The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Monday, September 21, 2009

Roofing fund for 64 families

21 September, 2009 - Unable to provide the collateral for obtaining rural micro credit loans, or even qualifying for any government social services, 64 households in Bhutan’s poorest dzongkhag, Zhemgang, faced this year’s monsoon without adequate shelter.

In an effort to prevent this situation from recurring, HRH Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck, recently donated aNu 3m for households unable to obtain rural scheme loans. Village communities identified and selected 64 households that are in most need of the funds. HRH Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck also personally met with all 64 households during a recent tour of the dzongkhag.

As a result of the meetings, the funds will be used to replace the roofs of 64 houses in four gewogs in the upper Kheng region, with corrugated galvanised iron (CGI). The Nu 3m fund will cover procurement, transport, labour and construction phases of the initiative.

Member of parliament (MP) for Zhemgang, Tshering Dorji, said, adequate housing for many financially disadvantaged families is a severe curtailing factor. “Food and clothing are usually at a satisfactory level for families in the dzongkhag, but proper housing is not,” said the MP. Most houses in the dzongkhag use banana tree leaves, tarpaulin sheets, plastic or bamboo mats, for roofing their houses.

“By providing a proper roof over their heads, it’s also a move towards poverty alleviation,” said MP Tshering Dorji. “Men and women can go out to earn their living with the knowledge that their families, their children, will be safe and secure,” added the MP.

Installation of the CGI roofs is already underway and roofing of all 64 houses is expected to be completed within three months.

By Gyalsten K Dorji

Chicago: Gateway to the ends of the earth

Posted on Sep 8, 2009 | by Mark Kelly
GLEN ELLYN, Ill. (BP)--Cody Lorance doesn't knock. He just pushes the door open and ambles into the apartment. A little girl runs to hug him and the rest of her family filters into the room to greet their guest.

They give each other a traditional South Asian greeting -- the palms of their hands pressed together in front of them -- but what they say in Nepali is anything but traditional: "Jay Masih," which means "Victory to the Messiah."

Lorance is a church planter in Chicago. Since 2005, he and a five-member team have been working among immigrants in the city. Since they started meeting as a house church four years ago, they have seen the Lord pull together congregations among Nepali, Ethiopian and Karen people who live in rundown little apartment buildings scattered around Chicago's western suburbs.

Lorance makes himself at home, dropping casually onto the couch and peppering family members with questions in their heart language. He asks how jobs are going, talks about plans for a block party, and learns a family member has bought a car that may not have had all the appropriate paperwork to go with it. A young woman brings him a steaming glass of tea that gives off an aroma of cardamom, and Lorance sips it appreciatively. He will sit and chat with the family for hours.

He may be a pastor making a ministry visit, but he's also part of the family.

Back on the street outside, Lorance gestures at the nearby businesses and homes.

"This is a white, upper-middle-class neighborhood, but these little apartment buildings are chock-full of refugees," he points out. "So many church people pass by every day and have no idea what's going on here."

The refugees come from all over the world, and some churches are reaching out to them in ministry. Most of the visitors, however, don't spend the time necessary to develop a real relationship with the refugees.

"This is not a superficial, drive-by ministry. You've got to be willing to move beyond the American 30-minute visit," Lorance said. "You've got to get past the first cup of tea and eat a couple of meals with them. It takes three-hour, six-hour visits. You have to get to the point where you run out of the Nepali phrases you know and they run out of English -- and you still stay with them. You become more a part of their lives -- a fixture, a part of the family."


"Chicagoland" is a gateway to the ends of the earth, Lorance said. Its 9.6 million residents speak a couple of hundred languages -- 147 officially documented by the public schools -- and many of those are the heart languages of overseas people groups that have never heard the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ.

The work Lorance and his team are doing is helping forge a new path for North American missions -- a path that leads directly into unreached people groups overseas, said Keith Draper, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Baptist Association.

"When the International Mission Board tells us the first church among an unreached people of the world could begin in Chicago, we are overjoyed and looking for partners," Draper said. "Cody is doing that kind of groundbreaking work."

What began as a house church in 2005 was followed by an Ethiopian congregation in 2006 and an English As A Second Language ministry and Karen congregation in 2007. The Ethiopian group spun off a daughter church back in Ethiopia and the Karen from a daughter church in Rockford, Ill.

The Nepali congregation began meeting earlier in 2009. They have baptized 18 so far this year, including 12 reflecting rare instances of high-caste Hindus publicly declaring their faith in Jesus alone as Savior.


Lorance sees the Lord opening doors with refugees in the most unexpected ways.

He was working in partnership with Exodus World Service, a refugee ministry based in Bloomingdale, Ill., to help refugees from Burma's Karen people group. The first family he met had been commissioned by their refugee-camp church to start a church in the United States when they arrived.

"We have prayed a lot and ... started a home Bible study two years ago and have gone from house to house as others arrived," Lorance recounted. "We had the first worship service here in December 2007 and a few months later helped start a church among Karen refugees in Rockford that had 300 in attendance for their first anniversary service."

One Wednesday evening, Lorance walked into a Karen home to lead a Bible study and found four people waiting who were definitely not Karen. Two Karen teenage girls had met some new neighbors and invited them to the Bible study. The neighbors, who were Nepalis from Bhutan, came even though they wouldn't understand what was being said.

Lorance, however, had focused on Hinduism during his graduate studies and was working at the time with the South Asia Friendship Center in Chicago's Little India. He was able to greet the visitors in Hindi.

"I had been preaching to the Karen church about missions. They have neighbors from all over the world and I had been locating people for them on a map," Lorance said. "The two girls invited their new neighbors and from that simple act of reaching out we now have a congregation of 70 Nepalis, many of them new believers. It started with a simple invitation."

That Nepali congregation is the only organization in the city for Bhutanese Nepalis, Lorance added. When a new family arrives at the airport, the Nepali congregation picks them up and takes them to a home where they enjoy a Nepali meal. They help them get moved into an apartment, work with them on getting the necessities of life in America, and the next Sunday members of that new family usually are in the congregation's service.

"It's amazing," Lorance said. "Eighty percent of the Bhutanese Nepalis in our county are in church with us on Sunday, even if they are Hindu."

In a city the size of Chicago, with its millions of lost souls, the opportunities are boundless to see God replicate the kind of Kingdom advance Lorance and his team are experiencing, said Charles Campbell, who directs church planting initiatives for the Illinois Baptist State Association.

