Doubtful PM

Still unsure

More than decade has already passed since the start of Bhutan’s accession process to the WTO. And many of our current ministers have been involved throughout the process. So I find it strange that, after all these years, one of them, the prime minister, is “still unsure” about joining the WTO.

What do you think? Should we join or not? Or are you also “still unsure”?

Take our poll that asks, “Should Bhutan join the WTO?”

Caricature by Bhutan Observer


Facebook Comments:


  1. Chhophyel says

    Good grief, still our leaders are not sure “yes” or “no”to WTO. OL articulated very well, he said” More than decade has already passed since the start of Bhutan’s accession process to the WTO. And many of our current ministers have been involved throughout the process.” I am already yawning about this topic. We are at a best juncture to join WTO considering our need to stimulate economy and job creation. We can’t deny though that there are both advantages and disadvantages, but the good news is that advantages by large takes precedence over the former. If we join WTO, this will create a fair playing field for everyone and allow competition based on rules. Right now, say hypothetically (happened to few companies in the past I think) our clients or overseas partners refuse to make payments or neglects the terms and conditions, we can’t do anything and prosecute them in the international court because different countries have different jurisdiction. As much as world is filled good people, there are bad folks out there who love to take advantage. If we join WTO, we should be in position to avoid such cases. Joining WTO will create new impetus towards trade development, boost economy, good governance, and can certainly reap more benefits. So, we can’t afford to wait another decades and still be not sure if we should join or not.

    Of course, the other side of the aisle will argue though fearing a major companies taking over mom & pop businesses. However, if our government implement a careful rules and regulations, implying that, “If you are in my house, you play by my rule.” Thats exactly what China, Japan, US and all countries are doing.

  2. Tashi Tobgay says

    WTO requires accountability and the principle of reciprocity. As a member of WTO, Bhutan’s PM can’t say, we want Mckinsey and we do not want to consider others. Bhutan’s PM can’t say, we want Tata to adopt us and say no to other companies from Japan, US or Germany. I met a journalist who said that our PM Jigme Y. Thinley had said to a group of journalists that he was personally involved in accession to WTO and how it would help Bhutan. That was before he released a press release to say that he was not sure of WTO. This PM is a pathological lier and he should be impeached if there is such a provision in our constitution. I can’t take another year of hypocrisy from this man!

  3. WTO is a multilateral game.

    As such, I suppose one can play the game starting with the accession decision.

    In the event, I pray that the entire Cabinet is of one mind on the game’s objective, strategy and tactics, and is united in their conviction that the objective is in the national interest.

    That, regardless of eventual outcomes, is the only way a nation can hope to gain from such an exercise in brinksmanship.

  4. Sorry for my last post above. That was not intended. My little dude pressed the enter key while I was seeping ‘suja’. It was just a few seconds and there it went. These kids always think they know what they are doing and, what’s more astonishing is, they are so fast to doing the wrong things!
    Well, please allow me to speak in simple language without all those crazy economic jargons and explain it to you why JOINING WTO IS NOT GOOD FOR OUR COUNTRY.
    First keep in mind the following simple facts about our country.
    1.We are a landlocked country.
    2.We do not produce much of any economic goods or agricultural produces, both in terms of quality and quantity, worth competing with other countries and be on an advantageous side.
    3.We are sandwiched between two economic giants.

    Second, I am sure anyone who is reading and writing in this blog, without any doubt, understand that when we enter into an agreement with someone, we are bound by the terms and conditions mentioned explicitly in that agreement. For example, when we became a member of the UN, we are bound by the UN Charter. When we joined the SAARC, we are bound by the SAARC Charter. When we joined the NAM, we are bound by the NAM Principles. And so it is true for any other organizations we are not a member, such as ASEAN, APEC, OPEC, WTO, NATO, EU, AU, and so on. The principle of non-interference in the UN Charter applies as much to Bhutan as it does to India. The principle of refraining from use of military force applies as much to USA as it does to Iraq. So you like it or not, the principles and terms and conditions of these agreements or organizations or treaties apply equally to all nations irrespective of their size and economic development. Smaller nations like Bhutan benefit enormously from these identical application of terms and conditions in such socio-political organizations like the UN and the SAARC. However, the story is totally different for small nations like Bhutan if they become members of such economic and trade-oriented organizations like the WTO. Why? Consider the following scenario.

