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Bhutan Weekly News-Roundup 27 October – 02 November 2012

The weekly news-roundup for politics in Bhutan, compiled form Kuensel Online, BBS, Bhutan Observer, Business Bhutan, and The Bhutanese.

Business Bhutan, 27 October 2012

Bhutan’s UNSC bid: a big flop? — Bhutan’s campaign for a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that started on an overly optimistic tone, followed by frenetic international lobbying, unfortunately ended on a tragic note. The bang and all that hype about Bhutan claiming its rightful place at the UNSC died with a whimper. Even before the voting took place at the UN General Assembly on October 18, a despondent prime minister on returning home from New York predicted that Bhutan’s chances of securing a non-permanent seat at the Security Council was bleak. That was a disappointing piece of news. After campaigning so hard for months on end that kept him away from home most of the time, the prime minister was intuitively aware that Bhutan was going to lose to its contenders – South Korea and Cambodia – both bidding for the Asia Pacific seat. The reason was, Bhutan did not have the right numbers backing it, mainly because we did not have enough diplomatic relations with other countries. And so it happened. On the voting day, Bhutan managed to get only 20 votes and was out of the competition in the first round. South Korea bagged the seat with a two third majority voting in its favor.

Bhutan’s GDP grows to Nu 85bn in 2011 — The primary sector, which consists of agriculture and mining activities, contributed the least to the GDP with 18%, a value added of Nu 15.4bn. Compared to the previous year its contribution declined by almost 1%. The tertiary sector contributed the highest to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011, registering 43.59% of the GDP amounting to around Nu 37.3bn compared to the previous year. This sector, which includes hotels, transport, trade, finance community and personal services, recorded an increase of 27.30% compared to 2010. According to the National Accounts Statistics (NAS) 2012, the growth of tertiary sector was the strongest at 15.67%, while the primary and secondary sector noted a moderate growth of 4% and 3.23% respectively.

Kuensel Online, 27 October 2012

10 reasons why not — While it may not have necessarily meant that Bhutanese media does not support women participation in politics, it could have sent that message, when only four representatives from the media turned up for the “discussion” yesterday at the office of the national commission for women and children (NCWC). Four media representatives and four commission officials (four men and four women) met yesterday to discuss the findings and recommendations of the recently launched study on women participation in 2011 local government elections. Commission officials said they had informed all media houses and had received confirmation from nine. “The discussion was held to reach the people through the help of mass media in the country,” a commission official said, adding that it was disappointing that, even those who confirmed attendance, did not turn up. The study highlights 10 constraints that caused lesser or minimal women participation in leadership positions and elections.

Still in the grey — At a time, when uncertainty looms over the country’s first batch of National Council members on their eligibility to contest yet another term, those aspiring to enter the fray are not so keen to have them on board. At least, not the way the existing upper house members want it. Amid various interpretations being made, some council members feel they need not necessarily resign, as the Election Commission of Bhutan suggests, but could actually take part in the upcoming election while in office. But some aspiring council candidates, including those, who have emerged in the media, declaring intentions to contest next year’s council election, and those, who are still toying with the idea, do not buy their inference. Many said it would be “unfair” to be pitched against an incumbent, that too contesting while in office.

The Bhutanese, 27 October 2012

Women in Politics — With the 2013 elections around the corner one of the emerging issues is women’s representation and role in politics. Currently Bhutan’s Parliament is overwhelmingly dominated by men both in the National Assembly and the National Council with women MPs from both houses numbering in the single digits. The Cabinet also is entirely a men’s club with no woman minister.  Local governments are also mainly dominated by men. This is in the context of Bhutan being a new Democracy and a developing nation, where like in most other developing nation’s men disproportionately hold the reins of power. This, however, does not mean that the status quo should be allowed to continue. Bhutanese politics be it the cabinet, ruling party, opposition party, National Council or local government all must accept and encourage women’s participation. There are two pressing reasons for getting women in politics, one is strengthening our democracy and the other is enhancing good governance.

BBS, 30 October 2012

Bhutan Kuen-Ngyam Party submits application for registration — Bhutan Kuen-Ngyam Party submitted its application for registration with the Election Commission of Bhutan today. It is the first party-in-making to register with ECB. The Party made its intention to contest in the next elections public earlier in June. Interim Party President, Sonam Tobgay, submitted the registration application this morning. The application package includes a copy of party charter among many other documents. Submission of the application is the first step of the registration process. The ECB will now review the application before declaring it a political party. The review process will be guided by Chapter 8 of Election Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, which mandates political parties to fulfill certain standards. Meanwhile, the other emerging political parties have missed the October end registration. In earlier interviews with BBS, they said they would register by the end of this month. Druk Chirwang Tshogpa said they are in the final phase of translating party charter from English to Dzongkha and hope to register on the 2nd of November.

