Rhetoric versus Reality

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering responded that the country’s economy has recovered ‘handsomely’ from the pandemic-induced disruptions during the National Assembly session last week.

The response from the Prime Minister came after Lyonchhen was quizzed about the government’s strategies to revive and improve the country’s economy by MP Passang Dorji from Bartsham-Shongphu constituency in Trashigang.

While the Prime Minister feels that the country’s economy has recovered ‘handsomely’ from the pandemic-induced disruptions, this assessment is perhaps too early, more of rhetoric and a total contradiction to what the ground reality appears so.

Take for example the country’s tourism sector, which is the second major revenue generator for the country, little or no significant contribution has it made as of recently. The government claims that the tourism industry will be in full swing during this fall season, but this is also based on assumptions. The key players in the tourism industry, comprising tour operators and hoteliers, are still skeptical that everything with tourism will return to normalcy during the fall season.

Similarly, many, who have lost their jobs and source of income, still continue to thrive on the Druk Gyalpo Relief Kidu; a majority of the recipients or beneficiaries are tour guides and those who work in hotels catering to tourists. If the economy is doing handsomely, going by what Lyonchhen claims so, then these people should no longer be provided the Kidu. But are these people back to their earlier jobs and earning a livelihood?

We see today people in hundreds and thousands leaving abroad for countries such as the US, Canada, and Australia. Apart from upgrading one’s education, it is the prospect to work and make an income behind the reason for this mass exodus. And most often the reason cited for the departure is the lack of jobs or job opportunities in the country. A thing of such sort should not be happening if the country’s economy is doing ‘handsomely’.

The rise in living costs and inflation have further made living arduously for those in the lower-income segments of society. The country has one of the highest inflation rates in the world with 8.15% in 2021 and 7.91% in 2022. Inflation has reportedly been persistent over the past two years and signs of persistent inflation continue as both food and non-food prices are on the rise, thus posing a risk of depressing an already weak economy.

There are even warnings that the surge in prices combined with low growth and high unemployment could lead to something like stagflation. And the recent increases in fuel prices are making or have made prices of daily consumables and other goods dearer, impacting consumers, and slowing economic growth. The above simply cannot be signs of an economy that is doing ‘handsomely’.