Each year, we come together to celebrate the 17th of December as our National Day– an occasion of great significance and importance. The commemoration of this day serves to remind us of the profound sacrifices of our forefathers, who worked tirelessly for the wellbeing of our country and people; it allows us to express our gratitude to those who came before us for handing over a strong, sovereign nation to the future generations; and it is a day on which our generation reaffirms our pledge to shoulder our important responsibility to serve the nation to the best of our abilities.
We are extremely fortunate to be blessed today by the presence of the father of our nation and the King of Prophecy, our beloved Drukgyal Zhipa His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
On this auspicious occasion, I extend my heartfelt Tashi Delek to all the people of Bhutan in the twenty dzongkhags and 205 gewogs, who are following the celebrations on television, and also to all the Bhutanese across the world, whose hard work we appreciate deeply. On this day, the people of Bhutan have you in our thoughts, and we wish you Tashi Delek on the occasion of our National Day.
Trongsa is a blessed site, having been the seat of Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk. Chogyel Minjur Tempa established the Trongsa Chokor Rabtentse Dzong as the most important seat to watch over the eight spokes of the eastern wheel that comprise our eastern districts. From the time of the first Trongsa Penlop, Minjur Tempa, an unbroken succession of Trongsa Penlops have served the country, to the day I became the 24th Trongsa Penlop. It was here that I received the sacred dhar as Trongsa Penlop in the year of the wooden monkey, twelve years ago.
From that moment onwards, due to the ancient benediction endowed by this sacred place, all my endeavours in the service of the people and country have been favourable.
Twelve years later, in the year of the fire monkey, the birth year of Guru Rinpoche, I have become a father.
It gives me great happiness that on this auspicious year, the people of Trongsa, as well as the people of Bumthang and Zhemgang, are present here to celebrate this wonderful occasion along with me, my Father and my Son.
We are living in extraordinary times. Cures are being found every day for whatever diseases blight mankind. Telecommunications have made it possible for people across vast oceans to connect, and even speak face to face. With the advent of the internet, knowledge and information are at our fingertips, and with advances in transportation and easy access to air travel, no place is inaccessible anymore.
It is awe-inspiring to observe that there have been far greater advances within our lifetime than in the last thousand years, in the fields of science and technology, communications and transport, modern medicine, healthcare, and production.
And yet, since the world population has multiplied many times over, the world that we live in today is filled with uncertainty.
In the time of the historical Buddha, the population of the world was around a 100 million. In the 8th Century, the time of the Second Buddha Ugyen Guru Rinpoche, the world population had grown to around 300 million. In 1955, the year that His Majesty Drukgyal Zhipa was born, the world population was 2.7 billion. Today, there are almost 7.5 billion people in the world.
This exceptional rise in population has created greater threats and difficulties for the world. Countries are grappling with war, terrorism, and economic difficulties leading to debt, income disparity, poverty, and conflict and the greatest threat of all- the pollution of our natural resources.
However, due to the blessings of Kenchosum, the conscientiousness and prayers of our forbears, the united efforts of our people, and the protection of our guardian deities, Bhutan has remained in the past year, free from adversity, calamity, or conflict. Our people have enjoyed a deep sense of security, stability, and peace.
I have been King for 10 years. In this period, all our endeavours have been fruitful, and our efforts free of obstacles. This is due to His Majesty Drukgyal Zhipa’s sacrifices, hard work, enlightened policies, and the firm foundation which is a legacy for us to carry forward.
It is also due to the exceptional fidelity that exists between our people, the government, and King. We may be a very small country with a small population, but our people have always been strong, intelligent and capable. But since that alone does not suffice in this day and age, we have also worked in cohesion and with a sense of solidarity to achieve our success.
There is a still great deal left for us to do in the times to come. When I consider the future, I am filled with enthusiasm, because the future that I see is filled with opportunities.
My father and I share the aspiration to firmly establish democracy in our country. It is an endeavour that will require the continued exertions of all future generations. Democracy is the collective responsibility of our people, the vital force from which our country will draw its strength, and the foundation of peace and happiness for our people.
It has been 8 years since we established democracy in Bhutan, and so far, we have progressed steadily. Still, there are many areas in which we can accomplish even more. By shouldering our responsibilities and working together diligently, in our lifetime and within the span of my reign, we can build a democracy that is exemplary. We have the opportunity to hand over an even stronger and more successful country to our children.
The process of decentralization began in Bhutan in the time of His late Majesty Drukgyal Sumpa. Sixty years hence, decentralization continues to be an important national objective. Many nations are hindered in their progress even though they have all the markers of democracy, because they have faltered when it comes to decentralization.
We are unlike others in this regard. We can do what others cannot, and we can do it better than everyone else.
During the Coronation in 1974, His Majesty Drukgyal Zhipa said to the people: “a little effort on your part will be much more effective than a great deal of effort on the part of the government.”
