Thursday, December 30, 2021

My Remaining Few Days in the Rotary

I have just two more days with the Rotary. Thus my final journey with the Rotary will be spent writing notes of Thank You to the network of donors spread across the globe - for their generous contributions to the cause of Bhutan and the Bhutanese people.

The insignia of Hope and Deliverance


Dear ………………….,

Greetings from Bhutan. It is my hope that this would find you and your family safe and in good health.

I am not sure if I have already informed you – if not this is my official intimation of my departure from the Rotary institution – not just the Rotary Club of Thimphu. Actually I had intended that I would depart at the end of June, 2021 but something came up and it was not appropriate for me to leave, thus I had to stay on for some more time.

As of 1st January, 2022, I will be focusing on my own life and affairs that have been on hold for the past 6 years – because I had to devote my time fully to the affairs of the Club, in my capacity as the Club’s Secretary, beginning from RI Year 2015-2016, until now. But now I am absolved of my out-of-turn responsibility and, thus, nothing will hold me back in the Rotary beyond December 31, 2021.

I will be suspending all communications with everybody - whether Club Members or international donor partners – on matters related to Rotary. But I will be available to all – any time and anywhere – on matters unrelated to Rotary.

I have already relinquished my post as the Club’s Secretary – preparatory to my departure, as of July 1, 2021. A new Club Secretary has taken charge as of this new RI Year and he and the Club President and the Sector Chairs will henceforth handle all matters related to Club work.

Attached to this mail are the contact details of R C Thimphu’s Club officials who are current as of this writing. I urge you to henceforth address all communications to them – depending on who you think is appropriate.

Thank you for making my journey with the Rotary a meaningful one. With your support I have been able to serve my community for the past six years as the Club Secretary – and ten years as a Rotarian. Please know that it is my belief that if there were anything called a House of God – the Rotary would be counted as that House.

If I have time and again taken advantage of your generosity – please forgive me – but know that in so doing, you gave meaning and hope to many in Bhutan. If I have knocked at your door more often then I should, please know that I did so because I happen to believe that a rich man is one who has the heart to give – I never, ever knock on a wealthy poor man’s door.

In parting, please accept my Thanks for your role in my success and in the success of my Club. You may be happy to know that by end of RI Year 2021-2022, with support from generous donors like yourself, in a short span of nine years since our Charter in 2012, the country’s lone Rotary Club will have delivered over Nu.150.00 million worth of community service projects across the length and breadth of the country.

I take this opportunity to wish you and your family a SUCCESSFUL & A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR. May you live long and happy so that you may continue to do good in this world.

Bye and take care …. I remain, most gratefully,

Yours in Rotary

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Just Squeezing The Same Old Pebbles Endlessly Is Not Going To Expel Oil

I have 3-4 days left before I say goodbye to my Club and the institution called the Rotary. Thus I will not have time to do blogging for a day or two – because the last lag of my Rotary journey will have to be devoted to, as we say in HAM parlance, SIGNING OFF! - writing to offer THANKS to my global network of donors who have donated millions to do good in Bhutan.

But today, once again in HAM parlance, before I say 73!, I would like to leave you with a comment from a reader that took my breath away. What comment he/she left on one of my recent blogs is so meaningful that I believe that its rightful place is on the front page of my Blog and not behind it. Thus I honor him/her by placing it below for all to read and ponder. No doubt, the profundity of it will not escape you.

"Just squeezing the same old pebbles endlessly is not going to expel oil"
I * LOVE * IT!


December 27, 2021 at 3:57 PM

You have rightly touched upon many important subjects in the last few posts. Let me share my thoughts here. When His Majesty sadly commanded that the Bhutanese have lost our mettle in the implementation of developmental activities in the last 15 years of His Majesty's reign, I took that to be directed at all of us, especially those that were given awards, perks, authority and responsibilities in the last 1.5 decades, and had the direct responsibility to realize His Majesty's aspirations for the country. Many were appointed heads of important organizations and they took upon themselves to tinker with the system with lousy half-assed experiments that got us here - which is neither here nor there. Senior posts were filled with people that would only listen to a small group of men, and not necessarily from among the brightest and the best. Even people up for retirement are endlessly retained for redundant posts if you are in with this coterie, and if you can kiss enough ass, eschewing your morals and integrity. This is what destroys the morale of the civil service, when your bosses suddenly appear from nowhere, and the young, truly capable do not see any prospects if you do not kowtow to the coterie. Someone who was mediocre all their life is suddenly and mysteriously your boss. If you do not believe me, look around, and see who make the decisions, who call the shots. It is a small group of people who have tremendous power. Fantastically, they seem to have the answer to all of the country's problems. There is no debate or dissenting voices; there is no diversity of ideas. I fear, this will destroy our beloved country, if we do not course correct. We have sadly come to this - everyone is out to undermine everyone else, saying 'the civil servants are useless,' 'the politicians are useless,' 'the private sector is useless,' 'civil society is useless.' Well, then who is left to be useful?

Heads must roll, and it should start with those who pretend that His Majesty's pearl of wisdom was not directed at them. They cannot, yet again, point at the rest of Bhutan with their index finger and say, 'that was meant for you all.' Three fingers are pointing at themselves.

Patriotism, and love of king and country are every Bhutanese's prerogative. No one has the right to claim that she is more patriotic than the next citizen. This is what makes us Bhutanese - our undying love for our king and country. But when the bright civil servant has no prospect to rise up the ranks because she cannot find herself kissing ass more than anything else, they find themselves on the next flight to Australia or the Middle East.