His Majesty commends Desuups — His Majesty the King granted audience to the fifth batch of Desuups at the Military Training Centre in Tencholing, Wangduephodrang yesterday. Addressing the Desuups, His Majesty commended the services rendered by them and their unprecedented enthusiasm. The Desuups are currently undergoing the month long programme. His Majesty said it clearly spoke about their strong sense of responsibility. “You could be making good money out there, working, finding job, and spending time with family. If you have money you could be spending it going for parties, dating and you could be having lot of fun and weather is fantastic. But instead you chose to be here. That says so much, not about you but all of us and about future,” said His Majesty to the 116 Desuups. His Majesty advised the gathering to be patient. “Do not make mistake by rushing things.” His Majesty told them: “Wisely, know what you want and go for it and give it your best.”

The Bhutanese, 31 October 2012

Bhutan breached 700,000 population mark in 2011 — The latest 2012 Statistical Yearbook of the National Statistics Bureau shows that Bhutan’s population finally crossed the 700,000 mark in 2011. As of 2010 the total population of Bhutan was 695,822 which increased to 708,265 in 2011. By the end of 2012 the population is projected to go up to 720,679. The population projection also shows that Bhutan may require three more decades to cross the one million population mark. The survey shows that Bhutan’s population in 2030 will be 886,523 people. In the 1970’s and 1980’s Bhutan’s population had been erroneously projected as being above one million. A survey in 1996 found that the actual population of Bhutan was 600,000. A detailed and scientific study of Bhutan’s population was done in 2005 called the Population and Housing Census using the international standards and methods. Bhutan’s population growth rate was found to be 1.8 percent which is neither high nor low.

11th Plan needs to create 140,000 jobs — A total of around 140,000 jobs will be required in the 11th Five year Plan according to the Annual Report (Fiscal Year 2011-12) of the labor ministry (MoLHR). Although the MoLHR achieved 2.1% unemployment rate, much lower than the target set, yet the ministry should gear up to resolve the unemployment problem. Six years down the line, 27,505 projected job seekers will enter the market in 2018 added to the already existent 18,682 people this year who are still unemployed. Students after 10th and 12th grade would add more to unemployment which is around 13,083. The report states that around 21,308 students will study in the 10th and 12th grade in 2012. There are 1969 Graduate job seekers for 2012 but it would escalate to 3421 in the year 2018. As per the Labor Force Survey (LFS) conducted in 2012 the total population is 734,851 while total persons employed are 329,487. However the total unemployed had decreased from 10,500 to 6,904 over the year.

First to register third in order, the 2013 line-up is now DPT, PDP and BKP — The Bhutan Kuen-Ngyam Party (BKP) submitted its application for party registration with the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) yesterday to make it the first new party able to meet its registration deadline. This was a party effort to officially register itself toward the end of November as announced in its last press conference and the party put forward its 200 registered members to ECB. According to the interim party president Sonam Tobgay the party has submitted whatever is required as per Election Act for party registration. The application enclosed includes party charter, election symbol (Kuen-ngyam Khorlo) filed an application for registration, fulfilled all the requirements. He said that the registration process was done at the right time and BKP would have to wait for ECB to review the submitted application before the party is declared as a registered political party. The interim party president also shared that the party is trying hard to come up as a political party which is not easy at all. “This is because, people at this point in time do not feel the need to engage in politics.”

“The government is being viewed as autocratic, intolerant and vindictive” — Later in the paper when structure and vision is discussed, other follies of the incumbent government such as their subtle intrusion into the workings of independent and autonomous institutions, micro-managing and fear tactics will be highlighted. As aforementioned, Bhutan’s democracy was introduced with strong leadership, people’s unflinching support and participation, high hopes and fertile conditions for the success of the new political system. In form the entire system was excellent but the lesson to be learnt here is the importance of the functionary aspects of a democracy- namely the role of the elected leaders. Democracy in Bhutan could have developed organically, imbibing much of our existing social mores, which had strong roots in communalism, strong family ties, and a sense of unity. But instead the Government wedged itself into an isolated role. This appears to be circumstantial rather than with any particular well crafted objective. The outcome doesn’t appear to be the failure of the system but rather individual personalities or whims that have taken precedence over rationality. Incidental decisions and actions by the leadership of the incumbent government resulted in many undesirable outcomes. To name a few: isolation, ivory tower decision-making, political patronage in government and business and neglecting the views of the common people.

Kuensel Online, 01 November 2012

Weaving happiness into polices — Bhutan should explore ways to translate findings of the happiness survey into polices if Gross National Happiness is the base on which the policies are formed. While GNH is a policy guide in Bhutan and its survey expected to be the main way to find the happiness conditions, the 2010 GNH survey results is less utilised today by planners and policy makers, said Centre for Bhutan Studies officials at the meeting of practitioners and scholars of happiness yesterday. “Even people from the GNH commission do not refer the findings of the happiness survey,” a CBS official said. CBS president Dasho Karma Ura said that while GNH survey is the main way to find the conditions of the society, people are not yet used to the values of GNH data generated from the survey. “With the rich statistic data being generated about just five years back, its not a long time in terms of transforming knowledge and practices from institution to institution,” Dasho said.

