Ill conceived and misguided policy

My statement to the press yesterday:

Yesterday the UN General Assembly voted to elect non-permanent members to the UN Security Council. Bhutan, along with Cambodia and South Korea, competed for a single vacancy for the Asia Pacific Group of countries.

Bhutan secured only 20 of the 192 votes cast and was eliminated in the first round of elections itself. South Korea beat Cambodia in the second round of voting, and was elected to the Security Council.

The Government has expended considerable time and resources trying to secure a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. Our Mission to the UN at New York has been enlarged; Special Envoys of the Prime Minister have traveled far and wide; Ministers have traveled extensively and held bilateral meetings at the sidelines of the many multilateral conferences that they attended; and the Prime Minister himself has spent a disproportionate amount of time outside the country, campaigning for a berth in the UN Security Council.  It also appears that Bhutan may have established diplomatic relations with several countries solely for the purpose of securing their vote for our Security Council candidature.

The Opposition Party has always believed that the Government’s bid for Security Council membership was ill conceived and misguided. Moreover, we believed that even if we were somehow elected to the Security Council, we would have exposed our country to more harm than to good. As a young democracy, our focus should be at home, within the country, addressing issues of national importance, rather than craving for the international limelight.

The Opposition Party, however, chose to remain silent until now as we believe that in important foreign policy matters, we must present a united front to the international community, and Bhutan’s bid to join the Security Council was this government’s most significant foreign policy initiative. With the elections having concluded, however, we would be failing in our duty, as the Opposition Party, if we did not express our concern over the current government’s misguided attempt to secure a UN Security Council seat. Our concerns do not stem from the fact that we lost the election, but from having contested for the seat in the first place.

We also feel compelled to voice our deep concern over the overall direction of Bhutan’s foreign policy under the current government. Bhutan has always followed a prudent and far-sighted foreign policy befitting a small country located in a geo-politically sensitive region. The current government’s international priorities can be described as irresponsible at best, and undermine a foreign policy that has served Bhutan well over that last century.

As such, the Opposition Party calls on the Government to reconsider its foreign policy priorities, and devote its attention and scarce resources to pressing issues within the country.

The Opposition Party also calls on the Government to provide a complete and public account of the expenses incurred to campaign for the UN Security Council seat, and to explain why so much resources were allocated to an undertaking that we had no chance of winning in the first place.

19 October 2012

PRESS RELEASE

The Opposition Leader called on the Minister of Economic Affairs, His Excellency Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk, yesterday to express the Opposition Party’s concerns on the Royal Government’s recent policy decisions on tourism. The Opposition Leader reported that, after studying the Royal Government’s Executive Order of 13 November 2009 and consulting a wide range of people, representing a cross section of society, the Opposition Party has concluded that:

On the Royal Government’s decision to “Roll out of the integrated channel, price and supply policy that liberalizes the minimum package price and mandatory package via tour operator requirement…”

  1. Liberalizing the tourist tariff will undermine the positive brand image that our country has carefully cultivated and enjoyed over the last three decades. Most foreigners, including those who have never visited Bhutan, perceive Bhutan as a high end, exclusive destination. They consistently applaud the existing tariff policy as responsible and sustainable measures that are also in line with the principles of Gross National Happiness. Liberalizing the tourist tariff, even if it actually amounts to increased tourist spending, will harm Bhutan’s brand image. [Continue Reading…]