"We need more Codys to come to Chicago," Campbell said. "My prayer is that as people see what he is doing, they will catch a vision for coming to Chicago and joining Illinois Baptists in the work there."
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press. You can learn more about the mission of the Chicago Metropolitan Baptist Association at their website,

Humanities lecture series explores current events

September 24, 2009 : 6 p.m.

Guest lecturers will discuss and explore sex trafficking, the Holocaust and worldwide refugee situations in ASU’s School of Letters and Sciences Humanities Lecture Series at the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Katie Resendiz’s “Sex Trafficking in the US and Arizona” will commence the Fall 2009 Humanities Lecture Series, which is in its second year. The two-hour presentation starts at 6 p.m., Sept. 24 at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, 555 N. Central Ave., Room 122.

The lecture series is open to the general public and is free.

“The Humanities Lecture Series provides us with opportunities to analyze, discuss and interpret current events. We look forward to public discussions that help us understand and appreciate various points of view on political, social and cultural issues,” says Frederick C. Corey, director of ASU’s School of Letters and Sciences and dean of University College.

The School of Letters and Sciences provides students across ASU with the knowledge and skills to comprehend and effectively engage the changing world of the 21st century at local, national and global levels. Theory, creativity and applied learning are integrated as students build entrepreneurial opportunities both inside the university and in their communities.

Resendiz, a trafficking training coordinator with the Arizona League to End Regional Trafficking (ALERT), said each year tens of thousands of men, women and children are illegally brought to the United States and Arizona from all parts of the world.

“Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and is the world’s most rapidly growing crime. They are forced to work in a variety of labor-intensive jobs such as domestic servitude, manufacturing, construction, agricultural work, hotels, restaurants and forced prostitution,” Resendiz says. “This session will serve as an introduction to the issue of human trafficking, while exploring the intricacies of this horrendous crime.”

The US State Department has identified Arizona to be in the top five states for human-trafficking activity.

The lecture series schedule includes:

• “Personal Reflections on Surviving the Holocaust and Life After” presented by Holocaust survivor Bernard Scheer, noon, Oct. 8, University Center, 411 N. Central Ave., room 286, Phoenix.

• “Refugee Situations in Arizona, Burma, Iraq and Bhutan” presented by Joanne Morales, director of Refugee Programs for Catholic Charities. The presentation takes place at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 12 at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, 555 N. Central Ave., room 125, Phoenix.

Marshall Terrill,
(602) 496-1005
ASU Office of Public Affairs

For refugees, Texas is among the best spots in a down economy

Posted Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009

FORT WORTH — Keshab Adhikari, 23, has been fleeing persecution in Bhutan since he was 6.

Adhikari’s family was a target in its native South Asian homeland, where he said armed forces patrolled villages and arrested farmers who practiced Hinduism. Adhikari dreamed of a better life in the United States, hoping to work and prosper.

"The life will be beautiful if we are dutiful," Adhikari said.

Adhikari is learning America’s ways quickly since moving from a refugee camp in Nepal to Fort Worth about six months ago. He learned to drive, got a part-time job and worked on polishing his English. He also joined the ranks of Americans anxious for better days.

"Barack Obama, he has said the economic recovery will be good after 2009," Adhikari said, quoting news reports he hopes will help fellow refugees struggling to find work while resettling in a new homeland. "People are suffering."

The nation’s recession has hindered efforts to help refugees trying to start anew in the United States. The goal of people fleeing persecution in their homelands is not only to be free, but also to become self-sufficient through employment.

U.S. efforts to help refugees slowed after 9-11, when scrutiny of people entering and leaving the country stalled resettlement for many, refugee advocates said. Then, just as the resettlement process began moving again, the economy tumbled, making the American dream more difficult to attain.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Fort Worth is trying to help sister agencies by resettling refugees in Texas, where the recession hasn’t been as bad as in states such as Indiana, Michigan or California. Catholic Charities’ Fort Worth operation is helping resettle 650 refugees this year, up from 450 last year. More than 400 refugees had already been resettled as of late August.

"Those areas that were hard-hit began saying, 'We can’t take any more refugees,’ " said Tory Cheatham, director of immigration and refugee services with Catholic Charities in Fort Worth. "We do want to be there to meet the need."

'A very tough time’

Tucked in America’s Rust Belt sits Fort Wayne, Ind., which in recent years has become the new home for refugees — mostly Burmese — whom Catholic Charities helped resettle. Last year 837 refugees called Fort Wayne their new home, up from 632 in 2007.

But the recession has hit Indiana so hard that refugee advocates there said they can’t help as many people.

"It is very difficult to find employment for arriving refugees," said Nyein Chan, resettlement director for Catholic Charities’ refugee services in Fort Wayne. "We still want to resettle. We support family reunification."

Chan said the agency is helping 300 refugees resettle this year, primarily the spouses, parents, children and grandchildren of refugees who are already living there.

Fort Wayne depended on manufacturing and auto industry jobs lost to the recession, Chan said. The best opportunities for refugees are at a meatpacking company about 76 miles away.
Chan said some of the refugees who moved to Fort Wayne are searching for work outside Indiana, where the unemployment rate was 10.6 percent in July. These breadwinners go to other states — typically Alabama, West Virginia and Texas — to work and send the money back to their families in Fort Wayne. Texas’ unemployment for July was 7.9 percent.

"They still have to have employment to pay the bills and live in the United States," he said. "It is a very tough time."

Working with employers

Amanda Cowart networks with Tarrant County business owners and managers in a search for jobs refugees can fill.

"I think they all come with the American dream mentality: that they will have a home, that they will have a job and freedom," said Cowart, job developer for Catholic Charities’ refugee employment services in Fort Worth.

Cowart educates employers about refugees. To cut through the red tape, she meets with a CEO advisory committee that offers a heads-up about possible openings. She helps refugees find work within 180 days, the U.S. government’s deadline for self-sufficiency. She said refugees have been finding work by the deadline, but more slowly than in better times.

"It was getting difficult with the economy to get into businesses because so many people were applying for jobs that used to not be competitive," she said, citing jobs in housekeeping, dishwashing and assembly lines.

Cowart said that even though Texas is not suffering as much as other regions, she has to keep refugees encouraged during their job searches.

"All they want is a job to provide for their family just like they did in their country," she said. "Employment is where they find their dignity and self-respect."

