The World Factbook (1990)/Bhutan



World Factbook (1990) Bhutan.jpg

 See regional map VIII


Total area: 47,000 km²; land area: 47,000 km²

Comparative area: slightly more than half the size of Indiana

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

Coastline: none—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

Natural resources: timber, hydropower, gypsum, calcium carbide

Land use: 2% arable land; NEGL% permanent crops; 5% meadows and pastures; 70% forest and woodland; 23% other

Environment: violent storms coming down from the Himalayas were the source of the country name which translates as Land of the Thunder Dragon

Note: landlocked; strategic location between China and India; controls several key Himalayan mountain passes


Population: 1,565,969 (July 1990), growth rate 2.0% (1990)

Birth rate: 37 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 17 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 137 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 50 years male, 48 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 5.0 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Bhutanese (sing., pl.); adjective—Bhutanese

Ethnic divisions: 60% Bhote, 25% ethnic Nepalese, 15% indigenous or migrant tribes

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

Language: Bhotes speak various Tibetan dialects—most widely spoken dialect is Dzongkha (official); Nepalese speak various Nepalese dialects

Literacy: 5%

Labor force: NA; 95% agriculture, 1% industry and commerce; massive lack of skilled labor (1983)

Organized labor: not permitted


Long-form name: Kingdom of Bhutan

Type: monarchy; special treaty relationship with India

Capital: Thimphu

Administrative divisions: 3 regions and 1 division*; Central Bhutan, Eastern Bhutan, Southern Bhutan*, Western Bhutan; note—there may now be 18 districts (dzong, singular and plural) named Bumthang, Chhukha, Chirang, Daga, Geylegphug, Ha, Lhuntshi, Mongar, Paro, Pemagatsel, Punakha, Samchi, Samdrup Jongkhar, Shemgang, Tashigang, Thimphu, Tongsa, Wangdiphodrang

Independence: 8 August 1949 (from India)

Constitution: no written constitution or bill of rights

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

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

Executive branch: monarch, chairman of the Royal Advisory Council, Royal Advisory Council (Lodoi Tsokde), chairman of the Council of Ministers, Council of Ministers (Lhengye Shungtsog)

Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly (Tshogdu)

Judicial branch: High Court

Leaders: Chief of State and Head of Government—King Jigme Singye WANGCHUCK (since 24 July 1972)

Political parties: no legal parties

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

Elections: no national elections

Communists: no overt Communist presence

Other political or pressure groups: Buddhist clergy, Indian merchant community, ethnic Nepalese organizations

Member of: ADB, Colombo Plan, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IBRD, IDA, IFAD, IMF, NAM, SAARC, UNESCO, UPU, UN, WHO

Diplomatic representation: no formal diplomatic relations, although informal contact is maintained between the Bhutanese and US Embassies in New Delhi (India); the Bhutanese mission to the UN in New York has consular jurisdiction in the US

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


Overview: The economy is based on agriculture and forestry, which provide the main livelihood for 90% of the population and account for about 50% of GDP. One of the world's least developed countries, rugged mountains dominate and make the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive. Bhutan's hydropower potential and its attraction for tourists are its most important natural resources.

GDP: $273 million, per capita $199; real growth rate 6.3% (1988 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 10% (1989 est.)

Unemployment: NA

Budget: revenues $99 million; expenditures $128 million, including capital expenditures of $65 million (FY89 est.)

Exports: $70.9 million (f.o.b., FY89); commodities—cardamon, gypsum, timber, handicrafts, cement, fruit; partners—India 93%

Imports: $138.3 million (c.i.f., FY89 est.); commodities—fuel and lubricants, grain, machinery and parts, vehicles, fabrics; partners India—67%

External debt: $70.1 million (FY89 est.)

Industrial production: growth rate -12.4% (1988 est.)

Electricity: 353,000 kW capacity; 2,000 million kWh produced, 1,300 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: cement, chemical products, mining, distilling, food processing, handicrafts

Agriculture: accounts for 50% of GDP; based on subsistence farming and animal husbandry; self-sufficient in food except for foodgrains; other production—rice, corn, root crops, citrus fruit, dairy, and eggs

Aid: Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-87), $85.8 million; OPEC bilateral aid (1979-89), $11 million

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

Exchange rates: ngultrum (Nu) per US$1—16.965 (January 1990), 16.226 (1989), 13.917 (1988), 12.962 (1987), 12.611 (1986), 12.369 (1985); note—the Bhutanese ngultrum is at par with the Indian rupee

Fiscal year: 1 July-30 June


Highways: 1,304 km total; 418 km surfaced, 515 km improved, 371 km unimproved earth

Civil air: 1 jet, 2 prop

Airports: 2 total, 2 usable; 1 with permanent-surface runways; none with runways over 2,439 m; 2 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: inadequate; 1,890 telephones (1985); 15,000 radio receivers (1987 est.); 85 TV sets (1985); stations—20 AM, no FM, no TV

Defense Forces

Branches: Royal Bhutan Army

Military manpower: males 15-49, 389,142; 208,231 fit for military service; 17,203 reach military age (18) annually

Defense expenditures: NA