A tired government, ambling along, is showing signs of losing courage with hard and clear bronchial coughs.
A minister said that the government was more than willing to hand over the governance to the next government. Then came another one, who said it is not the government’s responsibility to create employment opportunities in the country.
And now we have an equally shocking comment from one of the Cabinet members who has gone on record that there is no immediate solution for goongtong problem.
Why is there the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources and a whole bunch of civil servants under it, paid well and done right by the State and the people? Why do we still have a minister who has already copped out and has been ever ready to hand over the sacred duty of governance to the next government? A minister saying that there is no immediate solution for goongtong means the ministry is incapable of seeing any opportunity beyond what has been tried and failed.
These are serious issues facing the country today—rising unemployment, shooting inflation, and emptying villages. Pushed to the backyard, these challenges can have sombre repercussions in the future. It is in this context that we need to understand these comments from the “honourable” ministers.
Bhutan’s economy is the most unique in the world. A British economist E F Schumacher said small is beautiful in his study of Economics As If People Mattered. Not so in Bhutan—because of several reasons. We are a heavily import-driven economy; when production is less or negligible, jobs are few and far between. And, consequently, there is little space for innovation. When dependence on basic needs grows, in an economy, small is not beautiful.
In the villages, the shortage of farmhands has been a growing issue; rural to urban migration has been rising by the year. If electric fencing does not work to abate human-wildlife conflict, why can’t we take agriculture development programmes closer to the villages? We can, of course, do without fancy adjectives such as renewable and sustainable. Just make it accessible and practical.
Agriculture is the biggest sector still. Given the right focus and investment, the sector can be the most important employer in the country.
Food self-sufficiency has been our national dream since the early 1960s. When a nation can feed itself, there is no need to beg or go bonkers.
As a nation of young people, unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, is a helplessly cross-sectoral issue. Therefore, a ministry with a mandate to create jobs can’t say it is not the ministry’s responsibility to create employment opportunities. These are issues that relevant ministries should sit together and map it out with a clear vision.
But, do we have it?