society: Five Phases of Change
briefly at investment pattern since 1961,
it is possible to delineate some key features of transformation.
between 1961 and 1973 can be characterised as the first phase, which concentrated on road
construction and internationalisation of relations.
was concentrated on building a single axis motor road across the country.
In spite of the extensive layout of motor roads stretching over 3,300
km, the network is still sparse. During the same period, a broadening
of international relationships between Bhutan and other countries took
old country, whose ancient independence had until then existed without
diplomatic links, and participation in the international community, it
conducted deft manoeuvers which led to international recognition of its
state sovereignty, for example, by being admitted to the UN in 1971.
Diplomatic relations with many nations were to follow, contributing substantially
to the sense of collateral security as well as to the diversification
of sources of development assistance.
the problems of inaccessibility were partly overcome and the delivery of
goods and services made more cost-effective, the establishment of health,
education and agricultural extension services expanded rapidly between
1973 and 1983. This second phase lasting from 1973
to 1983 is marked by drastic expansion
of services. This period also led to the growth of personnel to man facilities,
which further resulted in the escalation of maintenance budget.
need to augment revenue naturally led to the third phase of development
- from 1983 to 1987 - concentrating on revenue-generating investment in hydro-electric and
mineral based projects. During this period, the economy grew at a hyper
growth rate fuelled by the construction of the 336-Megawatt Chukha hydropower
station. This was the biggest lump sum investment till Tala project started. The output of electricity from Chukha started a chain of industrial
enterprises like cement factories. A pattern of growth dependent on construction
of hydro-stations and subsequent energy intensive industries have become
the main characteristic of the economy. Commissioning of a big hydro-power
project shifts the growth curve upward by inducing a structural shift.
fourth phase, roughly stretching from 1988
to 1998, is characterised by expansion
of air-links and digital telecommunications networks in what was
once an isolated, hidden and unapproachable land. The spread of faxes,
telephones, satellite TVs, computers and internet have driven Bhutan
towards globalisation; the distance between Bhutan and the outside world
has collapsed. With the introduction of satellite TVs in 1999 the Bhutanese people could view mass entertainment of songs and thrillers
that functions as sedatives as well as stimulants.
dominant features of the period after 1998 appear to be democratisation and globalisation. Devolution of authorities
to local bodies began in 1981.
This process was enhanced, in 1998,
by devolution of full executive powers to the Council of Ministers who are elected by the National Assembly. A draft constitution was drawn up in 2002 and awaits public debate and adoption. In the same period, Bhutan signed SAPTA and began the WTO accession process. The country has become increasingly
integrated into regional and global economies.
Guiding Principles of Development
first guiding principle ...
is economic self-reliance.
The progress towards this goal is broadly indicated by an increase in domestic
saving over investment, revenue over expenditure, and export over imports.
There has been steady progress with respect to all of these financial indicators.
But there is still a long way to go before total government expenditure
can be financed completely out of domestic revenue, although the generation
of revenue from the export of electricity from new power projects
in the near future may change the outlook significantly.
main reason for the inability to meet budgetary self-efficiency is the baby
boom that occurred from the 1970s to
1990s. It led to increases in government
expenditure on social services, in addition to the cost of steady expansion
of infrastructure. Despite the fall in birth rate, taking a twenty-year
perspective, the population of Bhutan is likely to grow from the current
6,00,000 to 9,00,000 in 2020 when it can probably be stabilised.
second guiding principle
for the potentially adverse impact of increased economic activities and
increased population on the fragility of the mountain ecosystem has led
Bhutan to raise the preservation of environment as second important guiding principle. But in Buddhist political theory,
a state exists not only for the welfare of human beings; it exists
for the welfare of all sentient beings. So it has an intrinsic duty
to preserve environment. Bhutan is normally regarded as an environmental
leader with its rich bio-diversity; and its soil, water and air not yet
contaminated by harmful emissions and pollution.
environmental legacy can be explained by the presence of the following
three favourable factors:
(a) indigenous institutions for managing common property resources like
irrigation water, sacred groves and mountains of local deities, wood lots,
and grazing land;
(b) a strong culture of conservation and Buddhist ethics; and ...
of important legislation enacted mostly
between 1969 and 1981.
elements reflect Bhutan's conservationist ethos and are mainly responsible
for adherence to sustainable resource use, although a greater coherence
between (a) and (c) needs to be forged. Modernisation is compared by some
to a march towards industrial and technological society that generates
serious and often irreversible impacts on the environment. The strategy
of development in Bhutan tries to take the country from being a late starter
in modernisation directly to a sustainable society - which is post-modern
or post-industrial - hopefully with Buddhist welfare characteristics.
third guiding principle ...
is regionally balanced development.
