Bhutan makes steady progress in human development since democracy inception

This is according to the fourth National Report launched last Tuesday

As measured by various indexes and indicators, Bhutan has made steady progress in human development since democracy was introduced in 2008; implying that democracy provides an environment for people to flourish.

This is according to the National Human Development Report (NHDR) titled ‘Ten Years of Democracy in Bhutan’ launched on Tuesday.

The report highlights positive development results during the ten years of democracy in the country and goes on to state that Bhutan’s growing democracy has helped advance development, with an independent judiciary, a vigorous parliamentary structure, an accountable and transparent government, and an emerging civil society.

The report, launched by Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering and UNDP Administrator and UN Under-Secretary-General Achim Steiner, states that democracy has made Bhutanese citizens more conscious of their fundamental rights as well as their duties as citizens.

“While the people were entirely dependent on the King for their welfare and wellbeing and even happiness, they are now empowered to be active in governance and human development and the national vision of Gross National Happiness,” states the report.

National Assembly speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said THE report reflects the resonance between the Gross National Happiness (GNH) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as broad visions of human progress and development.

“Just as the SDGs echo the pledge to “leave no one behind”, the GNH requires us to reach every section of our population by strengthening the process of decentralization,” he added.

The UN Under-Secretary-General, Achim Steiner, said a simple, yet powerful idea, that “people are the real wealth of nations” led to the development of the first Human Development Report in 1990.

“Instead of focusing only on income, human development measures people’s choices and opportunities – and their freedom to take advantage of them, it measures whether they live long lives, whether they are healthy, educated, and have sufficient income,” he said.

He added, “This report, by measuring people’s satisfaction with the government and freedom of expression, based on the philosophy of Gross National Happiness, provides a robust picture of human development in Bhutan.”

Meanwhile, the report also stresses on the importance of improving gender balance and points out that there have been crucial gains for the women of Bhutan since 2011. Before democracy, a little more than ten years ago there were no women in parliament. Today there are 11 women parliamentarians.

The report also states that democracy is a path to good governance, which is a pillar of Gross National Happiness, as well as Bhutan’s vision for human development. It looks at the first decade of democracy in Bhutan, and its impact on national governance and, therefore, on human development. The report presents Bhutan’s unique context, where democracy was initiated by Their Majesties the Kings in 2008 after 100 years of monarchy and considers the path ahead.

The report recommended that political parties should continue attempts to balance regional representations in the cabinet as an effective strategy to support national harmony and develop clearer definition of the term “apolitical”.

The Election Commission of Bhutan has also been asked to allow facilities to people to vote from their place of residence, lift ban on voting by lay monks and nuns, revise the national tax policy to enhance local self-sufficiency and develop strategies to monitor party expenditure and the source of funding.

Meanwhile, Bhutan has launched three national reports in the past and this one is the fourth one in series. The first report focused on ‘Gross National Happiness’ and was launched in 2000. The second report was on ‘Youth Employment’ produced in 2005, whereas the third report was on the theme ‘Sustaining Progress: Rising to the Climate Challenge’ and was launched in 2011.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu