The quaint nation of Bhutan, nestled in the Eastern Himalayas, has a unique place in the world, known for its focus on Gross National Happiness (GNH) as an alternative measure to GDP. In recent years, the fifth King of Bhutan, His Majesty The King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, has embarked on an ambitious mission to transform the country through educational, governance, and infrastructure projects, while maintaining the nation’s emphasis on happiness and sustainable development.
In December, His Majesty The King addressed the nation at Thimphu’s Changlimithang stadium, acknowledging Bhutan’s victory over the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to address social challenges such as drugs and alcohol addiction. His Majesty’s concern for the well-being of his people extends beyond the pandemic, as he seeks to address a growing migration of young Bhutanese to other countries and increasing youth unemployment rates (20.9%).
To tackle these challenges and bring about a transformation, His Majesty visited India, seeking new global investment and support from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indian CEOs. His vision for Bhutan involves a multi-pronged approach, including a new youth volunteer program called ‘Desuung’ (Guardians of Peace), an innovative educational curriculum called the Bhutan Baccalaureate, governance and bureaucratic reforms, a new Tourism policy, and plans for a connectivity and digital technology hub.
The Desuung program aims to empower Bhutan’s youth with skills, training, and a sense of national responsibility, helping them contribute to the nation’s development. The Bhutan Baccalaureate, on the other hand, is an educational curriculum designed to prepare students for higher education and employment opportunities, aligning with the country’s GNH philosophy.
Governance and bureaucratic reforms are other crucial aspects of the His Majesty’s transformational vision. These reforms aim to streamline decision-making processes, improve public service delivery, and enhance transparency and accountability.
To balance economic growth with environmental sustainability, he introduced a new Tourism policy, imposing a $200-per-day sustainable development fee for foreign tourists, while offering a discounted rate of ₹1,200 for Indians. The policy aims to promote responsible tourism, ensuring that the country’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage remain unharmed.
Finally, His Majesty’s ambitious plan includes developing a connectivity and digital technology hub in the southern town of Gelephu, adjacent to Bhutan’s second international airport. This project aims to improve transportation, communication, and business opportunities, fostering economic growth and opening up new employment possibilities for the Bhutanese people.
The Monarch’s proactive approach to addressing his nation’s challenges demonstrates his dedication to Bhutan’s well-being and progress. His Majesty The King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s transformative vision represents a holistic and sustainable path forward, as Bhutan navigates the complexities of the 21st century while preserving its unique identity and values.
In a world that is increasingly focused on materialism and economic growth at the expense of the environment and social well-being, Bhutan’s Monarch offers a different perspective on development. As the Monarch with a mission, His Majesty The King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is not just leading his country towards a bright future, but also providing a valuable example for the rest of the world, emphasizing the importance of balancing economic progress with environmental sustainability, social harmony, and the happiness of the people.