After a decade, Bhutan’s second population and housing census begins tomorrow.

Over the next three days, one of the biggest exercises will be conducted nationwide to count everyone living in the country irrespective of age and nationalities.

Bhutan’s socioeconomic development has been rapid since it embarked on planned development in the 60s. As a country enhanced by ITC develops socially and economically, there is a pressing need for planning and decision-making to be based on reliable and recent statistical data and information. Our leaders have always emphasised the need for sustainable development based on reliable statistical data. Because our socio-economic indicators depend on housing and population data, this exercise is of national significance.

It is for this reason that following the Royal Command, the next three days is declared as National Census holidays. About 9, 572 civil servants, almost 2,000 more than the ones engaged in the last census of 2005 are trained as enumerators to collect data that will be analysed to provide demographic, economic and social information.

Enumerators are already in the field visiting homes and informing the head of the household about their visit. Requests have been made asking house owners to keep their pets leashed and assurances given that primary information will be held under strict confidentially.

But massive events, especially in the age of social media, are often accompanied by rumours and misinformation. That the enumerators will be visiting houses could have prompted a post on social media claiming that the information collected from those people living across the border in Phuentsholing will be used for allocating houses being built by the NHDCL. The National Census Secretariat has clarified that the post’s claim is untrue. It is, however, true that there is Bhutanese living across the border whose housing needs are yet to be met. In an exercise such as this, it would be wrong to assume that all Bhutanese are living within the country’s border.

They, however, need to be counted. Reliable information on population characteristics, fertility, disability, mortality, migration, education, agriculture, labour and housing will be vital in not only planning developmental activities and allocating budget for the 12th Plan but also in capturing the changes the country has seen in the last decade.

Over the last ten years, the country went through two rounds of elections. This may be the second population and housing census but it is the first since the country’s transition into a democracy. In a democracy having reliable updated statistics and information is critical because it empowers people and strengthens democracy.

The population and housing census is a national call to get counted. It must be heard.