The future of our country must rest on a transparent system of healthy discourse, respecting diverse viewpoints. It should not be run by a small coterie that get excited by the next 'in thing' - scratch the surface of what is in vogue and then ramble off the next thoughtless experiment, yet again. You cannot run a country with great TED talks and YouTube videos alone. As His Majesty always reminds us, we are but a small country - we should be manageable. There are enough smart young Bhutanese that can ably take the country forward, but they should be given a chance. Just squeezing the same old pebbles endlessly is not going to expel oil. The real potential of the country is yet to be realized. But, we need to get our fundamentals right, and then only will everything fall in place.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Carpetbaggers Are Coming!

A large section of the Bhutanese people already know how important the tourism sector is for Bhutan. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, this reality has been reinforced even more starkly. People have now come to realize that a maimed tourism industry can put gaping holes into most Bhutanese people’s pockets.

Full moon setting over Mt. Kanchenjunga - as seen from Nob Tsonapata, Haa

Tourism is the only industry that employs 100% local talent, use local resources and provide the largest number of employment to Bhutanese of all ages. By comparison, hydro projects consume 70% of the fossil fuel imported into the country; employ barely a few hundred Bhutanese and cause destruction to our natural environment, including introducing social ills that we can do without. Crushing debts and atrocious interest rates not withstanding, rampant corruption and inefficient management of the projects cause cost escalations that finally translate to energy rates that is so high that the Bhutanese people are unable to afford.

It is for this reason that I call tourism industry Bhutan’s only net-gain industry. Here we get to keep every Chetrum we earn. There is no punishing 10% interest to be paid on borrowed capital because 100% funds flow in, many months in advance. Through a unique and conceptual business philosophy called the Minimum Daily Package Rate (MDPR), every actor in the industry remains protected and shielded - from the pitfalls of unethical business practices. The MDPR creates an enabling condition for business to grow at an even pace – while ensuring that minimal destruction is caused to our environment.

The tourism industry has been in a state of suspended animation for the past two years – caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many thousands of jobs have been lost and thousands of businesses have ground to a halt. But there is a bright side to the problem – it has given the industry much needed respite – it has ushered in an opportunity for the Tourism Council and the industry players to devote time and imagination towards developing newer and more imaginative tourism products, re-skill the guides, enhance the capability of the ancillary service providers, and generally upscale the infrastructure. This forced lull has given us an opportunity to work towards planning and working towards a more buoyant reopening of tourism – whenever that is likely to happen.

And yet, this is not what some of us want to do. Despite His Majesty’s impassioned call for rededication to the Tsa Wa Soom, to work for the national interest and the good of the country, some industry players are determined to dismantle that which has worked marvelously for the country and the industry, for close to half a century.

They want to vandalize the unique MDPR – that very business model that has helped them arrive where they are today. The treachery that is contemplated is truly disgusting. These lot of people are so vile that they want to surrender the interest of the country and the people of Bhutan - at the alter of their individual greed.

Some industry players are attempting to cause injury to the very hand that rocked the cradle in which they incubated. They forget that they are where they are because of the MDPR – on their own some of them do not have the wherewithal to be where they are now – not by a long shot. Most of these people who drive Toyota Prados and own luxury homes – they owe their good fortune to the ingenuity called MDPR. Without the inventiveness of the MDPR, some of these people who now live in the lap of luxury would most likely be pushing cart trolleys by the roadside.

Certainly some tweaking of the system is called for – because conditions have changed and new situations have arisen. But to call for the total dismantling of the MDPR concept is a call that reeks of greed and personal interest, over national interest.

During a recent meeting with some industry players, some argued that we must leave things to the market forces. I agreed that that was a fair suggestion. However, I countered that what market forces they are talking of are clandestinely engineered by people in the domain of the extraterritorial. When the carpetbaggers walk in – the Bhutanese tour operators will be forced to walk out. We will be no match to the global tourism behemoths.

It is rumored that already some big players from outside have made inroads into the industry – through fronting operations. This is a sad situation. But it is my hope that majority of the Bhutanese people will want to decide our own destiny – whether to be owners of the very lucrative tourism business or commission agents to the manipulators from outside.

Remember - BHUTAN FIRST!

Monday, December 27, 2021

His Majesty’s 114th National Day Speech: Interpretation IV

On this fourth series, I will dwell on His Majesty’s 70th and 81st - 83rd sentences.

Sentence 70th: We need to strengthen our foundation by improving the educational standards, craft policies to diversify economic opportunities for our youth, and support private sector growth.

Today the generally accepted view is that the quality of education has dropped. Nothing can be further from the truth. The reality is that the quality of educators has dropped. When institutions of learning are headed by persons who are incapable of producing a one-page certificate of fitness, what can be expected? How would they be capable of molding young minds into growing up to be responsible, disciplined, dedicated and hardworking citizens?

Sentence 81st: Foreign experts and professionals have commented that our rules, regulations, laws and institutional procedures are among the best in the world.

Sentence 82nd: Yet we are not able to reap the benefits.

Sentence 83rd: Where have we gone wrong?

Lack of enforcement, regulation and monitoring

The Bhutanese truly excel at producing paper work. We churn out hundreds of thousands of pages of rules and regulations that are among the best in the world – both in words and in content. But that is where it all ends – rules and regulations are framed and notified – then they are promptly forgotten. They are shelved and gather dust thereafter in some dingy corner of the office. Over time, we even forget that a certain rule exists.

Where have we gone wrong? Quite simply - there is no follow through, there is no monitoring, there is no regulation, and there is no enforcement. Rules are made only to look good – there is no proof that they have been formulated to achieve ends.

It is for this reason that I have been moaning for the past many years that regulators should stick to regulating and enforcement. Do not get into areas where there is bound to be conflict of interests.