Offering assistance
Catholic Charities’ local services have been helping refugees resettle in Tarrant County for many years. Refugees are defined by the federal government as people who are fleeing persecution in their homeland because of religion, race and nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group. Here is how many refugees the program has resettled in recent years. (After 9-11, entry-exit concerns stalled the process for many refugees.)
2009: 650 (committed)

2008: 450

2007: 217

2006: 88

2005: 80

2004: 43

2003: 60

2002: 51

2001: 276

2000: 166

Source: Catholic Charities Diocese of Fort Worth

A call for donations
Catholic Charities Diocese of Fort Worth is looking for donations to help furnish homes for refugees. The agency has received furniture from a partnership with Fort Hood but needs beds, dressers, kitchen tables, chairs and nightstands to set up apartments. To find out more about donations, call Amy Board at 817-920-7733.

Quake kills ten in Bhutan: report

By Zareer Hussain (AFP) – 14 hours ago

GUWAHATI, India — A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan Monday, killing at least ten people and damaging monasteries and other buildings, state-run media reported.
"Ten people were killed of which three victims are of Indian origin," Bhutan Broadcasting Service, the country's national radio reported Monday night.
The three Indians died after they were hit by falling boulders in the eastern district of Samdrup Jongkhar and their bodies have been handed over to Indian authorities in Bhutan.
Seven people died after buildings collapsed in two regions east of the capital Thimpu, an official at the government's disaster management unit said.
Bhutan's home minister Lyonpo Minjur Dorji said officials are coordinating with the district authorities to help those affected.
According to the US Geological Survey, which initially put the quake at 6.3-magnitude before revising down, the epicentre was located just inside Bhutan's border with India, 180 kilometres (115 miles) east of Thimpu, at a shallow depth of 7.2 kilometres.
Dorji said three people were injured in Munggar and some buildings had caved in, most of which were made of mud and stone.
The quake sent boulders down hillsides in eastern Bhutan, blocking roads to remote, hilly regions, he added. Homes and monasteries were also damaged.
"There are reports of landslides in some areas and power and telecommunications networks have been disrupted in eastern districts of Bhutan," Dorji said.
The Bhutanese newspaper Kuensel reported online that monasteries and other buildings had been damaged in Munggar.
Sherab Tenzin, district magistrate of Munggar, told AFP by telephone shortly after the quake struck that many of the mud and stone buildings in the area showed signs of damage, but there was no widespread destruction.
Teams of police and rescue personnel were moving out across the region to assess the damage, he said.
The tremors were also felt in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka and in Lhasa, the capital of the Chinese region of Tibet, according to Chinese state media.
Strong tremors lasting up to 20 seconds were felt 125 kilometres away in Guwahati, the capital of India's northeastern state of Assam, where nervous residents ran into the streets.
Cracks appeared in several buildings in the city but there was no serious damage, witnesses said.
Home to just over 600,000 people and wedged in remote hills and mountains between India and China, Bhutan held its first democratic elections for a new parliament and prime minister in March last year.
The country had no roads or currency until the 1960s and allowed television only in 1999. It also famously uses the principle of 'Gross National Happiness', and not common economic indicators, to measure national well-being.
Most of its largely Buddhist population live by subsistence farming, animal husbandry and forestry.

Tamiflu ingredient grows in Bhutan

Monday, Sep 21, 2009 Kuensel Online

BHUTAN - A vital ingredient for tablets used to treat influenza, including H1N1, is available in Bhutan, say pharmaceutical research officials.

It can be extracted from herb plants known as star anise that is found in abundance in Samdrupjongkhar and Mongar. The local names for the plant are Sengpashing and Wonbasinang. It is commonly known as Lishi in Trashigang. The plant is also found in Diafam, Radi and behind Dochula in Thimphu.

"The star anise found in Bhutan is of a different species but closely related to the one used to produce tamiflu tablets," said the officiating head of pharmaceutical and research unit at the institute of traditional medicine services (ITMS), Ugyen Dendup.

Tamiflu is a prescription drug, which prevents the influenza virus from spreading inside the body and designed to be active against all influenza virus strains.

Star anise, available in parts of China, is used to produce tamiflu tablets.

Ugyen Dendup, however, said that although there was a close relation between the star anise found in Bhutan and those found in other places, there was no study to estimate the exact percentage of the ingredient (shikimic acid) content of the Bhutanese star anise. "If the percentage of shikimic acid content is good, then there?s a huge prospect in the international market. But first there are certain exploratory works that we need to undertake."

But an ITMS report on the comparison of percentages of oil content between the Bhutanese star anise and the Chinese one found almost similar percentages. "The volatile oil content of Bhutanese star anise is within the Chinese star anise range," states the report. Star anise is not used for any traditional medicines in Bhutan, unlike in Vietnam and China where it is also used as spices.

But, according to Tashi Tshering of non-wood forest produce, under the agriculture department, they communicated with some Indian firms on the feasibility of the herb, but were told "our star anis was not highly valid". The health ministry, however, is awaiting agriculture ministry?s response to a proposal on the commercial feasibility of the herb.

