24 March : From Monarchy to Democracy – A lot to learn from Bhutan

  • Bhutan is a democratic, constitutional monarchy with a population of approximately 700,000.
  • The king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, is the head of state.
  • Executive power is vested in the cabinet, headed by Prime Minister, Jigme Thinley.
  • The Bhutanese monarchy was founded in 1907.
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  • It held its first democratic elections on 24 March in 2008.
  • Less than 16 per cent of Bhutan is arable.
  • 94 per cent of the population are dependent on agriculture, the highest proportion in the world.
  • Bhutan is one of the only countries in the world where citizens have a constitutional obligation to preserve and protect the environment.
  • Bhutan is the world’s only carbon sink – it absorbs more CO2 than it gives out.
  • Plastic bags have been banned in Bhutan since 1999.
  • Bhutan is the only country to outlaw tobacco (effective 2004).
  • The only country whose largest export is renewable energy: they sell hydroelectric power.
  • In 2001 Bhutan lifted its ban on TV and Internet—the last country in the world to do so.
  • The capital city, Thimphu, has no traffic lights – just white-gloved traffic officers.
  • All citizens officially become one year older on New Year’s Day. This way, no one forgets anyone’s birthday.
  • Bhutan is the first country to switch from the western ideal of Gross National Product to “Gross National Happiness,” which is achieved through four foundations: good governance, natural environment, sustainable growth, and cultural values.