Bhutan’s journey has been special so far. We have made great strides in our development. We have successfully demonstrated our abilities to design a unique development paradigm that counters mainstream development models. Our living culture and tradition are pretty much intact despite increasing consumerism and exposure to modern, foreign cultures and values. Our environment is still fairly pristine. We are proud to be a negative carbon sink.
Although insignificant in size in the global map, Bhutan continues to shape new ideas and inspire global discourse on development.
That’s the hunky-dory picture. And how we, Bhutanese, love to bask in that transient glory, that a fair criticism on Bhutan often draws nationalistic reactions, bordering on jingoism, reeking of arrogance. The Bhutanese value takes a back seat.
Self-critique is important. As a society, we must be able to look into the mirror, identify our real flaws and work on it. Only then can we progress as a nation.
Let’s talk about corruption – a cancerous overgrowth that continues to consume our nation, piecemeal, from the inside.
Shouldn’t we get angry that corruption has permeated all levels of our society? Come to think of this – even to get an appointment with so and so, be it in hospitals or government offices, we use connections, people we know. And that is how corruption breeds itself into much more complex and bigger issues, from getting jobs by using power influence, have access to privileged information, win contracts to abuse of power, misuse of public funds and embezzlement, among others.
Corruption of any nature and magnitude is detrimental to the health of a nation. Both individual and systemic corruption can critically hamper, even disrupt, the development process.
As public funds get misused or embezzled, the intended good will never reach the needy. Even more harmful is the moral corruption of our values and principles as a society. This should serve as a critical yardstick of where we are heading as a society, as a nation.
While Bhutan has comparatively improved its international rankings on corruption indexes, there is still much more that needs to be done at all levels. Rooting out corruption would require a dramatic change in our collective consciousness, a change of our mindset, and zero tolerance against any form of corruption. And that change must happen from within the institutions. The exemplary culture of intolerance against any form of corruption must come from our political establishment, with trickle-down effect on government agencies, corporations, NGOs, and private sector.
Fighting corruption will never be easy if we accept it, even causally, as something that is normal. Because corruption is not normal. It can never be normal. Such level of acceptance will only make us more tolerant to corrupt practices.
Even as we celebrate all the good things our country has achieved thus far, it is also important that we look deeper into the flaws that can malign and damage our nation. We shouldn’t tolerate corruption of any form.