Global superpowers, developing nations, democracies and dictatorships are all struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic. BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) a major regional economic bloc has three members at the top of the affected chart of the world. The vaccine though seemingly progressive, is still far away. Lockdowns have become the new normal everywhere. The effectiveness of political systems in such situations has become a relevant topic. Systems vary starkly between Nations; the objectives of all are the wellbeing of its citizens and the economy. When the behavior of an individual (washing hands, wearing face masks, social distancing) is as important as the efforts of the National Government; a close and trusting bond between the two become the key to success.
Protests against government recommended lockdowns or face masks have risen in the USA and Europe. In many developing countries, the poor and minority groups have little faith in receiving government priority in access to health care or economic subsidies. In such societies, it will be difficult for the government to carry out large scale and rapid responses to the disease. Everything will be resisted, debated at length or disobeyed. The effort in any action thus becomes scattered and less effective. However, irrespective of the varying governance systems, population sizes, geography and economy, the efficiency of each political system during emergencies is primarily stimulated by the framework of respective governance model. In times like today, learning from each other (both tangible and intangible values) seems vital, given that – “every crisis is also an opportunity.”
In the Kingdom of Bhutan, a 21 day lockdown received complete cooperation from the people. Half of Bhutan was out on the frontline as experts, workers, and volunteers. The advice of the government met with the attentive and eager ears of its citizens. This made the work of experts and the government much easier. The government, even before any large scale pleading, provided economic relief at the start of the pandemic through His Majesty’s Command and Kidu (Benefits granted by the King or the Government of Bhutan.) This made sure people’s worries of livelihood were calmed, and they could without worry sit safely at home or volunteer in the field. This is a special bond, quite missing in other countries. The “Democratic Constitutional Monarchy” of the Land of GNH (Gross National happiness), evokes not just the political aspects of governance, but is accompanied with a human touch. Why and how?
Right leadership at the right time
In this difficult pandemic age we have a most pro-active 21st century King, delivering Kidu before hardship strikes, establishing a visionary De-Suung (Guardian of Peace) to aid the nation, and serving his people and other living beings. A hardworking democratic government led by His majesty the King has brought great reassurance to the people. Access to medicines and essentials and other support mechanisms are vital in any form of lockdowns in any country. And this has differed starkly across the globe. Here the delivery of medicines and essentials to the people has been fair and prompt. When people know they will be helped irrespective of their location, wealth or influence, their lives during a pandemic becomes less stressed. Help and assistance will come, they know.
The presence of the king also ensured that no political mudslinging and fight for popularity among the political parties took place, hampering government work. This is happening elsewhere, not in Bhutan. Here, the people will probably not tolerate it either. Working together towards a solution is a national exercise built on the bond between the king, government and citizens. Governments will come and go, some stay longer; but the ‘Institution of Monarchy’ remains and it is the inner spirit force that stands face to face with any sort of adversity the Nation has faced, is facing in the present and will face in the future. In fact the path ahead has also been clearly drawn out by His Majesty the King in the form of the most urgent need for the country, which is the Water Management Plan involving the youth of the country.
Constructively moving on
On the global front, China may be the source of this pandemic, yet a neutral stance is preferred. Learning from each other seems more beneficial than delving into ‘conspiracy theories.’ “The best time to plant a tree was three years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb. Let us not forget the bigger picture. As much the quote exudes environmental plea, the planet asks us to reconcile our ways too! The ‘New-Normal’ is essentially an ‘ethical’ system where an individual’s actions must also serve the greater common good. The pandemic and its threat gave us time to reflect. Policies arising across the global political landscape should be for the larger good. It is indeed the call of the times and survival in the post pandemic world will be impossible otherwise.
We cannot predict lockdowns, and that makes preparing for it even harder. However, in Bhutan we have been pro-active with constant sharing of government plans, medical support and information dissemination. People are living in a state of constant preparedness. The actions of Bhutan will resonate internationally when they see the deep cooperation and trust between people and government. People’s actions and government policies have been for the greater good. The new Bhutan 21st Century Economic Roadmap vision (2030) being discussed has come at the right time. Provisions for epidemics/pandemics as contingency plans within it now seem ideal. High sounding economic or political visions are less important than what happens when citizens are faced with national calamities.
For Bhutan, economic objectives will not override social. Rich and powerful forces will not usurp government resources. Politics takes a backseat as unity is the weapon of the nation. We have regained respect for our unity and inter-connectedness. We have realized the futility of political fighting. In fact we realized it isn’t politics that strengthens the country. Ultimately it is the bond between a government with the ‘right’ king and people that is way ahead to our future. With the king as the omnipresent source of noble initiatives, the Zhung Dratshang (Central Monastic Body) for centuries passed and still continues to seek blessing for Bhutanese and sentient beings of world, and with the government and people working together in service to the Tsawa-Sum (The King, Country and People), we should sail through in this hurdle and any in future. The true meaning of development and growth comes from this bond of cooperation.
 Article 1 (2) – ‘The form of Government shall be that of a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy,’ (The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2008.)
 A belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for an unexplained event.
Contributed by Kinchho Tshering
Blogs at kinchhotshering.wordpress.com