Bhutanese refugees get fresh start in Ohio

By ROBERT L. SMITH, The Associated Press 1:06 PM Monday, September 21, 2009

CLEVELAND — The families from the edge of the Himalayan Mountains arrived in Cleveland last winter as other refugees have — poor, cold and bewildered.
They had once been farmers in the tropical lowlands of Bhutan in southern Asia. Suddenly, they faced an economy based on medicine and advanced manufacturing. A brutal recession ensured there were few jobs to train for.
Their Old World skills could not help them anymore. Or could they?
On a recent morning, Nandu Poudel, 18, and O.K. Basnet, 25, stood behind a table laden with fresh vegetables in the thick of a farmers market on the campus of the Cleveland Clinic.
Men and women in hospital scrubs and lab coats streamed by. Some stopped to buy the sweet tomatoes and the seedless, Asian cucumbers offered by the two young men in fez-like Nepalese caps.
Handing over vegetables for cash, Basnet beamed like an artist selling his work.
"Farming, it's what I do," he explained in labored English, pressing a palm to his chest. "And what my father did. And his father."
The harvest of 2009 is doing more than stocking urban farmers markets in a city with a growing appetite for local agriculture. It's introducing a new class of farmers.
Seven thousand miles from their ancestral home, Bhutanese refugees are tilling the good earth outside of Cleveland and making it bloom. To the astonishment of many, they are using the old ways to gain a fresh start in their new home.
Some see a model that could employ future waves of refugees — or at least other Bhutanese. By getting back to the land, a challenged immigrant group may be getting ahead.
"We needed to put these guys to work," said Hira Fotedar, a retired Eaton Corp. executive and a friend to the local Bhutanese community. "They don't know English. They don't read. Boy, they know farming."
The farming venture sprang from a partnership between the Bhutanese families, who are mostly Hindu, and the established Hindu community of Greater Cleveland, much of it from India.
A religious minority in the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, the Hindu Bhutanese were driven from their villages in pogroms in the late 1980s. More than 100,000 ended up in refugee camps in nearby Nepal.
America has pledged to accept about 60,000 of the refugees by 2012. Some 400 have arrived in Akron, Cleveland and Lakewood as part of the initial wave.
Soon after the first Bhutanese families arrived in Greater Cleveland in November 2008, Parma's Shiva Vishnu Temple befriended them. Temple members bought shoes for children, who were seen walking barefoot in snow, and began job training for their parents.
Sewa International, a Hindu charity with a local chapter, joined the effort.
Volunteers for Sewa, which means "service" in Sanskrit, helped train some of the men as landscapers and some of the women as seamstresses. But a bigger job source was needed.
"They kept saying, 'You know, we're farmers. We'd like to farm,'" said Sree Sreenath, a professor of mechanical engineering at Case Western Reserve University and the president of Sewa International USA.
Sreenath knew a horticulturist at the University of Akron, who steered him to Mark Mackovjak, a Lake County farmer with land to lease.
It's at the Mackovjak farm, in Madison Township, that a new trade is taking root.
On a recent morning, a warm fall sun beamed down upon three men from Bhutan as they stooped among long rows of rutabaga, onions and turnips. With gestures, Mackovjak showed them how to thin the leafy crops, and the Bhutanese fell quietly to work.
Indra Pyakurel, a father of six, once owned his own farm in Bhutan. He grew rice and pumpkins and oranges. Now he's tending tomatoes and other exotic vegetables. He's not getting paid yet. But at night, he leaves with bags of fresh produce for his family.
Pyakurel and his co-workers — Lal Bhujel, 57, and Rohit Basnet, 30 — represent three of nine Bhutanese families learning to plant, tend, harvest and sell Midwest crops. They take turns vanpooling in from Lakewood, 50 miles away, work the fields and sleep overnight in a trailer.
There's a learning curve. Back in Bhutan, the men plowed with an ox.
But the education goes both ways, Mackovjak said. When they first arrived at his farm in April, the Bhutanese asked if they could pick wild greens he considered weeds. A Google search on "lambsquarter" revealed a nutritious salad green consumed in much of the world.
Unfamiliar with pesticides, the Bhutanese farm without them. What they can't eat or sell, they pickle or jar.
Mackovjak, the grandson of immigrants from Slovakia, said he sees his grandparents in the Bhutanese — hardworking people seeking a better life. He also sees a needed expertise.
"There's a need for farmers," he said. "Most Americans don't want to do agricultural work. That's the truth. These guys, they love the work."
The region's Hindu community envisions a business strategy: an organic farm supported by its customers. They are pulling the refugees into the Community Supported Agriculture movement, where people buy shares of a farm in exchange for a slice of the harvest.
Already, about 70 local Hindu families have purchased shares of the Bhutanese farm, Sreenath said. The investment will buy seeds and supplies for next year, when the Bhutanese intend to extend their handshake deal with Mackovjak, and maybe pay themselves for their labors.
The long-term goal is to own and farm their own land, as they did in Bhutan.
Tom Mrosko, the refugee coordinator for Cleveland Catholic Charities, which initially resettled the Bhutanese in northeast Ohio, said the strategy shows promise.
For lifelong farmers likePyakurel, 58, it offers a priceless measure of peace.
Knee-deep in ripening cucumbers, a cool wind in his face, Pyakurel smiled as if he wanted to be nowhere else.
"Life good," he said, as he plunged his hands into the earth.
September 21, 2009 05:04 PM EDT
Copyright 2009, The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The 7th Int’l Asian Traditional Medicine Conference held in Bhutan

by Yeshe Choesang ( editor [at] )

The 7th International Traditional Medicine Conference in Bhutan Administrative High school in Semtok district near Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan was held on 7th to10th of September 2009.


The conference was attended by 270 medical researchers and doctors from 30 different countries. The most important guest at the conference was the Minister of Bhutan, Khadro Wangchuk who held a opening speech. The conference was also attended by the Minister of Health.

On the main conference the participating doctors and professionals presented their academic work and exchanged experiences. At the end of the conference the Secretary of the Organizing Committee admitted that Tibetan Traditional Medicine has a very important role in Asian Traditional Medicine and is also internationally beneficial.

The conference was attended by senior doctor Gashe Kalsang Norbu, a doctor from the Tibetan Red Cross Society, two doctors from Lhasa and Shigaze, a Tibetan professional and four doctors from Tso-ngon county eastern Tibet as well as three doctors from dechen county eastern Tibet. There were also participants from Nepal and India, the director of The Central Council of Tibetan Medicine Dorjee Rabten and secretary Thukme Paljor, doctor Dawa and Pema Dorjee from the Central Tibetan Medical Association in exile. Among the participants were also teachers from the Tibetan Traditional Medicine School in exile - Ragshi Tsultrim Sangye and doctor Nyima, the doctor of Meriling Monastery - Geshe Rinchen Tenzin and doctor Gashe Rabsal Nyima Woser.

This conference brought together medical professionals from inside and outside Tibet as well as doctors from the Himalayan region, Chinese and many foreigners.

Beyond GDP: The pursuit of economic happiness

Don Pittis

President Sarkozy and the King of Bhutan seek domestic joy through pursuit of GDH.
Last Updated: Friday, September 18, 2009 | 3:13 PM ET Comments2Recommend3
By Don Pittis, CBC News CBC News

Don Pittis French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced he doesn't like gross domestic product. And he is not alone. The King of Bhutan and many other people feel the same way.

GDP, as the economic yardstick is known to its closer friends, is supposed to measure how well countries are doing and how much things are improving.

To do that, it measures one main thing: money.

Now there is nothing wrong with money. Even Sarkozy likes it. But the big question raised by le Président de la République and his expert panel of economists was, "Is money enough?"

GDP isn't everything

GDP is a strange beast.

If you chop down a forest, GDP goes up. If you get in a car crash and everyone is taken away by ambulances and tow trucks, GDP goes up.

If you have a massive heart attack, a triple bypass and you expire on the operating table, you have just created a GDP windfall. You've generated money not just for the people tallying up your medical bills, but for lawyers and undertakers too.

