As clichéd as the phrase is, no news is good news. But it’s been all news all day for Bhutan for some years now. We are talking about Bhutan’s certain graduation from the list of the least developed countries (LDC) by 2021.
What does this development leap mean for Bhutan?
Bhutan has made commendable socioeconomic progress in little more than 50 years since it began planned development in 1961. Small as we are, size has been our greatest advantage. But, more importantly, it is due to the enlightened leaderships the nation has had the fortune to enjoy that has brought us here today. The focus of our development initiatives has been empowering and maximising the contentment level of the citizens. We made judicious use of the little resources we had in our hands to the end.
This is the part of our success story where donors and well-wishers step in to inspire us to walk an extra mile. We played our part faithfully to the role called on us. Our collaborations are so today an exemplar to say the least. But we knew, all the while, that the day would come, sooner or later, when we will have to measure our own footsteps. And that day is come today.
Donors and development partners have begun leaving in phases because in their eyes Bhutan has now come of age to chart her own development course independently. The question is how do we see ourselves? We may have been able to increase our national earning power, access to better health care and education, but do these indicators alone paint the real picture of the nation? In all these fronts and the corollaries that they have brought along have left us more confused and optimistic.
We know this is no small challenge because the ultimate purpose of development is to rise and come on to the sunnier side of the street, however it is interpreted in terminology. Rather than feeling burdened with uncertainty and needless apprehensions, the undertone that is sort of gathering current especially among the government agencies, this development has to be taken as an opportunity to prove our worth. The fact is, Bhutan has, in ways more than one, come of age.
But how are we preparing for this transition? Graduating from LDC means however slight our preferential access to markets, mainly in developed economies, will be limited. That means finding ways to sustain ourselves. And for that we must look at our economic base and dependency on external trade. Do we have enough advantage?
To ‘leapfrog’ ahead in the little time we have to transition will be easier said than done. As foreign secretary put it, there will be some implications. The only choice we have is to vault ahead. How are we preparing for the change?
The possibility of dropping down mid-air is the real danger.