One other aspect of Bhutanese governance must find mention – that of putting in place a BAN. The public employees have a simple way to ensure that they are not required to put in hard work – simply put a BAN in place. When a ban is in place, they do not need to work at monitoring or regulation or enforcement.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Mirrored Sa Maartang

Today I want to take a sojourn from the topic that is currently in vogue and talk of my favorite subject – Bhutan’s ancient coins.

My deep and unremitting research into our coinages has taken me on journeys that I never imagined I would undertake – read volumes and volumes of material until my eyes became bleary. But I have managed to untangle some of the web of confusion surrounding our ancient coins. And I have interacted with a number of coin collectors and historians around the world who helped me become more knowledgeable and who sharpened my senses - to look beyond the stated and the written.

It is my hope that among the last confusions or uncertainties on the subject is the matter concerning the coin variety that the Western writers, historians and collectors have categorized as “Retrograde Sa” coin. This is a coin variety where the alphabet "Sa" is depicted on the reverse of the coin – with a mirrored "Sa" sitting to the right of the Cooch Bihari word “Ndra”.

Two days back, as I began the final process of sorting out the coin varieties and sub-varieties. I began to segregate the “Retrograde Sa” coins. I paused and looked at the coins and pondered:

What the dang hell is Retrograde?

I looked up the dictionary and find that the term “Retrograde” describes a planetary movement – a state in which a planet is in motion in a particular direction. The dictionary explains the term as follows:

“Moving in the opposite direction to that of most other stars, planets etc.”

I realized that the term “Retrograde” thus couldn’t accurately describe the coin variety. I embarked on some experiments. I selected two Sa coins – one with “Sa” rendered normally and another with “Sa” in a “Retrograde” position. I then opened the images in PhotoShop and flipped them horizontally – with the following results:

The normal "Sa" depicted on the LEFT Maartang in my collection was flipped horizontally in PhotoShop to get the "Mirrored Sa" image depicted on the coin to the RIGHT.

The Mirrored "Sa" coin in my collection depicted on the LEFT Maartang was flipped horizontally in PhotoShop to get the "Sa" in a normal position as depicted on the image on the RIGHT.

Next, I printed the alphabet “Sa” on a sheet of paper and took it to be projected against a mirror in the bathroom, with the following result:

Normal "Sa" as seen on paper as opposed to how it is seen when reflected on a mirror

With all the above experiments, I am now clear in my mind what the coin should be called. It cannot be called a “Retrograde Sa” coin because "Retrograde" describes an object that is in a state of motion and not an object that is static. Thus I am going to coin a new phrase for the coin - “Mirrored SaMaartang.

Just to be sure that I am not making a mistake, I referred to five different scripts of the Himalayan region - to see if there is a "Retrograde Sa" in any of them. There are none.

No "Retrograde Sa" in any of the above five scripts

The final question that now perplexed me is:

Did the die engraver make a mistake in engraving the “Mirrored Sa” die? Or was the erroneous depiction a deliberate act – to introduce a new variety.

This question will have to remain buried in history because we will never know.

Friday, December 24, 2021

His Majesty's 114th National Day Speech: Interpretation III

His Majesty’s segregation of “transient” and “enduring” prosperity is truly enlightening. The taxonomies are self-revealing in their implications. Two of His Majesty’s sentences read as follows:

Sentence 63rd: When we talk of prosperity and wealth, it is important to distinguish between transient and enduring prosperity, so that we are clear about our national aspirations.

Sentence 64th: For example, it is possible to become wealthy through gambling, rent-seeking, and other unethical means.

The 63rd Sentence dwells on the matter relating to our choice – whether we choose that which is temporary, or that which is everlasting or permanent.

But the 64th Sentence is the more substantive – it speaks of how you acquired the prosperity – irrespective of whether “transient” or “enduring”. Here His Majesty speaks of the route you have taken to amass your prosperity - whether “transient” or “enduring”. Here His Majesty is talking of corruption or, quoting Him verbatim – "UNETHICAL MEANS”.

There are a few million words that I can write about the corrupt and unethical practices that have been in vogue for the past many decades. But one particular shameless corrupt and unethical practice that I want to highlight is the QUOTA SYSTEM – not that I have not done so before.

A clandestine deal under way

Very, very few lawmakers and public employees can claim to be unsullied by the stain of corruption and unethical practice, through the peddling of this undeserved and automatic reward, in the black market. I am told that some lawmakers and bureaucrats have received these undeserved quotas three times in their lives.

Bhutan’s leading industrialists and business houses generate hundreds of millions in tax revenue that go to pay the salaries and TA/DA of the public employees, including funding of some of the country’s developmental activities. And yet, they are undeserving and outside the quota system. In fact they are forced into indulging in unethical practices – such as illegally driving a car that is registered in some one else’s name because the law does not permit illegally owned cars to be registered in his/her name. Some upmarket bars and restaurants serve imported alcohol – peddled by lawmakers and public employees who have been issued letters of entitlement for purchase of duty free goods.

Any country or society is bound to be in serious trouble when blatant corruption and unethical practices are condoned with openness that verge on the collaborative. The trouble is that even the agencies that are charged with the responsibility to curtail such crimes – are themselves deep into it.

As I had said in the past, the country the size of our population needs just ten hard working and ethical persons to take this country to the top of affluence. Unfortunately, of the ten needed, only one is working really, really hard.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

His Majesty’s 114th National Day Speech: Interpretation II

His Majesty’s 38th, 40th and 41st sentences touched on the matter pertaining to the need for acquiring skills and inculcating a culture of life-long learning. Specifically, the following is how His Majesty put it:

Sentence 38th: We must inculcate in us a culture of life-long learning.

Sentence 40th: We need to be prepared for the future so that every one of us is equipped with the skills, competencies and experience to succeed and compete in the world.

Sentence 41st: We must give utmost priority to skill, up-skill, and re-skill our people to make them world-ready.

