High Bhutanes youth unemployed rate
Bhutan knows a relatively low unemployment rate, which dropped last year from 3.3% to 3.1%. That means 10.500 people presently are without a job. Remarkable statistics show that amongst the unemployed Bhutanese, there’s many young people. Almost one out of every 10 Bhutanese unemployed, are youngsters. This was shown by the Labour Force Survey this year issued form the Ministry of Labour. Amongst the unemployed youth, the youngsters in the age from 15 to 29 years take the biggest part into account: 10.3%. Youth from 15 to 19 years follow with 6,9 percent, while the unemployment rate for youth between 25 and 29 years is 5,4%. Although the youth without a job in cities decreased, the number incread amongst those living in rural areas. Over 40% of those looking for work, dropped out of school. Read more
Marrying (too) young
Like other countries in Asia, many children in Bhutan tend to marry at a young age. About 6% of the Bhutanese women marry before they turn 15 years old. As everywhere else, the percentage is highter in the rural areas (7,5%) than in the cities (5,1%). This was shown by the Bhutan Multiple Indicator Survey, held last year. Marrying too young often brings along several problems for the young girls. One of the problems is that marrying at a young age means getting children early as well. Often the young parents aren’t well prepared mentally. Because they don’t know how to take care of their babies, this can lead to stress. And talking about getting pregnant: too often the woman don’t even know they’re pregnant, thereby not taking the necessary care and precautions. The survey also showed a direct link between early marriages and poor wealth. Those marrying before the age of 15 consist of 10,4% of the poor, 6,7% are from the middle class while ‘only’ 3.5 percent of the girls from the richer families wed at a young age. There’s also a direct link with education: 8.9% of the young brides have no education and 8% have primary education, while 1,2% has secondary education or more. Read more
Does Bhutan need a Right to Information Act?
In the early days societies already knew that information = knowlegde = power. Bhutan is a young democracy, wrestling with the issue of public information. Although the Bhutanese have acces to more and more information, grace to the internet and social media, some say too much information is still held for the people and organisations. This should be stopped by a constitutional provision, like the creation of an Right to Information (RTI) Act. This act should give each and every citizen the legitimate right to information. Nowadays there’s a debate going on about the desirability and benefits of this act. While some believe nów is the time for this act, since a true democracy can only work when information is open for the public, others question why this act is necessary. During a recent press conference, Prime minister Jigmi Y Thinley agreed that information is necessary, but that he didn’t know if the time was right. In addition he said the government didn’t withold any relevant information from the public: the present government is transparant and if people request for information, it’s been given to them. Read more
Water: the new gold for Thimpu residents
Nowadays enough drinking water is becoming a challenge for those Bhutanese living in the capital of Thimpu. There’s a growing shortage and the city council is unable to solve this problem until official law is made. As a result, Thimpu’s inhabitans find inventive ways so they can provide for their own need of good drinking water. They search for alternative water sources, build water tanks and make pipelines which run for a mere 3400 meters across the slopes of the nereby hills. About 1 of every 10 citizens of Thimphu arranges his own drinking water nowadays. However, this leads to problems, since people start claiming water as their own. They officialy don’t have private ownership, but have managed anyway to exclusively use it. Like marking their private water pools or streams by filtered tanks which are built privately and putting wooden fences, barbed wire or cement around their ‘territory’. Those who started early to use these sources get into arguments with the newcomers about who has the right to use the water. Until recently no official law restriced the people from using water in this alternative way. This will change with the making of the draft water act which presently waits for Royal assend. Read more
High rise in urban living expected
July 11th was international World Population Day. In Bhutan a funciton was organised in Thimpu to observe this special day. Acoording to docter Gepke Hingst, a UN representative, Bhutan could face problems in the near future because of internal migrations in the country and urbanisation. Presently a national population policy is made in Bhutan to adress concerns and issues which are associated with an expectant high growth of its pupulation by in 20 years. About 30% of the Bhutanese nowadays live in urbanisations, but Hingst expects that this might change drastically. It’s very important these urban centers are designed properly so everyone not only has acces to different public services, but als can find some peace of mind inside. In addition, woman and the youth should be included in the process to find solutions for a stronger urbanisation. Challenges lie in the field of enough food and water, as well has health issues. Read more
Bhutan’s plans for safer roads