But if you take out your neighbours' trash while they are away, or help an old lady down the stairs of a bus with her parcels, or sit down for a leisurely home-cooked meal with friends and family, GDP is unaffected. Well, of course it isn't. Who would be so crass as to put a dollar value on such things?

According to the economic theory behind GDP, money is supposed to measure well-being. And in a way it does. If bottles of wine or an iPod didn't make you happy, you wouldn't spend money on them. If as a population we buy more cars and food and computers and beer, we are getting more and more satisfied.

Measuring well-being

But there is a growing body of evidence that some of the things GDP fails to capture have a huge and measurable impact on well-being.

Political scientist Robert Putnam, in his book Bowling Alone, suggests a direct relationship between the number of neighbours you know by first name and how long you live. His book has many other good examples of the value of human companionship.

There's another great case study in the book Getting to Maybe, written by a group of authors that includes Prof. Brenda Zimmerman of the Schulich School of Business at York University. They spotlight a Vancouver program called PLAN to help disabled children whose aging parents eventually won't be around to look after them.

Although money was important to the children's future, they discovered that relationships were perhaps more important. "Relationships did not lead to quality of life," they found, "they were quality of life."

To help the disabled offspring, the group put an enormous amount of effort into building up existing — and creating new — social connections. And they found it worked.

Feminist economists have done a lot of work on this kind of thinking, usually rejected out of hand by "mainstream" economics. Unpaid and uncounted labour in the home is an obvious objection to the conventional view. But more complex and interesting are concepts like intergenerational reproduction, where crucial values that make societies truly rich are transmitted (or not transmitted) outside the marketplace.

GDP versus GDH

Perhaps the greatest master of measuring non-GDP well-being is the King of Bhutan. Several years ago, that South Asian country dropped the idea of GDP. Instead, its people adopted a measure called GDH, or gross domestic happiness.

Rather than chopping down trees, they plant them. People take it slow, spending a lot of time with their families and livestock, and having a lot of festivals. It might not work here, but the Bhutanese could have a few ideas for Sarkozy.

In the meantime, it sounds like France's new anti-GDP report, with the windy title The Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress Revisited, would be worth a detailed read. I plan to do it justice some day.

But right now, I'm going to go putter in the garden.

Don Pittis has reported on business for Radio Hong Kong, the BBC and the CBC.

Marta Mossburg: Happiness is no metric for a country's success

Examiner Columnist
September 18, 2009

French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants his country and every other country to drop financial outputs as the exclusive measure of success and start using citizens' well-being instead.
This could be dismissed as a crazy idea spawned by a love-struck middle-aged man who drank too much Bordeaux one night while listening to his supermodel/pop-star wife strum love ballads in their palace. Or maybe it is an idea from the leader of country whose GDP depends on the Eiffel Tower and is desperately searching to become relevant again.
But economists are promoting this ruse. And so is Bhutan.
Bhutan is the tiny country wedged between China and India that enforces a dress code and restricts outsiders. Illiteracy is high and TV arrived 10 years ago.
There is no freedom of the press. Its per capita gross national income is $1,700, according to the World Bank. These are not positive statistics to most people.
But Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who chaired the International Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (established by Sarkozy), references Bhutan favorably in a column in the Financial Times earlier this week. "Even before we convened, Bhutan was creating a measure of GNH, or gross national happiness. ... " Given Bhutan's background, it's like praising the country for keeping its people ignorant and poor.
This is the latest example of granting moral equivalency to countries that don't deserve it. Forget the fact that the country is backward.
His utopian vision reminds one of the naivete of Graham Greene's American couple in "The Comedians" who thought they could save a chaotic, destitute Haiti by turning countrymen into vegetarians. Will the world suddenly become a kinder, gentler place, the environment cleaner and people happier if each country starts measuring well-being instead of purely financial outputs?
Stiglitz thinks so: "What we measure affects what we do. If we have the wrong metrics we will strive for the wrong things," he wrote.
The problem with that mode of thinking is that it assumes an all-knowing sense of what makes people happy. More importantly, this takes for granted that happiness should be the ultimate goal in life and the driving force behind government should be maximizing happiness for citizens.
History teaches us that governments are not and never can be omnipotent. Those who attempt to be will fail, often horribly and at great personal and financial cost to their citizens and future generations.
And believing that every nation will agree with one set of metrics to measure GNH is folly. Cultures build norms over time that turn into values and habits.
Let's take the quantity of leisure time, one of the items Sarkozy proposes to measure. In France, home of the 35-hour work week and Augusts off, leisure time is highly regarded, often more highly than making money or achieving personal success.
In the U.S. that is not the case for many people, meaning two weeks off in the U.S. would make people just as happy as the French, who enjoy six weeks away from work. If each country created its own set of rules, how could countries compare themselves against one another? The tests would be meaningless, with each country claiming it scored highest according to its own criteria.
The bigger question is why countries should put happiness above all else. As Joshua Wolf Shenk wrote movingly in "Lincoln's Melancholy," the 16th president suffered from great bouts of depression.
"He learned how to articulate his suffering, find succor, endure, and adapt. ... As president, Lincoln urged his countrymen to accept their blessing and their burden, to see that their suffering had meaning, and to join him on a journey toward a more perfect union." Would a happy president have been able to preserve the Union and build a path to the end of slavery?
Examples abound of people throughout history who achieved great things not in spite of their suffering, but because of it. This is not to argue that imprisoning political opponents or executing innocents is a good thing.
But would a happy nation, one coddled by two mandated weeks at a spa, or forced to work fewer hours, have the will to defend itself; invent a replacement to oil; write the next masterpiece; or uncover massive government fraud?
And could a government that focuses on pacifying its people also be one that vigorously defends their right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?" I doubt it. That is depressing.
Examiner Columnist Marta Mossburg is a senior fellow with the Maryland Public Policy Institute and lives in Baltimore.

Sarkozy wants Bhutan model of development index

Press Trust of India / Thimphu September 15, 2009, 12:01 IST

If President Nicolas Sarkozy has his way, France may soon follow Bhutan in using happiness as the index to measure the country's development.

Sarkozy yesterday said that measuring well-being would make France's economy, famous for its short work week and generous social benefits, look more rosy.

"A great revolution is waiting for us. For years, people said that finance was a formidable creator of wealth, only to discover one day that it accumulated so many risks that the world almost plunged into chaos," he said.

Bhutan has as its development indicator Gross National Happiness (GNH) with 72 variables considered the pillars. According to Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley, in the wake of the global meltdown, the GNH development paradigm has become more relevant.

