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  Journal of Bhutan Studies, Volume 29, Summer 2013    


1. A proposition “Bhutan is a Democracy”: Beyond the Constricted, Popular Wisdom of “Democracy” by Katsu Masaki

This article seeks to dissect, with reference to Bhutan’s polity, how the Eurocentric, popular wisdom of democracy, privileging liberal democracy, inadvertently enforces closure to other plausible, non-liberalistic interpretations. In Bhutan, the monarchy and Buddhism carry moral authorities constraining the arbitrary use of governmental power, and nurturing associative bonds in society. This “natural democracy” contravenes the orthodoxy of liberal democracy, according to which the state, as a neutral arbiter, must not accord a special status to any leader or religion. For this reason, political analysts tend to doubt whether Bhutan is a democracy. The circumscribed, liberal-democratic notion emanates from the history in which European universalism has been fabricated as a universal standard to be disseminated throughout the globe. It has thus served to rank different societies in a linear trajectory that positions Europe at the pinnacle of “progress”. The case of Bhutan potentially helps to rectify the constricted wisdom of democracy, to facilitate more open, thorough deliberations, and to start conceptualizing a multipolar world.

2. Does Democracy promote Social Capital? Evidence from Bhutan by Sangay Chophel

This paper aims to study the effects of democracy, as measured by voting in elections, on social capital after Bhutan transitioned from monarchy to parliamentary democracy in 2008. The lack of systemic study on widely supposed decrease in social capital in Bhutan due to the transition to democracy served as the motivation for this study. In addition, there does not seem to be any quantitative study on whether democracy promotes social capital when countries transition from monarchy to democracy. This study uses two cross-sectional survey data of Bhutan conducted in 2008, which contains respondents who voted for the National Council (non-party based) election, and 2010, which contains respondents who voted for the National Assembly (multi- party) election, to study the effect of democracy on three elements of social capital, namely trust in people in general, trust in neighbors and socializing with neighbors. Analyzing the two survey data separately using ordered probit regressions revealed that voting in both National Council and National Assembly elections did not have any significant effects on trust in people in general and trust in neighbors. However, voting in the National Council election had significant positive effect on socializing with neighbors whereas voting in the National Assembly election did not have any significant effect on it. After the two survey data were pooled together and analyzed, the introduction of democracy did not serve to increase the levels of voters’ trust in people in general and trust in neighbors. However, the positive effects of voting on socializing with neighbors as seen in the National Council election were removed due to the significant negative effect of multi-party election.

3. Was Tobacco Described in Bhutanese Buddhist Texts Before the 16th Century? by Michael S. Givel and Rebecca A. Sherry

The small Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan has banned tobacco sales since 2004, citing prophets of the country’s state religion, Mahayana Buddhism, who described the evils of tobacco 200 years before its introduction to Asia. To address whether tobacco really is the plant designated in these early texts, we commissioned new translations of these documents, including one of the first translations out of Choekey of the first legal code of Bhutan, known as “The Golden Yoke of Legal Edicts.” A set of allegorical stories predict that a demon will make a plant appear that will be smoked, sniffed or eaten, and will cause a myriad of physical and societal ills. The stories in the ancient documents are allegorical and apocryphal (in the sense of mystic and esoteric) and do not describe the plant in enough detail to identify it as any real plant. In some cases, the word “thamakha,” meaning “the very worst black poison,” was transliterated as tobacco. Nevertheless, modern day interpretations in Bhutan of “thamakha” as tobacco are congruent with Buddhist tenets that intoxicants of any type will cloud the mind and inhibit the journey to seek Nirvana.

4. Examining Rupee Reserves in Bhutan: An SVAR Approach by Jigme Nidup

The substantial deterioration of rupee reserves in 2012 had detrimental effect on the economic growth in Bhutan. Therefore, this study investigates the implication of government investment on construction, private credit expansion and imports from India, on the rupee reserves through a four-dimensional SVAR approach. The results indicate that in the immediate term, it is the government construction expenditure, private credit growth and imports from India that deteriorates the rupee reserves. Over the medium period, it is found that the government investment on construction leads to private credit expansion. Though government investment on construction is desired for economic growth, policy makers, however, should strategize investments so that it does not create rapid private credit growth.

5.Factorial Validity and Reliability of 12 items General Health Questionnaire in a Bhutanese Population by Tshoki Zangmo

The aim of this study is to test the factorial structure and the internal consistency of the 12-items General Health Questionnaire. A sample of 6861 Bhutanese completed the GHQ-12. Internal consistency was assessed by Cronbach’s alpha coefficient. The factorial structure was extracted with an exploratory factorial analysis (EFA). The EFA run on the data yield to a one- factor structure without rotation and two factor structures after rotation. Cronbach’s alpha showed a very good internal consistency of the scale (α= 0.88). Cluster analysis resulted in two clusters. Overall, the findings support that the GHQ-12 is a reliable and valid instrument for measuring minor psychological distress in a Bhutanese sample.