Travelling throughout Bhutan leaves you many times with breathtaking beautiful views on this mysterious country. Narrow windy roads over steep mountains, overlooking lush valleys and dormit villages. Yet travelling on Bhutan’s roads can be safer. According to the Traffic Division of the Royal Bhutan Police the past 5 years 319 people were killed and 2.648 injured in road accidents. This means a yearly death toll of 66 people. Last year for every 10.000 registered cars, busses and trucks a fatility rate of 15 deaths was the sad statistic outcome. Compared to international standards, this rate is rather high. Therefore Bhutan has made a 10-year plan to make driving in Bhutan safer. The governement recently launched the ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety’, with outlining plans and programs to improve road safety between 2011 and 2020. Goal of the plan is reducing the deaths caused by road accidents by two thirds and road accidents bij 50% bij 2020. Since most of the accidents are caused by human errors, the focus lies on education, traffic rules enforcement, post-accident response and the engineering and design of roads. Read more
Climate change in Bhutan
At first view you wouldn’t say that the worldwide concerns for rapid climat change have also affected this pristine Dragon Country. Yet sadly the statistics show differently. As a preparation fot the climate summit that will be held in Bhutan in October, a survey was conducted with climat change and biodiversity as its main theme. The survey revealed that all over the country people have observed the impact of the climat change. Most in the picture were changing weather patterns like a rising temperature, change in frost occurence, more erratic and less reliable rainfall and a great decrease in snowfall of 24.6% in the Eastern Himalayas. In the high Mountains the number of alpine plants decreased, where the Juniper scrub forest increased. There was also an increase in the population of bears, barking deers, rabbits, macaqus and wild boars, whereas the population of tigers, elephants, wild dogs, common crows, ring doves, hornbills and vultures declined. Read more
Extra effort to improve economic position of Bhutanse women
Recent studies have shown that woman all over Bhutan still lag behind in business. To enhance their economic position and business opportunities, Bhutan receives a $ 1.95 million assistence from regional and internationlal funding agencies like the Asian Development Bank and the Japanese governement. This money will be used to mainstream and monitor the capacity of government agencies for women’s economic empowerment, like the National Commission for Woman and Children. Bhutan’s Ministry of Labour & Human Resources will provide skills training and trade apprentice ships for women who want to become business entrepreneurs. In addition, the Ministry will support building ties with NGO’s who focus on providing economic opportunities for micro enterpreses run by woman. In a 12-month apprenticeship 600 young Bhutanese, amongst them 80% women, will be given tools and stimulation to start micro Enterprises and other livelihood activities. Another $ 548,000 will be added to the project which lasts for 3 years, by Bhutan’s Royal government. Read more
Tiger experts recommend tiger-friendly policies
To protect the tiger conservation landscape, several recommandations were made during a workshop held last week in Thimphu. Practitioners from the tiger range countries of Bhutan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, Nepal and Indonesia, a team from the World Bank and Global Tiger Initiatives attended this ‘Smart Green Infrastructure (SGI) in Tiger Conservation Landscapes’. Main outcome was the conservation of tiger landscapes is not only a responsability of the forest and wildlife department, but a shared responsability of public agencies, civil society and the private sector. All sectors have to contribute to the resources which are necessary to protect this important animal.
One of the recommandations was developing an overall hydropower development strategy which takes into account the sensitive environment areas, including tiger breeding zones. Other recommandations were the development of tiger conservation landscapes, encircling habitats, corridors, buffer zones, wider production landscapes and the use and enhancing of existing in-park road guideles in order to protect the core habitat of the tigers. Tigers are considred an iconic indicator of biodiversity, wildlife and ecosystems. The World wide rapid decrease of tiger population points out the necessity for protection. Read more
Bhutan’s Royal wedding
After the remarkable wedding of prins William of the United Kingdom with Kate Middleton last month and the wedding of prins Albert of Monaco which will be held in the beginning of July, Bhutan also will celebrate a Royal wedding. King Jigme Wangchuck has announced he will get married in October. His bride-to-be is Jetsun Prema, a commoner with distant royal connections. Bhutan’s beloved 31-year old king stated that “As a King, now is the time for me to marry” during the opening of the 7th parliament session. “To me, she is the one” he stated with a smile. The announcement was made in the presence of royal family members, government officials, representatives of international organisations, students and the public. Miss Prema is 21 and studied in India, Bhutan and England. In recent months she already accompanied the king on Royal tours throughout Bhutan. In agreement with the King’s wishes, the wedding will be a simple ceremony in keeping with Bhutan’s age old traditions. Read more
Who’s got Bhutan’s X-factor?
