There are only three things that I always keep in mind when I am working – three things that influence all decisions that I take. The first is the peace, security and prosperity for Bhutan now and in the future. Second issue that I consider very important for our country’s future is the achievement of the goals of Gross National Happiness. The third is building a vibrant democracy for our country.
Peace, security and prosperity for Bhutan
Now when I speak of peace and security – I am not talking of the physical defense of the nation. I am speaking of the peace and security that comes when people are united in their love for their country and united in their efforts to further secure, consolidate and hand over an even stronger nation to their children.
True peace and security of Bhutan will always come from the love and hard work of our people.
If, every single day, every Bhutanese respects our culture and traditions, our environment, if we uphold the law, if we safeguard everything that is important to Bhutan and to our future generations, if we do our jobs to the best of our abilities, then we will always continue to build a strong nation according to our aspirations, unique to our own way of life.
This is the peace, security and prosperity I am talking about.
I know that we all love our country. Now as you are about to shoulder greater responsibilities in life, I want you to love your country in the most intelligent manner. It is one thing to love your country, it is quite another to love it intelligently.
Now this brings us to the next issue –
Achieving the goals of Gross National Happiness
First of all, what is GNH? GNH is the philosophy that acts as our national conscience, helping us as a nation in making better and wiser decisions for our future – it reminds us to uphold the well being and work for the happiness of every single Bhutanese at all times.
Why is GNH important for our country? For a small nation with a small population, it is vital that we have a shared national objective. We simply cannot afford to work in different directions. We must always have a common goal – the goal of achieving GNH for our people.
Now the most important question – how do we continue to achieve GNH in the 21st century? Remember, what GNH is will never change, but how we achieve GNH will. A changing world will present new challenges and opportunities to Bhutan and it is the responsibility of every generation to find new ways of achieving the goals of GNH.
Today’s world demands economic excellence and I have no doubt that during our lifetime we will be working towards building a stronger economy for Bhutan to further consolidate and secure our own future. In doing so, no matter what our immediate goals are, I am confident that the philosophy of GNH will ensure that ultimately our foremost priority will always be the happiness and the well being of our people.
In other words, I believe that GNH today is a bridge between the fundamental values of kindness, equality, and humanity and the necessary pursuit of economic growth.
This brings us to the third issue-
Building a vibrant democracy
Now, whenever we talk about democracy, the things that come to our minds are politics, elections and political parties. This is natural, after all, parties, politicians and elections are very much a part of a democratic system. But democracy is not about politics alone. Democracy is inherently about values and principles.
We have worked very hard and we can proudly say that the system we have built, the unique and profound Constitution that we have drafted, are as strong and sound as possible. We have made a good start.
Now, if we want our democratic system to work, if we want a democracy that will fulfill the aspirations of our people, then we must take the next step, we must adopt the ideals of democracy, the principles of democracy. We must build a democratic culture. This period when democracy takes root is a slow process – it takes time – but this process is crucial for the ultimate success of democracy in our country.
I believe that the deciding factor between the success and failure of a new democratic system has always been the presence or absence of the right conditions. So many young democracies began life under weak and unstable political and economic environments. These countries had little chance for success from the beginning.
For Bhutan, our great strength has been our political stability. Now if we can build a strong economy, we will have the unshakable foundations for a vibrant democracy.
I am confident of the success of democracy in Bhutan, because democratic values will find fertile ground to grow in Bhutanese society, a society with our own immensely profound age-old values.
Therefore, my goals for Bhutan are simple. We will build a vibrant democracy founded on a strong economy. This will be the means through which we will achieve Gross National Happiness and fulfill the aspirations of our people.
Why am I always putting so much emphasis on the economy? The answer is simple. I am a realist, and there is no doubt in my mind that, in this day and age, a nation’s success is determined by the strength and competitiveness of her economy. This may change in the future but today, if we are to succeed in this globalized world, we need a strong economy. It is as simple as that.
Yet it is not the need for a strong economy that I am focused on. I am focused on, and excited by, the challenges of creating a strong economy, because in order to do that we will have to work harder than ever before, we will have to further consolidate and build upon our existing strengths. We will have to build:
- A strong education system
- An effective and strong bureaucracy
- A strong private sector
- Uncompromised respect for law
- Strong infrastructure
- Good leadership at all levels
- The spirit of innovation, creativity and enterprise
- A culture of hardwork, dynamism and excellence in whatever we do
If we can do all this, then a strong economy will be just one of many great rewards for Bhutan. Leadership, excellence, dynamism and enterprise, and a strong education system, infrastructure or bureaucracy – these are all National Wealth that will serve Bhutan forever, irrespective of the challenges that lie ahead of us.
Therefore, creating a strong economy is not the only goal – it is a necessary step on the path to success – success that will bring our country everlasting national wealth.
People will also ask why am I always emphasizing success and excellence? Success and excellence are desirable goals for any individual or country – but for a small country like ours with a population of 600,000 people living in this fast changing world, success and excellence in every single Bhutanese is our only hope for survival. When I speak of success and excellence, I am actually speaking about our country’s survival in this modern world.
I truly believe that Bhutan must build a society that is completely based on merit. Bhutan must not tolerate mediocrity. We must be achievers, we must excel. It is no longer enough to say, “I am the best in Bhutan,” I expect you to be the best wherever you go in this world.
Lastly, we must all remember that the nation is most important and must be held high above us all as individuals. Bhutan may have 20 dzongkhags, 205 gewogs, 10 ministries and, from 2008 onwards, 47 constituencies and so on. But for me, I firmly believe that we must not forget that first and most importantly, we are all the same – we are citizens of one small nation. We must be united – all of us, we should be thinking about how to serve the same country, fulfill our aspirations and achieve the same goals for our future generations. We must always be one nation with one vision in our convictions and efforts.
This article appeared in Kuensel on the 24th of October, 2007