A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a group of young people in a youth forum which was organized to promote services and facilities provided at the Youth Center. One of the main objectives of the forum was to attract more youth to the Center and to instill in them a sense of ownership of the services and facilities provided at the Center. I told them that the Royal Government of Bhutan has spent a huge amount of money in developing the entire infrastructures and facilities with a firm belief that they would benefit young people of Bhutan. So, I told them that all the facilities and services we provide at the Youth Center belong to them and that they must fully own them with a sense of responsibility.
It’s sad that there are many people in our society who still think that whatever the government provides free of cost is absolutely free. Despite our limited economic resources, the basic facilities such as health and education are provided free of cost but it does not mean that the government does not pay for those services. Every year, the government funnels a huge amount of resources into these sectors to ensure that we get free services every day. There are people who often dump the drugs prescribed by doctors into the garbage bins just because they have not paid for them. Some years ago, there was an article in Kuensel about how some women were misusing condoms to polish threads for weaving. I am wondering if they had to pay for those condoms, would they have still used them for such purposes? Likewise, we often find ourselves wasting or misusing office stationery and other facilities without any sense of guilt simply because we have not bought them. But I feel that nothing in this world is free. Somewhere somebody is paying for it and this is what we should always remember.
Last night, I was chatting with some visually impaired Americans in an online forum and I was really impressed by how they individually share their national concerns. They were talking about taxes they pay every year and how they feel part of the government. I feel such should be the spirit here in Bhutan too. We all pay taxes to the government, although it’s not so significant, but nobody seems to realize that actually we are partly paying for whatever free service we are getting from the government. As a matter of fact, the government creates its internal revenue from taxes we pay and it’s this money that mostly goes to public service sectors. Therefore, I feel it’s very important to let our children know that whatever they think they are getting free of cost from schools or hospitals is not free and that their parents are paying for them through taxes. It’s also important to help them realize how much the government struggles to get grants and loans from foreign countries to provide us with so-called free public services and those grants and foreign assistance too come from the taxes paid by those ordinary people of those donor countries. I feel making our children understand these facts would help them develop a sense of ownership of their society so that they would avail the public services responsibly. As of now, I feel the sense of social responsibility and ownership is very low among our youth because they have hardly been told in what ways they are an important part of the society. When street-lights were first installed in Thimphu, people mostly youth regularly broke them at night and even the ATM machines were initially stoned and damaged. If we all could realize that we or our parents have paid for such facilities, I feel things like this won’t happen.
In that youth forum, I told those young people just this: “Nothing is free. It’s the tax money which your parents are paying every year and that you should not think it’s absolutely free. Nothing falls from the heaven and sprouts out of Earth just like that. It’s ultimately the hard-earned money of your parents and others who pay taxes every year. So, you must all have the full ownership of whatever you are given by the government”. I related this statement to how they should take advantage of the facilities and services available at the Youth Center and how they should avail them with a sense of ownership and responsibility. I told them that they all are an important part of the society and that each individual has the responsibility of using the public facilities with honor, integrity and respect in all the times to come. In a small country like ours, such values would make a lot of difference.