Launching Five Year Plans
Despite the efforts of the successive Kings, till the 1950s Bhutan remained underdeveloped and a feudal society. The late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck was convinced that his primary role as king should be to bring to the country and its people the benefits of modernization and progess made outside without losing the identity of the country and its people. He beleived that progress could not be made in isolation and a concerted national effort had to be put into building the basic infrastructure to support modernization of the economy and the society. The visit of the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1958 helped in the realization of this dream and Bhutan launched its first Five Year Plan in 1961 with a total outlay of Rs 174.7 million. Understandably, the construction of roads took the highest portion of the budget with 62 million followed by education with 10 million. The other important areas of investment were in transport, health, forest, agriculture, power, animal husbandry, and industries.
A unit of the Border Roads Organization of India was also set up in Bhutan. This unit known as Dantak still continues to build roads in Bhutan. The achievement in this sector was 1770 kilometers of road network. Phuntsholing was connected to Thimphu, Paro and Ha; Samdrup Jongkhar was linked to Trashigang; Sarbang was connected to Gelephug and Tsirang; and Gelephu to Zhemgang and Trongsa. This was a great contribution as people as it promoted trade and commerce with India as well as within the country improving the living and economic conditions of the people.
Significant progress was also made in the field of education. By the end of the plan Bhutan had over 59 schools. The graduates from these schools provided the human resource base who would shoulder the responsibilities of taking Bhutan into the modern age.
Health care of his people also received important focus. Thus, A Public Health Department was also set up in Thimphu headed by a Chief Medical Officer. One of the main projects was to eradicate malaria. By the end of the plan period, Bhutan had 3 hospitals and 40 dispensaries in different parts of the country.
A Department of Agriculture was established. It began with projects on multiple model farms, agriculture research stations, seeds production units, and extension work places. Vegetable and fruit cultivation was given special attention. Department of forest was also set up and measures were taken in conserving forest and towards exploitation of forest products.
A Hydel Directorate was also established and two 400 KW Hydel stations were constructed to cater to the needs of Thimphu and Paro.
Bhutan did not have a postal system prior to 1961. Thus, to guarantee a better postal facility, a Postal Department was also opened and the first Bhutanese postage stamp was issued on 10 October 1962.
All these helping propel the country on the path of socio-economic progress.