GNH has fascinated many an outsider, the prominent being Canadian-American actor Michael J Fox and Simpsons' co-creator Sam Simon.

The Centre for Bhutan Studies has grouped the 72 indicators under nine principal domains - time use, living standards, good governance, psychological wellbeing, community vitality, culture, health, education and ecology.

Scholars at the centre have even come up with a set of mathematical formulae that can measure jealousy, sexual misconduct and apathy toward reciting prayers among others.

Bhutan for top GNH and no mobiles

Published: September 17 2009 03:00 | Last updated: September 17 2009 03:00
From Mr Laurent Legein.

Sir, If indeed happiness is to supplant gross domestic product as a measure of progress, and if somehow the current French leadership and Joseph Stiglitz, 2001 winner of the Nobel economics prize, get credit for that (“Sarkozy recommends happiness as yardstick of economic progress”, September 15), the world would not be paying King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the former king of Bhutan (who graciously abdicated in favour of his son in 2006), the tribute he deserves.

For it is he who, in 1972, first coined the term “gross national happiness” and instructed his administration to construct a sophisticated GNH index (based on 72 variables, I was told by an enthusiastic bureaucrat) as a more holistic, and culturally appropriate, alternative to GDP.

GNH growth has since been the guiding objective in Bhutanese socio-economic and environmental policies. With universal healthcare coverage, high literacy rates, pristine landscapes and the purest air on the planet, this small, beautiful Himalayan kingdom certainly has plenty of GNH-improving qualities.

Oh, and did I mention that it has no global system for mobile communications or BlackBerry coverage anywhere in the country? That, for the duration of a short, blissful trip there, sent my own happiness index through the roof.

Laurent Legein,
Brussels, Belgium

Bhutan Hopes Bamboo Boosts National Happiness

September 15, 2009
The mountain kingdom of Bhutan measures its own Gross National Happiness, which is enhanced by its lovely forests. One tradition bringing down the Happiness quotient is the flags that are flown for the departed, for good luck. The more flags, the better. Now Bhutan's government is growing bamboo to spare the trees that are cut down.

Marinello's Story One of 'Gross National Happiness'


For years, Carl Marinello, a lifelong PGA golfer, and former Pinehurst resident, has entertained friends and strangers alike with his story of his career, including golf jobs in the Bahamas, St. Maartin, South Florida, New York and Australia.
Now Marinello, and the story of his time as coach of the Bhutan golf team, is the subject of a major motion picture, which is scheduled to begin filming in 2010.

The Bhutan golf team, a group of golfers whose average scores were in the high 80s and low 90s, rallied behind the teaching of Marinello to become good enough to beat the Chinese team at the Asian Games in Seoul in 1986.

Peter Cattaneo (who directed "The Full Monty" and has two Academy Award nominations to his credit) reportedly will direct the new film aptly titled, "Gross National Happiness," which refers to Bhutan's efforts -- launched in the early 1970s -- to officially measure happiness in terms of Buddhist spiritual values.


The story began when Marinello answered an innocuous ad in a Florida paper beckoning: "Spend a summer in Bhutan training a team for the Asian Games in Seoul."
Antsy and looking for a challenge at the age of 40, Marinello, who along with his wife Marcia, organized the Moore County Challenged Golfer Program, was soon flying East.

Bhutan is situated in the Himalayan Mountains, landlocked between India and China. The King (Bhutan has since become a democracy in 2008) shared a love of golf and pushed the idea of having a competitive golf team. The king had his cousin enlist the help of Marinello to make that goal a reality.

The story is reminiscent of the rag-tag Jamaican Olympic bobsled team in the movie Cool Runnings.

"Their discipline and self-control was amazing," said Marinello of Bhutanese.

Some credit that ability to concentrate to Buddhist values, other said some of it can be traced to their participation in archery, the national sport. Archers must have keen eyes, a steady hand and extraordinary focus. Skills that can also be beneficial on the golf course.

The team members played their hearts out with pride and natural ability and the outcome surprised all, including the King, as the players stated, "We will win this for our King and coach Carl."

Combine the great underdog story with the serenity and beauty of Bhutan and the story is sure to stir one's imagination.

National Geographic television channel has featured previous programming about this breathtakingly beautiful land.

The hardship of living in rocky terrain is taken in stride and seems to cause little strain on a people who are tranquil, peaceful and beautiful. They continue to wear the traditional dress every day. But in spite of these ancient customs and surroundings, The King often wore his golf shirt and pants underneath traditional garb, ready for a planned tee time, according to Carl.

Cantilever monasteries jut out precariously from stone cliffs and the villages overflow with monks in maroon robes. Colored flags adorn the roofs of houses, as they whip in the wind to stir prayers upward to heaven. Nearby Nepal is perhaps better known (where Katmandu is located); the highest elevation on Earth as Mt Everest is considered the nearest link to heaven.

Amid this pristine setting, the original golf course layout resembled early Pinehurst, with its brown greens made of sand and oil. The course was a far cry from the Arnold Palmer-designed course that the Asia Games were played on in Seoul.

The ability of the players and coach Marinello to adapt to different course conditions is another remarkable achievement, said Marinello's longtime friend and Pinehurst resident Tom Stewart.

"Golf in the Kingdom was a type of fiction, but Carl is the real experience," Stewart said.

Dissident: Democratisation in Bhutan all for show

Religious freedom, an independent judiciary, freedom of the press and human rights remain unsolved questions

Friday, September 18, 2009 By Asia News

Bhutan’s democratisation is all for show; it exists only “on paper” and is of little relevance to the population, this according to Karma Duptho, secretary of the Druk National Congress (DNC), a Bhutanese political movement operating in exile. He has harsh words for the Bhutan government on a number of issues, from Nepali refugees to the free press, from an independent judiciary to respect for human rights and religious freedom, issues that have not yet found a solution in the small mountain kingdom in the Himalayas, caught between China and India.

On the issue of religious freedom, the DNC secretary said that it “was absent until the promulgation of the constitution last year, but” even now “ we can never be certain whether the constitutional provision guaranteeing freedom of religion will be upheld.”

“There are reports of Buddhist culture and religion being imposed on ordinary people,” he said. Members of “other faiths are at risk of attacks, arrests and other forms of persecution including arbitrary detention and arrests from officials,”

Buddhism is Bhutan’s state religion. The authorities have a past of violently cracking down on dissident sects or smaller faith communities. In 1997 for example, some Nyingmapa Buddhists were killed or arrested.