    Joining the WTO will mean free trade amongst its members. This means Bhutan can export as much as it “must” import. Mark the quoted word. Now remember the basic fact number 2 about our country. Our import size will be astronomically larger than our export size. It may be like we export 1% and import 99%. If we are not a member of the WTO, we can manage the imports as we like and as much as we can accept it. We can impose more taxes to some goods which we think we have had enough. We can lower taxes for other goods which we think we need more. We can not do this if we have become a member of the WTO anymore. Terms and conditions of the WTO govern us all. Chinese goods will flood our markets, Indian cars will cramp our roads, Thai red rice and other agricultural products will fill our grocery stores, Malaysian bamboo wares will be seen in every household, our fruit sellers will sell Washington apples and Australian pineapples and we can do nothing about it. What’s more? It is not just the material goods; it applies well to the human resources and intellectual properties. Unemployed Japanese software engineers, kicked-out radical American professors, bankrupted Italian designers, unemployed Indian IT graduates, crazy African artists etc etc…will all flock to make a future in our country. The result is that our youths will not only have to compete with the insiders but also with these outsiders. Our private companies and even our government will be more willing to hire these people more than our own kids because they are more qualified and have more experiences. Our trade balance will be offset completely. Instead of creating more jobs for our youths in the country, it will make them more un-employed. There is virtually nothing to do. Our farmers who grew red rice will not be able to sell their produces because the Thai red rice is better and cheaper. Our apple growers can’t grow apples because people will opt for the imported apples which are better and cheaper. Our bamboo mat weavers in Shemgang will not survive because people will opt to buy the imported bamboo mats which are better finished and cheaper. This is the fate of many small states in the Latin America who joined WTO and I am afraid it will be the same for our country too.

    The only thing this PM is sure about is perhaps some million dollars he might have got from the Mc Kinsey for that executive order to put it into “immediate effect”. Rest I don’t see he is sure about anything else.

    Finally, if you ask me, “should Bhutan join WTO?” My answer is neither ‘Yes’ nor ‘No’.
    It is “SUICIDAL”.

  5. wondering says

    Hi OL,

    I thought you might be interested in a article in the online Bhutantimes ( where the author mentions that PM goes all the way to Japan, says good things about Bhutan and then finally distributes Brochures of His daughters tour company. Shouldn’t he be questioned on it in the parliament. One or two such incidences can perhaps be turned a blind eye to, but I heard of a similar story where the PM threw a tantrum because his daughter did not get a catering contract. Even a country like India where corruption is seen as synonymous with politicians, the PM is always a person of high integrity and love for the larger interest of the nation rather then the self and immediate family.

  6. There is no denying of the fact that Bhutan will get good market base if it joins WTO. Very often a time, we complain about small market size and having not to enjoy the cons of the economies of scale. Accession to WTO is an answer to it.

    However, the million dollar question is- will Bhutan have any comparative advantage to produce anything over other countries? Unless we have some, accession to WTO may not prove fruitful to Bhutan and its people.

  7. Why does our Government has to be so hasty about everything so suddenly? Let’s take time and follow a cautious steps just as we have done in the past.

  8. I won’t be surprised if chophyel and OL are related

  9. I am amazed by what wondering had to say about PM…i can’t be hearing it right, am i? Please ensure that your facts are doubly checked before you post such comments. Cos if this is true then i sincerely and truly worry for my country and see very littel or rather no hope in this democracy. So i hope this is not true.

  10. Lings: Politicians do everything within the election cycle. That’s why the DPT government is in a big rush. They have no time for research, debate, and public opinion. They don’t care if their politically motivated and short sighted policies and projects take the nation down the wrong in the long run. All they care about is “Here and Now” and their next election.

  11. Last sentence: I mean “…down the wrong path..”

  12. To Karma 1: YES. You are absolutely right. Everyone must double check their information,if any, regarding anyone, of their corruptive and deceptive practices including the PM, the OL, the Cabinet or any other elected MPs of both the NA and the NC and, for that matter, anyone in the government. These leaders, elected or non-elected, have pledged to serve the Kingdom of Bhutan well, and serve it right. They are also paid to do so, exorbitantly high by our domestic standards, for the nation, not for themselves. Clause (d) of Section 5 of Article 20 of our Constitution states ‘the Lhengye Zhungtshog shall represent the Kingdom at home and abroad’. When our PM went to Japan, he didn’t go there as Jigme Y. Thinley. He went there as our PM and thus he represented this nation and not himself at all. If what ‘Wondering’ said above was true, the PM had grossly violated the Constitution and if anyone has good evidence, charges can be filed to the Supreme Court. On the other hand, just worrying and hoping something better will happen is not enough. It will not work. They may allege Bhutanese as a bunch of laid-back people who keep on procrastinating but we are not unintelligent. More importantly, it is our solemn fundamental duty. Section 9 of Article 8 of our Constitution states ‘every person shall have the duty to uphold justice and act against corruption’. A Bhutanese citizen who has all the evidences of such corruptive practices of our leaders but do nothing about it fails to perform his fundamental duty. This is very unfortunate for our country.

