Happiness for me

More than 90 scholars from 25 countries have descended on Thimphu to participate in the 4th International Conference on GNH. The conference, which is organized by the Centre for Bhutan Studies, was inaugurated this morning.

Interest in GNH is growing. And every year, many more sociologists, economists, psychologists, politicians and even businessmen and women join the ranks of GNH believers. What do most of them do? They conduct study, research, survey, analyze, hypothesize, and propose theories. They publish. And we are blessed with a growing library on the important subject of GNH.

Let me also share my thoughts – simple and straight forward – on happiness for me.

I believe that to be happy I must enjoy a sense of security, a sense of identity and a sense of purpose. And increasing amounts of security, identity and purpose would lead to increasing levels of happiness for me, my family and my community. That would be good for GNH.

HTMT Institute

The construction of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Training Institute is finally making progress.

The institute, located in 16 acres of sprawling property in Motithang, is estimated to cost Nu 385 million. That’s a lot of money to convert what had earlier been used as the Youth Center and, before that, as a government hotel to a training institute.

And that’s a lot of money to train only 50 people a year.

The good news is that once the institute is in full operation it would offer two-year courses in tourism and hospitality leading to diplomas that may be offered jointly with the International Tourism and Hospitality School in Salzberg. We could, therefore, expect the graduates of the HTMTI to be equal to the best in the world. That is indeed very good news.

The tourism and hospitality sector – our country’s largest foreign currency earner and, more importantly, biggest employer outside agriculture – is growing rapidly and demands increasing numbers of skilled professionals. This demand is expected to be met though the HTMTI.

The bad news is I can’t see most of these graduates, well trained and armed with diplomas, employed in local hotels. Most of our hotels are self managed and the growing demand for workers is for skilled workers, not managers.

So unless are aim is to train people for export – to Austria, for example – we need to do a serious review of the institute’s proposed training program.

Start such a review by consulting hoteliers themselves: Ugyen Wangchuk, the proprietor of Jumolhari Boutique Hotel and Chairperson of the Hoteliers Association, says that he expects the current shortage of skilled workers in the hotel industry to reach serious proportions. However, he claims that most of the demand is for semi-skilled workers (receptionists, bell boys, waiters, housekeepers, cleaners, assistant cooks, etc., ) and not the managerial level people that would be produced by HTMTI.

Then consult the experts: my friend in the Tourism Council of Bhutan, a specialist in tourism and hospitality, is already concerned about the relevance of the proposed courses at HTMTI. My friend feels that short, focused training in a range of skill areas would be more effective and relevant for our country, not a two-year management course.

The institute was first proposed in 2001, construction began only in 2007 and I don’t see it being ready before 2010. We’ve waited too long. Let’s not create another white elephant.

Denmark for Bhutan

Yesterday, I attended the event “Denmark for Bhutan” featuring the Danish film “Italian for Beginners” directed by Lone Scherfig. The film, a light hearted romantic comedy, was made in the dogme style using hand held video cameras, natural lighting and a small budget.

The event was organized outdoors – in the clear, crisp Thimphu evening at the CICCC Ground. Well done. And very enjoyable.
Many thanks to the Citizens’ Initiative for Coronation and Centenary Celebrations, and the Liaison Office of Denmark for last evening’s celebrations.

To our film makers: would dogme work in Bhutan? It’s cheap and simple. But without the bright lights and loud sounds of commercial cinematography, we would have to portray real life issues. And that’s what we need. But are we ready?

Volunteers for Bhutan

The Coronation was a grand success!

The Coronation – our coronation – showcased Bhutan’s unique culture and tradition. It also put on full display the love, affection and reverence that all Bhutanese have for our monarch.

I offer my heartiest congratulations to all the people responsible for making this historic national event a resounding success: The NSCCC, Zhung Dratshang, Home Ministry, Tourism Council, Protocol Department, schools, police, Thimphu Dzongkhag and City Corporation, hospital, media, City Bus, Department of Works and Housing, utility companies, DNP, and many others.

And I pay special tribute to the countless volunteers who came from all parts of our country and all segments of our society. They contributed their time, energy and resources to make the celebrations that much more enjoyable and safe, warm and special. Most of them worked behind the scenes and claimed no recognition. They worked long hours and shouldered heavy responsibilities.

Farmers traveled long distances, some from very remote areas, to offer special cultural performances.

Civil servants, especially the mid-level ones, sacrificed their long holidays to volunteer their services.

Recent graduates ignored looming employment concerns and turned in full force, everywhere it seemed.

The Citizens’ Initiative for Coronation and Centenary Celebrations organized a series of grand shows, and continue to do so to mark the centenary celebrations.

The Local Chapter put on memorable events and lavished pins and posters of His Majesty the King to all people.

They are patriots, all of them.

Volunteering is not new in Bhutan. It is a central feature of life in our villages. That’s how we build our houses, work our farms, celebrate births, nurse the sick, support the grieving, and secure our communities.

The Coronation Celebrations have shown that today’s urban Bhutanese are still ready to volunteer. That, in fact, volunteering is being taken to new heights. This, during our coronation, is a fitting tribute to our monarch.

To all volunteers: Tashi Delek!

Why I’ve decided to Blog

I’ve started this weblog to:

  1. interact with people more effectively
  2. encourage open debate on public issues
  3. share my ideas with the public
  4. accept public criticism for my ideas and actions
  5. encourage our youth to be more politically aware
  6. start a blog before my children do so