When attempting to embark on this subject, I was stumped! – I suffered a Writer’s Block for nearly 5 hours. This is such a weird subject – I did not know how to begin.

Up-skill and re-skill? How much do I get by way of TA/DA?

I mean the Bhutanese must be among the only people in the whole world who seek remuneration for getting skilled, or up-skilled, and re-skilled. Elsewhere in the world, one has to work very hard and pay good money to acquire skills and knowledge. The Bhutanese - whether you believe it or not - have to be paid good money to get educated, to receive life skills and to reskill them, to help them step up in life. If you don’t pay them TA/DA, they will not come and get educated or skilled.

I know that it will not come as a surprise to most when I say that when government departments conduct trainings – they make sure that the training happens outside their bases – because they want to earn TA/DA. Apparently there is a rule that says that they will not be entitled to TA/DA if the place of training or meeting is within the proximity of certain KMs from the locations of their offices.

Ofcourse if the training or meeting is outside the country – they will all jump at the opportunity. And why not? - they will get paid even more.

At what point in time in the history of our evolution did we acquire this culture of getting paid for becoming wise, competent, able, efficient and skilled? When and how did we get this way?

His Majesty is categorical that this brand of culture is not something that was passed down – He is certain beyond doubt that it is something that this generation has spawned it in the past 15 years. His Majesty’s exact words in his 95th and 96th sentences were:

Sentence 95th: I have witnessed the boldness, rigour, resolve and sternness that had defined the reign of His Majesty the Fourth King.

Sentence 96th: Unfortunately, these qualities have deteriorated over the last fifteen years of my reign.

Clearly His Majesty means that the process of our devolution began in recent times.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

His Majesty's 114th National Day Speech: Interpretation I bbb

Of the many wise and meaningful reminders that His Majesty had pointed out during His 114th National Day speech, the subject of hydropower will be one that I am inclined to devote two articles. The reason: for the first time, there is official admission that hydropower is soon destined for the burial grounds. The following is the caution delivered by His Majesty in his 30th Sentence:

Sentence 30th: With rapid advancements in harnessing nuclear, hydrogen, fusion, solar, thermal and wind energy, hydropower may soon lose its competitive edge.

Water - source of future conflicts

There finally appears to be a sense that hydropower is now old hat. But the reality is that it can still generate revenue – long after our hydropower dreams have ground to a screeching halt. How? The following are my thoughts:

On 9th February, 2016, I had listed my 8 New Year Wishes. The 5th read as follows:


The most shameful thing about a country that projects itself as a net exporter of hydroelectricity is the fact that we have to import power during the winter months at a price higher than that at which we export during the summer months. This is a most shameful and pathetic situation!

Therefore, my Vth wish is to build dams over the Wangchhu and the Punatsangchhu, so that we can harness the excess water available during the monsoons, caused by snow melt and rain water which otherwise go on to flood the plains of India. Such storage reservoirs will augment the drastic fall in water availability during winter months, thereby making it possible for our generators in the power plants to work at full capacity to generate electricity, even during the winter months. This will eliminate the need for import of expensive electricity during the lean season.

On the 27th of last month, I repeated my wish, as follows:

The planners and lawmakers should now stop talking of new hydropower projects. In fact they should stop talking about hydropower projects entirely.

Instead, let them talk about constructing a water storage reservoir on the Wangchhu – to augment water supply to the two existing projects downstream - during the winter months. Bring to focus the import bill of electricity during the winter months.

I have, to date, written 69 hydropower related articles. For those of you who are interested, the articles are grouped under the following:

There are facts and figures in those articles that may surprise you.


I forgot to mention why a staunch environmentalist like myself is now urging the construction of reservoir dams across the Wangchhu and Punatsangchhu basins. The reason is that these two basins' environmental integrity has already been compromised - due to the hydropower projects that have already happened on the river basins - it cannot get any worst.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

His Majesty's 114th National Day Speech: Interpretation I aaa

As I said in my last post of 18th December, 2021, I am going to offer to interpret His Majesty’s most riveting 114th National Day Speech, beginning with this first installment.

To me His Majesty’s body language on that day was clear – it was not one of surrender – it was one of absolute resolve. It was clear for all to see - that the days of words are behind Him – He will now act. His closing words were as follows:

“There is nothing new in what I am sharing today. These are part of daily conversation among our people while expressing their concerns, hopes and aspirations. Rather than leave these concerns and sentiments within the confines of their homes, I re-articulate them today as the King’s Command on this National Day”.

Before I begin my series, I would like to remind you of another of my interpretations – that of His Majesty’s 111th National Day Celebration in Samtse, during 2018. You can read it at the following:

I broke down His Majesty’s 114th National Day speech into numbers. The statistics, as they show up on my computer screen, are as follows:

1,906   Words

     30   Paragraphs

  216    Lines

  107    Sentences

Number of lines may vary, depending on your choice of font, page margins and font size choice – other numbers will not change.

Scanning through the 107 sentences that made up the total speech, significantly, the first in order of the many concerns His Majesty expressed dealt with - hydropower. He spoke as follows:

Sentence 29th: For example, hydropower today is an important source of our wealth.

Sentence 30th: With rapid advancements in harnessing nuclear, hydrogen, fusion, solar, thermal and wind energy, hydropower may soon lose its competitive edge.

Sentence 31st: We may soon become a net energy importer.

Sentence 32nd: Therefore, it is imperative to seize the opportunity and enhance the capabilities of our people, and strengthen the economic and governance framework to harness the potential ushered in by these rapid and dynamic technological changes.

