Saturday, January 28, 2017

they found Shangri La (again)

Lots of fluffy stuff on the green type sites about the small country of Bhutan.

Find happiness in simplicity!

and they are carbon negative and proud about it!

Deep in the Himalayas, on the border between China and India, lies the Kingdom of Bhutan, which has pledged to remain carbon neutral for all time. In this illuminating talk, Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay shares his country's mission to put happiness before economic growth and set a world standard for environmental preservation.


So no, I know nothing about the place, but I found this more nuanced book at Scribd. I've only started it but found their Buddhist links go way back, and by the way, the country is shrinking because China is reappropriating stealing their northern lands.

They must be a bit prosperous, because they've had to import construction workers from India. NPR report (2005) notes that has caused a bit of a problem since most are Hindu, and Bhutan is a Buddhist country. But they are only "guest workers" so can't stay there, so no problem with them messing up the culture.

And there are quite a few of them: doing work the locals don't want to do:

That isolated mountain country has a total adult work force of roughly 200,000, and nearly a quarter of that number, 45,000, are foreign workers from India, immediately to Bhutan's south.

a more recent report from the VOA can be found HERE

so where are they working?

 He is paid better than most of the estimated 50,000 migrant workers who, escaping poverty back home, snap up jobs in Bhutan's booming construction industry, building roads, hydropower plants, and tourist hotels.
yup. Roads and tourist hotels for the western affluent green types who want to visit Shangri la but don't want to live in a hotel without running water and electricity and wi fi in every room.

so why not hire locals?

Recent government statistics show that unemployment in Bhutan has tripled in the past three years, rising to nearly four percent, with unemployment rates much higher for ages 15 to 24...
"Because of education, I guess aspirations have changed," said Sonam Tshering, Bhutan's minister of economic affairs. "We do have an unemployment problem. We have a lot of educated youth coming out on the job market annually. Now they all have much higher expectation. They are no longer interested in blue-collar jobs. Everybody wants to have an office. They want to sit on a chair. They do not want to apply themselves physically. So, the problem that we are facing at the moment in Bhutan is the mismatch between supply and demand."

in other words, all that stuff about "isolation" is bunk.

and all that talk about their being a lesson to the world is a lie, based on exploiting their "guest workers".

 From BusinessBhutan:

One of Bhutan’s spectacular attempt to redefine an alternative development paradigm that thrust happiness as the centerpiece of our development philosophy and our unprecedented effort in conserving its pristine natural environment has drawn numerous accolades in the international arena. We are now praised as a global leader in environmental protection...


 On the home front, our country in the recent times unlike any time before in the past is fast experiencing a burgeoning economic growth and expansion. For an emerging country like ours, formidable and significant stride in a myriad of socio economic dimensions have been made more vehemently in the last decades. This socio economic expeditions of Bhutan per se would not have transpired and materialized without the large segment of Indian workforce who continue to form the cornerstone workforce virtually contributing to the nation building process of Bhutan.
ah but the workers are happy happy... never mind the construction accidents or the fact that they aren't always paid on time or that they had to leave their wives and families back home.

We have heard unkempt and thwarting stories of our construction workers undergo great ordeal on matters surrounding delay and nonpayment of wages on time at the hands of some of our Bhutanese employers and construction owners around the country amongst others. Many of us know that back home, these workers have immigrated to work leaving behind their children, wives and family members who depend exclusively on them for their daily livelihood. Delay in their payment means uncertainties of the very survival of their dependents back home.
It may not be incorrect to assume here that ‘happiness’ which we profess to the outside world, to these group of workers right under our nose would not mean anything above and beyond receiving their hard-earned payment on time. And they have all the right to be happy for having fulfilled the conditions to be happy in the land of the happiness.
italic mine.

one is reminded of this happy happy work song sung by happy happy workers.

so why don't they hire locals?

Our dependence on them is exclusively attributed to the fact that majority of us do not want to do low skill, laborious jobs that are low paying. Ironically, we are heavily dependent on them while we have our own people looking for employment today. ...One of the greatest paradoxes of our recent times that has apparently and fervently enveloped the Bhutanese populace in general has been the migratory pattern of our Bhutanese urbanites to places like Australia.

this is hard to figure out, since there is only one college in the area, but the country is trying hard to raise the level of education for their people.

this is needed because despite the propaganda about "happiness", the illiteracy rate is significant, and the UN report is using adult self taught programs trying to lower this.

the secret behind their green friendly economy is that most people are farmers or work in forestry, but they are big at hydro electricity, so they can export electricity to nearby India. And having electricity means less forest cut down to cook.

It is hard to judge all of this, knowing that when a country's self esteem depends on being seen as happy that maybe people won't complain.

but it might surprise you to discover the ethnic cleansing that happened there in the 1990's.

more here.

from the Seattle Times (2016):

Between 1990 and 1993, more than 100,000 Nepali-speaking Bhutanese wound up in refugee camps in eastern Nepal. Many languished in those camps for two decades or more, before being resettled in the U.S. and elsewhere.

In the early 1990s, about 100,000 ethnic Nepalis in Bhutan were expelled or fled from the small Himalayan kingdom, leading to what Amnesty International has called “one of the most protracted and neglected refugee crises in the world.” Of the nearly 100,000 Bhutanese refugees resettled around the world, 85 percent have come to the United States, according to the U.S. government.
and they could probably be near you:

Akron's North High School now has a student population that is roughly half Asian, according to district spokesman Mark Williamson.
About 5,000 Bhutanese refugees have now settled in surrounding North Hill, according to WKSU, repopulating the tired neighborhood and revitalizing businesses and schools.
WKSU's M.L. Schultze reported Wednesday on the North Hill High School soccer team, largely made up of refugees escaping persecution in Bhutan. Ten years ago the soccer team struggled to keep enough players to qualify for games. Now, the team made it to the city series championship game and is hoping to win it this year, Schultze reports.
"The charisma, the spirit, the happiness that myself and everyone around this team experiences is just astounding," North Hill Coach Michael Kane told Schultze.

ah yes, for rich yuppies, Shangri La is looking at a poor underdeveloped country through rose coloured glasses, but for these refugees, the promised land looks a lot like... Ohio (!)

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