South Asia :: Bhutan
page last updated on August 3, 2010
Flag of Bhutan
Map of Bhutan
Introduction ::Bhutan
In 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. The king ratified the country's first constitution in July 2008.
Geography ::Bhutan
Southern Asia, between China and India
Geographic coordinates:
27 30 N, 90 30 E
Map references:
total: 38,394 sq km
country comparison to the world: 136
land: 38,394 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative:
about one-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)
Current Weather
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 carbonate
Land use:
arable land: 2.3%
permanent crops: 0.43%
other: 97.27% (2005)
Irrigated land:
400 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
95 cu km (1987)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 0.43 cu km/yr (5%/1%/94%)
per capita: 199 cu m/yr (2000)
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
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note:
landlocked; strategic location between China and India; controls several key Himalayan mountain passes
People ::Bhutan
country comparison to the world: 164
note: the Factbook population estimate is consistent with the first modern census of Bhutan, conducted in 2005; previous Factbook population estimates for this country, which were on the order of three times the total population reported here, were based on Bhutanese government publications that did not include the census (July 2010 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 29.5% (male 105,512/female 101,279)
15-64 years: 64.8% (male 240,549/female 213,202)
65 years and over: 5.6% (male 20,768/female 18,537) (2010 est.)
Median age:
total: 24.3 years
male: 25 years
female: 23.7 years (2010 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.236% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 102
Birth rate:
19.62 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 96
Death rate:
7.25 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 125
Net migration rate:
urban population: 35% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 4.9% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.13 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.12 male(s)/female
total population: 1.1 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 46.92 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 55
male: 47.8 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 45.99 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 66.71 years
country comparison to the world: 158
male: 65.89 years
female: 67.57 years (2010 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.29 children born/woman (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 105
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
less than 0.1% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 113
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
fewer than 100 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 162
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2009)
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% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 10 years
male: 11 years
female: 10 years (2006)
Education expenditures:
7% of GDP (2005)
country comparison to the world: 22
Government ::Bhutan
Country name:
conventional long form: Kingdom of Bhutan
conventional short form: Bhutan
local long form: Druk Gyalkhap
local short form: Druk Yul
Government type:
constitutional monarchy
name: Thimphu
geographic coordinates: 27 29 N, 89 36 E
time difference: UTC+6 (11 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
20 districts (dzongkhag, singular and plural); Bumthang, Chhukha, Chirang, Daga, Gasa, Geylegphug, Ha, Lhuntshi, Mongar, Paro, Pemagatsel, Punakha, Samchi, Samdrup Jongkhar, Shemgang, Tashigang, Tashi Yangtse, Thimphu, Tongsa, Wangdi Phodrang
1907 (became a unified kingdom under its first hereditary king)
National holiday:
National Day (Ugyen WANGCHUCK became first hereditary king), 17 December (1907)
ratified 18 July 2008
Legal system:
based on Indian law and English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
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; the nearly two-year delay between the former King's abdication and his son's coronation on 6 November 2008 was to ensure an astrologically auspicious coronation date and to give the new king, who had limited experience, deeper administrative expertise under the guidance of this father
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 are nominated by the monarch
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elections: the monarchy 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 occurred in March 2008; the leader of the majority party nominated as the prime minister
Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament consists of the non-partisan National Council (25 seats; 20 members elected by each of the 20 electoral districts (dzongkhags) for four-year terms and 5 members nominated by the King); and the National Assembly (47 seats; members elected by direct, popular vote for five-year terms)
elections: National Council elections last held on 31 December 2007 and 29 January 2008 (next to be held by December 2012); National Assembly elections last held on 24 March 2008 (next to be held by March 2013)
election results: National Council - NA; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - DPT 67%, PDP 33%; seats by party - DPT 45, PDP 2
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court of Appeal (the monarch); High Court (judges appointed by the monarch); note - the draft constitution establishes a Supreme Court that will serve as chief court of appeal
Political parties and leaders:
Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party (Druk Phuensum Tshogpa) or DPT [Jigme THINLEY]; People's Democratic Party or PDP [Tshering TOBGAY]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
United Front for Democracy (exiled); Druk National Congress (exiled)
other: Buddhist clergy; ethnic Nepalese organizations leading militant antigovernment campaign; Indian merchant community
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
none; note - the Permanent Mission to the UN for Bhutan has consular jurisdiction in the US; the permanent representative to the UN is Daw PENJO; address: 763 First Avenue, New York, NY 10017; telephone [1] (212) 682-2268; FAX [1] (212) 661-0551
consulate(s) general: New York
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; the dragon, called the Druk (Thunder Dragon), is the emblem of the nation; its white color stands for purity and the jewels in its claws symbolize wealth; the background colors represent spiritual and secular powers within Bhutan: the orange is associated with Bhuddism, while the yellow denotes the ruling dynasty
Economy ::Bhutan
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 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 have boosted Bhutan's overall growth. New hydropower projects will be the driving force behind Bhutan's ability to create employment and sustain growth in the coming years.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$3.763 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 167
$3.584 billion (2008 est.)
$2.994 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$1.493 billion (2009 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
5% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 23
19.7% (2008 est.)
6.4% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$5,400 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 137
$5,300 (2008 est.)
$4,400 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 22.3%
industry: 37.9%
services: 39.8% (2006)
Labor force:
country comparison to the world: 165
note: major shortage of skilled labor (2008)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 63%
industry: 6%
services: 31% (2004 est.)
Unemployment rate:
4% (2009)
country comparison to the world: 36
2.5% (2004)
Population below poverty line:
23.2% (2008)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.3%
highest 10%: 37.6%
revenues: $302 million
expenditures: $588 million
note: the government of India finances nearly three-fifths of Bhutan's budget expenditures (FY09/10)
Public debt:
57.8% of GDP (2009)
country comparison to the world: 35
81.4% of GDP (2004)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
8% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 181
4.9% (2007 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
NA% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 58
14% (31 December 2007)
Stock of money:
$NA (31 December 2008)
$381.1 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money:
$NA (31 December 2008)
$220.3 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit:
$NA (31 December 2008)
$169.9 million (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
Agriculture - products:
rice, corn, root crops, citrus, foodgrains; dairy products, eggs
cement, wood products, processed fruits, alcoholic beverages, calcium carbide, tourism
Industrial production growth rate:
Electricity - production:
1.48 billion kWh (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 140
Electricity - consumption:
184 million kWh (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 179
Electricity - exports:
1.296 billion kWh (2009 est.)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2009 est.)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 118
Oil - consumption:
1,000 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 191
Oil - exports:
0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 142
Oil - imports:
1,250 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 184
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 200
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 203
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 205
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 53
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 80
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 199
Current account balance:
$164 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 53
$116 million (2007 est.)
$513 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 166
$350 million (2006)
Exports - commodities:
electricity (to India), ferrosilicon, cement, calcium carbide, copper wire, manganese, vegetable oil
$533 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 187
$320 million (2006)
Imports - commodities:
fuel and lubricants, passenger cars, machinery and parts, fabrics, rice (2008)
Debt - external:
$836 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 151
$713.3 million (2006)
Exchange rates:
ngultrum (BTN) per US dollar - 46.6 (2009), 41.487 (2007), 45.279 (2006), 44.101 (2005), 45.317 (2004)
note: the ngultrum is pegged to the Indian rupee
Communications ::Bhutan
Telephones - main lines in use:
27,500 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 181
Telephones - mobile cellular:
251,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 170
Telephone system:
general assessment: urban towns and district headquarters have telecommunications services
domestic: low teledensity; domestic service is very poor especially in rural areas; mobile-cellular service available since 2003
international: country code - 975; international telephone and telegraph service via landline and microwave relay through India; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (2008)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 0, FM 9, shortwave 1 (2007)
Television broadcast stations:
1 (2007)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
9,096 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 119
Internet users:
40,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 174
Transportation ::Bhutan
2 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 197
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2009)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2009)
total: 8,050 km
country comparison to the world: 140
paved: 4,991 km
unpaved: 3,059 km (2003)
Military ::Bhutan
Military branches:
Royal Bhutan Army (includes Royal Bodyguard and Royal Bhutan Police) (2009)
Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription (2008)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 198,553
females age 16-49: 176,226 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 153,985
females age 16-49: 140,437 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 7,432
female: 7,153 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
1% of GDP (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 134
Transnational Issues ::Bhutan
Disputes - international:
Bhutan cooperates with India to expel Indian Nagaland separatists; lacking any treaty describing the boundary, Bhutan and China continue negotiations to establish a common boundary alignment to resolve territorial disputes arising from substantial cartographic discrepancies, the largest of which lie in Bhutan's northwest and along the Chumbi salient

Source: The World Factbook (CIA)