What His Majesty is endeavoring to point out, in fact He is saying it clearly in His 31st sentence – that Hydropower will cease to be the technology of choice in the coming years. He is clear that emerging and advancing alternate sources of energy harnessed from nuclear, hydrogen, fusion, solar, thermal and wind – will render hydropower  - REDUNDANT.

Bhutan's Hydro Power Master Plan

In one of my 67 blog articles on the subject of hydropower, the following is what I had said, on 23rd of January, 2018:

“Let us be responsible to our future generations and make a pledge today to keep some of our rivers free flowing. In any event, solar power is fast emerging as a serious competition to hydro-power. In 1977 solar cells used to cost US$ 76.67 per watt. By July of 2016, per watt cost of solar cells had dropped to US$ 0.26. It will not be long before hydro-power is nudged out of the competition. Thus even from the point of view of investment, it looks like we are putting our debts behind a loser.

Let us stop further hydro-power projects. It is pretty clear that in the next 5-6 years, energy generated by hydro-power projects will no longer be competitive. Even worse, water may no longer qualify as a renewable resource, caused by global warming”.

Saturday, December 18, 2021


In the coming days, I will be posting my interpretation of His Majesty the King’s absolutely riveting 114th National Day Speech to the nation – but for now I would like to post my following response to a written interview to which I responded only a few days back - on the 14th of November 2021.

At the core of our failures is: Failing to fix ACCOUNTABILITY

When His Majesty aspires for a “Developed Bhutan” I would like to interpret this as an inference that we are not yet a developed society or state. Even if we hold a contrarian view and insist that we are indeed developed, what His Majesty provably means is that the level of “development” is far below the level that is desirable.

In my view, “development” should be viewed from two distinct perspectives:

Material, and

My view is that our material development has far outpaced our intellectual development. Not only the public employees, but also the general populace, which includes every segment of the Bhutanese society, suffer intellectual impotence. Most often if any Bhutanese does anything, he does it as a fulfillment of his duty – responsibility does not seem to feature in his scheme of things. Consequently, whatever little material development we may have achieved comes to naught because of lack of a sense of responsibility, unwilling to be committed in what we do, and the lack of a sense of pride in doing a good job. If we do do it, it will be because we are duty bound to do it – not because we have a responsibility to do it. Such attitude is telling on the quality of our development.

There is a need to improve the morality of the Bhutanese people. Our mental growth is stunted by the Kidu culture – we need to shed it. We need to be taught to earn what we aspire to own and possess.

Simple examples are our thoughtlessness – we are not given to thinking – we are almost robotic in what we do.

We do not process information – we merely absorb it like water to sponge.

We set standards that are too high for the level of our intellectual competence or managerial skills, which is the cause of our consistent failure to achieve the set targets. We must learn to set achievable targets – and achieve them.

We have a tendency to compare ourselves with those who are at the bottom rung among achievers – thus ascribing to mediocrity.

We tend to reward people not because he/she is an achiever – but because the person has risen to a position in the bureaucratic ladder through a set number of years in the system. A case in point is the award of vehicle and duty free “quota”. This is an award that is not a reward for exemplary service put in by a public employee – but an automatic entitlement claimed as a matter of right. The person has no obligation to earn it – he just has to sit out his time.

The current system does not recognize service and hard work.

Most importantly, we need to learn to do small things with dedication and competence, instead of planning big things for which we do not have the financial muscle. Let us learn to bury the big dreams and embark on many small things that we can achieve. If we take care of the small things, the big things will fall into place.

Let us set achievable targets – instead of chasing unachievable and lofty dreams that is beyond our competence.

In fulfillment of my responsibility as a citizen, I have offered critical but objective views on the workings of the government, through my blog.

I have written on a wide range of subjects – so that readers may be better informed. As a private citizen, I am at liberty to be critical about issues that the government may be unwilling to be truthful about.

In particular I have been persistent in my view that the country needs to be better educated in our wild pursuit of hydropower projects that has the potential to endanger our very sovereignty.

Through my writings I have cautioned the ruling governments on their missteps. I see this as my contribution towards better governance and stewardship of the country’s public resources.

How can we help engage everyone in building a “Developed Bhutan”? 


Currently, the predominant thinking is that only the public employees have a monopoly over intelligence, competence, experience, organizational skills – everything! It is arising from this misconception that the private sector is treated like second-class citizens. The truth is that there are far more intelligent and smart people in the private sector with experience way beyond those of the public employees. Simple reason: the private sector has to compete in a highly competitive environment - while the public employees make do under the 9 – 5 job environment. The private sector person’s mind undergoes many years of honing – to survive in a brutal dog-eat-dog world.

The current scene is that public employees fill all the important and critical positions – while the reality is that the positions need to be filled by people whose minds are differently oriented. Public employees who do not have a day’s experience in competitive and logical thinking head even commercially oriented enterprises.

It is for this reason that organizations that actually have the potential to contribute hugely to the development of the country remain languished in mediocrity and incompetence.

The government must begin to tap into the rich and diverse human resource pool that is the private sector and the NGOs. In particular, organizations that do not have a regulatory function must be headed by experienced people with proven records of achievement – drawn from the private sector and the NGOs.

Regulatory authorities such as the NEC, TCB and others should be confined to regulation, monitoring and enforcement. This will prevent dilution of responsibility and function.

It is time that the government reorient its thinking – it must be receptive to change in a changing world.

The civil service is poorly regulated. There is a need to instill a strong sense of responsibility and a culture of taking up responsibilities – not merely do a job as fulfillment of their duties. Fixing accountability is another thing. The civil service has no sense of ownership – they do not take pride in doing a good job. This has to change – they must be held responsible to do a good job – with integrity and hard work, and without expecting a reward for doing their job and fulfilling their responsibilities.

They have to be made aware that they DO NOT DESERVE A REWARD for doing their jobs.