Finding singing talents via well watched tv-shows is not just exclusive for Western countries: Bhutan just as well has its own versions of the X-factor and ‘The voice of….’. Based on last year’s massive succes, very soon the second edition of the singing show competition ‘Druk Superstar’ will go live. Yet the show doesn’t aim at unknown talents from all corners of the country; it’s the well-known singers that already have established a career, who will participate in ‘Druk Superstar’. According to one of the organisers, the show will be uniqe and quiete unlike other talent shows. A mere 22 contestants will perform, singing zhungdra, boedra and rigsar songs. Every Saturday and Sunday Druk Superstar will be nationally live broadcasted. Read more
Bhutan welcomes increasing number of tourists
Even though Bhutan isn’t a country confronted yet with mass tourism, more and more people discover the secret of her authentic beauty and pristine nature. Last year a record of 40.873 tourists arrived in the kingdom by plane: far more than the estimated 35.000 tourists. The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TBC) announced that besides the 12.410 regional tourists visiting Bhutan in 2010, the kingdom welcomed 28.463 international tourists for leisure or business. Over 90 percent of them came for holidays to the country of the thundering dragon. Besides these so called ‘high-end tourists’ an unknown number of regional leisure tourists visited Bhutan by road. The major increase of tourists proves the succes of tourism initiatives like marketing, promotion and higher levels of service.
The growing tourism numbers are beneficial to Bhutan’s national economy: 2600 more jobs were generated in the tourism sector to over 17.800. In addition to these directly tourism-related employments, the blossoming tourism industry has lead to an approximate 11.000 indirect jobs in restaurants, business and taxi drivers. A further increase of tourist numbers are expected by simplifying tourist processes through online visa processing and ticket booking, the waivering of special permits for heritage sites and offering credit card facilities. Read more
Aviation security roadmap for the region
Several countries in the region have decided to takes measures to increase secure air travel. In order to do so, a security roadmap will be developed. This was decided during the Regional Aviation Security Conference, attended by top security experts from several countries and global aviation bodies. Not only will they take measures to maximise air travel security, they will also enhance cooperation and exchange information on emerging threats. This was announced in a joint statement with detailed measures to effectively implement globally implemented security standards. In the joint statement is in detail described what actions the countries will take the coming years, like strengthening security screening procedures, developing enhanced security measures, promoting the security of travel documents and an increased co-operation between countries. Read more
Bhutan aims at its youth for economic growth
In order to make Bhutan an economically strong and selfdependent country, its government aims at Bhutan’s unemployed youth. The focus is to stimulate them to start a career in entrepreneurship, by providing concessional loans. In order to do so, the Ministry of labour has signed an agreement with Bhutan’s six financial institutions. The scheme which provides both self-employment as well as general employment in the long run, is part of a larger nationwide economic development policy. Bhutan’s youth who have completed the basic entrepreneurship course as well as the comprehensive entrepreneurship course can receive a loan up to Nu 1 million to start their own (small) business. Read more
Bhutan’s shelter for needy children
If you travel through India, it’s a common sight to see a children’s home. Yet in Bhutan until recently there was no place for uncared for children. This changed with the opening of ‘Raynaling’ last October. The place offers not only temorary shelter for orphans, but also for runaways, neglected and abused children. Raynaling wants to create a safe space where these children up till the age of 18 get support and protection. The children get shelter, food, professional counseling (group therapy and family counseling) and medical care for a maximum of 30 days. Once the children are in better shape, they are supported to re-enter schoo or find a job. If needed, Raynaling searches for foster parents and will support national and international adpotion of these children, but only as a last resort. The shelter is one of the concrete actions coming forth from the childcare and protection act, and is being sponsored by ‘Save the Children’, an international child rights organization. Read more
Bhutan suffers forest fires
Like many other places in the world, Bhutan as well suffers from severe forest fires. The past 3 years alone, over a 31.132 acres of forest was destroyed by fire. Yet compared to earlier times, the incident of forest fires and the damage caused by it, has gone down. One of the reasons for the fires is a longer dry season and a short circuit of Electricity transmission Lines, but a lot of the fires are simply caused by people. This varies from kids playing with matches to burning debris, but also road workers, cow herders and lemon grass harvesters. The Forest Fire Management Section has started a campain to raise the awareness among the people of Bhutan. In addition the country is considering more heavy punishments of those caught causing a fire.
