Photos by Lincoln Potter

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Economy & Political System

Economy of Bhutan

Agriculture and livestock raising are still the main pillars of the economy, with 80% of the population dependent on these two sectors. . They contribute about 45 percent to GNP. The major crops grown by the farmers are rice, maize, wheat and apples, oranges, potatoes and cardamom are some of the cash crops grown by the farmers in Bhutan. Industry and mining are still in the first stage of development but are expanding rapidly.

Over the decades, planned socio -economic development has brought about significant changes to the economy of Bhutan. The export of hydroelectric power provides 25% of government revenue. Hydroelectric power is Bhutan’s largest resource and is sustainable, renewable and environmentally friendly. We have so much of potential and by tapping all this potential will raise the national revenue considerably.

Other major exports are wood based products, minerals, horticulture products, calcium carbides and cement. We import the consumer goods and essentials like rice, salt, oil, petrol and kerosene. We also export agricultural products such as apples, oranges, cardamom, potatoes, asparagus and mushroom.

Tourism is the highest source of hard currency. However, the tourism industry in Bhutan runs on the principle of sustainability, economical viable and environmentally friendly, in keeping with Royal Government of Bhutan’s cautious and balance development & modernization. There is no restriction on the number of tourist visiting Bhutan; however the policy of ‘high value and low volume’ ensures the preservation of Bhutan’s culture and traditions.

Our major trading partner is India. The two countries have free trade relationship agreement. We export about 90 percent to India and source for 70 percent imports. Bhutan also has preferential trade agreement with Bangladesh.
Political System
Bhutan has a tri-cameral parliament consisting of the King, the National Council and the National Assembly. His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck is the head of the state. He became the youngest reigning monarch in the world when he was crowned as fifth king on Bhutan on November 6, 2008.

The National Council which functions as upper house has 25 members, five appointed by the King and 20 elected from the 20 districts.

The National Assembly or the lower house consists of 47 members elected from the country’s 47 constituencies.

Bhutan is the youngest democracy in the world when it elected both house of representative in March 2008 with Lyonchhen (Prime Minister) Jigmi Y. Thinley as the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Bhutan. Bhutan’s transition to democracy from absolute monarchy (of 100 years) has been a smooth one.

A part of decentralization, in 1981, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth King establishment of  Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdue (district development committee) and 10 years later Gewog Yargay Tshogchhung (block development committees) so that people could take decisions that affect them.

This steady process of decentralization culminated in 1998 with the devolution of executive powers from the throne to the elected Council of Ministers. In November 2001, His Majesty the fourth King commanded the drafting of a written Constitution, which will be adopted by the Parliament.

The country is undergoing major political transition after the adoption of constitution. The constitution of Bhutan was signed on July 18 2008.  The challenges lies ahead will be to build a firm foundation for the well functioning of democratically elected government.

The women representation in the new Bhutanese Parliament is less than 12 percent of the total elected members.

After the monarchy was instituted 1907, Bhutan underwent rapid changes in all spheres including reforms in the political structure. The biggest change came with the institution of the Gyalyong Tshogdu (National Assembly) and Lodoe Tshogde (Royal Advisory Council) in 1953 and 1965 respectively.

The third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck initiated changes that was a move towards creation of a parliamentary democracy and having people’s representative body in the highest decision making body of the government.

The establishment of the Council of ministers in 1998 was another move in the direction towards creating democratic changes and the culmination of the changes that was witnessed in March 24 2008.

Today Bhutan enjoys one of the highest GDP per capita in South Asia. The people are provided with free education and health services and much of the country is covered by road and telecommunications infrastructure.

The people of Bhutan live longer and healthier lives. The social fabric is neatly woven around time-tested values. The age-old culture is still intact. While the rest of the world mourns the loss of its precious ecology, Bhutan has been described as an environmental “hotspot”. Peace and signs of prosperity reign everywhere.

Bhutan is an active member in the international foray, including the UN, its agencies and member countries. Within South Asia, it is a founding member of SAARC. Its role in the evolution of the NAM was second to none.

This tiny country of less than a million people offered the world the philosophy, of GNH, that happiness is not anchored on materialistic well-being alone.