The civil service needs to get out of the mind set that everything will eventually come to them automatically – they have to learn to earn what they get.

NOTE: In all the above I have never even once used the famous word “Civil Servant” because as I said over and over before – they are neither civil nor servants.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Thank You, Again and Again

A friend in Portugal who is an officer working in the Portuguese government’s taxation department writes me a mail yesterday which reads as follows - upon being informed that I am resigning from the Rotary institution – not just the Rotary Club of Thimphu:


I hope it has been a fulfilling task and I’m sure you’re leaving it better than you encountered it. I expect you to get some rest and pay a visit to this marvellous sunny country now that you have the time.

Certainly I am leaving behind a Club that is a much better and more buoyant institution – as I depart at the end of this month. Even going beyond the Club, I am leaving my footprint at The Rotary Foundation:

My last act at the cusp of my departure from this great institution – is to give back to The Foundation a small contribution – as a mark of THANK YOU for the millions it has given to Bhutan and the Bhutanese people. Even beyond that, it is my way of offering Ngendah to an institution that I believe makes a difference at a global scale.

If there is any such thing as a House of God, The Rotary Foundation is one such House.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Please Stop Acting God

Recently, Nilanga Jayasinghe, Manager, Asian Species, Wildlife Conservation Team, WWF-US, wrote:

The long-term survival of some of the world’s most iconic species, including elephants and tigers, is at risk from a significant and escalating threat: human-wildlife conflict. Human-wildlife conflict is when encounters between humans and wildlife lead to negative results, such as loss of property, livelihoods, and even life. Defensive and retaliatory killing may eventually drive these species to extinction.

In my last blog on Biodiversity Bill being discussed in the Parliament, I too wrote: “When conservation is at the cost of human development - conservation will eventually suffer”.

When one species is given primacy over another, an imbalance will be created. Creating an imbalance is not conservation – it is antithesis to sound and workable ecosystem conservation concept.

The following video is an example of how terribly wrong we are going with our conservation policy. The bear was seen yesterday at about 1.30PM close to the IT Park in Babesa that is bang within the Thimphu metropolis.

Proof of the failure of our conservation policy

In recent times, the KUENSEL reported many sightings of the Himalayan Black Bear in the capital city – in places like, Lungtenphu, Serbithang, Upper Motithang, Taba, Chamjeykha, Tango & Chari and Jemina.

Thousands of rural dwellers have been driven out of their ancestral homes – this video is proof that in times to come, the urban residents too are likely to be driven out – but where? Or, it will result in the extermination of the same species that we have committed to shelter.

Please rethink our conservation policy – before it is too late. Don’t become a Tsedhar Tshokpa – an initiative that attempts to defy and challenge and interfere with the natural laws.

Please recollect the confrontational situation of yore that had resulted in the near extermination of the wild dog population, the consequences of which we are still suffering even after many decades.

The above video is a rude reminder to us that our environment cannot be as pristine as we say it is. It proves to us that the wild bear has been forced to risk its life, and invade human habitat, in search of food. The only reason I can think of is that its own habit has no food for it to safely feed on.

This is yet another point I have been making repeatedly - in tune with forestry scientist Dr. Phuntsho Namgyel's - that the quality of our forests have deteriorated so much that it can no longer provide adequate space to support other useful life forms. It is obvious that our forests are overstocked with unproductive and aged trees that choke up life. They need to be removed in order that it can provide space for the proliferation of such life forms that provide sustenance to other life forms - such as the bear.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Bringing Clarity To Bhutan’s Monarchy

Something that is puzzling is that Jigme Namgyal is more famous as Trongsa Poenlop – rather than as Druk Desi. The fact is that he served as Druk Desi three times in his lifetime. In fact he died as Druk Desi and not as Trongsa Poenlop.

Druk Desi Kitshelpa Dorji Namgyel is shown separated from the main family tree since he was born out of wedlock

Another historical injustice is that he should be even more famous as the true unifier of Bhutan – not Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal or Choetse Chila Chhogyal Mingyur Tempa. The process of unification of Bhutan into a single nation state was certainly initiated by the Zhabdrung, upon appointment of Chhogyal Mingyur Tempa as the Choetse Chila in 1646/47. Chhogyal Mingyur Tempa did manage to unify Sharchog Khorlo Tsipgye under the central rule, by 1654. However, the unification did not last long – it disintegrated after Chhogyal Mingyur Tempa was appointed the 3rd Druk Desi and relocated to Punakha, in 1668.

It was Jigme Namgyal who re-integrated Sharchog Khorlo Tsipgey into the central rule seated at Punakha and re-established Bhutan as a single nation state – in the year 1850. When he did so, he was not the Trongsa Poenlop – he was then the Trongsa Droenyer, under Trongsa Poenlop Tshoki Dorji.

Jigme Namgyal became Trongsa Poenlop in 1853 and administrated Sharchog Khorlo Tsipgey which included the whole of central and eastern regions, such as Mangde, Jakar, Zhemgang, Lhuentse, Zhongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse and Doongsam. For all practical purposes, Jigme Namgyal was the de-facto ruler of Bhutan – and not the Druk Desi.

For a short while his territorial jurisdiction was halved – when Sharchog Khorlo Tsipgye was split into two and one half was handed over to Jakar Poenlop Tsuendrue Gyaltshen. That did not last long though - Jakar Poenlop Tsuendrue Gyaltshen was killed in the famous Duars War with the British, in 1865. Upon the demise of Jakar Poenlop, the whole of Sharchog Khorlo Tsipgye reverted back to the rule of the Trongsa Poenlop.

His son Paro Poenlop Ugyen Wangchuck became Trongsa Poenlop upon his demise in 1881.

Few are aware that Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck was not the first-born of Druk Desi Jigme Namgyel – he was the second son, born after Thinley Tobgyal, the first-born.