Bhutan’s Forest and Nature Conservation Act only allows controlled campfires. The setting of fire is prohibited in all other cases. When someone violates the act, this can lead up to a fine and/or a maximum of 5 years of prison. The country soon will put in place more strict rules governing forest fires. read more
On the modern road to medical help
After a succesful trial, Bhutan’s Ministry of Health this month nationwide launched the health help centre (HCC). The HCC is part of a program to accelerate the country’s socio-economic development. It’s aim is providing access to health services within one hour, 24 hours a day, no matter where in Bhutan the medical assistance is needed. HCC consists of an Emergency response, and the toll free number 112 - a healthcare helpline people can call in order to request an ambulance. There are 61 ambulances – all equipped with GPS or GIS, in 37 locations. In addition there are 59 emergency medical technicians rendering services around the clock. People can also call the number for medical advise, information about healthcare and counseling. The number is also open for lodging complaints or reporting epidemic outbreaks. Base of the HHC was offering equity and justice in the health care services to all Bhutanese. Read more
Hopes for Bhutan captured in special book
If you want to read more about the hopes of a young Bhutan fellow, then the book ‘Beautiful dreams, the joy of life‘ is a must read. In this book, Monu Tamang gives his view on life in this ancient country. This aspiring young writer, just recently graduated, wrote a mix of several short stories and essays on the wide range of life, varying from personal intimate stories to patriotic national stories. Several reflective themes about current social issues, but also about love and romance are woven throughout the book which Tamang wrote in simple language. Message of the book: “Life without dreams is a flower without fragrance. If you dream beautifully, then every day you’ll receive the trophy of success”. Both old and young readers will be attracted to the book. Read more
United Nation program aims at poor countries
In order to stimulate the potential economic growth in Least Developd Countries (LDC), May 13th a United Nations conference was held in Bhutan. Several strategies were designed, one of the mayor ones focussing on foreign direct investments and a smaller role for the national government. At the conference five steps were pinpointed to stimulat economic growth in these countries, like engaging more women in work, strenthening of agriculture, improving governance, a diversification of the economie, a target on official development assistance and a clear focus. UN’s secretary general Ban Ki-Moon clearly stated these countries – there are 48 countries world wide considered an LDC - shouldn’t be seen as weak and poor, but as potentive countries with large reservoirs of great potential. Investing in these countries would not only be an opportunity for the LDC’s, but also for the investers themselves. Presently new debates are organised to come up with a new 10n-year program for these poor yet potential nations. Read more
Movie on afterlife big winner Bhutanese film awards
On May 6th the 10th National Film Awards were broadcasted live nationwide. Big winner was the Movie ‘Bardo’ with 14 awards. The movie which is based on the intermediate state after death, won the awards for the best film, best supporting actor female, best visual editor, best story, best director, best special effects, best lyrics, best cameraman, best actor in a negative role, best art direction best make-up artist, best background score, best choreography and best sound.Thirty-one films competed for the awards in 30 categories. Read more
Exibition on sacred Bhutanese arts
If you’re travelling to Bhutan, make sure you don’t miss the special exhibition ‘The Sacred Arts of Bhutan’ in Thimpu. With the display of 111 sacred religious antiquities from all over Bhutan, you’ll get a good impression of Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage. Among the artifacts are exquisite bronze images and precious handmade thonkas. The costly pieces not only come from the central monastic body, but also from local communities and private collections. It’s a rare opportunity for both Bhutanese and tourists to see some of the most holy and deeply beloved antique Buddhist art pieces from the country of the Thundering dragon exhibited in one place. You can visit the exhibition ‘Dragon’s gift’ at the Royal Academy of Performing Arts in Thimpu. Already over 3 million people saw the exhibition in six countries. Read more
Shortage on tourist accommodations
