Despite Bhutan’s small population there has been much economic development in recent years and the economy is growing rapidly.
While a large part of the Bhutanese population is still illiterate and reside in rural areas. Rapid modernization has brought about vast improvements in the living standard of the Bhutanese people. All villages now have access to basic amenities such as education, running water, basic healthcare and are connected by farm roads and electricity. Even the most remote villages have connection to the telecommunication network including mobile phone service.
Bhutanese practice subsistence farming and animal husbandry. Its economy is based on agriculture, forestry and hydro-power. Handicrafts like weaving, wood craft, bamboo and cane craft, and paintings add to the income.
Bhutan has always been self-sufficient in terms of food consumption. The main food crops are maize, rice, buckwheat, barley and wheat. The cultivation of cash crops like apples, oranges, ginger and cardamom has added to the national revenue. Cattle products like milk, butter and cheese have been the major diet besides adding to the income of many farmers.
The main staple crops are rice, maize, wheat and buckwheat while cash crops are predominantly potatoes, apples, oranges, cardamom, ginger, and chilies. A fruit based industry has been established in the capital allowing farmers from the nearby areas to sell their produce and thereby earn additional revenue.
The Bhutanese economy is predominantly agricultural. Farmers supplement their income through the sale of animal products such as cheese, butter and milk. Farmers markets are common throughout the country, supplying the people with fresh, organic, local produce.
Bhutan’s rich biodiversity provides the country with ample forest resources and this has brought about the development of a thriving cane and bamboo handicraft industry. Craftsmen weave a number of beautiful and intricate items out of bamboo and cane including hats, backpacks, floor mats and traditional bowls. These items are then sold to tourists or Bhutanese, supplying a secondary income source.
The Bhutanese Tourism Industry was first opened in 1974. Since then it has grown to become, a major contributing factor to the Bhutanese economy creating countless employment opportunities and generating additional revenue for the government.
The development in tourism has led to boom in arts and crafts. The tourist arrival has increased by manifolds.
The government is committed to building a sustainable tourism industry that is not only financially viable but also limits the negative cultural and environmental impacts commonly associated with the culture of mass tourism. By establishing a policy of High Value, Low Impact tourism, the kingdom of Bhutan seeks to ensure that it attracts only the most discerning visitors with a deep respect for cultural values, traditions and the natural environment.
To this end efforts have been made to ensure that even remote areas are publicized and able to reap the benefits of tourism while still respecting their traditions, culture and natural environment.
Due to its fast flowing, glacier-fed rivers, Bhutan has enormous potential to produce hydroelectricity. With the construction of several major dams, the power sector has undeniably been the biggest contributor to the Bhutanese exchequer. The 1500 MW of power they Bhutan generate, most is exported to our neighboring country India. With its abundant water resources, Bhutan still has the capacity to generate another 30,000 MW of electricity. However, the government is proceeding cautiously with new construction projects in order to minimize the impact upon the surrounding areas.
The Manufacturing sector is another major contributor to national revenue. With the industrial sector established in Pasakha, small scale industries such as cement plants, calcium and carbide, steel and Ferro silicon, Coca Cola and also wood based industries have started developing.
As a result of the recent economic development, Bhutan has one of the highest per capita incomes in South Asia at USD $ 1,321. However despite this high level of growth and development, efforts stringent regulations have been enacted in order to protect Bhutan’s natural environment.