The measure of the importance of Trongsa Poenlop Ugyen Wangchuck can be judged from the fact that it was him who was invited to Calcutta by British India government - to meet the Prince and Princess of Wales - later King George V and Queen Mary, in 1906. By protocol, it should have been the Druk Desi who should have represented Bhutan, during the official visit of the British royalty to colonial India.

By tradition, all the holders of the Golden Throne have to be first seated at Choetse, as the Choetse Poenlop. His Majesty the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck has the distinction of being the only King of Bhutan who never had the opportunity to become Trongsa Poenlop – he ascended the Golden Throne directly while he was still the Paro Poenlop, in 1952.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Did Ngawang Namgyal Bring In Silver Tangkas When He Entered Bhutan in 1616?

It has taken me years of research to untangle the web of confusion surrounding our coinages - but I am now almost nearing the end of the road. I believe that I have more or less managed to bring some semblance of order in how and when and where our coinage began.

In my continuous and extended intercourse with coin historians and writers across the globe, some new information have surfaced – also some existing ones had to be dismantled and corrected. That is of course natural – after all, history has always been subject to revision and rewriting. But something intrigued me – something to which I had not given any thoughts earlier:

The fact that there is no mention anywhere – whether the Tibetan Lama Ngawang Namgyal brought any silver Tangkas with him, when he entered Bhutan in 1616.

The above question became pertinent to me – during my quest to decide what to call our ancient hammered coins – the origin of the word.

We know for a fact that Tibet’s earliest silver coin – the silver Vartula Tangka - was hammered in Tibet sometime in 1743/1744. Before that, they were supposedly using silver Tangkas of Nepal. But one of the coin historians writes to me to tell me that “Nepali silver coins circulated in Tibet long before 1640”.

But the question is: How long before?

Tibet's first homegrown Silver Vartula Tangka hammered in 1743

The fact that there is no mention of Ngawang Namgyal bringing any silver coins with him when he entered Bhutan – could only mean that the Nepali Tangkas were NOT in circulation in Tibet during the early 1600. In fact it could point to the fact that there was NO COINS USED in Tibet during that time. If they were, Ngawang Namgyal would certainly have brought them to Bhutan – after all he was a highly revered Lama in Tibet before he decided to migrate to Bhutan. He certainly would have had access to large amounts of Tangkas.

Or, may be, he did bring. Do any readers know?

During the Tibetan exodus of the early 1950s, sack loads of silver Boetangs, Baltangs, Chinese Dayang/Gormo and British India silver Rupees were brought into the country by the fleeing Tibetans – so much so that hundreds and thousands of them are still available in the country.

History has a habit of throwing up strange and most unlikely facts!

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Thank You From The Rotary Foundation (TRF)

Day before yesterday I received a mailer from the TRF seeking contribution to their funds that go to support humanitarian projects across the world. Promptly I request my friend in Boston, USA to make the contribution on my behalf. An hour back I received the following confirmation from the TRF that my humble contribution has been received into their Annual Fund.

Acknowledgement of my humble contribution to The Rotary Foundation's Annual Fund

I wish I could contribute more – we owe it to the Foundation. Few in Bhutan know that by the end of this Rotary year ending in June, 2022, the global Rotary community, with matching grant from the TRF, would have pumped in over Nu.150.00 millions, in aid money that went on to support Health, Education and Agriculture. By the end of next RI Year 2022-2023, we will cross the Nu.200.00 millions mark.

The Rotary Club of Thimphu is like no other NGO in Bhutan, in fact in the whole world. While other NGOs in Bhutan and elsewhere apply part of their donor gifted funds to support themselves and their organizations, we are the only NGO in the country that does not use a single Chettrum of the millions of project funds we receive. Every single Chettrum of project funds is used to implement projects for the people of Bhutan. We are the only NGO whose Members do not receive salaries, or TA/DA or reimbursements of expenses for the work we do for the community - ours is 100% voluntary service. Our travels are self-financed. In fact even the office rent, staff salary and Internet time is paid for out of the contributions collected from Club Members. Even the tea and snacks we consume during our weekly meetings is financed by contributions from the members – through collection of what is called Sunshine Money. Until mid last month every meeting we attended, we contributed Nu.100.00 for tea and snacks. But from end last month this contribution has been increased to Nu.150.00 per Member since we realized that it was not enough. The Club’s Secretariat is supported from the Membership Fees collected from its 25 Club Members – both active and honorary.

The Rotary Club of Thimphu is a gift to the people and the Kingdom of Bhutan - from the erstwhile DPT government. They spearheaded and financed the creation and Charter of the Club, in 2012. DPT’s Home and Cultural Affairs Minister Lyonpo Minjur Dorji has the distinction and the privilege of being the country's only Rotary Club’s first and Charter President.

It is my hope that the creators and the progenitors of the Club are proud of their legacy – because I dare say that we have far exceeded their wildest expectations.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Biodiversity Bill

I am encouraged to read in today’s KUENSEL that there is a discussion going on and perhaps even the possibility of the adoption of a Biodiversity Bill during the ongoing Parliamentary sessions. I am encouraged to note that the Khenpa Chair of the Committee who worked on the Bill has the institutional memory to draw upon – to ensure that the Bill does not turn out to be another Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan.

Millions of cubic meters of timber are rotting inside the deteriorating quality of our forest stand, while we are importing billions of Ngueltrums worth of timber from countries like Malaysia. Ground waters are drying up ….. because the unproductive trees are drinking them up.

Hundreds and thousands of farmers are driven out of their farmlands – creating Goongtongs and huge pressures on the already overburdened urban infrastructure. As a result, developmental activities are, by necessity, centered in urban centers – to keep pace with the pressures brought on by the migrating rural population. Little wonder then that there is no money left to take development to rural communities.

