Staff Reporter

The 114th National Day celebrations yesterday brought the Bhutanese society together once again to celebrate its blessings and rejoice the achievements.

While the event was held at the Tashichhodzong in Thimphu owing to the Covid-19 restrictions, thousands remained glued to their television sets to witness the celebrations and chief among them was the Royal address.

His Majesty thanked all those who contributed in Bhutan’s combat against the Covid-19 pandemic and emphasised the need to remain fully prepared and vigilant.

As usual the Royal address laid a clear path of Bhutan’s future: strengthening the foundation by improving the educational standards, crafting policies to diversify economic opportunities for our youth, and supporting private sector growth. To achieve all these the role of the civil servants would be critical.

His Majesty said: “It’s imperative to seize the opportunity and enhance the capabilities of our people, and strengthen the economic and governance framework to harness the potential ushered in by these rapid and dynamic technological changes.”

While the school system plays an important role in nurturing Bhutanese,  it is important to leave no one behind. “We must realize that knowledge and skills, if not renewed, will soon become obsolete. We must inculcate in us a culture of life-long learning.”    

His Majesty said that Bhutanese need to be prepared for the future so that each one is equipped with the skills, competencies and experience to succeed and compete in the world. “We must give utmost priority to skill, up-skill, and re-skill our people to make them world-ready.”

His Majesty cited a conversation with a woman to highlight the increasing difficulties of the common people such as to own decent homes, secure meaningful employment or have steady sources of income and struggling to meeting expenditure that keeps rising and making their livelihood difficult.

“We need to resolve these issues as soon as we can before it tears our nation apart.”

While providing Kidu will remain important, His Majesty said that if Bhutanese were to become dependent solely on the government to alleviate their difficulties it would not be sustainable as the government does not have infinite resources. The country would never become self-reliant if Bhutanese were to continue to depend on the government for everything.

His Majesty raised serious concerns whether Bhutanese have the will to fundamentally address some of the challenges that the country is faced with as previous efforts to reform and improve governance have yet to show tangible, and meaningful improvements.

Foreign experts and professionals have commented that our rules, regulations, laws and institutional procedures are among the best in the world. Yet, His Majesty said that, Bhutanese are not able to reap the benefits.

Owing to Bhutan’s compassionate and close-knit society, many syed away from giving honest views or taking bold actions. “As a result, the strength of our national character, exemplified by courage and determination of our forefathers, has weakened; complacency has set in, discipline has waned, and corruption is on the rise. This has unfortunately given rise to a popular perception that two laws coexist in the same country.”

His Majesty warned that if such practices are allowed to proliferate, Bhutanese would become more vulnerable to even greater risks and dangers.

With the world around undergoing rapid change in all spheres, Bhutan, a tiny, land-locked and developing country with a small population and limited resources is becoming more vulnerable.

“What we need now, more than ever, is a corresponding degree of resolve and determination for our national interest. The strength of our national character, courage, grit, and fortitude must define every aspect of our national endeavour.

“I have witnessed the boldness, rigour, resolve and sternness that had defined the reign of His Majesty the Fourth King. Unfortunately, these qualities have deteriorated over the last fifteen years of my reign.

“From now on, all of us must boldly embrace accountability as a measure of our service, should we falter, deviate, and err in the service of our country. As King, I must first and foremost exemplify the ideal of accountability.”

His Majesty said that it was still not too late in getting the priorities right, re-focusing national goals, and re-aligning national priorities and strategies. “If the King, government and the people continue to work hand-in-hand with dedication, perseverance and fortitude, we still have every opportunity to further strengthen our country and achieve greater prosperity for our people.”

Accountability must henceforth become the cornerstone of governance, His Majesty said. “We must correct those who deviate, be firm with those who do not deliver, replace those who are incompetent, and terminate those who underperform and have therefore become a liability to our system and nation. We must not hesitate to expose those who engage in corrupt practices, so that we send a strong signal to deter others from doing so.”