Facts about Bhutan

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BhutanIn 1865, Britain and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchulu, under which Bhutan would receive an annual subsidy in exchange for ceding some border land to British India. Under British influence, a monarchy was set up in 1907; three years later, a treaty was signed whereby the British agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese internal affairs and Bhutan allowed Britain to direct its foreign affairs. This role was assumed by independent India after 1947. Two years later, a formal Indo-Bhutanese accord returned the areas of Bhutan annexed by the British, formalized the annual subsidies the country received, and defined India's responsibilities in defense and foreign relations. A refugee issue of over 100,000 Bhutanese in Nepal remains unresolved; 90% of the refugees are housed in seven United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camps. In March 2005, King Jigme Singye WANGCHUCK unveiled the government's draft constitution - which would introduce major democratic reforms - and pledged to hold a national referendum for its approval. In December 2006, the King abdicated the throne to his son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel WANGCHUCK, in order to give him experience as head of state before the democratic transition. In early 2007, India and Bhutan renegotiated their treaty to allow Bhutan greater autonomy in conducting its foreign policy, although Thimphu continues to coordinate policy decisions in this area with New Delhi. In July 2007, seven ministers of Bhutan's ten-member cabinet resigned to join the political process, and the cabinet acted as a caretaker regime until democratic elections for seats to the country's first parliament were completed in March 2008. Nepal's constitution was ratified in July 2008.

Geography of Bhutan

Southern Asia, between China and India
27 30 N, 90 30 E
total: 47,000 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 47,000 sq km
Area comparative:
about half the size of Indiana
Land boundaries:
total: 1,075 km
border countries: China 470 km, India 605 km
0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims:
none (landlocked)
varies; tropical in southern plains; cool winters and hot summers in central valleys; severe winters and cool summers in Himalayas
mostly mountainous with some fertile valleys and savanna
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Drangme Chhu 97 m
highest point: Kula Kangri 7,553 m
Natural resources:
timber, hydropower, gypsum, calcium carbide
Natural hazards:
violent storms from the Himalayas are the source of the country's name which translates as Land of the Thunder Dragon; frequent landslides during the rainy season
Environment - current issues:
soil erosion; limited access to potable water
Geography - note:
landlocked; strategic location between China and India; controls several key Himalayan mountain passes

More Geography

Population of Bhutan

682,321 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 38.9% (male 458,801/female 426,947)
15-64 years: 57.1% (male 671,057/female 631,078)
65 years and over: 4% (male 46,217/female 45,623)
Median age:
20.4 years
Infant mortality:
98.41 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 54.78 years
male: 55.02 years
female: 54.53 years
Total fertility rate:
4.74 children born/woman
noun: Bhutanese (singular and plural)
adjective: Bhutanese
Ethnic groups:
Bhote 50%, ethnic Nepalese 35% (includes Lhotsampas - one of several Nepalese ethnic groups), indigenous or migrant tribes 15%
Lamaistic Buddhist 75%, Indian- and Nepalese-influenced Hinduism 25%
Dzongkha (official), Bhotes speak various Tibetan dialects, Nepalese speak various Nepalese dialects
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 47%
male: 60%
female: 34%


Country name:
conventional long form: Kingdom of Bhutan
conventional short form: Bhutan
Government type:
monarchy; special treaty relationship with India
Administrative divisions:
18 districts (dzongkhag, singular and plural); Bumthang, Chhukha, Chirang, Dagana, Geylegphug, Ha, Lhuntshi, Mongar, Paro, Pemagatsel, Punakha, Samchi, Samdrup Jongkhar, Shemgang, Tashigang, Thimphu, Tongsa, Wangdi Phodrang
note: there may be two new districts named Gasa and Yangtse
8 August 1949 (from India)
National holiday:
National Day (Ugyen WANGCHUCK became first hereditary king), 17 December (1907)
no written constitution or bill of rights; note - in 2001 the King commissioned the drafting of a constitution, which is to become effective in 2005
Legal system:
based on Indian law and English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
each family has one vote in village-level elections; note - in late 2003 Bhutan's legislature passed a new election law
Executive branch:
chief of state: King Jigme Khesar Namgyel WANGCHUCK (since 14 December 2006); note - King Jigme Singye WANGCHUCK abdicated the throne on 14 December 2006 and his son immediately succeeded him
head of government: Prime Minister Jigme THINLEY (since 9 April 2008)
cabinet: Council of Ministers (Lhengye Shungtsog) nominated by the monarch, approved by the National Assembly; members serve fixed, five-year terms; note - there is also a Royal Advisory Council (Lodoi Tsokde), members nominated by the monarch
elections: the monarch is hereditary, but democratic reforms in July 1998 grant the National Assembly authority to remove the monarch with two-thirds vote; election of a new National Assembly occured in March 2008; the leader of the majority party is nominated as the prime minister
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly or Tshogdu (150 seats; 105 elected from village constituencies, 10 represent religious bodies, and 35 are designated by the monarch to represent government and other secular interests; members serve three-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court of Appeal (the monarch); High Court (judges appointed by the monarch)


The economy, one of the world's smallest and least developed, is based on agriculture and forestry, which provide the main livelihood for more than 60% of the population. Agriculture consists largely of subsistence farming and animal husbandry. Rugged mountains dominate the terrain and make the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive. The economy is closely aligned with India's through strong trade and monetary links and dependence on India's financial assistance. The industrial sector is technologically backward, with most production of the cottage industry type. Most development projects, such as road construction, rely on Indian migrant labor. Model education, social, and environment programs are underway with support from multilateral development organizations. Each economic program takes into account the government's desire to protect the country's environment and cultural traditions. For example, the government, in its cautious expansion of the tourist sector, encourages visits by upscale, environmentally conscientious tourists. Detailed controls and uncertain policies in areas such as industrial licensing, trade, labor, and finance continue to hamper foreign investment. Hydropower exports to India had a major impact on growth in 2007.

$3.359 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 45%
industry: 10%
services: 45%
Inflation rate:
Labor force by occupation:
agriculture 93%, services 5%, industry and commerce 2%
cement, wood products, processed fruits, alcoholic beverages, calcium carbide
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 0.1%
hydro: 99.9%
other: 0%
nuclear: 0%
rice, corn, root crops, citrus, foodgrains; dairy products, eggs
electricity (to India), cardamom, gypsum, timber, handicrafts, cement, fruit, precious stones, spices
Export partners:
Germany 41.8%, India 35.5%, Japan 9.2%, Austria 4.3%
fuel and lubricants, grain, machinery and parts, vehicles, fabrics, rice
Import partners:
India 85.6%, Bangladesh 6.7%, Japan 4.3%
ngultrum (BTN); Indian rupee (INR)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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