2008 marks 100 years since Bhutan became a unified and a modern state with the institution of the Wangchuck dynasty at its helm. The Bhutanese monarchy was born in 1907. Tired of internal strife, the Bhutanese public pleaded with Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck, then the Trongsa Penlop, to take over as the first hereditary King of Bhutan. It was the turning point in the Kingdom’s history.
Monarchy having been instituted, the country underwent rapid changes in all spheres including reforms in the political structure. The biggest change came with the institution of the Gyalyong Tshogdu (National Assembly) and Lodoe Tshogde (Royal Advisory Council) in 1953 and 1965 respectively. This change initiated by the third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck was a move towards creation of a parliamentary democracy and having people’s representative body in the highest decision making body of the government. The establishment of the Council of ministers in 1998 was another move in the direction towards creating democratic changes and the culmination of the changes will be witnessed on 24th March 2008 with the parliamentary democracy instituted as per the mandate of the constitution of Bhutan. The ruling party and the opposition party will be determined by the number of seats the party wins from the 47 constitutiencies. Besides, each Dzongkhag will be represented by a candidate each as a Tshogdu member in the upper house or the Gyalyong Tshogde with five nominees of the King.
Bhutan today enjoys one of the highest GDP per capita in South Asia. The people are provided with free education and health services and much of the country is covered by road and telecommunications infrastructure.
The people live longer and healthier lives. The social fabric is neatly woven around time-tested values. The age-old culture is still intact. While the rest of the world mourns the loss of its precious ecology, Bhutan has been described as an environmental “hotspot”. Peace and signs of prosperity reign everywhere.
Bhutan is an active member in the international fora, including the UN, its agencies and member countries. Within South Asia, it is a founding member of SAARC. Its role in the evolution of the NAM was second to none.
Above all, this tiny country of less than a million people offered the world the philosophy that happiness is not anchored on materialistic well-being alone.
2008, therefore, will be the celebration of all these achievements. It will be an occasion to salute the Kings who unleashed all these developments and changes.