From left to right: UNDP Resident Representative Azusa Kubota, , Minister for Economic Affairs Loknath Sharma and Secretary Karma Tshering

Launch of Diagnositic Trade Integration Study Update (DTISU) 2020

6 July 2021

The launch of the diagnostic trade integration study or DTISU could not have been better timed than today.

Bhutan is at a development crossroads. Significant socio-economic development progress over the last half-century has positioned Bhutan to graduate from the LDC category in 2023, aligned with the end of the 12th Plan. Yet continued sustainable development trajectory over the coming years is uncertain despite this progress. The country continues to face challenges in building long-term resilience, including through economic and trade diversification long recognized by the Government and other stakeholders as critical for sustained, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Adding to the existing challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic has further aggravated the structural limitations and risks, and amplified the degree of uncertainty and economic vulnerability. The COVID-19 has also made the prospect of economic transformation more daunting, causing disruptions to the manufacturing and production sector, constraining most construction activity, and bringing tourism and related service sectors to a standstill. The duration and true implications of the COVID-19 crisis remain largely unknown to all of us.

We are indeed at a tipping point in our human history that requires integrated, bold, and intelligent choices by everyone, most importantly by decision makers, because these choices will define the wellbeing of people and planet for generations to come.

At the same time, through the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, the crisis presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reset the unsustainable development pathways that the global community was pursuing and achieve structural transformation, particularly green, inclusive, and digital transitions. 

Although COVID-19 has illuminated the challenges the world is faced with, it has also demonstrated the scope for choice in how and where to address those challenges. It certainly triggered renewed interest in policies previously considered unfeasible, such as temporary basic incomes. Many governments launched bold and massive green economic recovery plans.

I hope that the DTISU will provide additional required impetus for the Royal Government’s transformational and bold interventions in support of the long-term vision for the country, over and above the immediate response and recovery efforts from the COVID 19 crisis.

Recently, the Resident Representatives of UNDP had the opportunity to interact with the former Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore. He has over and again emphasized the importance of the state to invest efforts in long-termism, resisting the temptation to resort to short-term gains in the wake of the COVID019 crisis. This is the time to invest in the long-term future.

While the report explores the impact of COVID-19 in the economy and implications for the future, I must say that data was very limited at the time of its formulation. Therefore, in its implementation, a deeper assessment of the impact of the pandemic with aggregation may be useful so that the recovery efforts will lead to equity and address the pressing needs of the most vulnerable populations.

What is critical going forward is the commitment to follow up on proposed actions and narrow the gap between the identification and the implementation of priority recommendations. The implementation of an ambitious agenda such as the DTISU—that will guide diversification of trade, support economic recovery and graduation from the LDC category, and accelerate SDG implementation—requires a whole of government approach. And it is heartening to see all the key government agencies, development partners and private sector representative driving the implementation of the DTISU here at the launch, reaffirming your support and commitment to this agenda. I humbly request all of you to use the monitoring framework to help assess progress over time and support adaptation as needed, based on changing circumstances.

UNDP stands committed to supporting the implementation of this important agenda and looks forward to deepening our partnership with the RGoB.  

Lastly, the DTISU 2020 would not have been possible without the close collaboration between the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) and UNDP. This initiative has also relied heavily on cooperation with the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) Focal Point, and the full EIF National Steering Committee. The DTISU 2020 has benefited from the technical input of more than 100 stakeholders, including the expert drafting team from various UN agencies and affiliated agencies. While we cannot thank all our collaborators individually here, we recognize their critical role in making this report possible.

Thank you and Tashi Delek!

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