Bhutan has made great progress in improving the living standards of its people since it first set forth on a plan for modernization in the early 1960s. Per capita gross national income (GNI), one of the highest in South Asia, has consistently risen from $470 in 1999 to $760 in 2004. About 90% of the population lives in remote areas and 85% of the population depends on agriculture.
Bhutan’s development has been rapid. Until the 1950s, Bhutan isolated itself from the rest of the world, and its dispersed rural population depended on subsistence agriculture. Once it opened to the outside world in the 1960s, Bhutan embarked on a far-reaching development strategy that has been articulated in nine Five-Year Plans. The Ninth Five-Year Plan (July 2002 to June 2007) is currently under implementation.
Over the past decade, social indicators have improved. Infant mortality per 1,000 live births has been reduced from 77 in 2000 to 67 in 2004. Maternal mortality rates in 2000 were estimated at 420 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 564 in the South Asia region as a whole. The prevalence of child malnutrition in Bhutan has dropped from 37.9% in 1990 to 19% in 1999. Literacy and education enrollment rates have also risen. Unlike much of the rest of South Asia, primary school enrollment among girls is higher than boys in many urban areas, and nationwide almost half of primary school students are girls. Property rights are also much more equal than in most of South Asia, with women rather than men inheriting property in some areas.
GDP in million: Nu.33,151.1 (2003)
Per Capita GDP: US$ 834 (2003)
Average GDP growth: 6.5 per cent
Currency: Ngultrum (100 chetrum = 1 Ngultrum)