Regional imbalance is theoretically considered as a short-term dis-equilibrium,
which free movements of factors of production can remove in the long run.
If competitive market conditions obtain, growth is diffused. But such free
movement of factors of production is far from reality, and, hence, disparities
do emerge without deliberate policies to correct them. The objective of
balanced development provides for equitable services and infrastructure
throughout the country, in order also to discourage migration and urbanisation.
fourth guiding principle
is decentralisation and community empowerment through stimulation of local institutions of decision-making. Bhutan tries
to maintain local institutions regulating natural resource use, collective
work relationships and conflict resolution. In villages, where social
and economic institutions are deeply rooted, there are unwritten and internalised
rules governing its collective life. These institutions glue the people
together as a community. Such institutions, lying between the state and
the family, are true indicators of the self-organisational capacity of a community. They are self-regulated through competition, cooperation
and control within the community. When elements of cooperation, competition
and control are present in a balanced way in a community, one may consider
a community to be democratic.
an administrative and political plane, a systematic decentralisation
of authority began in 1981 initiated by the present King to devolve decision-making authority to the
district and block (gewog) levels. In 2002 and 2003,
the heads of Block Development Committees were elected by one-person one-vote
fifth guiding principle
far the most ambitious guiding principle is the fifth one about cultural
preservation. Globally, lifestyles may
be imploding or converging rather than diversifying. The Bhutanese are
also becoming oriented to global culture. Signs of homogenisation
and blurred cultural identities are increasingly visible with rise of imports
of both artefacts and ideas. The diffusion of trans-national culture can set in motion forces of silent dissolution of local languages, knowledge,
beliefs, customs, skills, trades and institutions, and even species
of crops and plants.
These changes subdue rather than enhance the cultural
distinctiveness of Bhutan. During a period of cultural absorption,
a society delves into its heritage in search of cultural specificity.
Culture is cultivated and revived as an anchor in a sea of change. The
anchor consists of values and institutions deemed desirable for the solidarity
of a nation, despite its diverse sub-cultures. In order to reconstruct
or reconceptualise selfhood, it becomes necessary to find out what constitutes
us individuals as a people, a community, or a nation, in terms of our respective
identities in a quest to define oneself as a historical continuity.
the emphasis on cultural preservation, there are inherent obstacles in
planning for it. Technocratic planners, who are increasingly in
charge of the course of the nation, usually have a poor grasp of the cultural
setting, as well as a dimly imagined vision of the cultural shape of the
future society. Less is known about local symbols, beliefs, values,
ideology and ethno-histories than about trends about statistics on income,
nutrition, health, trade, stock prices and so forth. The dynamic relationship
between changes in the economic system and the cultural sphere is not easy
either to understand or to predict. Unlike economic goals to be achieved,
it is difficult to envisage a clear image of the future cultural state
of affairs to be attained.
disjunctions between past and future will make striking a balance between
tradition and modernity, and pursuing GNH challenging. Modernity seems
to be characterised by technology, pluralism, urbanization and openness
to the outside world. Clearly, there is a feeling of ambiguity of being
at a cultural crossroad, although successful material development planning
is quite close to delivering all Bhutanese from fundamental material needs.
speaking, it is suggested that all societies are converging towards Western
liberal democracy and free market economy, both held as worldwide models.
Is there a potential to be a society distinct from one based on borderless
free market economy and liberal democracy, blending the spiritual, political
and social heritage of Bhutan with elements of technical innovations and
progress of the West? Can Bhutan's modernisation continue to recreate enlightened
and happy individuals instead of ruthless, egocentric ones. The peculiar
Bhutanese faculty to follow a holistic path of development of both materialism
and spiritualism may perhaps remain alive, if we strive hard enough.
Karma Ura, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper