As 2023 fades into the recesses of our memories, we find ourselves reflecting upon the indelible milestones that now grace the pages of the book nestled within the library of our thoughts. What narrative has the past twelve months woven for us?
Much like many nations, Bhutan grappled with economic challenges, witnessing the departure of thousands of Bhutanese in search of better prospects abroad. The dwindling reserves, imposition of moratoriums, a modest yet significant uptick in tourist numbers, and a dip in revenue from the prized hydropower sector underscored the multifaceted nature of the year.
On the political stage, the election of members to the Fourth National Council unfolded, accompanied by the enactment of pivotal bills, including the National Digital Identity Bill 2023 and the Gyalsung Bill 2023, among others. The nation celebrated the birth of Her Royal Highness, Gyalsem Ashi Sonam Yangdon Wangchuck, marking another momentous event. Yet, what defined the essence of 2023?
Arguably, the year’s focal point rested predominantly on economic advancement and the embrace of technology. Bhutan made a resounding statement by hosting Fab23 at the Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck Super FabLab (SFL) at the Tech Park, Thimphu, showcasing its technological prowess. The revelation of ongoing digital asset mining echoed the nation’s determination not to lag behind in the global economic and technological race.
Shortly after Bhutan graduated from the list of Least Developed Countries (LDC), His Majesty the King, during the solemn 116th National Day celebrations on December 17th, unveiled a transformative vision—the Gelephu Mindfulness City. Emerging from the depths of His Majesty’s visionary leadership, this City aims to address many of Bhutan’s social and economic challenges, steering the country toward the shores of peace and prosperity.
Rooted in Bhutan’s values and the developmental philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), the City transcends conventional development definitions, intertwining economic pursuits with mindfulness and sustainable development. The unveiling of this landmark vision sets the stage for all Bhutanese to tread upon. As the New Year unfolds, the first few sentences on the page of the nation’s destiny have been written, urging focus and dedication to this distinctive project.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the international airport at Gelephu and the Sunkosh hydropower project followed the National Day Royal Address—a testament not only to the urgency of the project but also its intrinsic value and significance for the nation.
Thus, we embark on a new chapter with an awareness of its initial contents, cognizant of the story’s overarching theme and its intended conclusion. During the National Day celebrations, we said that “we are ready” and “we can.” The question is not, “if we are or if we can.”
We should! We must! It is a giant leap into 2024.