Bhutan [Country Flag of Bhutan]
Transnational Issues
[Country map of Bhutan]



[Top of Page]

Location: Southern Asia, between China and India

Geographic coordinates: 27 30 N, 90 30 E

Map references: Asia

total: 47,000 sq km
land: 47,000 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Area—comparative: about half the size of Indiana

Land boundaries:
total: 1,075 km
border countries: China 470 km, India 605 km

Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims: none (landlocked)

Climate: varies; tropical in southern plains; cool winters and hot summers in central valleys; severe winters and cool summers in Himalayas

Terrain: mostly mountainous with some fertile valleys and savanna

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Dangme Chu 97 m
highest point: Khula Kangri I 7,553 m

Natural resources: timber, hydropower, gypsum, calcium carbide

Land use:
arable land: 2%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 6%
forests and woodland: 66%
other: 26% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 340 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: violent storms coming down 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

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Nuclear Test Ban
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea

Geography—note: landlocked; strategic location between China and India; controls several key Himalayan mountain passes


[Top of Page]

Population: 1,908,307 (July 1998 est.)
note: other estimates range as low as 600,000

Age structure:
0-14 years: 40% (male 396,839; female 368,391)
15-64 years: 56% (male 549,050; female 518,780)
65 years and over: 4% (male 38,235; female 37,012) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.27% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 37.33 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 14.6 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.03 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 111.66 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 52.31 years
male: 52.77 years
female: 51.83 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 5.22 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: Bhutanese (singular and plural)
adjective: Bhutanese

Ethnic groups: Bhote 50%, ethnic Nepalese 35%, indigenous or migrant tribes 15%

Religions: Lamaistic Buddhism 75%, Indian- and Nepalese-influenced Hinduism 25%

Languages: Dzongkha (official), Bhotes speak various Tibetan dialects, Nepalese speak various Nepalese dialects

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 42.2%
male: 56.2%
female: 28.1% (1995 est.)

People—note: refugee issue over the presence in Nepal of approximately 91,000 Bhutanese refugees, 90% of whom are in seven United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camps


[Top of Page]

Country name:
conventional long form: Kingdom of Bhutan
conventional short form: Bhutan

Data code: BT

Government type: monarchy; special treaty relationship with India

National capital: Thimphu

Administrative divisions: 18 districts (dzongkhag, singular and plural); Bumthang, Chhukha, Chirang, Daga, Geylegphug, Ha, Lhuntshi, Mongar, Paro, Pemagatsel, Punakha, Samchi, Samdrup Jongkhar, Shemgang, Tashigang, Thimphu, Tongsa, Wangdi Phodrang

Independence: 8 August 1949 (from India)

National holiday: National Day, 17 December (1907) (Ugyen WANGCHUCK became first hereditary king)

Constitution: no written constitution or bill of rights
note: Bhutan uses 1953 Royal decree for the Constitution of the National Assembly

Legal system: based on Indian law and English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: each family has one vote in village-level elections

Executive branch:
chief of state: King Jigme Singye WANGCHUCK (since 24 July 1972); note—the king is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: King Jigme Singye WANGCHUCK (since 24 July 1972); note—the king is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Council of Ministers (Lhengye Shungtsog) appointed by the king
note: there is also a Royal Advisory Council (Lodoi Tsokde), members nominated by the king
elections: none; the king is a hereditary monarch

Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly or Tshogdu (150 seats; 105 elected from village constituencies, 10 represent religious bodies, and 35 are designated by the king to represent government and other secular interests; members serve three-year terms)
elections: last held NA (next to be held NA)
election results: NA

Judicial branch: the Supreme Court of Appeal is the king; High Court, judges appointed by the king

Political parties and leaders: no legal parties

Political pressure groups and leaders: Buddhist clergy; Indian merchant community; ethnic Nepalese organizations leading militant antigovernment campaign

International organization participation: AsDB, CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, IDA, IFAD, IMF, Intelsat, IOC, ITU, NAM, SAARC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO

Diplomatic representation in the US: none; note—Bhutan has a Permanent Mission to the UN; address: 2 United Nations Plaza, 27th Floor, New York, NY 10017; telephone [1] (212) 826-1919; the Bhutanese mission to the UN has consular jurisdiction in the US
consulate(s) general: New York
honorary consulate(s): San Francisco; Washington, DC

Diplomatic representation from the US: the US and Bhutan have no formal diplomatic relations, although informal contact is maintained between the Bhutanese and US Embassy in New Delhi (India)

Flag description: divided diagonally from the lower hoist side corner; the upper triangle is yellow and the lower triangle is orange; centered along the dividing line is a large black and white dragon facing away from the hoist side


[Top of Page]

Economy—overview: The economy, one of the world's smallest and least developed, is based on agriculture and forestry, which provide the main livelihood for 90% of the population and account for about 40% of GDP. 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. 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. Bhutan's hydropower potential and its attraction for tourists are key resources. The Bhutanese Government has made some progress in expanding the nation's productive base and improving social welfare. Model education, social, and environment programs in Bhutan 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. GDP growth averaged 5% per year in 1991-95, with information not yet available for 1996-97. Detailed controls and uncertain policies in areas like industrial licensing, trade, labor, and finance continue to hamper foreign investment.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$1.3 billion (1995 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 6.9% (1995 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$730 (1995 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 42%
industry: 32%
services: 26% (1995 est.)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 7% (FY96/97 est.)

Labor force: NA
by occupation: agriculture 93%, services 5%, industry and commerce 2%
note: massive lack of skilled labor

Unemployment rate: NA%

revenues: $146 million
expenditures: $152 million, including capital expenditures of $94 million (FY95/96 est.)
note: the government of India finances nearly three-fifths of Bhutan's budget expenditures

Industries: cement, wood products, processed fruits, alcoholic beverages, calcium carbide

Industrial production growth rate: 7.6% (1992 est.)

Electricity—capacity: 361,000 kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 1.707 billion kWh (1995)
note: exports electricity to India

Electricity—consumption per capita: 143 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: rice, corn, root crops, citrus, foodgrains; dairy products, eggs

total value: $77.4 million (f.o.b., 1996 est.)
commodities: cardamom, gypsum, timber, handicrafts, cement, fruit, electricity (to India), precious stones, spices
partners: India 94%, Bangladesh

total value: $104.1 million (c.i.f., 1996 est.)
commodities: fuel and lubricants, grain, machinery and parts, vehicles, fabrics, rice
partners: India 77%, Japan, UK, Germany, US

Debt—external: $129 million (FY94/95)

Economic aid:
recipient: $NA

Currency: 1 ngultrum (Nu) = 100 chetrum; note—Indian currency is also legal tender

Exchange rates: ngultrum (Nu) per US$1—39.358 (January 1998), 36.313 (1997), 35.433 (1996), 32.427 (1995), 31.374 (1994), 30.493 (1993); note—the Bhutanese ngultrum is at par with the Indian rupee

Fiscal year: 1 July—30 June


[Top of Page]

Telephones: 4,620 (1991 est.)

Telephone system:
domestic: domestic telephone service is very poor with very few telephones in use
international: international telephone and telegraph service is by landline through India; a satellite earth station was planned (1990)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 1, shortwave 0 (1990)

Radios: 23,000 (1989 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 0 (1990 est.)

Televisions: 200 (1985 est.)


[Top of Page]

Railways: 0 km

total: 3,285 km
paved: 1,994 km
unpaved: 1,291 km (1996 est.)

Ports and harbors: none

Airports: 2 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (1997 est.)


[Top of Page]

Military branches: Royal Bhutan Army, Palace Guard, Militia

Military manpower—military age: 18 years of age

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 466,594 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 248,985 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—reaching military age annually:
males: 18,946 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $NA

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: NA%

Transnational Issues

[Top of Page]

Disputes—international: with Nepal over 91,000 Bhutanese refugees in Nepal