The Kingdom of Bhutan is considered a development success story, with decreasing poverty and improvements in human development indicators. The Bank's engagement in Bhutan is aimed at supporting the government's goal of Gross National Happiness.
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Why are there no direct flights between Pakistan’s transit hub and the capital of Bhutan? Why is it so time-consuming for a Pakistani to obtain a visa to India? These were the exact questions explored... Show More + at this year’s SAESM, where 80 top economic students from across South Asia convened to discuss solutions to a dis-integrated South Asia. With intra-regional trade accounting for only 5% of total trade, compared to 25% in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, South Asia stands out as the most culturally symbiotic, yet political disparate region.“Before SAESM, I had never met an Indian, or a Sri Lankan,” said Shafaat Yar Khan from Pakistan, “Borders are important but we should recognize that challenges we face in Pakistan and India are pretty similar, as a result we should make the borders irrelevant to resolve the challenges together.”During SAESM, the students from different countries came up with suggestions on improving regional integration ranging from developing student exchange programs within South Asia, appointing student ambassadors to lobby politicians on pro-integration policies; strengthening the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) institutions; easing visa regimes to encourage people to people exchange; lowering customs; and building infrastructure to reduce trade barriers.“Disputes stay between politicians, but the people love each other and want deeper integration”, said Tamara Noori, student from Kabul University, Afghanistan.Students who were selected to SAESM either present their research paper under one of the four sub-themes of this year’s theme: Regional Integration: Prospects and Challenges, or participate in a budding economist quiz competition. The four sub-themes include linkages between trade, development and poverty alleviation; cost of economic non-cooperation to the consumers in South Asia; FDI and technological transfers within South Asia; political economy of regional integration in South Asia, and South Asia in the global perspective.“It is only through accelerated regional integration that South Asia can find a place for itself in the emerging Asian century. SAESM 2014 helped the young men and women from South Asia to become instruments of greater cooperation,” said Sanjeev Mehta, Economics Professor and the Bhutan SAESM Coordinator. Show Less -
Thimphu, December 31, 2014—The 11th South Asia Economic Students’ Meet (SAESM) was held in Bhutan to share research and discuss ideas about improving regional cooperation between South Asian countries... Show More +. The meet brought together 80 of the top economics undergraduate students from across South Asia who met and interacted over a week-long packed schedule of events including paper presentations, panel questions, team based competitions, and exploration of the host country.“SAESM is an excellent opportunity for young people in South Asia to engage with one another and come up with creative solutions to shared challenges,” said Kaushik Basu, World Bank Chief Economist and closing keynote speaker of the event. There are remarkable similarities between countries in South Asia and the event is a contribution towards a global mission of peace and intellectual development. I challenge the students to be agents of change.”Despite shared languages, history, culture, and borders. South Asia remains one of the least integrated regions in the world. The cost of weak regional cooperation negatively impacts every country. Increased cooperation holds many opportunities for development gains for all countries, yet many barriers prevent greater regional cooperation. For instance, participants from Pakistan had layovers in Karachi, Dubai, and Kathmandu before reaching Paro in Bhutan due to the lack of connectivity and visa access, greatly increasing the length and cost of the journey.“South Asia is an incredibly dynamic, young but still comparatively poor region with 1.7 billion people. Intra-regional trade can easily increase from $28 billion to $70 billion annually if barriers to trade with neighbors are reduced and this is only one example of how greater cooperation can increase prosperity,” said Salman Zaheer, World Bank Director for Regional Integration. “With more than 12 million young people entering the labor force every year, South Asian countries should utilize regional cooperation as a development strategy for the region to reach its full potential.”SAESM grew out of a request in 2004 from a few Pakistani students to their visiting Indian economics professor of their desire to visit India. Having grown from a four countries to seven, SAESM has convened almost 1,000 economic students from across South Asia, inclusive of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.“It is only through accelerated regional integration that South Asia can find a place for itself in the emerging Asian century. SAESM 2014 helped the young men and women from South Asia to become instruments of greater cooperation,” said Sanjeev Mehta, Economics Professor and the Bhutan SAESM Coordinator.Most of the students, potential future thought leaders of South Asia, have never had the opportunity to interact with their peers from other South Asian countries and consistently highlighted how friendships were made perceived differences were quickly bridged.“The conference gave us lifelong bonds. The familiarities of the cultures were also striking. This was by far the most memorable experience of my undergraduate experience,” said student Simoni Jain from India.As students return to their countries with a sense of camaraderie with their peers from neighboring countries, they are reminded that they should strive to keep and spread the spirit of SAESM to their homes.“It’s up to you to make a difference. Please don’t carry the baggage of older generations with you. Please solve them,” said Qamrun Nehar Taslim, country coordinator from Bangladesh said. Show Less -
Thimphu, December 31, 2014 — The World Bank Group’s Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, Kaushik Basu, visited Bhutan to learn from the country’s unique development experience and highlight oppo... Show More +rtunities as the country continues to make rapid progress in reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity.“Bhutan has done a tremendous job at reducing extreme poverty and has harnessed its unique model to promote inclusive development. It has, in fact, reduced extreme poverty from 47% in 1981 to less than 3% in 2011, among the fastest in the world.” said Basu. “The country has maintained a unique set of values that the world can learn from and I had many fruitful exchanges on how the World Bank can potentially support Bhutan to help the country realize its development aspirations.”During his visit, Basu had an audience with His Majesty, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. He also met with Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Minister of Finance Lyonpo Namgay Dorji, and Deputy Governor of the Royal Monetary Authority, Pushpalal Chhetri. Additionally, Basu discussed some concepts behind Gross National Happiness with the head of the Center of Bhutanese Studies, Dasho Karma Ura, and highlighted findings from the latest World Development Report on Mind, Society, and Behavior to a range of policy makers. He also visited World Bank supported urban development projects and encouraged students from across South Asia at the 11th South Asia Economics’ Students Meet to be catalysts for greater regional cooperation and global peace.Basu visits Bhutan as the country continues to progress in reducing poverty and achieving development goals driven through increasing agricultural commercialization, expansion of rural roads, and revenues from hydroelectric investments. “To build upon its compelling progress, the leaders in Bhutan are very clear about their vision to diversify the economy and harness the private sector for development while preserving its rich environmental assets and rich cultural heritage,” Basu said. “A country like Bhutan can innovate and act with more agility than large countries. It can leverage its access to nearby large markets, hydropower generation, and benefit from its ‘green’ brand. Bhutan is also well placed to act as a convener and encourage greater regional cooperation through trade and exchanges between neighboring countries.”The World Bank strategy in Bhutan focuses on improving rural livelihoods and managing urbanization while protecting its natural assets. It has currently committed $82 million in concessional development credits, a number of technical assistance grants and analytical work for these areas to improve fiscal and spending efficiency, fostering private sector growth and competitiveness, and supporting green development. Show Less -