Prime Minister assured population and housing census will be carried out next year

Global Goals: Bhutan stands at interesting crossroads today. While it has achieved most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and prepares to forge ahead with a list of new development agendas called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as ‘Global Goals’ that it needs to achieve by 2030, it is in dire need of reliable and vital statistics to craft specific development plans.

It is important that government should fully understand the situation of the citizens and the country in order for it to be able to make relevant plans. That’s where and when statistics gain supreme eminence in the life of a nation that is pursuing planned development activities. However, even as Bhutan straddles the tail end of 2015, it has not carried out population census that is critical to gauge its efforts towards achieving both the remaining MDG goals and the new SDG goals.

Population and housing census was last conducted in 2005.

Solid statistics become all the more important because Bhutan is about to transit from one plan period to the other. While the 11th Plan contained most of the components of the SDGs, 12th Plan will almost certainly include all of the SDG goals. But the precarious situation that Bhutan is facing is that it will graduate from the list of Least Developed Countries (LDC) by 2022. This means Bhutan will confront huge challenge gaining financial supports as donors continue to retreat.

The good news, however, is that Bhutan has been endorsed as one of the early movers. It will receive supports from UN development agencies to help country achieve SDG goals sooner. Also, if Bhutan is lucky, it might still be considered an LDC, because there are talks that graduating criteria where unfair for countries like Bhutan and need to be reworked.

But, still, Bhutan will be required to have reliable and specific data to base its development agendas. Nik Sekhran, Director of Sustainable Development Cluster, UNDP, said: “Unless there is strong statistical base, things are going to be tough. Even for accessing finance, having a strong data set is very important.”

At the Meet the Press session yesterday, Prime Minister said that while all SDGs are important, UN System is keen on working with Bhutan closely on a few of the SDGs so that the country can achieve early successes. He added that carrying out population and housing census is expensive. However, he assured that budget has now been allocated and census will be carried out next year.

Prime Minister said: “Reliable statistics are very important not only to achieve sustainable development goals but also to assess whether we have been successful at achieving 11th Plan goals. What is important is that we have to make National Statistics Bureau strong, not just for SDGs but also to keep track of development activities in the country.”

Most of the government officials agreed that lack of data is giving wrong development picture. Data from small subsets of survey often do not help get the real picture of development.

Jigme Wangchuk