“Bill collectors should be more eager about the three-day break between May 30 and June 1.”
It was a casual remark that sparked off on the eve of the national housing and population census among a few television cable operators and municipal support staff gnawing off near one of the many small paan shops on one of capital city’s main streets.
A mere remark, a loud one though.
Bhutanese across the country were waiting within the confines of their homes to be counted. The country’s second decennial nationwide census, although delayed by more than a year, was on. The first was conducted in 2005.
It was uncertain on which of the three days, one of the more than 9,500 enumerators would visit a house with the questionnaire that lasted between 45 minutes and more than an hour. An empty house could not be expected gauging by the importance of the process, at least telling by the emphasis it received.
Well for one, like census officials and statisticians explained, the data and information gathered from such a process goes, in the long run, into determining allocation of public funds for development purposes.
Funds for education and health programs, roads and other public amenities are allocated based on population.
“Determined by size of population, it helps ensure equitable distribution of public funds,” a National Statistical Bureau official said. “It also helps decision makers craft public policies, or revise certain existing ones,” added a census officer.
In a broader sense, a nationwide census can tell its people about changes in a country in terms of its population, how it has grown in the last decade broken down by men, women, children category. It can also inform on various levels of prosperity people have reached reflected by their possessions, including how peaceful Bhutanese are.
Based on the questions of the survey, people’s aspirations can be reflected in it, their levels of satisfaction today serving as cue and their hopes can emanate from their expectations, all of which can contribute towards the gross pursuit of national happiness.
For a serving government, the findings are a performance appraisal of sort, honest and at its best sourced from just about every Bhutanese living in every corner of the country. Likewise, the findings are just as important for politicians, especially in terms of planning for national elections scheduled for 2018.
As it is in other parts of the world, even in Bhutan, the whole representative government will come to depend on the decennial national census. The previous nationwide census of 2005 was used for the country’s delimitation process based on which constituencies were determined and that played basis for number of representation to the parliament.
For all these reasons, the national census is almost of a civic duty.