This year Bhutan expects around 40.000 tourists to visit the country. And the question is if there are enough qualified hotels and resorts to accommodate them. Presently there are 35 standard hotels with three stars or more. This is the basic standard for (Western) tourists. The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) has registered 119 accommodations, but 65 hotels of them don’t meet the requirements for 3 stars or up. While 20 hotels have only one star, this means only 34 hotels meet the standards of the TCB to properly accommodate tourists. Especially in the east and south there is a shortage of qualified accommodations. At the moment, the TCB is in the process of upgrading the registered hotels. Several hotels are under construction and it is expected that by the end of 2012 22 substandard hotels should meet the 3-star requirements. Another solution that’s investigated, is the investment of local and international investors in establishing top star hotels and resorts all over Bhutan. The arrival of more qualified hotels is necessary, since Bhutan’s government aims at a tourist number of 100.000 visitors by the eind of 2012. Read more
Modernisation of Bhutanese internet
Druknet, Bhutan’s internet service provider which also offers web hosting services and domain registration, has plans for soon going wireless. The company, which is part of Bhutan Telecom Ltd aims at wireless internet access for all its broadband users, without extra charges. Since the end of last year Druknet has a service trial, where WiFi internet access is provided in Bhutan’s capitol Thimpu. Currently the acces is still limited to a radius of 1 kilometer of the Telecom office and a range of 500 meters from indoors. This is only the starting point: Druknet wants to soon cover major locations in Thimpu, Phuentsholding and Paro. The developments show the transition Bhutan is in, moving from the old to a new, more modern society where laptops and wireless internet are as natural as in the West.
Currently about 8000 Bhutanese from 40 different locations use the broadband services of Druknet. A 1000 of them can use the wireless internet. This number will be drastically increased the next years. And there’s more. In order to also give people without broadband connection a good internet access, Druknet wants to sell prepaid vouchers. These vouchers should give access to WiFi. This not only comes in handy for locals without broadband, but also for the foreign tourists that want to surf the internet while in Bhutan. Read more
Hydropower at centre of Bhutan’s economic policy
Since his crowning in 2006, king Jigme Kesar Wangchuck aims at modernising the country without losing the unique concept of Gross National Happiness. Not only is he eastablising a constitutional democracy with members of parliament elected by the people; he also invests in Bhutan’s fragile economy. Keywords are a sustainable development and a selfproviding economy. Magical word in this is ‘hydropower’. The national government aims at developing hydropower as a sustainable source of income in order to meet the demands of the 700.000 Bhutanese. The national target is providing electricity for all Bhutanes by 2020. Since the end of the 1990 the country uses hydropower not only for internal use, but also exports hydropower to India. The export revenues from this export already make up almost 50% of Bhutan’s Gross national income.
With its roots grounded in Buddhism, Bhutan has a deep reverence for nature: about 80% of the country consists of vegetation with flowing rivers. And it’s exactly those rivers that provide the energy necessary for generating hydropower. Yet in order to prevent the country of falling into traps of short-term goals, with a depleted and polluted environment, it’s national policy is firstly ensuring that the natural environment and water resources are protected and nurtured. What’s left can be used for hydropower as the backbone of the country’s national ecoomy. Read more
Bhutan’s prime minister visits Nepal and Afghanistan
April 22nd, Bhutan’s prime minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y Thinley visited Nepal and Afghanistan. The journey completed his tour to all SAARC-member countries, which he presently seats as chairman. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation was founded in 1985 and currently 11 countries are part of SAARC. It’s aim is economics, cultural, techonological and social cooperation and development, with the emphasis on collective selfreliance for all of its member countries. During the 6-day journey Lyonchen spoke with ministers and senior government officials. The delegations spoke thoroughly about quick and effective rapid response in cases of disaster, like setting up a rapid disaster response centre in case of emergencies. Other important topics were renewing trade and air services agreements between Bhutan and Nepal and the delicate situation of the Bhutanese living in refugee camps in Nepal. In Afghanistan, where he met president Karzai, the intention was deepening the bilateral relationship between the two countries. During his visit, he also met Terence D Jones, UN’s former resident representative in Bhutan. They not only discussed the challenges that Bhutan faces in its' transition towards a fully democratic country, but also in which way the country’s private sector could be strengthened. Read more
Bhutan prepares for Asian Games
