What Bhutan is going through is nothing out of ordinary. Developments continue to bring in new challenges. How we are, as a nation, is standing up to face the demands of the time is the real question. We have much more to do; our new structural setup is yet to take roots.
Rural-urban migration has been one of the biggest problems facing the country for some time now. There is no one issue to lay the blame on because we are a nation in transition and we have got to catch up fast.
The news that the government now is really ready to implement some policies and programmes to stop and revert the migration of people, especially the young, to the western dzongkhags from other regions of the country is good. It should have happened a long time ago.
But the policies ought to be given teeth. Nothing will change otherwise and the problems will only aggravate. Time has come for Bhutan to pursue a development model that does not focus on Thimphu and certain towns alone. Every region and dzongkhag has the potential of their own that we have not been able to exploit.
The textile products of Trashigang, Lhuentse and Samdrupjongkhar; rare and excellent smithery of Pemagatshel, exquisite bamboo products of Zhemgang; and the vast agricultural opportunities of the central region of the country—these skills are dying fast.
But the opportunities are here. Invest in skills. Take factories and institutes to where production strengths and economic opportunities are. But that will not be enough; these establishments should be backed by solid research units, with right and enough human resource, to guide product development and product marketing for the times beyond present.
The National Statistics Bureau’s latest study still shows that the western region is gaining rapidly on the population of the working-age group, whereas other parts of the country, mainly eastern region, are left with more elderly people, increasing the dependency ratio. This is nothing new. In fact, this is the picture of where we are going wrong.
Talking about harnessing demographic dividend is increasingly becoming meaningless, which is indicative of the yawning gap between politicians and policymakers. Some projects are being taken to the places beyond Thimphu, but they are not breathing. Some are already in the state of comatose.
Conservation, the hallowed idea that Bhutan is showing the rest of the world is important, but that should not come at the cost of people in certain areas inside the county. Our highlanders today are coming down because they are compelled to and can afford to do so. They may be the last migrants to shape the future of Bhutan.
Kuensel supports the implementation of policies and programmes to stop and revert the migration of people wholeheartedly because this is our last opportunity.