The Covid-19 brought us face-to-face with some harsh realities. There is not a single sector that is not affected by the unrelenting pandemic. What we have so far achieved together is a story of valour and determination. But what next?
The real story is about harnessing the power of youth, the failure of which is showing in the form of rising unemployment. “Unrest” perhaps is too strong a word to relate to what Bhutan and the Bhutanese youth are going through, but we cannot brush it aside because it is antithetical to the image that we have painted for ourselves and for the world beyond—happy, prosperous, rapidly-growing, and a forward-looking society.
Bhutan was known as the last Shangri-La once. Perhaps we basked too long on that image that we forgot what new challenges could visit us. We lost a window of opportunity, so to speak. Why in the thriving economy like ours, for example, are our young people finding it difficult to land a job? Why is it easy for some Bhutanese youth to resort to thievery, vandalism and such like despicable audacity when basic education is free and for those who work hard third level education is sponsored fully by the government?
We have experiences to draw from—joblessness comes from lack of dignity of labour, something that our planners have repeatedly failed to recognise even as we recognise the planners themselves with service medals—gold, silver, and bronze—every year. In an ideal situation, opportunities must be created for the people which can throttle up the country’s economy. This is not happening and must change.
Why are a large number of young Bhutanese looking abroad for employment? Young, educated and productive citizens going out to seek employment speaks volumes about the nation’s inability to create and provide jobs. We do not have enough skilled manpower to keep our own water supply system running even. No wonder we keep talking about self-sufficiency year after year.
But there are some developments that we must capitalise on. The recent recruitment drive in PHPA-II is an example that our planners must draw lessons from. Thousands of Bhutanese youth applied for a few vacancies floated by the company. What we must know is that Bhutanese youth will work where pay is good and working conditions safe.
This is an encouraging sign.
Our development planning, which is hinged on jobs creation, is in sore need of wisdom and foresight. What about looking at jobs creation from bottom-up?