Thinley Namgay   

As of January, more than 30,000 are living abroad, in 113 countries, mostly, in Australia, as per the record of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade.

People going abroad is a concern, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said yesterday. “We are worried.”

There are 10, 911 Bhutanese in Australia, 9,519 in India, 3,184 in Kuwait, 1,356 in Thailand and 1,327 in the USA, among others.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has been keeping a record of Bhutanese going and residing abroad.

Foreign Affairs and External Trade Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said there are around 12,500 Bhutanese in Australia currently. “However, as per our Australian ambassador, there are around 15,000 Bhutanese in Australia.”

The Prime Minister said that Bhutan is facing the effects of global economic downturn coming out of the pandemic, a surge in global migration, and major reforms within the country.

Challenges for Bhutan

The Prime Minister said that Bhutanese are travelling abroad because of inflation, low salary and minimum opportunities, among others in the country.

He said that to increase the Bhutanese annual household income four-fold and enter the high GDP per capita income group, a minimum of USD 13,000 to USD 14,000 of GDP per capita is required.

Today, Bhutan’s GDP per capita is just slightly over USD 3,000. “If the economy doesn’t improve, people will not stay in the country. Our approach is to first reduce the trend of Bhutanese going abroad and then reversing the trend.”

The Prime Minister said, “good pay is important. Public servants in Bhutan are paid very low compared with those in other countries.” He said the country needs to create opportunities to stop Bhutanese from going abroad.

The way forward 

PM said that reforms are taking place today in financial institutions, the private sector, SOEs, overall governance and the civil service, among others. “The impact of these reforms cannot be felt overnight because we are changing the whole system.”

And he added: “The reform is the only answer to reverse the trend of people leaving the country in the next few years.”

He said that the Civil Service Act was revised to let anyone compete to join civil service be it at the chief level, as director, director-general, secretary, or as agency head.

Another method as per PM is to encourage Bhutanese abroad to invest in the country by creating investment opportunities.

“The third aspect is to let people work for our system from whichever country they are in. We should be able to make use of their experience and expertise,” PM said.

Foreign Affairs and External Trade Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said the number of Bhutanese leaving the country is worrying but is “not alarming right now.”

Lyonpo said the country today has 32,000 unemployed youth working as de-suups.

“If the current trend continues for the next two to three years, we need to resort to a radical approach,” Lyonpo said.