A team comprising of representatives from Bhutan’s financial institutions (FIs) are currently in Australia, to convey the message that there are several investment opportunities in Bhutan. As one of the members said, it is not to “entice” the Bhutanese there but to give them some lessons on investment. In other words, most living in Australia are ignorant about ways to make their hard-earned dollars grow. Just like many Bhutanese here, they lack financial literacy.
We cannot blame them. Experts have said that Bhutan lacks financial discipline. An economist from the Asian Development Bank said; “Bhutan is living on borrowed money, the money which is not even invested wisely.” How will we have financial discipline, if we lack financial literacy?
If we conduct a research on Bhutan’s poor and the rich, financial literacy will emerge as the factor that made the rich who they are. They knew about investing long before others. They understood the stock market, shares, dividends, and advantages of investing. Even today, thousands of Bhutanese do not know about it. And those who know are still unaware of the advantages of investing.
A senior civil servant who studied in Australia recounts his experiences. While he and his spouse worked, he also availed government scholarship. The couple had enough money but did not know what to do apart from investing in land. At that same time, shares of profit-making companies like Jigme Mines, and Eastern Bhutan Coal Company were in the market. However, they never looked at these companies as the Geese that lay the golden eggs. They kept their money in the Common Wealth Bank of Australia. Even when the bank officials there told them about investment avenues, they did not pay heed, for they had little or no idea about investments.
Most BLA, especially students and those who have just landed in Australia will be no different. For, financial literacy has never been a topic in our centers of learning. Some may be fortunate to have parents and relatives who know about it. But most are from families who do not understand it. Due to this, they surf the net and end up falling into a scam. This injects fear in them and they completely stay away from investing.
Thus, the team that is currently in Australia could not have gone at a better time. Yes! If Bhutanese living in Australia want to invest in major projects, they will and should be welcomed. But what we ought to know is that these are the ones who are financially literate. There will be thousands who still do not know how their dollars can grow by investing in Bhutan. It will not be surprising to know that some do not even know that we have a stock exchange in Bhutan.
All said and done, BLA love their country. If not for circumstances, especially financial ones, they would return to Bhutan. In the same vein, they will invest in Bhutan once they understand the merits of doing so.
While the Bhutanese team appears to have done an excellent job, there should be a continuation of such advocacies. And it can be done; we live in a digital world.