For a shift from the Past

Edmund Burke said those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. Indeed! The past is a university and we learn valuable lessons from it. But does it mean that we continue living in the past?

This is a subject which is gaining steam and frequently discussed, especially in relation to the path Bhutan should now take. The discussion is spurred by events of the past and present – the Covid 19 pandemic, shape of the country’s economy, migration and a populace that is not content. And these events have brought to the forefront, the importance of economic development or wellbeing and the indisputable fact that economic wellbeing is the means and end of human aspiration.

Further, do we continue to lead lives defined by the choices we made in the past? Will doing so lead to inter-generational equity and ensure that the lives of future Bhutanese are secured? There are many questions.

There are arguments that venturing on an economic path is not in consonance with the principles of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and would send a “wrong” message to the world. But, what about our world, which is home to 700,000 plus people? Should we sacrifice our interests? Would it be fair to do so anticipating that the international community would give us an award for being an example to the world?

This does not mean that we abandon GNH. We just cannot, for there is a very thin line between GNH and wellbeing. But what we ought to understand is that more than Bhutan, GNH was meant for the world, where leaders and the people were inhumanely harnessing natural resources; where sustainability was not a chapter in development subjects and people ignorant about their ultimate aspirations. After a brief interval, the world realized it and embraced GNH.

We have to accept that Bhutan today faces social and economic challenges.  It is high time to rethink and realign our priorities. We need to identify and embrace new avenues for development and actively engage to make real progress toward a healthier and more prosperous Bhutan.

Boldly, we ventured into the Crypto world. And boldly should we pursue economic development or well being. We will need to make difficult choices. There will be trade-offs. And we need to embrace these, for they are essential components and catalysts of progress.

People also say that we are at the crossroads. At this juncture, there is just one road.