Although constitutional changes made “arbitrary arrest unlawful” last year, proselytising remains illegal” and it is not clear whether “building churches is still restricted or not.”

An “independent judiciary is a fundamental tenet of democracy and this is absent in Bhutan,” Duphto said. “There are at present some 200 and plus political prisoners in various jails throughout Bhutan. Most of them participated in peaceful demonstrations in the early and late 1990s, demanding human rights and democracy.” Some of them have been “imprisoned for more than 17 years;” in 2007 they were joined by “hundreds more” who were arrested for “engaging in political activities contrary to the belief and ideology of the Thimphu regime,” mostly “charged with sedition and treason, and sentenced to 15 years to life imprisonment.”

A tool of democracy elsewhere, in Bhutan the “judiciary is under the control of the king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the country’s fifth monarch, who ascended to the throne in 2006 at the age of 26.

Finally yet importantly, freedom of the press remains a contentious issue. Restrictions are still in place and the country’s four radio stations and four newspapers must follow government directives. No newspaper has for instance “written a single article on the Bhutanese refugee issue” since it emerged in 2007, “except for state-owned Kuensel”.

As AsiaNews recently reported, many Bhutanese refugees found asylum in the West, but their problem still remains unresolved.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

HM grants audiance to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India

15 September 2009

His Majesty the King, today, granted an audience to Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG) of India Shri Vinod Rai.

The C&AG of India is in the Kingdom from 14 to 17 September leading a four member delegation on a goodwill visit. He also called on the Prime Minister.

Today Morning he visited the RAA complex and delivered a talked on; “Relationship between Public Accounts Committee and Supreme Audit Institutions – an Indian perspective” to the members of the Public Accounts Committee and the RAA Officials.

This is the fourth visit made by the successive C&AG of India and the first since Bhutan adopted Constitutional Democracy. The relationship between the Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India and Royal Audit Authority had been strengthened with the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2001.

The MOU was signed to strengthen the existing friendly relations and bilateral co-operations aimed at improving the work methodologies and exchange of information in the field of public audit. Under the MOU, two Audit Officers are trained every year in the prestigious Academy of Indian Audit and Accounts Services in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, besides deputing senior resource persons from the Office of the C&AG of India once in a year to train auditors in Bhutan. The MOU was renewed in 2007 for another six years.

The visit made by the C&AG is yet another step to further strengthen the relationship between the two Supreme Audit Institutions.

His Majesty grants audience to India’s new Foreign Secretary

September 12: His Majesty the King granted audience to India’s new Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao this morning. She is accompanied by Satish C. Mehta, Joint Secretary North, of Ministry of External Affairs. They arrived in the country on a three day official visit this morning.

At the Paro airport, The Indian Foreign Secretary was received by her Bhutanese counterpart Daw Penjor, the Chief of Protocol, the Paro Dzongda and Foreign Ministry officials.

Shortly after her arrival in the capital, His Majesty the King granted audience to the Indian Foreign Secretary.

Nirupama Rao became the Foreign Secretary of India on August 1 this year. Before that she served as the Indian Ambassador to China and High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka.

From 2001 to 2002, she served as the first woman spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs. From 1998 to 1999, she was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy in Moscow.

She joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1973.

His Majesty also hosted a luncheon at the Dechenchholing palace for the Indian Foreign Secretary.

Later in the afternoon, the Foreign Secretary of India called on the Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley.

While in the Kingdom, the delegation will also be meeting senior officials and visiting places of historical and cultural interest.

The Foreign Secretary leaves for New Delhi on Monday.

Bhutan on the Seine

Peter Foster, Financial Post
Published: Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Being vertically challenged obviously bothers French President Nicolas Sarkozy. At a visit to a manufacturing plant in Normandy last week, his aides sought out the factory's twenty shortest workers as a backdrop. On the other hand, he wasn't too short to trade in his old wife for dishy model/songstress Carla Bruni. But then she is five inches taller than him. Is that a worry? Should President Sarkozy's anxieties and joys be somehow included in the French Gross Domestic Product?

Seems like a wacky idea, but eighteen months ago, M. Sarkozy established an International Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, headed by renowned Keynesian anti-capitalist Joseph Stiglitz. This was allegedly due to "dissatisfaction" with the state of statistical information. I can just imagine the conversations along the Champs: "Zoot alors, I am absolument fromaged off with the state of zee stats. When will they incorporate zee leg over in zee GDP?"

President Sarkozy apparently wants to follow the desperately poor, heavily subsidized Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan in installing the notion of "Gross National Happiness." He claimed at a speech at the Sorbonne on Monday that focusing on GDP was all part of the "overreliance on free market principles" that triggered the global crisis. Fannie Mae and Freddie Macdidn't rate a mention.

"If the market was the solution to all problems and was never wrong," continued M. Sarkozy, "then why are we in such a situation?" But who ever said the market was "the solution to all problems?" And it's not markets that screw up, it's people. Markets just hand out the bouquets and brickbats. However, according to M. Sarkozy, one means of avoiding future crises will be to incorporate measures of such joys/aggravations as vacations (a la M. Hulot?), recycling, doing household chores, and traffic congestion. The contribution to well-being of physical attributes and sex were not mentioned, but presumably will have to be shoved in there somewhere.

Professor Stiglitz laid out his thoughts on the inadequacy of traditional statistics in a piece in last Sunday's Toronto Star. "Are statistics giving us the right signals about what to do?" he pondered. But this question begged more fundamental ones such as: who is this "we" who are seeking signals? And what do "we" plan to do with them?

Professor Stiglitz pointed out that "What we measure affects what we do," but what he really meant was that "what government measures determines what government does." Which gets to the heart of the statistical problem.

In the good old days, GDP provided a rough measure of overall output, but such statistics were always dangerous because they were the raw material of planning. Gradually, as planning failed, planners turned to attacking markets by attacking GDP. Look, they would say, car accidents contribute to GDP! Bombs and tanks contribute to GDP!

Professor Stiglitz claimed that political leaders "are told to maximize [GDP], but citizens also demand that attention be paid to enhancing security, reducing air, water and noise pollution, and so forth -all of which might lower GDP growth." But who exactly is "telling" political leaders to maximize GDP? And are we short of environmental legislation, or the threat of it, in modern democracies?
Professor Stiglitz believes, as President Sarkozy's new statistical Robespierre, that there are opportunities to "improve metrics." His ideology was clearly showing in his eagerness to incorporate inequality. "If a few bankers get much richer," he wrote, "average income can go up, even as most individuals' incomes are declining." He suggested that U.S. growth was held up as a model, but that GDP numbers didn't take account of mounting household debt. But nobody hid the household debt figures. All this establishes is that you have to look at a full range of relevant statistics to come to any conclusions. More important, you tend to pick figures to support your conclusions anyway.

