My experiences as a doctor in triage tells me to make the most favourable decision in the shortest possible time and endure in the spirit of team work.
We see through such medical emergencies with empathy, guided by professionalism and driven by hope. Most situations in delicate times are beyond control but we give our best.
Fortunately, for Bhutan, His Majesty The King has not only secured his citizens from the pandemic through initiatives non-compromising but safeguarded the lives and livelihoods of every Bhutanese, a reflection of his boundless compassion.
A King spearheading this modern battle against the pandemic, where the entire nation unites against it, is beyond description. What we accomplished is miraculous.
The sacrifices of the King, complemented by its people’s hard work, especially those on the frontline, have secured the nation from threats of a local transmission of the disease. This gave us the space and the fuel to move forward.
In doing so, complementing many of the noble initiatives and the measures introduced over the months, it is my pleasure to introduce the Economic Contingency Plan (ECP) Series I.
My aspiration is for the country to not just see through the challenging times but rise above the norm and complacence early, knowing there is no clear delineation between now and post COVID-19. The disease has already entered the medical dictionary.
Even if there is a distinction, our intention is to draw the line closer. That way, we will already be dwelling in the “post COVID-19 era” with the prospect of rising to the so-called new normal.
Bringing the line closer will not just give us the chance to fight the disease efficiently, but also avert an intense economic downfall. It is also within these frames that we can draw measures to pace our growth trajectory.
In doing so, priority remains to ensure the safety of our population from the disease first. Only then can we consider initiating projects befitting standards of new normal.
The interventions brought about by the ECP are along the principles of building a resilient nation, ensuring economic security and enhancing self-sufficiency, the foundations of a new normal.
I have constantly reminded all officials involved that the interventions we introduce through ECP should evolve into something more permanent, the sort that defines Bhutanese character. It is in pursuit of a systemic transformation with a long-term national vision.
For one, a key component of ECP is the “Build Bhutan” project, devised to not just address, but professionalise existing gap in workforce in the construction sector. A closer look offers a clearer perspective of the national vision to build the safety and security of our nation with our own hands, as it used to be once upon a time.
How do we engage our youth in the construction sector? The problem is a conventional one with retold topics of low wage, and lack of required skills and long-term job security. By building on these components, we view with newer lens and targeted intervention. And so, what we initiate today need to sustain hereafter.
Tourism has come to a standstill but that does not dissuade us from rebuilding the sector and ensure engagement of those directly affected. A salient feature of ECP, of many, looks at long term policy issues to not just redeem but redefine tourism. We look at diversifying our products beyond cultural tourism, while also ensuring continuity of high-end destination.
The sealing of borders also narrows import of food but widens opportunity to produce our own. Therefore, we are revisiting our age-old practice of conventional subsistence farming with modern tools and innovative ideas. The agriculture ECP seeks to encourage farming and livestock production that sees year-round production and is not just market driven.
As different institutes get down to rolling these programs, I urge everyone to rise above the standard and be guided by national interests. The new normal we talk about would be non-existent if we do not change the way we work. And so we must exercise prudence and work in coherence.
The challenges this pandemic has posed has also given us opportunities. Countries and people who are able to adjust to this new normal faster, have the opportunity of defining the post COVID-19 era better.
As we release the document, I bring to you His Majesty’s message from the televised address on March 22. As a small country with small population, we have always worked together and overcome challenges of all sorts, big and small.
I offer sincere prayers and place my hope on the ECP to benefit the country and its people at all times. As the government, we will ensure that timely projects like these are initiated in series to suit the need of the COVID-19 era.
With His Majesty at the helm, and the government taking charge, together we can achieve this.
Dr Lotay Tshering
Royal Government of Bhutan