peace­ful, we have made as­tound­ing progress in de­vel­op­ment, and we have al­ways pri­or­i­tized the well be­ing and wel­fare of our peo­ple. As a re­sult, we have been able to es­tab­lish democ­racy, and our suc­cess so far is due to the very strong foun­da­tions upon which this na­tion has been built.

It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the val­ues and the vi­sion that has guided us in car­ry­ing out the mo­men­tous work of na­tion build­ing, and achiev­ing the as­pi­ra­tions of our peo­ple. I want to fo­cus on what I think are the most im­por­tant three:

First of all, there is the quin­tes­sen­tial Bhutanese value of tha-damtsi, or in­tegrity. We were able to suc­ceed in our pur­pose be­cause of the in­tegrity of the Bhutanese peo­ple, and our com­mit­ment to serve the peo­ple and achieve all our na­tional goals.

Se­condly, we shoul­dered all our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with solem­nity– we did not ig­nore or con­sider less im­por­tant cer­tain as­pects of our work, but car­ried it all out to the best of our ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Thirdly, we were in­tently aware of the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of our work, and knew that fail­ure could never be an op­tion for a small coun­try like ours. Our foun­da­tions have been strong be­cause we were mind­ful of the weight of our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

A few months ago, I met with a vis­i­tor to Bhutan, who ap­pre­ci­ated the way we have man­aged to pre­serve our cul­tural her­itage. He wanted to know what I con­sid­ered the most im­por­tant as­pect of our cul­tural val­ues. A value that I would want the youth of to­day, who are well ed­u­cated and well-in­formed about the world at large, to in­herit and pass on to our fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

There are many as­pects of our cul­ture that are im­por­tant, but it is very clear to me that above all, the younger gen­er­a­tion should pos­sess the sen­si­bil­ity that sets apart the Bhutanese. Bhutanese are in­her­ently sen­si­ble peo­ple, a qual­ity that has emerged from the way we think and act.

Let me give you a few ex­am­ples of what I mean.

Back in the 70’s, we be­gan get­ting the first tourists to Bhutan. Many peo­ple told us that Bhutan was an ex­tra­or­di­nary coun­try, that it would be a sought af­ter des­ti­na­tion, and that we should open our doors by en­cour­ag­ing as many peo­ple to visit as pos­si­ble. It would make us a lot of money. But we de­cided to take things slowly, and came up with the idea of high value, low im­pact tourism. Dur­ing Dru­gyal Zhipa’s time, when we did not re­ceive more than a 100 tourists a year, it seemed like an ab­surd idea. But to­day we un­der­stand that the pol­icy was far­sighted, and the de­ci­sion was pro­found. This is what I mean when I say that we are sen­si­ble peo­ple.

Look at the en­vi­ron­ment pol­icy of Bhutan. To­day, our Con­sti­tu­tion man­dates us to safe­guard our en­vi­ron­ment, and we have man­aged to pro­tect vast ar­eas of land as na­tional parks. But dur­ing the 1950’s, when con­ser­va­tion was not even a global is­sue, and we were in­un­dated with ad­vice to cash in on our for­est re­sources, we chose to con­sider the fu­ture in­stead. We made strong laws to en­sure that we would be able to pass on our wealth of nat­u­ral re­sources to the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

It is the same story with our cul­ture. In the 70’s and 80’s, a lot of young peo­ple re­ceived western ed­u­ca­tion, and many of them were schooled abroad. There was a sense of grav­i­tat- ing to the west, and there was a lot of en­thu­si­asm for ev­ery­thing for­eign to us. But it also meant that there was a risk of re­plac­ing our own way of life with an im­i­ta­tion of western prac­tices. When poli­cies were en­acted to pro­tect Bhutanese cul­ture and driglam, we re­ceived quite a lot of flak from out­side, and even com­plaints from the youth them­selves. But to­day we are recog­nised and ap­pre­ci­ated for hav­ing pre­served our unique­ness, which sets us apart from our gi­gan­tic, pop­u­lous neigh­bours. Our unique cul­tural her­itage forms part of our na­tional iden­tity. We knew not to be swayed by short-term ob­jec­tives, and fol­lowed our own sense of prov­i­dence. We knew ex­actly what we were do­ing and what it was all meant for, be­cause we are our own ex­perts. Our ac­tions were born out of a sense of loy­alty to our coun­try and it’s fu­ture, and we knew very well what was the best course of ac­tion.

To­day, there is a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion with hy­dropower. The po­ten­tial of hy­dropower in Bhutan is well known, and we are told that by ex­ploit­ing this re­source to its fullest, by pri­va­tiz­ing it and al­low­ing for­eign com­pa­nies to set up huge projects, we will be able to make enor­mous amounts of money. But there are huge im­pli­ca­tions of head­ing in that di­rec­tion. Hy­dropower is our na­tional wealth, and be­fore putting it in the hands of a few, we must think about the wel­fare of our peo­ple, about the evils of cor­rup­tion, and the eco­nomic dis­par­ity that will re­sult.

When I be­came King in 2006, we were work­ing on our Con­sti­tu­tion, and one of the crit­i­cisms we re­ceived was over the re­quire­ment for our Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment to have a uni­ver­sity de­gree. We were told that such a re­quire­ment was un­demo­cratic, and damp­ened the eu­phoric mood of the time, when we were all work­ing to­wards a mo­men­tous change. But our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the Par­lia­ment are the drivers of our na­tion. Would you trust a bus driver tak­ing your chil­dren to school, if such a per­son did not have the ad­e­quate train­ing and cre­den­tials to do their job? We are plac­ing our coun­try’s fu­ture in the hands of our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and we had to en­sure that they were well qual­i­fied for it.

