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Treading the last mile

We have come a long way since the Millennium Summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York a decade and a half ago. The world leaders signed a declaration at the summit to create a more prosperous, peaceful and equal world. Global peace and prosperity has come to mean so much else since.

Bhutan, a sincere member of the world body, took a solemn pledge that day. As a developing nation that opened up to rest the world only very recently, all the eight development goals that the august body of leaders set down had relevance to this small country. Progress had to be made. Time was running short.

Less than one year to the evaluation deadline, Bhutan is an example to the rest of the world. It shows that our commitments to the goals and declaration have been strong, leadership firm and focused. Exactly 10 years after the world leaders ratified the declaration that we know as Millennium Development Goals (MDG), Bhutan reminded the world of the need to add Happiness as one of the development goals.

When countries around the world are racing against the deadline to achieve the eight MDGs, Bhutan has achieved almost all of them. This has been possible because even as we are an aid-dependent country, we have made sure that every bit of support that we receive from donor countries is directed towards bettering our society. And we have had the blessing of peace and wise leadership of our kings.

We have been able to achieve significant progress in achieving the MDGs, particularly in the areas relating to poverty, educational attainments, maternal and child health, high-risk diseases and environmental sustainability because we have included them as high-priority themes in all our Five Year Plans.

Among our many development partners today, we are known as the nation that has reclaimed its soul because we have reduced our poverty level from 23 percent in 2007 to 12 percent, three percent beyond the MDG target. We have attained 100 percent universal primary education. Improving maternal health and reducing child mortality are on track. But there are a few places we must reach, some steep hikes we must undertake before we achieve all of the MDGs.

Where we are lagging a little behind today is with the goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women. But here too we are making rapid progress. Bhutan achieved complete gender parity at primary and secondary levels in 2009. Ratio of girls in tertiary education has risen sharply from 54 percent in 2007 to well over 71 percent today.

These are all positive signs of development that should encourage us to work a little harder. Walking the last mile will be tough, of course, but walk we must as a leader.

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One comment

  1. For major part of my not so bright academic career, I remained a backbencher. I was not a dumb student, but not obedient enough like the frontbenchers sincerely taking notes, doing home works regularly and always be pleasing enough to keep the teachers happy. Like some of those old monks, I believed in learning my lessons rather than performing what others have learnt for me just like what they had learnt for every one of us in the classroom. True that it took me nowhere beyond what has been achievable for me. So, it’s indeed a proud moment for every Bhutanese to realise what their nation has achieved in terms of completed MDGs in such a short time where others are probably still struggling to make any progress. Only the report, once it’s published, will tell the global story where others are missing out and Bhutan can truly set an example to the rest. There are also Indian expatriate workers who have been in the country with negligible contributions to these Bhutanese achievements even though not many of them will be aware of it. Achieving the MDG targets will be one proud moment for the nation, but that shouldn’t be the real end to the story of growth with happiness.

    And allow me here an opportunity to wish all the Indian expatriate workers there a very happy Indian Republic Day.

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