I hope that the Parliamentarians have the common sense to read through the Biodiversity Bill, as if their money were at stake, so that something useful is passed into law – not one that takes away the birth rights and the just entitlements of the human society.

Please bear in mind: when conservation is at the cost of human development - conservation will eventually suffer.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Repeat of History?

…….. Around the same time, strangely, Bhutan emerged as the world’s largest grower and exporter of brown jacket cardamoms – something that is totally IMPOSSIBLE – given that India, Nepal and Sikkim were much bigger growers of this variety of cardamom! How it came about is rather ticklish – something that I am still unwilling to write about :)

The above is the last paragraph of my post on Bhutan’s export of brown jacket cardamoms, about which I blogged on May 17, 2017. Please read the full article at:

When writing out my last post on this Blog relating to the Ministry of Agriculture’s “Buy-Back” scheme, memories of one particular aspect of Bhutan’s cardamom export business during the late 70’s and early 80’s came flooding back.

I was the Head of the Third Country Export Section of the Export Division under the then Ministry of Trade, Industries & Forests. I handled all the exports to the third countries – countries other than India.

In 2017 when I was writing out my blog post titled “The Curious Case of Bhutan’s Cardamom Export”, I did not wish to write about the “ticklish matter” – but today I think I need to write about it, so that a repeat of history is averted. I hope this will serve as a caution to the Ministry of Agriculture. By the way, then too the Ministry of Agriculture was the parent Ministry of the Food Corporation of Bhutan that was in the thick and thin of the events I am now going to narrate.

Those days Bhutan was happily exporting millions of Ngultrum's worth of brown jacket cardamoms. The export was routed through an intermediary in Singapore. Why such a round-about route was necessitated is given in my article of 2017 of which the link is provided above.

One day, as the person responsible for all third country exports, I represented Bhutan in an international conference on GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) conducted by the UNCTD – now called WTO of the UN. I cannot remember where the meeting was held.

During the meeting, when Member countries’ export figures were presented, to my consternation, Bhutan was listed as the world’s largest exporter of brown jacket cardamoms – over all other growers of the world. Certainly for a country our size, our export figures would have been pretty impressive – but NO WAY we can be the biggest. Ours would be minuscule compared to India’s or Nepal’s or Sikkim’s. Whatever the reasons, I was intrigued and when I am intrigued, I get to the bottom of things.

I began a systematic investigation into how we came to be declared as the biggest grower and exporter of brown jacket cardamoms. This personal initiative (I was not required by my organization to undertake this exercise) was necessitated by one other situation that I was faced with – the FCB’s blatant refusal to surrender their stock of cardamoms to me – even at a price better than they were offered by others. They claimed that they had no stock to offer me - total bullshit! I had a Letter of Credit amounting to over US$ one million – but not enough cardamom to meet the export obligation.

I was not about to sit idle and tweedle my thumbs - I went on an offensive. I did what I had to do – I will not go into the details of what I did. Eventually the FCB was left with no choice - but handover their entire stock to me. Unfortunately, their entire stock fell far short of what I needed - I had to make up from other sources - which is another calamitous story, to be told another day.

Back to the main story.

I met the Department of Agriculture’s officials to find out what ought to be our rough annual production – based on the acreage of land under cardamom plantation. There was a humongous gap between what we exported and what we could have produced.

Next stop – the entry and exit points for all export/import goods – Samtse, Gelephu, Sarpang, Samdrup Jongkhar and Phuentsholing. From these regional exit points, I gathered what volumes were dispatched and what was received at the central store of the FCB in Phuentsholing.

Figures from Phuentsholing Gate showed that there was huge, huge, disparity in what was dispatched from the exit points – and what entered Phuentsholing gate. Since FCB had their central store in Phuentsholing, all cardamom purchased by their regional offices had to come to the Central store in Phuentsholing.

Records showed that the FCB bought more than three times our national production capacity. How is that possible? Where did the excess tonnage come from?

It did not take me long to figure out what had happened.

AAA.  The FCB was the only agency to which the growers would sell their cardamoms – because under the directives of the RGoB, FCB was mandated to offer, what used to be then known as “Support Price”. The “Support Price” was more than generous so that farmers are encouraged to grow more. What the RGoB did not realize was that the “Support Price” was much, much higher than those offered by Indian traders – a situation ripe for manipulation.

BBB.  The Export Division of the Ministry of Trade, Industries & Forests was charged with the responsibility to export the cardamoms, and earn most urgently needed foreign exchange. During those days there was a strong push towards earning foreign exchange, something that does not seem to be the case today. The Export Division did a sterling job of exporting so much so that Bhutan shot up to number one position – as the world’s top exporters of brown jacket cardamom – even while being clueless that we were exporting far in excess of what we are capable of producing.

CCC.  During that period, there was a ban on export of brown jacket cardamom out of India. Thus the Indians could not export their cardamom outside the country. They would have not bothered about the prices in the international market – all that they would have been concerned about would be an opportunity to export their "black" money and park them in offshore accounts – through over invoicing of their exports.

Enter Bhutan – with its benevolent “Support Price”. The support price was way higher than prices offered in the Indian cardamom market.

The Indian traders in Phuentsholing, Jaigaon and Siliguri entered into deals with some unscrupulous Bhutanese traders and even FCB directly – and started to dump Indian cardamom into the stockyards of the FCB – as Bhutanese cardamoms.

Bhutan’s “Support Price” ended up supporting the purchase of Indian cardamoms which was fetching much lower prices in their own markets - for export by the Export Division, in the process helping Bhutan achieve the unachievable – top place as the largest exporter of brown jacket cardamom in the world.