To­day peo­ple praise us for our highly ed­u­cated MPs. Close to 70 per­cent of our MPs have Masters De­grees. Our op­po­si­tion leader has a PhD, our PM went to Har­vard, our for­mer NC Chair is an in­tel­lec­tual in his own right. Our par­lia­ment in the last 10 years has been im­pres­sive.

So time and time again, we have found that our sense of prov­i­dence en­ables us to suc­ceed. We know our coun­try, we are com­mit­ted to our re­spon­si­bil­ity to the na­tion, and we know what we must do. We are sen­si­ble peo­ple, and this is a value we must en­sure lives on.

Any­way, to move on to the present- we have cer­tainly come a long way. In 1961, our na­tional bud­get for the first FYP was 107 mil­lion. This is the av­er­age bud­get to­day for one bridge. Com­pare this with 224 bil­lion for the 11th FYP. The 12th FYP bud­get is es­ti­mated to be more than 300 bil­lion. When I was born, in 1980, the 5th FYP was on­go­ing, and our GDP that year was 1 bil­lion, as com­pared to over 148 bil­lion ex­pected this year, in a span of 38 years.

We have done ex­tremely well in such a short time. We have been able to build very strong foun­da­tions for our coun­try. But with chang­ing times, we are faced with new op­por­tu­ni­ties as well as new risks.

As we look to the fu­ture, I want to im­press upon you three words that come to my mindE­volve, Adapt, and Up­grade.

We are still left with tremen­dous work to do in var­i­ous ar­eas– fi­nance and econ­omy, pri­vate sec­tor de­vel­op­ment, ed­u­ca­tion, na­tional hu­man re­source de­vel­op­ment, gov­er­nance, etc. Other coun­tries may be able to get by with av­er­age per­for­mances. But we are a small coun­try, and for us, av­er­age spells dis­as­ter. Our fu­ture can­not be av­er­age; the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of our youth can­not be av­er­age. We have to strive for strength and greatness, and the av­er­age trap will be our big­gest ob­sta­cle. Ev­ery step of the way, each and ev­ery sin­gle year, we have to evolve, adapt, and up­grade.

Let me end with 3 more points– this is some­thing I have spo­ken of many times be­fore, so you may have heard it, but I would like to re­peat it be­cause I con­sider it im­por­tant.

We are the guardians of our sovereignty and se­cu­rity, our peace and unity. I know that our un­der-15 girls foot­ball team are play­ing a tour­na­ment, so let me give you a foot­ball anal­ogy. Think about a very skilled foot­ball team, with the best striker, the best mid­field­ers and de­fense, with the best goal­keeper. A su­perbly tal­ented group of play­ers. Now imag­ine that one day, be­cause their next match is against a weaker team, they de­cide to take it easy, de­cide to go out, have some drinks, get into a fight, and in­jure and hurt each other. Do you think this team will be able to win? They won’t, even if their op­po­nent is ac­tu­ally less skilled.

It’s the same for our coun­try- we will only be stronger as a team if we work to­gether. We are un­like any other coun­try, we are small, and only in our unity will we find strength.

We are also the cus­to­di­ans of na­tional iden­tity. Dif­fer­ences in our eth­nic­ity, reli­gious be­liefs, re­gional and eco­nomic back­grounds must never be al­lowed to di­vide us– we must be able to al­ways have a com­mon Bhutanese iden­tity that tran­scends all dif­fer­ences. There is no other coun­try in the world ex­actly like Bhutan– we are unique in the world, we have a unique iden­tity, and we have to en­sure that we look af­ter it.

Fi­nally, it is your ca­pa­bil­i­ties that will shape our col­lec­tive fu­ture. What we lack in num­bers, we must make up with ta­lent, dis­po­si­tion to­wards hard work and a strong sense of duty.

As you know, we can never com­pete in terms of sheer num­bers with others- China has 1.5 mil­lion en­gi­neers, In­dia has 1 mil­lion. Con­sider that. The only way we can com­pete is with our ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

That is why, you, the grad­u­ates of NGOP 2018, owe it to your­selves, to your coun­try, and to our fu­ture, to keep learn­ing. Now that you have com­pleted your for­mal ed­u­ca­tion and have en­tered the work­force, this is not the end of the road. Our cen­tury is go­ing to be full of change, and what works to­day will no longer do so to­mor­row. What is rel­e­vant to­day will be re­dun­dant to­mor­row. New dis­cov­er­ies and tech­nol­ogy is con­stantly chang­ing the way we live, work, and con­duct busi­ness.

So you have to work hard, and pri­or­i­tize in­tel­li­gence and ca­pa­bil­ity. The road ahead of us in our life will not be easy. You have to rise to the oc­ca­sion.

Once again, I am glad to be here– I was afraid I would not be able to make it this year, so its won­der­ful that we man­aged it. I wanted this op­por­tu­nity to speak to you here be­cause you are im­por­tant. You are over 2,000 uni­ver­sity grad­u­ates– you are our wealth, and you have worked hard to get here.

Go­ing for­ward, we are go­ing to grow old to­gether, and move into the fu­ture as one fam­ily. We are all on the same path, our goals, ob­jec­tives and dreams, and our fu­ture are the same, and we have to work to­gether for it. Let’s hope that wher­ever we reach is a good place.

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