Bhutan will graduate from the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group in December 2023, which will be a significant achievement for the country. However, this achievement cannot be a cause for complacency or celebration, but rather a time for reflection and action.
Firstly, we must recognise that the LDC graduation is not a guarantee of sustained economic growth and development. While Bhutan has made impressive strides in reducing poverty and increasing access to education and healthcare, there is still much work to be done. The country’s economy remains heavily reliant on hydropower exports, and there are concerns about the sustainability of this model in the long term. There is also a need for greater diversification of the economy, as well as investment in infrastructure and human capital.
Secondly, we must acknowledge that the LDC graduation does not mean the end of international support and cooperation. Bhutan will still require assistance in various areas, such as climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and technology transfer. Therefore, it is essential to maintain and strengthen partnerships with development partners, including the United Nations, multilateral organisations, and bilateral donors.
Thirdly, we must recognise that the LDC graduation is not the end of Bhutan’s development journey. The country must continue to pursue inclusive and sustainable development, with a focus on reducing inequality, improving governance, and protecting the environment. This requires a long-term vision and strategy that is grounded in Bhutan’s unique culture, values, and development philosophy of Gross National Happiness.
Finally, we must ensure that the benefits of LDC graduation are shared equitably across society. While Bhutan has made significant progress in reducing poverty, there are still pockets of vulnerability and marginalisation that require attention. It is crucial to address the root causes of inequality and exclusion, including gender discrimination, social norms, and access to basic services.
Bhutan’s graduation from the LDC group is a significant milestone for the country, but it is not the end of the road. It is a time for reflection and action, to build on the progress made and address the remaining challenges. We must ensure that Bhutan’s development journey continues to be guided by the principles of inclusivity, sustainability, and happiness.