Dzongkhags: Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay asked dzongdags to focus on the economy and education to make Bhutan self-reliant and secure its future, at the annual dzongdag’s conference that began yesterday.

Lyonchoen emphasised the importance of economic development of the local communities and of strengthening education to secure the future of the country.

Speaking to the dzongdags for more than half an hour at the Convention Centre, Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said that the main responsibility of the dzongdags is to protect the independence, peace, and security of the country.

“We’re living in peace and harmony today but not many are aware of the fact that our Kings have been working hard for it,” Lyonchoen said.

“Because we don’t have to do much, people tend to think that it’s their right or privilege,” Lyonchoen said.

He said the country’s independence and sovereignty have been strengthened over the years as a result of the tireless efforts of the Kings.

“There is no other country that emphasises so much on peace, stability and harmony,” he said. He pointed out that every country has challenges but that in spite of the problems faced by a small country like Bhutan, it had remained independent.

There is a big current account deficit but it is not a major problem as the country was supported by donor agencies and other countries.

“Without their contributions our economy would have crashed,” he said.

The current account deficit, driven by huge imports, presents both challenges and opportunities for Bhutan, he said. Lyonchoen added that the widening gap between imports and exports could actually become an opportunity rather than be seen as a threat, if Bhutanese work hard.

“This means there is an opportunity to produce and sell in our dzongkhags things that we import,” Lyonchoen said.

He said each dzongkhag would record its total economic status. “Given that most of the dzongkhags are small and most of the economic activities such as agriculture, trade, and construction are recorded, this shouldn’t be difficult,” he said.

Thus calculating the economy should not be difficult, it was pointed out. “Until now we don’t know the dzongkhag’s economy which is why we have difficulty in proper planning,” he said.

For the country’s economy to grow, it is important to improve the economy in the dzongkhags, he said.

Lyonchoen urged the dzongdags to ensure self-sufficiency of the dzongkhags in terms of agriculture or livestock products. He said items that can be produced locally but are being imported today, need to be identified.

Promoting trade, tourism, and cottage and small-scale industries in the dzongkhags are other options. “There are numerous financing options including the Department of Cottage and Small Industry and the Business Opportunity and Information Centre,” he said.

The prime minister committed his support towards beginning these economic activities in the dzongkhags.

He asked dzongdags to identify and adopt a central school in their dzongkhag.

“While you have the duty of looking after all the schools, for this year I ask of you to give extra consideration and look after a central school,” Lyonchoen said. “The progress of the school could serve as an example for others to follow.”

The prime minister said that he would find other authorities to support the remaining central schools. In the long run, this could help improve the quality of education in the country.

The responsibility of the dzongdags is to protect the independence, peace, and security of the country, lyonchoen said.

Lyonchoen said issues like determining if there is a need for dzongkhag development grant, human resource development budget and options to maintain farm and gewog connectivity roads, be discussed during the four-day annual conference.

The conference ends on April 29.

Tshering Palden