Prior to the international Olympic Games, in many regions lokal games are organised. Like in Bhutan, where April 23rd a Fun Run was organised by the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC). Over 1500 people participated in the Fun Run, that went along a route of 5 kilometers, being flagged of by the ambassador of Kuwait and the representatives form the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA). Program coördinator Dorji Tenzin said it was an exiting opportunity participating in the build up towards the Incheon Asian Games: “The Fun Run is a run for happiness and a healthier and better life. I’m happy so many people participated”, Tenzin said. Part of the festivities was a mass physical education drill given by students of Lungtenzampa university, free style-dance, bicycle tricks, a junior boxer’s demonstration and taekwondo. There was also a 60-meter sprint for students of Draktsho university. The public could not only watch the exiting run and games, but also participate in basketball, olympic archery, table tennis, shooting, boxing and footbal, organised by Bhutan Indigenous Sports Association (BIGSA). In 2014 the 17th Asian Games will be held in South Korea. Thimpu is selected by the Olympic Council of Asia as one of the capitols hosting the event to promote the Asian Games. Read more
Bhutan: bright outlook for the future
In order to further improve the lives of its people and to become a middle-income country, Bhutan’s governement has developed a strategy with 5-year national development plans. The strategy of these Millennium Development Goals is to focus on a range of initiatives that will be taken the next years in order to develop economic growth. Like a further development of its private sector, increasing employment, reconstructions after recent natural disasters and making basic services like health care available for every Bhutanse citizen, even in remote areas. In addition, 129 kilometers of new roads will be constructed and by 2014, 92% of Bhutan’s children must be enrolled in primary schools. The country will get help from partners of the International Development Association to achieve these happiness and millenium development goals, put down in the Country Partnership Strategy 2011-2014. Bhutan not only aims at economic growth, but also at an increase of happiness amongst it’s people, put down in the unique concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’. And the steps that will be taken the next year, are rather ambitious. Like dropping the poverty rate from 23,2 % in 2007 to 15 % by 2012-2013. Read more
Bhutan prepares for the 10th national film award
Forget the Hollywoord Oscars. Forget India's Bollywood. Because it's also happening in Bhutan, where the film industry has grown impressivly over the past few years. And the Bhutanese have their own party in which the most popular films, actors and actresses will be rewarded and honoured. May 2nd the 10th film awards will be held in the capitol city of Thimphu. The awards coïncide with the birth anniversary of Bhutans's king. 31 Movies will compete for the desired awards, organised by the Royal Office for Media. Besides best actor and actress, prices will also be rewarded for best culture-based movie, best movie on youth and education and the movie with the best use of the national Dzongkha language. The event will be broadcast live on BBS TV. Read more
Modern Bhutan, old age homes desired?
Times are changing, even in a country that still breathes ancient times. This is also reflected in it’s culture. Where untill recently it was very normal that families would take care of their elder parents, presently it’s a question if old age homes should be founded throughout Bhutan or not. The last year an increasing number of elders, especially in Bhutan’s large towns, are not being taken care of by their children or grandchildren. As a result you see more and more (elder) homeless people in the big towns like Thimphu, begging for money and sitting besides the road. A sharp contrast with Bhutan’s focus on ‘Gross National Happiness’. More and more people are disturbed as well by the sight of this sad ‘trend’ and recently Bhutan’s first old age home was built in Trashigang Dzongkhag. Rather ironically, since the traditional family values and a sense of community are especially very strong in this village. The question is if old age homes are the best answer and solution to the growing number of elderly living on the streets. Ánd if they fit the moral standards of this peacefull country. Read more
Conference on social media
Travelling throughout Bhutan, it’s more and more common to see traditionally dressed people with a mobile phone stuck to their ears. The world wide web and the latest new media like Youtube, Hyves, Facebook, twitter and blogs are slowly finding their way in Bhutan’s society as well. It looks like there’s an explosion of new media, especially in the larger cities and amongst the youth who always pick up new trends the quickest, and the business men. Trendwatchers in the country suspect that as time goes by, these new media will have an impact on almost all Bhutanese in every corner of the country.