  13. Thanks Karma1. I get the point now!

  14. PM is unsure about joining WTO even after working so much for thr accession.At the instant it seems radicolous but at deepth he seems to be right. Bhutan with recent advancement does not have the potential to compare its its economic strength and financial status to other members. The terms and condotions of the organisation seems too matured for infant Bhutan from my point of view. we must establish well ourselves with the present system. this world follows the maxim ‘i scratch your back and you scratch my back’ so what do wwe have to offer to other member to survive the market competition? our Bangchusand Dapas would not work better. the only thing that we can proudly offer is GNH. But i doubt there would be any one to trade with that abstract concept. The production of few domestic goods would cost more than the profits from its sale and there would be no one to buy those goods. Let me just give a simlple example. Today 80% of funds for us comes from GOI and tommorrow if our market is flooded with Chinese goods then there would be big full stop to our FYPs. Bhutan is still an infant, trying to stand up would cause chaos. i think time will come for us to stand up without fear and doubt.Sooner the better.

  15. BhutanGuy says

    Everyone in Bhutan seem to have an opinion, be it right or wrong on why Bhutan should either join WTO or restrain from joining WTO. However, I find it extremely difficult to give any judgement as to whether to join WTO or not as I did not come across any convincing arguments to prove otherwise.
    I fully understand the delima that PM is going through specially if one has already formulated doubts during the campaign. It would definately go towards what the Americans call FLIP FLOP. However having said that, I feel that most of us tend to take sides on vague arguments presetned by one or other. To make a good judgement,specially for an issue such as WTO, one has to either be involved in the issue or at the least have read some aspects of the WTO to have basic understanding. Just because the Korean farmer goes on strike and takes ones life does nto mean that WTO is bad, it only goes on to show how seriously people take the regime and also the situation is very different.
    Further, I woudl think that it is not right for one person to decide on what is good for Bhutan or not. With such important decisions that will nonetheless have future implications, it is high time that the government engages in a healthy debate/dialogue on the good and evils of joining the WTO with all sections of the society. The argument that WTO is bad for Bhutan because it impinges (consumerist society)on the very goodness of GNH is very shallow.
    Finally the question of not joining WTO does nto arise. The political decision to joni the WTO was taken sometime in 1990’s when Bhutan applied for observership to the WTO. What remains is the negotiations on sectors with other countries. On this note I would like to say that, how we negotiate on sectors with the other countries will ultimately be the single most important issue rather than having misguided apprehension on Why Bhutan should not join the WTO.

    Bhutan came out of self isolation in the 1960’s and have started the long ardous road of integration with the internatioanl community thus far. How is it that we are once again heading towards the past?

  16. I guess currently RGOB is charging a tariff of USD 250 per tourist if the person is form a country other than a SAARC country.

    By joining WTO will it mean Bhutanese travelling outside as a tourist to other countries other than the SAARC countries have to pay the same tariff.

    Please enlighten me !

    Thanks !

  17. Bhutan is not ready to join WTO, our PM is absolutely right to informed people about the reluctance of joining WTO. I hereby assure that if we become the memeber of WTO, more than a benefit we receive, the drawbacks will overweigh. Moreover, our fourth king’s philosophy i.e ” Gross National Happiness( GNH) is more important tha Gross Domestic Product (GDP)” will be of no use. Ultimately our country will be the loser and sufferer on the hand of giant developed countries. I respect our PM’s veiw. He is not wrong, that our GNH values will get deteriorate. As he said our country is a very small organic country,which is valued by other developed countreis, there is every chances of becoming inorganic. I feel that PM’s decission to be a observer of WTO is not at all a good measures to be taken. Because if we become observer m sure that after 5 or 10 years we will join WTO. Therefore, i don’t find any special thing to join WTO. We should think before we do anything because it will be too late if we realize later……
    Thank you

  18. ktd bhutan boy says

    Bhutan can do much better being the member of WTO but not now…! It is absolutely not suiting for the current economic stability. For an simple example,our private companies have not been mature yet to compete with global markets.Thus, We need sometime more.

  19. WTO is founded on the principles of greed and wealth building, as such it contradicts with our Bhudhist philosophy of leading simple life. So dear fellow Bhudhists, pause and reflect…control your greed and save beautiful Bhutan from becoming a garbage.

  20. yentennamgyel says

    We shouldn’t be hasty, when we can’t compete with what we have, how can we think of competing with something we don’t have…

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