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 opportunities 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.