Professor Stiglitz claims that policy wonks are now in a better position to assess well-being and gather the relevant data, employing such insights as that losing a job means more than just loss of income. But who except an ivory tower Martian would not know that? Meanwhile somebody has also apparently just told Professor Stiglitz that "social connectedness" is important. Uh oh. Here come those old anti-capitalist favourites: anomie and alienation!

"It should have been obvious that one couldn't reduce everything to a single number, GDP," claimed Mr. Stiglitz. But it was only ever people like him who thought that such an exercise was possible in the first place.

Now they claim access to more subtle and comprehensive measures so that they can more subtly and comprehensively interfere with our lives. Or, as professor Stiglitz puts it "Such reforms will help us direct our efforts (and resources) in ways that lead to improvement in both."

The trouble is that when he writes "us" he doesn't mean you and me. When he refers to "our" resources, he does. Meanwhile expect a lot of French people to be bothered by nerds with clipboards and happy-ometers.

HM grants audiance to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India

15 September 2009

His Majesty the King, today, granted an audience to Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG) of India Shri Vinod Rai.

The C&AG of India is in the Kingdom from 14 to 17 September leading a four member delegation on a goodwill visit. He also called on the Prime Minister.

Today Morning he visited the RAA complex and delivered a talked on; “Relationship between Public Accounts Committee and Supreme Audit Institutions – an Indian perspective” to the members of the Public Accounts Committee and the RAA Officials.

This is the fourth visit made by the successive C&AG of India and the first since Bhutan adopted Constitutional Democracy. The relationship between the Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India and Royal Audit Authority had been strengthened with the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2001.

The MOU was signed to strengthen the existing friendly relations and bilateral co-operations aimed at improving the work methodologies and exchange of information in the field of public audit. Under the MOU, two Audit Officers are trained every year in the prestigious Academy of Indian Audit and Accounts Services in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, besides deputing senior resource persons from the Office of the C&AG of India once in a year to train auditors in Bhutan. The MOU was renewed in 2007 for another six years.

The visit made by the C&AG is yet another step to further strengthen the relationship between the two Supreme Audit Institutions.

PM’s Japan experience

10 September, 2009 - Returning yesterday from his eight-day visit to Japan, Prime Minister Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley said the visit confirmed good relations between the two countries that will not be altered by the changing political situation in Japan.

Japan had its general elections in August this year where the opposition Democratic Party of Japan defeated the Liberal Democratic Party that had been in power for almost 52 years.
“Japan is one of the most important developing partners of Bhutan and, with this visit, we were able to strengthen and build linkages with both the parties,” said Lyonchhoen. “I’ve come back with assured support and many opportunities to collaborate in pursuit of various programmes the government is committed to.”

Lyonchhoen said he made it very clear to all Japanese officials he met that it was not his intention to request Japan for additional assistance beyond what Japan had already committed. “We are fully mindful of how Japan has been worst hit by the economic recession. We just wanted to thank the Japanese people for their cooperation and assistance,” he said.

“But I told them that there’s a great need for ambulances and they’ve noted that,” said Lyonchhoen. “There’s a high possibility that several ambulances and fire fighting engines may be forthcoming within this year.”

Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley said that the most important event was his meeting with the outgoing prime minister of Japan, Taro Aso, during which he thanked the Japanese government for all the contribution and support to Bhutan’s development process.

“One of the outcomes of my visit will be a significant increase in Japanese tourists to Bhutan,” said Lyonchhoen. He said that an agreement would be signed between the government and JALPAK, which will formally recognise Bhutan as a high-end tourism destination. A JALPAK team will visit in October and operations will start by spring next year, said the prime minister.

Lyonchhoen also met with the Tokyo metropolitan governor, who expressed his interest in supporting Bhutan in technological cooperation. “He gave me a list of activities in which we might find interest. But I informed them and many other business people that we’re at present looking at the possibility of upgrading our Paro-Bondey farm machinery workshop into a factory that could manufacture most parts for our farm machinery,” he said. “By upgrading, we’d need to import only the engine and the more sophisticated parts, thereby making our mechanisation of rural farm sustainable.”

During his visit, Lyonchhoen also met with the Japanese vice foreign minister, a very prominent sports personality. “I’ve invited her to visit Bhutan with the view to build relations between our sports organisations and the Japanese sports establishments,” he said.

On foreign direct investment in the area of building health facilities, Lyonchhoen said that he had a discussion with a leading biotechnology company. “This is an area we think we’ve considerable potential for in terms of having abundance of herbal medicine plants. The concerned party will visit Bhutan soon to explore the possibility of establishing a high-tech medical and research centre.”

During his meeting with the vice president of JICA, Kenzo Oshima, Lyonchhoen said he thanked them for the support they have committed. “We hope that, despite the difficulties the Japanese government is facing as a result of recession, there would be no withdrawal of earlier commitments. And this was confirmed,” he said. Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley said he studied a Japanese farming cooperative to replicate the idea in Bhutan. “The government is committed to promote cooperatives and we explored opportunities to import machinery for grading our food products and installing them in particular places, starting from Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar,” he said.

Lyonchhoen had gone to Japan on the invitation of the junior chamber of commerce in Fukuoka district to speak on Gross National Happiness. He addressed an audience of more than 2,000 people, which comprised of young leaders of the chamber and important politicians.

“Relations between Japan and Bhutan have been diversifying with greater levels of exchange and Japanese people have taken great understanding of Bhutan’s development process. This relation will continue to grow,” he said.

A Buddhist group in Tokyo donated 400 bicycles to Bhutan during the prime minister’s visit to Japan.

“Another group has arranged for its transportation costs,” said Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley. “We’ll probably, depending on what the cabinet decides, give them to those people, who will pledge sincerely to use the bicycle to go to work instead of cars.”

He said that the government has already taken a step to reduce the use of private vehicles in Thimphu. “We’ve added some 13 buses during the coronation and centenary celebrations to increase public transportation and we’ll continue to add more buses,” he said.

“Through the use of 400 bicycles during working days, we’ll be able to reduce carbon emission. The idea is to make Thimphu a bicycle city,” said Lyonchhoen.

A non-government organisation in Japan, AMDA, also donated a Japanese ambulance to Bhutan.

By Phuntsho Choden