The United Nations’ latest human development, launched on Thursday, reminded the world of the grim period that we are going through. It highlights the unprecedented uncertainties that have grasped the world even with record achievements leading to improved living standards, income and massive technological advancement.
For the first time on record, the global HDI value declined with 90 percent of countries seeing their HDI value drop between 2020 and 2021. Times have been uncertain with the pandemic, political and economic crisis. Climate-change induced disasters have worsened the uncertainties.
The report, however, is not a surprise. The covid-19 pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the economic and climate-change crisis that has brought countries to their knees are stark reminders that uncertainties can undo hard-earned progress and unsettle lives overnight. What has become certain is that big countries can annex another even in the 21st century. Heatwaves, floods and droughts, cyclones are going to increase in frequency and scale of damage, and political or economic instability could trigger bigger crises leading to more uncertainties.
Bhutan has improved on the HDI value again, by two places from 129th to 127th. This could be attributed to our handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the political stability and our record as a carbon negative country. However, the report still resonates with us and it would be wrong to bask in the achievement.
Our problems may be not as severe, but we are dealing with uncertainties all around – students are uncertain as to whether their teachers would complete the academic session, there are graduates but no jobs, there are jobs but no takers. Our main source of revenue, hydropower projects, are not certain of meeting deadlines. The uncertainty of climate-change is jeopardising our projects. The uncertainty surrounding import, price and dependency could affect lives and livelihoods. We feel the shocks of instability in the region and beyond. Not many of us care to understand that a goods-laden ship stuck in the Suez canal could increase the price of goods in Bhutan.
Besides the grim picture, the HDI report’s central message is that the threats from uncertainties should and can be turned to opportunities. Good leadership and policies are the positives. This is to our advantage. There is already a vision for transforming Bhutan in line with the report calling for implementing smart and practical policies that focus on investment, insurance, and innovation.
We have the right environment. We need not worry about peace or stability. We need to build on it. We have seen how Bhutanese made the most of the Covid -19 pandemic, turning the crisis into an opportunity. We can certainly do more together.