The RIGSS Blog

To stimulate analysis, innovation, and forward thinking, and generate new ideas and insight
on subjects that matter in 21st Century Bhutan.
A humble tribute to celebrate learning, leadership and service that His Majesty The King continues to champion.

Launched on 21st February 2021 to commemorate the 41st Birthday of His Majesty The King

The views and opinions expressed in the articles on the RIGSS Blog are that of the authors and do not represent the views of the institute.


POSTED ON April 08, 2021
Tshering Phuntsho
Sr. Research Officer, RIGSS

How did Bhutan just do it? Not a single health worker infected with COVID-19, and a recovery rate of over 97% among the 891 infected patients (as of April 5, 2021). Foreign personalities and institutions alike lauded Bhutan's response to the pandemic. The international media had special coverages on Bhutan's efficient response to the pandemic. Madeline Drexler of The Atlantic in February 2021 wrote about how Bhutan was “The Unlikeliest Pandemic Success Story”. The government, institutions, and individuals put their best efforts into easing the nationwide Covid-19-induced pain. Around the world, even the developed countries struggled to contain the pandemic and the entailing reverberations. Leadership failure was at the guilty end and a common target of blame in many countries.

However, in Bhutan's case, the success story is attributed to the tactful, wise and magnanimous leadership of His Majesty The King. While the Bhutanese people can only keep counting the blessings, we must also be cognizant enough to reciprocate the Royal Leadership. It is for us to reflect upon the roles we played and the responsibilities we shouldered as individual citizens during the pandemic. If national success is to be celebrated, we must not disregard our own shortcomings too. Lessons learned will enable us to do even better. Therefore, it must be admitted that Bhutan's response to the pandemic was not completely devoid of challenges and issues. 

Despite earnest and repeated instructions and appeals from the government, there were cases of defaulters breaching Covid-19 protocols and laws; crossing the international border illegally, engaging in illicit trade, breaching lockdown protocols etc. Were some of us party to these irresponsible and self-serving acts?

Despite being economically sound, if some of us have either applied or received the Druk Gyalpo's Relief Kidu, which is intended for the needy, we may have to question our own conscience and morality. If we have not passed down or shared the benefits of loan repayment deferrals, then we may have just taken advantage of this initiative for our selfish gains. While it was a difficult time for almost everyone, there were still some of us who wanted to retain our gains and comforts at any cost. Prices of some commodities were raised exorbitantly high overnight.

As the nation was preparing for the worst-case scenario, some of us were knowingly or unknowingly making things worse, especially for the government and the COVID-19 Task Force members. Unfounded accusations and blames dominated social media outlets. While our frontline workers deserve genuine gratitude and appreciation, a few incidences deserve honest confession of complacency. As public servants, we must bear heavy moral guilt if we have siphoned and abused public resources during such trying times. Those of us who shied away from duty, or did not shoulder it well, may have to rediscover our sense of integrity, dedication and patriotism.

Did the two lockdowns make us grumble for having to stay at home? Ever since the pandemic hit the country, most of our national plans and projects progressed slower, rendering most public servants idle. Only we, ourselves, know how idle these idle times were. Actually, it should have been an ideal (rather than idle) time to be with family, enhance ourselves intellectually, learn new skills online and engage in spirituality. It is time for serious introspection.

Above and beyond, the nation as a whole achieved a certain paradigm shift. The government and agencies have been working long hours, putting in extra efforts like never before. Such collaboration among the agencies and officials is unprecedented. Task Force members comprising of officials from different sectors have been efficiently addressing problems on the ground. We could not have imagined the extent of COVID-19 impacts had it not been for such proactive measures. Indeed, our agencies and officials should function with such zeal, irrespective of whether we have a pandemic or not. Nation-building is always a work in progress.

After having endured these challenges together, our shared experience and wisdom must enhance our resolve ahead. The pandemic is not over yet. Rather, news of new COVID-19 variants sounds scarier. Nationwide vaccination drive should not justify the demand for normalcy. No country has attained 100% vaccination yet. Worldwide immunity is far from achieved; “No one is safe until everyone is safe”, so say the global experts. Therefore, the risk of importation and transmission of the virus persists. While relaxations within the country might be possible, opening to pre-COVID normalcy would be risky. Bhutanese must assent that our people’s safety must be accorded the highest priority amongst all.

More than anything else, we have the continued blessings of His Majesty The King. We have been patient and loyal so far and must continue to do so for our collective success as a country. With lessons learned from the pandemic thus far, the nation has to proceed and progress.  Bhutan's social life and economy have to rebound. Innovation and resilience are the need of the hour.

After more than a year of being sheltered under the parasol of His Majesty's blessing and the government's initiatives, it is about time for us to translate our gratitude into action. We are wiser than we were at the beginning of last year. For our country to develop, we need the hands and hearts of every citizen. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the potential and promise of Bhutanese doing better than usual. We must leverage this at all times.



POSTED ON August 07, 2021
Chewang Rinzin
Director, RIGSS


POSTED ON April 11, 2022
Lilly Yangchen, Yeshey Ohm Dhendup
Research Officers, RIGSS