Data, reliable statistics, are at the centre of policy and planning success. As the prime minister said at the launch, the document “gives us a chance to understand the opportunities and risks.”

The new population and housing census (PHC) that the National Statistics Bureau released Monday give us new findings, figures and information. The data that we had been using from the last PHC had long lost their relevance.

According to the new PHC, Bhutan’s resident population has of course grown to 735,553. The nation’s literacy rate has risen to an impressive 71.4 percent from 59.5 percent in 2005. Life expectancy has increased to 70.2 years; women live longer (71.7 years) than men (68.8 years).

About 96.6 percent of the households in the country use electricity for lighting, an increase of 39.5 percent from 2005. About 98.6 percent of the total households have access to improved sources of drinking water. The proportion of households with improved sanitation is 74.8 percent. Road networks have expanded and about 92 percent of the households in the country are within 30 minutes of walking distance from the nearest motor road.

Encouraging as the news findings are, there are certain departments were we need to work hard. Therefore, we should not lose sight of the facts and numbers when we draft new development policies and plans.

For example, even as 98.6 percent of the total households have access to improved sources of drinking water, 18 percent of the households have reported that the source of drinking water is not reliable. Shortage of water is increasingly being felt both in rural and urban parts of Bhutan. Although unemployment is at 2.4 percent, youth and urban unemployment rate is a concern. The median age population is 26.9 years, which indicates that half of Bhutan’s population is younger than 26.9 years. There has been a slight decrease in youth unemployment rate, from 13.2 percent to 10.6 percent. But considering half the country’s population is young, youth unemployment is still a major problem.

The report gives us the clear picture of opportunities that we could harness with right planning. It also points out the risks that we must prepare ourselves to tackle with.