Even if Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering tried to avoid sounding the State of the Nation like a “Thank you” or an appreciation note, it sounded like one. It couldn’t be avoided. His government’s term is coming to an end in about two weeks, even if they are contesting to come back for another term.

The Prime Minister could have used the opportunity to boast about the government’s achievement, but as humble as Dr Lotay Tshering is, the report focused on paying tribute to the leadership of His Majesty The King, the contribution of the Zhung Dratshang, the cooperation of the people, the bureaucracy, and the all the rest in making the government and the country sail through one of the most difficult times.

A gifted orator, Lyonchhen related his address to the sacred union of “compassion and wisdom,” referring to the 12th anniversary of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen’s sacred union.

In reporting the state of the nation, the Prime Minister recalled the good and bad times of its tenure. The current government will be remembered for its successful handling of a global pandemic that had killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Elected on the promise of “narrowing the gap,” the government did not get enough time to focus on its priorities. Its plans and priorities were derailed as all attention and resources were diverted to saving lives as the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc around the world and posed the greatest threat to us.

Bhutan and the Bhutanese were more fortunate. Led by a cabinet full of health experts and guided by the wisdom of His Majesty The King, we emerged as an example of how policy decision, cooperation and collaboration helped in containing disasters. The coronavirus pandemic may be long forgotten, especially when lives or livelihood were not affected. Those who lost their loved ones or lost the source of their livelihood would remember it and would be thankful for decisions made at the right time.

As the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa government completes its term, not many would remember how the pandemic coincided with its tenure. Many say if the pandemic happened towards the end of its tenure, people would be more grateful to the government. However, the pressing issue today is the economic slowdown. But then we quickly forget why the economy, not health, is a concern because we came unscathed from the pandemic and have the time or luxury of talking about the economy.

As we prepare for the fourth parliamentary elections, political parties could blame the government for the economic meltdown and make reviving the economy their main priority. The economy is not in its best health, but nobody died or went hungry, so as we say.

Looking back, the pandemic and the handling of it was a turning point for Bhutan and its people. As we wait to listen to political parties and politicians of how a new government would be different, we should appreciate some of the decisions the government risked taking.

Revision of property tax, the transformation exercise, and the hike in tourism sustainable development fee are some of the decisions that were not popular. Some decisions, even if unpopular, had to be made at the cost of the government’s popularity, but in the larger interest of the country.  Some of these will become campaign material, but it has to be done and Bhutanese should understand what decisions are made when and why. We should not, like some say, forget God when the danger is gone.