Bhutan Kuen-ngyam stakes its claim — Amid wide speculation that upcoming political parties are not making any headway in getting themselves registered, one of them has gone ahead and applied for registration with the election commission. Riding a cab on a pedestrian day on October 30, carrying “whatever law required in terms of registration”, the three representatives from Bhutan Kuen-ngyam party did the needful. Among others, they submitted two copies of the party charter, one in Dzongkha, election symbol called uen-ngyam khorlo, list of registered members, and names of office bearers. Party founder and spokesperson, Sonam Tobgay, a private consultant from Wangduephodrang, was named interim president of the party.

Bhutan Observer, 02 November 2012

GNH is not about oneself, it’s about society — I am a fresh graduate, who has just sat RCSC examinations. I have spent most of my recent days at home and meeting with friends. I am not sure what I should do during this free time as I await my exam results. Last Tuesday was a usual day for me. I slept till 9 am and woke up feeling restless. It was just then that my aunt asked me to join her in CBS’s GNH workshop. I didn’t know what it was really about but I decided to participate in the meeting. It was a GNH meeting of practitioners and scholars of happiness with basic objectives to discuss the new GNH survey questionnaire and to discuss public policies in light of 2010 GNH survey findings. The best part of the workshop was it was open to all but only a few members of public turned up. I was a bit concerned that there were only five Bhutanese women who participated in such an important discussion. The first session of that meeting was a bit confusing to me but soon, as I followed the discussion better, it became interesting. I really enjoyed the talk, the last year’s survey findings and the opinions of the scholars from both within and outside the country. All were involved in making the questionnaire better for the next survey.

Issues for politics and political Parties — Second parliamentary elections are approaching. While politicking in the villages is still virtually absent, the situation seems to be entirely different in the nerve centre and power base, the capital. Going by the number of aspiring political parties declaring their intention of offering more choice to the people, the prospect for the next election looks exciting. At least for the educated lot, it makes sense to have wider choices based on distinct ideologies and manifestoes for different political parties. Back in the villages, the people cannot make out the ideological differences of political parties. For them every party simply aspires to run the country and therefore, it will be a contest between individual candidates, party leaders and the party workers which the voters will always try to connect with. For the educated, it would be interesting to watch what the different parties’ stands are on some of the issues that seem to be simply spilling out of hands at the moment.

BBS, 02 November 2012

First woman president to lead a political party — The Executive Director of the Bhutan Media Foundation, Lily Wangchuk, is Druk Chriwang Tshogpa’s party president. The announcement was made today even as the party submitted its application for registration with the Election Commission of Bhutan. Lily Wangchuk began her career in Foreign Ministry in 1994.  She served as a Bhutanese diplomat for 12 years.  She than served as an Assistant Resident Representative of UNDP and later worked as a consultant both for government and international organizations. She has a master’s degree in Public Policy with specialisation in Diplomacy and International Policies from Australian National University. She will be contesting from North Thimphu Constituency.

The Bhutanese, 02 November 2012

Druk Chirwang Tshogpa unveils its party president — The Executive Director of Bhutan media Foundation Lily Wangchhuk will be the party president of Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT). She said that after tedious consideration and thoughts she decided to join the party. “Almost four parties approached me to join their party but I liked DCT’s ideology where, as a woman I can relate myself more,” she added. Lily Wangchhuk will stand as the DCT candidate from North Thimphu constituency. The Interim Committee’s General Secretary Meghraj Tamang said she has lots of experience in Foreign Ministry, good social orientation and have been working in Bhutan Media Foundation with lots of contribution. Till date without a party president, he said it was hampering the works of two party workers J.N Sharma and Tandin Tshering. “So far the party was working well and it’s all because of these two architects,” he added.

“In the four years, the groundwork for autocracy has begun to be laid” — VISION:  As far as the vision is concerned the 4th Druk Gyalpo and our present King have unequivocally outlined it. The way I understand it is: their Majesties have envisioned the best and most suitable system that ensures Good Governance and Citizen Participation, which is enduring and reliable and most of all guided by democratic norms and the rule of law. The King has laid down the image of a country where people live in harmony and see their individual and public lives as extensions of each other. Where everything is done in cooperation and the disunity, discord and divisions of large democracies is not to be found. For our Kings vision to reach fruition, today our country desperately needs some serious introspection. Almost five years have gone by and as of now democracy’s progress is still very substandard. In other words, considering the advantages we have had, we should have achieved a lot more than we did. It’s not about: what we have achieved; but at this juncture, to ask ourselves whether we could have achieved more; and whether we are on the right path?

Druk Chirwang Tshogpa joins the 2013 race after registering with ECB — Druk Chirwang Tshogpa yesterday registered as the second party to enter the 2013 fray at 11.30 am in the Election Commission. This will now push the list of prospective players from three to four parties in 2013. “We submitted a list of 45 candidates out of which some are tentative to the ECB, along with other requirements,” said DCT President Lily Wangchuk (read pg 3 story for biography). She said that the candidates were a mix of people from the private sector and civil service with a varied age group from late 20s to late 50s. “Though more than 50% of our 45 candidates are confirmed we have some tentative candidates from the civil service. In case they cannot join we have some back up candidates,” said Lily. However, the doors are not closed for aspiring politicians as DCT is still on the lookout for interested and good candidates. “The list of candidates will be further scrutinized and reviewed by a committee,” said Lily.

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