Creating opportunities: Looking to the future

Bhutan’s march to progress since the first Five-Year Plan in 1961 has been nothing short of phenomenal. We had the advantage of being small and a late starter. We could manage our precious little resources well and avoid the mistakes that other nations made while pursuing development in haste, as the world was leaving behind the sad remnants of the great wars and drawing closer to the 21st century with hope of sustained peace, development and opportunities.

What made it all possible for Drukyul was, however, the vision of a Monarch who saw Bhutan’s place in the comity of nations – proud, independent and self-sufficient. From the time when Bhutan had just about a handful of modern schools, we have today more 500 schools and a dozen advanced seats of learning that cater to varying sectors of speciality that our society requires.  We are today a stronger economy than we were when we embarked on planned development some five and fifty years ago. Our presence in the world stage is increasingly becoming more visible.

But then, like much else, developments have come with cost. We knew we would confront challenges myriad along the way, some foreseen and others with the way to surprise us as they show up. As Bhutan is increasingly growing into an urban society, rising youth unemployment has become a reality that needs to be tackled urgently and earnestly. There is a need to look beyond the small and fledgling private sector to create job opportunities. As more and more people from the rural pockets of the country migrate to the urban centres in the hope of better opportunities, they are met by even more difficult challenges.

It is often the lack of coordinated effort that leaves us incapable of addressing the challenges facing our society. What is really needed today is spot on measures to stop rural-urban migration by creating employment opportunities outside urban centres. That should start by making financial supports accessible to young entrepreneurs. The Royal Monetary Authority has come up with Inclusive Financial Policy to improve the lives of rural people by providing loans. From Nu 85 billion loan stock lent out, only 2.5 percent has gone to agriculture. This policy gives us hope and this is just a start. We can do a lot better.

Financial institutions should take it as their responsibility to create enabling environment for young people to create opportunities, particularly in the agriculture because agriculture is our mainstay. It’s about taking development where it needs to be taken. That succeeding, said His Majesty The King in His recent National Day address in Trongsa: “It will go a long way in strengthening the sovereignty and security of our country, and furthering our social policy of equity and our national objective of self-reliance.”

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