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The Bhutanese

The Population
Buddhist traditions maintained within predominantly distanced rural agrarian communities. Low levels of population density and modernization contribute to small disparities of income and little absolute poverty. Government is pursuing a people-centered approach to development.

  • Population: 650,000
  • Population growth: 3.1%
  • Nationality: Bhutanese
  • Ethnic groups: Ngalop (Tibetan origin), Sharchop (Indo-Mongoloid origin), Lhotsam (Nepali origin) (+ several indigenous tribes)
  • Religions: Mahayana (Tibetan) Buddhist, Hindu
  • Languages: Dzongkha, Nepali, English (+ numerous local dialects)
  • Settlement: 85% rural, 15% urban
  • Capital: Thimphu (30,000-40,000 inhabitants)
  • Infrastructure: health: 100% basic health coverage, education: 72% primary enrolment, electricity: 5% coverage, motor road: 3300kms, airport: 1
  • UNDP Human Development Index: 0.510 (medium HD bracket)


Traditional well-functioning system, linking a Buddhist monarchy to multiple small village units. Although formal power is currently centralized, the ongoing trend indicates a populist approach to governance. Political focus on modernizing the country whilst maintaining independence and stability.

  • Government type: Monarchy
  • Executive branch: Head of State: King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Cabinet of Ministers: elected by National Assembly for a fixed five year period, Head of Government: on one year rotation from the Cabinet, Royal Advisory Council: nominated by the King
  • Legislative branch: National Assembly - 150 seats: 105 elected from village constituencies, 10 represent religious bodies, 35 designated by the monarch to represent government and other secular interests
  • Judicial branch: district and high courts, monarch is the highest court of appeal, many disputes settled informally through traditional institutions
  • Administration: 7 Ministries, 5 Commissions, Police, Army, Royal Bodyguard
  • Administrative divisions: 20 districts (Dzongkhags), 196 blocks (Gewogs)
  • Political parties: none
  • Development interventions: 5 Year Plans - currently in the eighth plan period, 1997-2002


Significantly underdeveloped economy, owing to the country's location at the periphery of world economic systems, a late start to modernization and a subsequent cautious approach to development. The majority of the population is engaged in traditional subsistence-based agriculture. Major growth prospects are hydropower, natural resource-based processing and certain niche products (like tourism).

  • Currency: Ngultrum (pegged with the Indian Rupee)
  • Exchange rate: Nu46/US$
  • GDP: US$ 4.2 billion p.a.
  • GDP per capita: US$650, US$3900 (ppp)
  • Inflation rate: 8%
  • GDP composition by sector (1995): agriculture 38%, mining and quarrying 1.3%, manufacturing 9.1%, electricity 8.3%, construction 10.8%, trade 6 %, transport and communication 8.2%, financial services 9.5%, community and social services 10.9%, less imputed bank charges -2.1%
  • Trade balance: Nu-2700 million p.a.
  • Exported commodities: electricity, fruit, minerals
  • Imported commodities: fuel, rice, machinery
  • Budget: Nu3500 million p.a.
  • Economic aid: India Nu900 million, donor recurrent financing Nu350 million
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