To discuss the possible impact of the new media on Bhutan’s society, which challenges users and consumers, a two-day conference was held on sociale media and democracy. The conference was organised by the Bhutan Centre for Media and democracy (BCMD). It’s a very interesting development since the sociale media fit perfectly in the evolving democracy that Bhutan is. The cyber space communities not only encourage the public discussion and debates. They will also form the public’s view on national issues and the functioning of the government. Read more
Bhutanese flag on Adidas shoes cause national uproar
The Bhutanese are shocked by the use of the national flag –a very holy symbol– on the latest type of Adidas Shoes found in Bangkok. The people feel insulted by the company’s abuse of the Druk Gyalkhap as a marketing gimmick. The issue has been taken up by Bhutan’s foreign ministry and the Bhutanese Embassy in Thailand. As a result, the shoes will be withdrawn from the market. Read more
Can Bhutan maintain free health care?
As healthcare costs increase and more people demand quality services, Bhutan’s Minister of Health faces great challenges to sustain free health care. The health Ministry needs Nu 164 million for various unplanned activities and has asked for an additional Nu 26 million for non-communicable disease. The rates of drugs and alcohol abuse are vastly increasing and due to an unhealthy lifestyle more and more people suffer from diabetes and hypertension. In addition, the Bhutanese have more mental health problems because of rapid socio-cultural transformation. And then there’s a shortage of doctors, nurses and allied health workers… Read more
Bhutan food: world food!
Are you a lover of tshoem, ema-datsi, eue chum and other Bhutanese delicacies? Then you don’t want to miss the cookbook ‘Foods of the Kingdom of Bhutan’. Author of the 100-page book with 24 tasteful recipies are Ernest and Erik Nagamatsu. Their book competes with 46 other titles for the best cookbook of the year Award. Which book wins, will be announced during the Paris Cookbook Fair, which will be held March 3rd 2011 on the first day of Paris Cookbook Fair. Read more
Bhutan attends international climat conference
Bhutan was one of the countries attending an international conference on Climate Change in December. Although the expectations were low, the outcome could be good news for Bhutan. The attending countries reached an agreement to reduce climate change and poor countries like Bhutan can expect substantial funds to reduce the global warming effects. Because Bhutan is land-locked and knows a fragile mountainous ecosystem, the country is rather vulnerable to climat change. Read more
Smoking in Bhutan: import your tobacco
If you visit Bhutan and you’re a tobacco lover, know you have to import your cigarettes or sigars. Importing tobacco is only allowed for personal consumption: 200 cigarettes, 30 sigars or 150 grams of tobacco per month. On entering Bhutan, you have to pay 100% sales tax and 100% customs duty. This is the result of the strict Tobacco Control Act the governement implements as of January 1st 2011. Read more
Pemagatshel gets new dzong
One of the most remarkable buildings you find when travelling through Bhutan, are the many dzongs (monasteries). In a country that breathes Bhuddism, this is no surprise. The dzongs were introduced in the 12th century to Bhutan, all having their own unique designs. Several of the ancient monasteries are in bad shape, among them the Pemagatshel dzong. Many inhabitants of the village therefore were very happy when the the salang ceremony of the much-awaited new Pemagatshel dzong began. This ground breaking ceremony is the start of not only a new dzong; it will be a model town in Bhuten and will have a positive effect on the prosperity of many in and around the dzongkhag. The government is responsible for the construction of the dzong, which will offer employment and busniness opportunities for many. The new dzong will cost Nu 250 million, funded by the Bhutan government and Inda’s national government. Read more
Government aims at unemployment rate of 2,5%
Bhutan should be able to lower the current unemployment rate of 3,3% to 2,5% by the end of 2012. The country’s prime minister Jigmi Y Thinley stated this, based on the progress currently made in employment of the Bhutanese. A lower unemplyment rate has a positive effect on Bhutan’s economy, and is part of Bhutan’s socio economic development (ABSD). In order to get more people employed, the Ministry of labour and human resources signed an agreement with Bhutan’s leading Construction company. They are already training workers for hydropower projects; one of the country’s strongest tools for an independent, healthy national economy. And more technical graduates who mostly dropped out of highschool before graduation, will be trained for hydropower Construction, the electrical section, mechanical operation, masonry, plumbing and carpentry. Similar agreements are under proces with Hindustan Construction Company and Gammon India. Read more
Bhudist monk convicted for smuggling tobacco