If we continue our efforts in the process of decentralization with His Majesty’s lucid Command in mind, we may envision boundless possibilities for a successful outcome.
Finally, our country is foremost among the world when it comes to the beauty of our natural environment and the diversity of our flora and fauna. This is a result of generations of enlightened policies in conservation.
However, with changing times, increasing population and burgeoning urban settlements, we are faced with new challenges.
During the recent cleaning campaign, over 300 tons of waste was collected from Thimphu alone. I am told that Thimphu produces around 61 tons of waste every day.
We have succeeded phenomenally in the conservation of our natural environment, and our efforts and achievements have garnered international appreciation and recognition. If we are as successful in maintaining the places where we live, it will be a truly commendable achievement.
It is our collective responsibility to ensure that where we live remain clean, safe, well organized, and beautiful, for all times to come.
As King, I feel privileged to carry out the noble work of Land Kidu. I undertook this responsibility as sacred, having received it from my Father, who has himself carried out this noble duty for many years.
Bhutan’s difficult terrain means that only 7 percent or 664,000 acres of our total land is usable. We must ensure that this small amount of land is put to the best use for the benefit of our people.
Many of our people continue to depend directly on land for their livelihood. In addition, land is traditionally considered a precious inheritance to be bestowed to our children. The objective of the Land Kidu is to place the much-treasured land upon the hands of our people, and enable them to use it to better their lives and secure the future of their children.
It is a concern that in a rapidly growing economy, inequality may bring great divides in our society between the rich and the poor. Another objective of the Land Kidu has been to empower and uplift people, and allow them to prosper.
With these objectives in mind, my Father and I have handed over 295,860 acres of land to our people till date.
However, what I had hoped for with this undertaking has not been fully realized. Over the years, there are increasing numbers of Gungtong (absentee households), and I find that large portions of land continue to be left fallow across the country. The people, especially the young, have been leaving their villages for towns in greater numbers. I am deeply concerned that they will encounter unemployment and other difficulties in urban areas, and begin to despair.
This should not be so, because there are numerous opportunities in Bhutan.
We spend Nu 8 billion annually to import food. To cite an example, we export potatoes and oranges, and then import potato chips and orange juice.
From this, it is evident that there are many opportunities for entrepreneurship and commercial farming in our country. In addition, our youth are educated, capable, and enthusiastic.
We must ask ourselves then, where we have gone wrong.
Our government remains steadfast in its service to the people. The scope of the successive five year plans have grown exponentially. The budget of the 11th Five-Year Plan, which is an unprecedented 213 billion, is spread across various sectors and across the country.
For my part, I will continue to increase land ownership, in the same manner that I have in the past.
As I see it, to begin any new enterprise, first and foremost, one requires capital.
There is a great opportunity here for the financial institutions and banks to make a positive impact by improving access to credit for our youth and rural people.
We can gauge the extent of the impact by considering that today, in Bhutan, the total loan stock that has been lent out is Nu. 85 billion, but out of this, only 4.5 billion, or about 2.5% has been utilized in the agriculture sector. This must change.
I am pleased that the Royal Monetary Authority, led by the Governor, has taken an initiative in this direction by decreasing the lending rate of the banks.
Our financial institutions have a strong sense of corporate social responsibility, and place the welfare of the people above profit making. I am happy that in their turn, the financial institutions have wholeheartedly supported RMA’s initiative to lower the lending rates.
If our financial institutions are able to extend unstinted support to young entrepreneurs and farmers, and help in creating numerous opportunities for them, we will derive countless benefits.
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.
If our youth, who are well educated, are able to succeed, it will benefit our country as a whole.
I want to conclude by expressing my gratitude to the Zhung Dratshang and the clergy, and especially to His Holiness Trulku Jigme Choda, who has served as the 70th Je Khenpo for 20 years, for their services to the country, and their support to me during my reign.
I have great admiration for Je Trulku Jigme Choda, who continues to work tirelessly for the wellbeing of the people and the country. His Holiness presided over my own Coronation ceremonies, and I am deeply appreciative of his blessings and affection on the birth of my son. I take this opportunity to offer prayers for his longevity and wellbeing.
I also express my appreciation to our elected government, members of parliament, and local leaders, who have worked together in service of the nation.
Most of all, I deeply appreciate the unwavering support and loyalty of the people, who have reposed the greatest confidence and trust in me.
Finally, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to my Father. His Majesty Commanded me to assume the duties of a King at a young age, and in doing so expressed the greatest confidence in me. I continue to be blessed by His Majesty’s guidance and support.
I am deeply inspired when I recall that His Majesty Drukgyal Zhipa’s extraordinary reign began at the age of 16. This is what gives me the determination everyday to place greater efforts in the service of my country and people.
Once again, I wish the people of Bhutan, a heartfelt Tashi Delek on this very special occasion.