The narrative of Bhutan’s development journey has reached a critical point. As a late starter, we had so much distance to cover in terms of achieving our development priorities and national goals. But we did. In a span of less than 50 years, say, we have achieved by much more than what other countries could in hundred years. While recognising this feat born of our true ambitions, it would be unfair if we did not count the hands of our development partners in this nation’s extraordinary journey.
We have now arrived at a crossroads; Bhutan will soon graduate from the group of Least-Developed Countries. What this means is that we will be among the comity of lower-middle income economies. While we celebrate the news, we must not forget that we have got to do some serious thinking. At a time when some of our development partners are pulling out, we are still largely an aid-dependent country. The journey ahead, as Foreign Minister Damcho Dorji put it, is one of transition and sustainable growth. “If we can’t graduate, it’ll be a disservice to the donors and, if our graduation is not sustainable, it will be a disservice to our future generations.”
UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP regional director for the Asia and the Pacific, Haoliang Xu, put the reality into perspective. Bhutan has a few more difficult years ahead and it is not the time for the donors to withdraw their support. Long-time development partners like India and Japan have committed to support Bhutan transition to lower-middle income economy. We also have the commitments of Australia, Japan, the European Union, World Bank, Austria, Thailand, and the UN systems.
But the message is clear. We must stand prepared.
For Bhutan, the time of reckoning has arrived. As a country with small resource pool, Bhutan now is compelled to look at using available resources the best possible way because we cannot forever rely on the generosity of our development partners. As Prime Minister said, we must prepare to graduate with dignity and stability.