Bhutan wants to become the first fully smokingfree country in the world. And in order to do so, the Himalayan kingdom knows a very strict anti-smoking policy. A 23-year old Buddhist monk was the first to be convicted under this new and very strict Tobacco Control Act. The court sentenced him to three years of prison for carrying 48 packets of chewig tobacco with him. He was arrested crossing the border without being able to show a receit for paying importduties and taxes. The unfortunate monk carried 480 grams of tobacco with him, while people are only allowed to bring in 150 grams of tobacco per month. He stated he bought the tobacco for self-consumption and wasn’t aware of the new legislation. Read more
The right of education
Every research done show that education is one of the main requirements for a bright future and the self development of people. Yet the Bhutan Miltuiple Indicator Survey –covering 15.000 households – showed that one in four children does’nt attend school. To promote the right and importance of education, the government has decided that all Bhutanese households who are temporary residents for a period longer than six months, have to admit their school-going aged children to the nearest school. If poverty is a reason not sending children to school, then the government can provide school uniforms and other necessities. Read more
High school graduates granted audience with Bhutan’s king
Can you imagine graduating from high school and being inveted for a meeting with your king, Queen or president of your country? Yet this is exactly what 161 hight school graduates from all over Bhutan experienced. They were selected for professional course scholarships and had an informal interaction with Bhutan’s king Khesar Namgyal Wangchu at the Lingkana palace grounds. During the audience that lasted for several hours, the monarch congratulated the students ald told them them don’t have to know all the anwers to all questions. ”The most important is your willingness to learn.” He stressed to always be themselves. “It’s about who you are that really matters”. Soon the students will leave Bhutan to start their education at several universities in the United States, Australia, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Read more
Relationship between man and woman in Bhutan not equal
A recent study by the National Statistics Bureau has shocked Bhutan. The study shows that a mere 70 percent of Bhutanese women believe that their husbands have the right to beat them when they argue with their partner, burn dinner, neglect the children or refuse sex. The acceptance of wife beating varies from 50% in capitol Thimphu to 90% in Paro. Karma Tshiteem, the government commissioner charged with national commission for Gross National Happiness, was deeply aghast with the results. “The findings are quiete shocking and in in sharp contrast with the Buddhist teachings. Ahimsa (non-violence) is a central creed in Buddhism and most of Bhutan’s 700.000 inhabitens practice this religion. Read more
When you think about Bhutan with its many green and steep hills, cycling through the country is not the first thing that comes to mind. Because of the landscape cars are the number one transport. Even more so, a car is the dream of every Bhutanese, symbolising their status on the social ladder. The Bhutanese even sell their inheritance or pay off monthly expensive loans just to be able to have a car. Yet the Bhutanese government has plans for transforming Thimpu into a city for cyclist lovers.
But before bicycles are just as common to the Thimpu streetview as they are in China or Amsterdam, many steps have to be taken. First of all, Thimpu was build for cars and driving through town on two wheels is not the most safe and pleasant experience. Presently the local government implements a structure plan for the city. If they’re really dedicated, instead of appointing space for infrastructure and buildings, they could set aside space for developing bicycle lanes, thereby making the capital bicycle friendly.
And there’s more. A good bicycle nowadays still is too expensive for most Bhutanese. The national government taxes cycles and for good cycles it even charges duties. To encourage people to ride bicycles, the government could consider tax exemptions and subsidies for the purchase of bicycles and for bicycle-related business. That is, if they really want to nurture the bicycle culture and make Thimpu a cyclist’s heaven.
But the best way of changing the awareness and promoting a healthy lifestyle is by setting the right example. And for that you need good and popular role models with high esteem. Like government officials who take the bike instead of being driven around by a car-with-chauffeur. Like musicians, actors and sportsmen showing how much fun and healthy it is to use a bike. And like western tourists discovering the city, being seated on a biking saddle.
All in all the intention of the goverment might be a good one, but driving pleasantly through town on two wheels is still a vision for the future. It will probably take years to change the Bhutanese perception of a car as a sign of wealth to a bicycle as a sign of smartness and health. It will take clever government plans, a promotion of the bicycle industry, cheaper bikes ánd good role models. So if you plan a visit to Bhutan, consider discovering Thimpu by bike. You could show the Bhutanese that cycling has nothing to do with being poor, but instead is a smart way of choosing for a healthy life style. Wouldn’t it be great seeing many take the healthy travel through town in a few years?