Rethinking our Approach to Economic Development

Himalayan Consensus SummitBlogLeave a Comment

Do you ever wonder why, after more than forty years of planned economic development, our private sector still remains very weak and fragile? Don’t you think there is a need for us to seriously introspect and reflect on this important question and rethink our economic development approach? As an important means to achieve our national goal of “Self Reliance,” private sector development received high priority in all our five year plans. So why are we still stuck with just a handful of family owned businesses?

Of course, as a small landlocked country, we face some difficult problems like high transportation costs and labor shortages. But we are not alone. All other countries have comparative advantages and disadvantages. The difference lies in how we work around our problems and find creative ways to grow our economy. We have to be creative and think long term.

Our government is doing a great job accelerating the implementation of various mega hydropower projects. By 2020, we will add more than 10,000MW of hydropower generation. That is good for our economy. It is going to have a huge impact on our socio-economic development. Bhutan’s GDP and internal revenue will grow immensely. This will also help offset our trade imbalance with India and increase our rupee reserve. Hydropower is one of the cleanest forms of energy and we are fortunate to have such a huge potential for its generation. Our beautiful rivers are truly our “Liquid Gold.” We are also lucky that India, our neighbor and best friend, has a huge demand for electricity. Therefore, our government’s focus and investment in hydropower makes good economic sense.

But when we look at the total picture of our economy, I am concerned that it is growing in an unbalanced manner. As an ordinary private citizen, I have neither in-depth knowledge nor access to all information on the government’s economic plans, policies, and programs. So I may be wrong and my concerns unfounded.

In my humble view, the main reason we have not been able to achieve much progress in private sector development is because we have not been able to effectively develop young entrepreneurs and small startup businesses. Even now, while we are making huge investments in hydropower, we don’t seem to have similar commitment to promote and create opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs and small start up businesses. To build a strong foundation for a sustainable private sector development, we need to make sure that there is real growth in both government owned mega projects and in small businesses owned and operated by private citizens. Like everything in life, we need to find a balance between the two. Hydropower and other mega projects will generate the much needed revenue for our nation, but it will be the entrepreneurs and small businesses that will generate jobs and income for our people to live meaningful and productive lives.

Our investment in entrepreneurship and small startup businesses will help us build a strong middle class for a vibrant democracy. It will provide opportunities for our youth and ordinary citizens to move up the economic ladder and live more fulfilling and productive lives. It’ll help our government fulfill its promise of equity and justice and self reliance. It’ll also help us fight the growing inequality and poverty. And most importantly, it’ll take us closer to our precious goals of GNH—because without a meaningful job and a stable income, our people will never be happy.

Sonam Jatso

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *