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Who is Benefiting from Trade Liberalization in Bhutan? A Gender Perspective

Case study by UNCTAD, 2011

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The aim of this report is to determine who would benefit from further trade liberalization or facilitation in Bhutan and, in particular, to analyse whether there is a gender bias in the gains from trade. Chapters 1 to 3 provide a stocktaking and analytical background. The core of the analysis is chapter 4, which looks into the income and expenditure distribution for men and women in rural and urban areas, as well as in different economic sectors. It explores how trade expansion would affect men and women, mainly through changes in income and consumption patterns. It then critically assesses the findings from the analysis against the background of important non-trade concerns such as food-security, equitable development, biodiversity conservation and cultural heritage. Chapter 5 concludes with some policy recommendations background.

A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


Who is benefiting from
trade liberalization in Bhutan?


New York and Geneva 2011


U N I T E D N AT I O N S C O N F E R E N C E O N T R A D E A N D D E V E L O P M E N T




UNITED NATIONS PUBLICATION
UNCTAD/OSG/2011/1


Copyright @ United Nations 2011




iiiCONTENTS


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................................................................................iv
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ..................................................................................................................................................................v
INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................................................................................................... viii


I. COUNTRY PROFILE ............................................................................................................................................................1
1.1 OVERVIEW ....................................................................................................................................... 2
1.2 ANALYSIS OF SELECTED ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL INDICATORS .............................................. 3
1.2.1 Composition of GDP ............................................................................................................ 3
1.2.2 Key socio-demographic figures ........................................................................................... 4
1.2.3 Employment ......................................................................................................................... 5


II. TRADE ANALYSIS ...............................................................................................................................................................9
2.1 TRADE FLOWS .............................................................................................................................. 10
2.2 TRADE AGREEMENTS .................................................................................................................. 12
2.2.1 Bilateral trade agreements ................................................................................................. 12
2.2.2 Regional trade agreements ................................................................................................ 13
2.2.3 Multilateral trade agreements ............................................................................................. 14
2.3 MAJOR OBSTACLES TO EXPORT COMPETITIVENESS AND DIVERSIFICATION ....................... 15


III. GENDER MAINSTREAMING IN BHUTAN ............................................................................................................... 19
3.1 GENDER ASSESSMENT IN BHUTAN ........................................................................................... 20
3.1.1 Gender under Bhutanese law ............................................................................................ 20
3.1.2 Bhutanese women’s current socio-political and economic status .................................... 20
3.2 GENDER STRATEGIC PLAN OF THE ROYAL GOVERNMENT OF BHUTAN ............................... 21
3.2.1 Tenth Five-Year Plan (2008–2013) ...................................................................................... 21
3.2.2 National Plan of Action for Gender (2008–2013) ................................................................ 23
3.3 MAINSTREAMING GENDER IN TRADE STRATEGIES .................................................................. 23
3.3.1 Department of Trade .......................................................................................................... 23
3.3.2 Development agencies’ gender and trade strategic plans ................................................ 23
3.3.3 Gender considerations in trade agreements...................................................................... 24
3.3.4 Trade facilitation and supply-side services ......................................................................... 24


IV. TRADE LIBERALIZATION OR FACILITATION, FEMALE EMPLOYMENT AND WELFARE IN BHUTAN .... 27
4.1 AGRICULTURE .............................................................................................................................. 29
4.1.1 Main findings from the quantitative model ......................................................................... 29
4.1.2 Detailed analysis ................................................................................................................ 30
4.1.3 Broadening the scope of the analysis to non-trade concerns ........................................... 41
4.2 HYDROPOWER RESOURCES AND THE MINERAL SECTOR ...................................................... 42
4.2.1 Hydropower resources ....................................................................................................... 42
4.2.2 The mineral sector ............................................................................................................. 43
4.3 MANUFACTURES AND TOURISM ................................................................................................ 43
4.3.1 Manufactures ..................................................................................................................... 43
4.3.2 Tourism ............................................................................................................................... 44


V. POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS ................................................................................................................................... 47
5.1 Overcoming supply-side obstacles and enhancing export competitiveness ............................... 48
5.2 Meeting market access and market entry requirements ............................................................... 49
5.3 Trade-related aspects of intellectual property: a product differentiation strategy based on


intellectual property ...................................................................................................................... 49
5.4 Promoting equitable and inclusive outcomes in export-led strategies ......................................... 50
5.5 Preserving local capacity for staple food production: trade-related policies................................ 51
5.6 Retaining policy space to establish linkages in trade policy ......................................................... 52


REFERENCES ..................................................................................................................................................................... 53
APPENDIX 1: ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK ......................................................................................................................... 57




iv WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


This study is part of UNCTAD’s activities on trade, gender and development carried out by the Organization
in accordance with its mandate. The Accra Accord resulting from the Twelfth Ministerial Meeting of the United
Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XII) held in Accra, Ghana on 20–25 April 2008,
requested UNCTAD to strengthen its work on the linkages between trade and internationally agreed development
goals and objectives, including gender equality (para. 96(d)), and to make efforts to mainstream cross-cutting
issues of gender equality and the empowerment of women in all its work (para. 173). UNCTAD aims to contribute
to the analysis of the linkages between trade policy and gender equality and to the related international debate
by looking at specific country experiences. This study is one in a series of case studies that are being conducted
by UNCTAD in six developing countries, namely, Bhutan, Cape Verde, Lesotho, Rwanda, Uruguay and Angola.


This study was prepared by Irene Musselli, Simonetta Zarrilli, Mona Froystad and Sarah Houghton from
UNCTAD’s Trade, Gender and Development Unit, in collaboration with Professor Guido Porto from the
Department of Economics of the University of La Plata, Argentina. The overall work was coordinated by
Simonetta Zarrilli. Invaluable support was provided by the Royal Government of Bhutan, in particular the Ministry
of Economic Affairs, which generously shared data, official documents and reports with UNCTAD. Precious
support was provided by the United Nations Resident Coordinator Office and the Office of the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) in Thimphu, which ensured the coordination between UNCTAD and the Royal
Government of Bhutan. The study benefitted from insightful comments and suggestions provided by Lisa
Borgatti, Murray Gibbs, Alessandro Nicita and Yumiko Yamamoto.


The study was financed by the seventh tranche of the United Nations Development Account under the theme,
Support to addressing key global development challenges to further the achievement of internationally agreed
development goals, through collaboration at global, regional and national levels.




vEXECUTIVE SUMMARY


Trade policies tend to have strong redistributive im-
pacts, which favour some groups or individuals, while
penalizing others. The aim of this report is to deter-
mine who would benefit from further trade liberaliza-
tion or facilitation in Bhutan and, in particular, to ana-
lyse whether there is a gender bias in the gains from
trade. The Bhutanese economy is characterized by a
fair degree of openness in terms of import tariffs or
quantitative restrictions, since the bulk of Bhutan’s im-
ports is sourced from countries with which Bhutan en-
joys free or preferential trade. Similarly, major destina-
tions of Bhutan’s exports are countries where goods
originating from Bhutan enter duty free or under pref-
erential arrangements. Accordingly, in this study, trade
liberalization is intended to broadly cover aspects of
trade facilitation – in the areas of customs procedures,
transport and standards compliance, for example. In
these areas, Bhutan suffers from high transaction
costs associated with customs clearance, transport
bottlenecks and other non-tariff barriers (see chapter
2). Policies aimed at reducing these constraints would
boost Bhutan’s export competitiveness and have a
significant trade-enhancing effect. The analysis is also
relevant to assess the gendered impact of a reduction
in most-favoured nation (MFN), or non-preferential,
tariff rates, which are relatively high in Bhutan. The
report also sheds some light on tariff liberalization in
sectors of potential export interest to Bhutan, such as
handicraft textiles.


A review of the documents of the Royal Government
of Bhutan reveals a long-standing commitment to
gender equality. Yet, there are still questions about
how effectively these commitments have been trans-
lated into practice, particularly in the economic and
trade domains. For example, it appears that gender
considerations were not taken into account prior or
during the negotiations of the trade agreements to
which Bhutan is a party. The inclusion of a gender
perspective in the design and implementation of trade
policies is a way to give substance and meaning to
commitments.


The conceptual framework underlying this study is that
trade policies affect economies through their effect on
prices of goods and factors of production and by their
effect on government revenues. Three main effects on
household can be discerned: (a) the consumption ef-
fect, which refers to the manner in which trade policies
affect the price of the goods consumed by the house-


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY


holds; (b) the income effect, which refers to changes
in household income, including earnings, sales of ag-
ricultural products or any other goods, farm profits (if
the household produces the goods) and other forms
of income including government transfers; (c) the rev-
enue effect, which refers to how trade policies affect
government revenues and how those revenues are
redistributed to households. The quantitative analy-
sis was conducted in three steps. First, the analysis
sought to measure the extent to which trade policies
affect domestic prices of goods and factors of pro-
duction. This included making estimations of or as-
sumptions on the extent to which international prices
affected the domestic prices of goods and factors of
production. Estimations and assumptions were also
made in an effort to determine to what extent trade
policy affects government revenues. The second step
was to identify and quantify the sources of income
and the consumption basket for each household.
This provided a measure of the dependence between
household real income and changes in the price of a
particular good of factor of production attributable to
trade policy. Third, the price changes in goods and
factors of production prompted by trade policies were
mapped into each household’s budget and income
shares. This allowed for the calculation of any positive
or negative effect of trade policy on the real income of
the household. Results were then aggregated by the
relevant dimension – region, gender, poor or non-poor
– so as to better identify any subgroup that would gain
or lose from the trade policy.


The main findings of the analysis are summarized
below. Given that data was available and that most
households, including female-headed households,
work in the agricultural sector, a particular focus was
given to this sector.


Hydropower resources and the mineral sector


Data from the Labour Force Survey Report 2009 (Royal
Government of Bhutan 2009a) show that only 1.1 per
cent of the total population work in this sector, and
only 0.4 per cent is represented by women. As a re-
sult, plans and policies related to this sector contribute
to achieving economic self-reliance and overall socio-
economic development, but have little direct effect on
women’s employment. There are nonetheless some
important gender-specific aspects to consider. In par-
ticular, modern energy services would help women




vi WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


meet their practical and educational needs. Women
would also indirectly benefit from the expansion of
this sector, via government spending and spillovers.
Well-managed public spending can be translated into
high-quality public services that can benefit the whole
population, and women, in particular.


Similarly, the mineral sector offers few direct employ-
ment opportunities, especially for women. Only 0.2 per
cent of the workforce is in mining and, within manu-
facturing, employment in cement-related industries is
also negligible (Royal Government of Bhutan 2009a).
As in the case of hydropower resources, there will not
be sizeable quantifiable impacts on female employ-
ment. However, women would indirectly benefit from
the expansion of this sector, via government spending
and spillovers.


Manufactures and tourism


As in the cases of electricity and cement, available data
do not allow to generate a meaningful quantification of
the likely gender impacts of trade liberalization or facili-
tation in manufactures and tourism. Nevertheless, the
inclusion of these sectors is important because of their
potential source of growth for the country.


On aggregate, only 4.7 per cent of total Bhutanese em-
ployment is in the manufacturing sector (Royal Gov-
ernment of Bhutan 2009a). At first glance, this may
indicate that trade liberalization or facilitation will have
only small impacts at the national level. However, this
aggregate picture conceals the dynamic potential of
specific subsectors, such as textiles and handicrafts
and agro-processing.


The Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report 2007 (Royal
Government of Bhutan 2007) indicates that almost half
of the employment in manufacturing is in textiles. The
textile sector has important gender-specific aspects,
accounting for 85.7 per cent of all women employed
in the manufacturing sector. The domestic market for
traditional garments is sizeable, as all Bhutanese citi-
zens must wear the appropriate national dress in all
public areas. Bhutan’s textile handicraft could expand
significantly if certain conditions were met. It would first
be necessary to establish trademark protection for the
traditional textile designs. This will help reposition Bhu-
tanese textile handicrafts as differentiated products of
superior quality. A second key issue is to establish link-
ages with key tourist outlets, as well as with strategic
off-takers in global supply chains: branded retailers,
specialized wholesalers and traders.


Processing of fruit products in Bhutan also has signifi-
cant potential, particularly if linkages with the tourism
sector are operationalized, for example, food supplies
to hotels and catering for meetings or workshops. This
will be contingent on the ability of local suppliers to
meet stringent food safety and quality standards, in
addition to requirements for timely deliveries, as well as
quantity and consistency of delivery.


Like textiles, tourism is a source of potential gains from
trade. The promotion of community-based tourism and
forms of ecotourism is viewed as an effective catalyst
for poverty reduction, promotion of cultural heritage and
environmental protection in rural areas (Royal Govern-
ment of Bhutan 2009b). A survey on tourism in Bhutan
presents evidence of a large proportion of women in
employment (UNCTAD 2007), supporting the view that
women may benefit from the expansion of this sector.


Agriculture


From an employment perspective, agriculture is the
most important sector of the economy, absorbing
65.4 per cent of the total workforce and 72.1 per cent
of the female workforce (Royal Government of Bhu-
tan 2009a). The sector is particularly important from
a poverty perspective, owing to a higher incidence of
poverty in rural areas and low education levels among
those engaged in subsistence farming.


The study identifies key agricultural products where
the impacts of trade are first, potentially sizeable –
and thus meaningful for analytical purposes – and,
second, quantifiable in the following areas:


• Exports of potatoes, oranges, and apples, the ma-
jor export crops in which Bhutan shows a revealed
comparative advantage;


• Imports of paddy rice, the Bhutanese staple food,
and the major imported crop, in which Bhutan has a
comparative disadvantage.


The analytical framework used in this report implies
that net producers of export goods, such as pota-
toes, oranges, and apples, and net consumers of im-
ports, such as rice, will gain from trade. By combining
trade and microsurvey data, the analysis attempts to
identify and compare these net producers and net
consumers: women versus male, rural versus urban,
poor versus non-poor. By doing so, the report sheds
some light on the potential beneficiaries of agricultur-
al trade liberalization or facilitation in Bhutan and, in
particular, whether there is a gender bias in the gains
from trade. With specific reference to the major agri-




viiEXECUTIVE SUMMARY


cultural exports and imports, the principal conclusions
that emerge from the analysis are as follows:


• The Bhutanese population would stand to gain po-
tential benefits from trade liberalization or facilitation
in these commodity sectors;


• There appears to be little or no gender bias in the
gains from trade;


• Trade liberalization or facilitation would have a pro-
poor impact where potatoes and oranges are con-
cerned, while it appears that non-poor households
would benefit relatively more than poor households
from an expansion of exports of apples. Import liber-
alization or facilitation in rice will benefit net consum-
ers. Since the share spent on rice sharply declines
with the level of household well-being, lower rice
prices will have a pro-poor bias for net consumers.
The impacts on net producers of rice were not docu-
mented. It is important to note that 75 per cent of
farming households are engaged in rice production,
and thus may be affected by a change in the price
of rice due to trade liberalization.


Hence, the analysis highlights that Bhutan would ben-
efit from further diversifying into higher-value com-
modities that have the most dynamic export potential:
oranges, apples and potatoes. There are, however,
some important concerns that should be taken into
consideration.


First, the ability to expand export trade in high-value
products will be contingent on overcoming supply-
side obstacles at home, such as increasing productiv-
ity, boosting trade infrastructure and building human
and institutional capacities, and meeting stringent
entry and quality requirements in export markets.
From a policymaking perspective, this calls for (a) the
mobilization of internal resources (transfer of resourc-
es within the economy, across sectors) and (b) the
pooling and alignment of external funds. A number of
Aid for Trade initiatives, including the Enhanced Inte-
grated Framework – can catalyse development as-
sistance in support of Bhutan’s efforts to develop the
basic economic infrastructure and tools the country
needs to expand its exports of apples, oranges and
other high-value products. Where specific gender is-
sues arise, it will be important to incorporate them in
the design and implementation of support schemes,
not to have mute supply-side responses to policy in-
centives. Policy options and models may also play
a crucial role in integrating Bhutanese small agricul-
tural producers, including women, in supply chains in


a sustainable manner. Examples of such policy op-
tions are outgrower schemes, supermarket and off-
taker-driven supply chains, as well as supply chains
facilitated by non-profit organizations. The feasibility
of these options should be explored.


Enhancing women’s participation in the production
and export of agricultural and food products, including
through the integration in international supply chains,
would be contingent upon enhanced education and
skill accumulation. This is of special importance, con-
sidering that 87 per cent of women who head house-
holds in rural areas have no schooling.


Second, questions arise as to how to reconcile a fo-
cus on dynamic export crops with considerations of
food security, equitable development, biodiversity
conservation and cultural heritage, which play a key
role in the distinct development strategy of Bhutan.
The integration of these aspects calls for a holistic ap-
proach that attempts to strike a balance and eventual-
ly unleash synergies between dynamic export sectors
and traditional ones. A key component of this strategy
is the creation of linkages between dynamic export
sectors and traditional ones. High-value niches within
the traditional sector should be identified – for exam-
ple, the collection and sale of mushrooms, medicinal
plants and plants for the extraction of essential oils.
These niche sectors in agriculture can provide em-
ployment for women, and build upon their traditional
knowledge. Synergies and complementarities should
be established with other dynamic activities, for exam-
ple, low-impact, high-value ecotourism.


The scope and reach of this report is limited by some
methodological constraints.


First, the core analysis focuses on specific trade sec-
tors (the major exported and imported agricultural
commodities) for which the available microsurvey
data allow to generate a meaningful quantification of
the likely gender impacts of trade liberalization or fa-
cilitation. Due to lack of microsurvey data, the report
does not provide an in-depth quantitative assessment
of other sectors in which Bhutan is either currently
competitive or where there is a potential to become
competitive in the future, including high-value organic
niche products, particularly forest-based products;
handicraft textile manufactures; mineral waters; and
community-based tourism and ecotourism. These are
promising areas into which Bhutan may wish to diver-
sify and broaden its economic and export base so as
to generate quality employment, including for women.




viii WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


Promoted and managed in a sustainable manner,


these sectors and industries are also viewed as an


effective catalyst for the conservation of the environ-


ment and the promotion of cultural heritage.


Second, the gender analysis in this report is limited in


that it essentially discusses employment and income


effects on female- versus male-headed households,


while disregarding intra-household dynamics rooted


in social patterns. For example, decision-making


processes and command over resources within the
household and intra-household transfers are not
discussed. This level of analysis – female- versus
male-headed households – may overlook important
features of the Bhutanese society such as forms of
matrilineal society and polygamy, including both po-
lygyny and polyandry. Yet, drawing on a quantitative
model, the analysis provides important insights into
the impacts of trade expansion on household welfare,
with a focus on gender issues.


Based on a quantitative approach, this report seeks to


assess who would benefit from trade liberalization or


facilitation in Bhutan and, in particular, analyse wheth-


er there is a gender bias in the gains from trade.


The report is structured as follows.


Chapters 1 to 3 provide a stocktaking and analytical


background: Chapter 1 offers both an overview of Bhu-


tan and a more detailed characterization of the Bhuta-


nese economy; chapter 2 briefly discusses Bhutan’s


patterns of trade and presents a summary overview of


relevant trade agreements at the bilateral, regional and


multilateral levels; chapter 3 provides a comprehensive


overview of gender mainstreaming commitments by


the Royal Government of Bhutan and looks at how ex-
isting commitments have been translated into practice.


INTRODUCTION


The core of the analysis is chapter 4, which seeks


to shed light on the gendered impact of trade lib-


eralization or facilitation in Bhutan. The chapter


looks into the income and expenditure distribution


for men and women in rural and urban areas, as


well as in different economic sectors. It explores


how trade expansion would affect men and women,


mainly through changes in income and consump-


tion patterns. It then critically assesses the findings


from the analysis against the background of impor-


tant non-trade concerns such as food-security, eq-


uitable development, biodiversity conservation and


cultural heritage.


Chapter 5 concludes with some policy recommen-


dations.




I


Country profi le




2 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


1.1. OVERVIEW


Bhutan is a small landlocked country of 38,394
square kilometres in the Himalayas. Bordered by
India and the Tibetan region of China, it has a mere
population of 695,822 people, according to a 2010
projection.1 The capital is Thimphu and there are 20
districts in the territory. The terrain is rugged, with
alpine peaks to the north and subtropical plains in
the south. Almost 85 per cent of the country is in-
habitable and covered with forests and year-round
snow and glacier, and nearly 10 per cent is perma-
nently cultivated or used for human habitation; while
the rest of the land is either barren, rocky or scrub-
land. For these reasons, people have settled across
this territory wherever they could find useable land,
which has resulted in a scattered population. About
70 per cent of the population live in rural areas (Roy-
al Government of Bhutan 2005c), but permanent mi-
gration has been taking place for some time. The
proportion of Bhutanese living in urban areas has
thus increased from 15 per cent in 1995 to 30 per
cent in 2005.


The country was ruled as a Buddhist theocracy from
1751 to 1907, and an absolute monarchy from 1907
to 2008. In 2006, the King abdicated power to his


son and called for democratic elections in 2008,
which transformed the country into a constitutional
monarchy. In the 1960s, Bhutan ended its self-im-
posed isolation and began a process of progressive
modernization and opening to the external world.


Bhutan has enjoyed significant progress in promot-
ing human development.2 With a human develop-
ment index (HDI) value of 0.583, Bhutan ranks 129th
among 177 countries and is one of the few so-called
least developed countries (LDCs) that fall in the cat-
egory of medium human development countries
(Royal Government of Bhutan 2005b). The human
poverty index (HPI-1) was assessed at 33.34, plac-
ing the country at 61 from among 103 developing
countries (Royal Government of Bhutan 2005b). The
distribution of income in Bhutan is relatively unequal,
with a Gini index of 46.8.3


Since 2000, the average annual growth rate of
Bhutan’s GDP has been around 8.8 per cent; pov-
erty declined by 10 percentage points since 2000,
reaching 23.2 per cent in 2007 (Royal Government
of Bhutan 2007). In 2008 Bhutan’s GDP was $1,341
million dollars and per capita income was $1,952.
The country ranks 162nd on the global GDP list.
Nevertheless, the economy is still characterized by


Box 1. Bhutan’s discriminatory approach to the forces of globalization


[…] “We must recognize that modernization is a powerful force. It is both a destroyer and creator of values. The
values destroyed are typically those that are traditional and indigenous, while the new values are more universal,
modelled in the mould of the technologies that fuel the modernization process and which seek to create a world
in their own image. Against this background, we cannot allow ourselves to assume that everything that is new
and alien to us should be unconditionally accepted. We must accept that some forces that promise change and
progress may erode the assets we have built up over centuries and which continue to serve us well. However,
this does not mean that we should regard our values, assets and customs as inherently superior to all those of
others and that everything we have inherited from the past should be accepted dogmatically and without ques-
tion. We must recognize that assets and values are never static but are always subject to a continuous process
of redefinition as they adapt to the needs and aspirations of a society in development. Assets that are defined in
static terms will eventually have no other home than in a museum. The key to the redefinition of assets and values
is the exercise of a cultural imperative that makes it possible for us to distinguish between positive and negative
forces of change. In exercising this imperative we must continue to be ‘social synthesizers’ and assimilate the
positive forces for change, making them our own and accommodating them within our own distinctive model of
development.”


Source: Royal Government of Bhutan; 2020: A Vision for Peace, Prosperity and Happiness, Part I, p. 25, Royal Government of Bhutan, 1999a.




3COUNTRY PROFILE


a narrow economic base; low employment elasticity
of the hydropower sector, which is the engine of the
economy; limited involvement of the private sector
in economic development; administrative limitations
on the expansion of the private sector and a rap-
idly growing number of educated but unemployed
young people (Asian Development Bank 2005).


From a development viewpoint, Bhutan has em-
barked on a unique development strategy aimed at
maximizing gross national happiness – a distinctively
Bhutanese concept that holistically combines mate-
rial well-being with more intangible cultural, spiritual
and emotional needs. Propounded in the late 1980s
by His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, this
multidimensional approach to development was ar-
ticulated in five central tenets in the Bhutan 2020 Vi-
sion Statement (Royal Government of Bhutan 1999
a):4 human development, the conservation and pro-
motion of culture and heritage, balanced and equi-
table socio-economic development, good govern-
ance and environmentally sustainable development.
Although consistent with the human development
paradigm, the concept of gross national happiness
moves beyond the human development perspective
in at least one important respect – the internalization
of intangible values associated with social and cul-
tural heritage and the environment in the measure-
ment of a nation’s welfare.


The distinctive path of development in Bhutan, with
its strong roots in its Buddhist traditions, compels
Bhutan to adopt a discriminatory approach to the
forces of modernization (box 1). In the trade policy
area, this approach is contingent on the articula-
tion of a trade policy stance based on two central
elements: the retention – at all levels (bilateral, re-
gional and multilateral) and across sectors (goods,
services and intellectual property) – of a margin of
manoeuvre, or policy space, that is necessary to
pursue the gross national happiness paradigm; and
the proactive, instrumental use of trade as a catalyst
to protect and enhance traditional and indigenous
values and assets.


The remainder of this chapter presents key social
and economic data. The objective is to uncover the
main features of the Bhutanese labour market, so
as to prepare the ground for the analytical work on
trade, employment and gender carried out in the fol-
lowing chapters.


1.2. ANALYSIS OF SELECTED ECONOMIC
AND SOCIAL INDICATORS


1.2.1. Composition of GDP


Since the early 2000s, sustained growth in Bhutan has
been fuelled by the rapid expansion of the second-
ary sector, particularly hydropower development. In
2007, the electricity sector (20.4 per cent) for the first
time overtook agriculture (18.8 per cent) as the main
contributor to GDP. The hydropower and construc-
tion subsectors together comprised more than 30 per
cent of GDP in 2008. Via cheap electricity inputs, the
growth in the electricity sector has sustained other
sectors such as manufacturing (8.5 per cent of GDP
in 2008), transport and communications.


The share of agriculture’s contribution to GDP has
declined steadily over time, down to 18.9 per cent
in 2008. However, the agricultural sector remains the
main source of livelihood and income for the major-
ity of the population. In Bhutan, much of the farming
is still non-commercial subsistence agriculture. With
a total arable land area of approximately 7 per cent,
the average farm size is estimated at 1.2 hectares per
household (Dukpa and Minten 2010). Smallholdings
and rugged topography with steep slopes of most ag-
ricultural land make farm labour intensive and mecha-
nization difficult. This limits the opportunities to benefit
from economies of scale. Yet, there is significant po-
tential for agricultural diversification and commerciali-
zation in Bhutan. First, Bhutan has seasonal advan-
tage over India; second, it can produce a wide range
of products due to variations in altitudinal zones; third,
its geographical situation, with little or no pollution, is
valued by modern customers; finally, huge markets
across the border, especially in India, absorb whatev-
er Bhutan can produce. The emergence of cash crop
marketing of commodities, such as apples, oranges,
cardamom and areca nuts, is a recent development
underpinned by improved transport infrastructure, en-
hanced access to markets in India and Bangladesh
and domestic demand from the food-processing in-
dustries (Tobgay 2005). Bhutan is also seeking to stra-
tegically position itself in high-value niche products,
including mushrooms and lemon grass oil that are
currently being exported, and organic crops.


The contribution of the tertiary sector remained roughly
constant throughout the 2000s, in spite of an expand-
ing tourist sector, attributed to hotels and restaurants.




4 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


Table 1. Evolution and composition of GDP


GDP 1980 1990 2000 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008


Current prices (million dollars) 138 304 439 689 796 884 1,117 1,341


Constant prices (2,000 million dollars) 109 276 439 591 632 672 805 845


GDP annual growth
(percentage at constant prices)


9.7 4.8 7.7 7.0 6.4 19.7 5.0


Per capita (dollars) 327 554 783 1,087 1,224 1,332 1,653 1,952


Per capita (2,000 dollars) 258 502 783 932 973 1,013 1,191 1,230


Composition (percentage at current prices)


Primary 57.0 44.0 29.2 25.5 24.0 24.4 20.6 21.2


Agriculture, livestock and forestry 24.1 22.4 22.2 18.8 18.9


Mining and quarrying 1.4 1.5 2.2 1.8 2.3


Secondary 32.0 32.0 32.8 34.1 33.7 33.7 42.3 39.1


Manufacturing 7.3 7.2 7.8 8.2 8.5


Electricity and water 8.4 8.9 10.7 20.4 19.1


Construction 18.4 17.5 15.2 13.7 11.5


Tertiary 11.0 24.0 38.0 36.6 38.6 38.5 34.2 36.7


Wholesale and retail trade 5.5 5.9 5.9 5.1 5.0


Hotel and restaurants 0.5 0.6 0.8 0.7 1.1


Transport, storage and communication 10.5 11.0 10.3 9.1 9.9


Financing, insurance and real estate 7.3 8.1 8.6 8.1 9.3


Community, social and personal services 12.2 12.6 12.4 10.8 11.0


Private, social and recreational services 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5


Plus: Indirect taxes less subsidies 3.9 3.7 3.4 2.9 2.9


100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0


Source: Royal Government of Bhutan 2005a, International Monetary Fund 2010b, and Wissink 2004.


1.2.2. Key socio-demographic figures


The Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report 2007
(Royal Government of Bhutan 2007) estimates the
nation’s population at about 630,000 – projected
to reach 695,822 in 2010, based on the Population
and Housing Census of Bhutan 2005. Of the total
estimated population, 73.6 per cent still reside in the
rural areas and 26.4 per cent, in the urban areas.
The urban share has increased significantly – by 20
per cent – from the figures reported in the 2003 sur-
vey, owing to rural–urban migration. The gender ratio
is estimated at 96 males for every 100 females, for
both rural and urban areas. The average household
size is estimated at 5, with about 1 in 3 households
headed by women. The share of female-headed
households was found to be significantly higher in
rural areas, at 34.7 per cent, than in urban areas, at
21.4 per cent.


Income poverty, measured by the percentage of the
population living below the poverty line, is a major
challenge. According to the Survey’s 2007 figures,
about 16.9 per cent of Bhutanese households are
poor. Poverty continues to be a predominantly rural
phenomenon, exacerbated by human poverty condi-
tions and relatively poorer access to social and eco-
nomic services in rural parts of the country: while only
1.1 per cent of households in urban areas are poor,
the poverty rate for households in rural areas stands
at 23.7 per cent. Since poor households tend to be
larger than non-poor households, the proportion of
the population under poverty is higher than the share
of poor households: the poverty count in the country
was 23.1 per cent at the national level, 30.8 per cent
in rural areas and 1.7 per cent in urban areas. Data
from the Bhutan Living Standard Survey 2007 reveal
an absence of the feminization of poverty in Bhutan,
even if women are engaged in less remunerative




5COUNTRY PROFILE


occupations and many work as unpaid family mem-
bers. In terms of consumption expenditure, in both
rural and urban areas, female-headed households
are found to be relatively better off than male-headed
households. Notably, there is also no discernible dis-
tinction with regard to the distribution of owned as-
sets between male- and female-headed households.
In particular, over 60 per cent of land title registration
deeds are held by women, following a traditional pat-
tern of matrilineal inheritance in most communities.


The Survey also reveals a significant gender gap and
urban or rural divide in literacy. The overall literacy rate
of the population aged 6 and above is estimated at
55.5 per cent. About 74 per cent, or nearly 3 of every
four persons in urban areas are literate, while slightly
less than half of the rural population (49 per cent) is
literate. The literacy rate among males (65.7 per cent)
is significantly higher than that of women (45.9 per
cent). In rural areas, only 39.2 per cent of women are
reported to be literate.


in line with the literacy rate, the level of formal educa-
tion attainment is low for women, particularly in rural
areas. About 87 per cent of female heads of house-
holds in rural areas have not attended formal school-
ing (Royal Government of Bhutan 2007).


1.2.3. Employment


This section reports data from the Labour Force Sur-
vey 2009 (Royal Government of Bhutan 2009a). This
information reveals the sectors in which females are


Table 3. Employment sectors (percentage)


Economic activity Female Male Total


Primary 72.3 59.2 65.5


Agriculture and forestry 72.1 59.1 65.4


Mining and quarrying 0.2 0.1 0.2


Secondary 8.9 3.9 6.3


Manufacturing 8.4 1.3 4.7


Electricity, gas and water supply 0.4 1.8 1.1


Construction 0.1 0.8 0.5


Tertiary 18.8 36.9 28.2


Wholesale and retail trade, repair of vehicles and goods 0.0 0.1 0.1


Hotels and restaurants 0.9 0.9 0.9


Transport, storage and communication goods 0.3 0.3 0.3


Financial intermediation 0.2 0.4 0.3


Real estate, renting and business activities 0.1 0.4 0.3


Public administration and defense 2.9 14.7 9.0


Education 2.6 3.3 3.0


Health and social work 0.6 1.1 0.8


Other community, social and personal service activities 7.3 9.7 8.6


Private households with employed persons 4.0 6.0 5.0


Extraterritorial organizations and bodies 0.0 0.0 0.0


Total 100.0 100.0 100.0


Source: Labour Force Survey Report 2009, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2009a.


Male Female Both sexes


Urban 84.0 64.9 74.2


Rural 59.3 39.2 49.0


Bhutan 65.7 45.9 55.5


Source: Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report 2007, Royal
Government of Bhutan, 2007.


Table 2. Literacy rate of the population 6 years
and above by area and sex, 2007 (percentage)




6 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


mostly employed, and thus the sectors via which im-
ports and exports are more likely to impact women.


The Bhutanese economy still relies on the agricultural
sector as the main source of livelihood and income
to the majority of the population (see table 3). The
sector, including forestry, absorbs 65.4 per cent of
the total workforce, 72.1 per cent of women and 59.1
per cent of men. Within the secondary sector, the
manufacturing subsector absorbs only 4.7 per cent
of total employment. The participation of women in
manufacturing, however, is higher than that of men
(8.4 per cent, as opposed to 1.3 per cent). In con-
trast, male employment is prominent in the tertiary
sector, especially in the civil and military service
(public administration and defence). The main driv-
ers of the economy – the hydropower and construc-
tion sectors – only employ a small fraction of the
population (1.1 per cent in electricity and water, and


0.5 per cent in construction), the majority of which
are male.


Some 51.8 per cent of all employed persons are
unpaid family workers (see table 4). This pattern of
employment is observed particularly for women, as
more female workers (62.2 per cent) are engaged as
unpaid family workers, compared with male workers
(42.1 per cent), probably because of female preva-
lence in agricultural employment, which is largely sub-
sistence oriented. About 23.3 per cent of female work-
ers are reportedly self-employed (these are women
likely to be employed in agriculture as well), while only
10.2 per cent are regular paid employees. These fig-
ures suggest that trade will affect women to a much
larger extent through agriculture (subsistence, unpaid
family work) than via formal labour markets and wag-
es.


Statistics from the Labour Force Survey Report 2009
reveal an increase in the unemployment rate from 1.9
per cent in 2001 to 4 per cent in 2009 (see table 5).
This has occurred in parallel with an increase in the
rate of female employment, a key element driving em-
ployment trends. The labour force participation rate for
women has increased significantly, from 38.4 per cent
in 2001 to 64.6 per cent in 2009. There are more unem-
ployed females (5.3 per cent) than males (2.6 per cent).
The statistics also reveal that more people are unem-
ployed in urban areas (7.5 per cent) than in rural areas
(3 per cent). In urban locations, higher incomes allow
for the support of dependents, and greater educa-
tional opportunities encourage people to study longer.


Table 4. Status in main occupations (percentage)


Employment status Female Male Total


Regular paid employee 10.2 29.8 20.4


Casual paid employee 4.1 6.2 5.2


Unpaid family worker 62.2 42.1 51.8


Own-account worker or
self-employed 23.3 21.7 22.5


Employer 0.2 0.3 0.2


Total 100.0 100.0 100.0


Source: Labour Force Survey Report 2009, Royal Government.
of Bhutan, 2009a.


Table 5. Labour force participation and unemployment (percentage)


Employment data 2001 2003 2005 2006 2009


Labour force participation


Total 56.5 62.9 54.4 61.8 68.5


Female 38.4 53.6 42.7 53.9 64.6


Male 75.2 72.6 67.5 69.8 72.8


Rural 51.7 66.5 56.0 63.5 71.9


Urban 66.4 52.3 49.7 57.2 63.2


Unemployment


Total 1.9 1.8 2.5 3.2 4.0


Female 3.2 2.0 3.3 3.8 5.3


Male 1.3 1.6 2.1 2.6 2.6


Rural 0.6 1.5 2.6 2.5 3.0


Urban 4.1 2.9 2.0 4.9 7.5


Source: Labour Force Survey Report 2009, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2009a.




7COUNTRY PROFILE


NOTES


1 Projection based on the Population and Housing Census of Bhutan, 2005, Royal Government of Bhutan,
2005c.


2 Human development is a process of “enlarging people’s choices” (UNDP 1990). The human development
index is based on three indicators: longevity, as measured by life expectancy at birth; educational attainment,
as measured by a combination of adult literacy (two thirds weight) and combined primary, secondary and
tertiary level enrolment ratios (one third weight); and access to resources needed for a decent living, as mea-
sured by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in dollars adjusted for purchasing power parity.


3 The Gini index lies between 0 and 100. A value of 0 represents absolute equality and 100, absolute inequality.


4 This strategy document identifies a hierarchy of goals, objectives and principles that should guide Bhutan’s
development over the 2000–2020 period.






II


Trade analysis




10 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


This section provides a stocktaking and analytical


background. It first analyses basic trade statistics for


Bhutan in 2.1. It then presents a summary listing and


review of the trade agreements involved, while also


briefly assessing their commercial significance in the


light of Bhutan’s trade specialization and direction of


trade flows in 2.2. It concludes with an assessment of


major obstacles to export diversification and competi-


tiveness in 2.3.


2.1. TRADE FLOWS


Bhutan has moved from a virtually closed economy
in 1960 to an economy characterized by a fair degree
of openness, compounded by a concentration of ex-
ports and imports on a single market, India.


The trade share of GDP (exports plus imports as a
percentage of GDP) has remained at about 101 per
cent between 2004 and 2008, reflecting a significant
degree of openness (Royal Government of Bhutan


2001 2003 2005 2007 2008 2008/2001


Exports 107.67 74.83 255.24 630.44 559.59 5.20


Imports 193.80 241.33 381.87 492.09 581.99 3.00


Balance of trade -86.13 -166.50 -126.63 138.35 -22.40 0.26


Exports/GDP 0.22 0.12 0.32 0.56 0.42 1.92


Imports/GDP 0.39 0.40 0.48 0.44 0.43 1.11


Openness 0.61 0.52 0.80 1.00 0.85 1.40


Source: Statistical Yearbook of Bhutan 2005 and 2009 (Royal Government of Bhutan 2005a and 2009d).


Table 6. Trends of trade (millions of dollars)


Table 7. Top export commodities (in dollars, percentage and rank)


Item 2009 1999 2009/1999


Value ($) % Rank Value ($) % Rank


Electrical energy 208,539,924 42.1 1 46,918,881 40.5 1 4.4


Ferro-silicon, >per cent silicon 87,311,687 17.6 2 12,421,531 10.7 4 7.0


Portland cement, other than white
cement


28,931,800 5.8 3 12,432,202 10.7 3 2.3


Wire of refined copper < 6mm wide 20,085,226 4.1 4


Bar/rod, i/nas, of free cutting steel, nes 18,037,774 3.6 5


Calcium carbide 17,324,063 3.5 6 12,493,205 10.8 2 1.4


Unrecorded sound recording media
except photo/magnetic


12,798,480 2.6 7


Dolomite not calcined 11,757,430 2.4 8 1,192,775 1.0 17 9.9


Gypsum, anhydride 8,862,413 1.8 9 1,481,067 1.3 12 6.0


Potatoes, fresh or chilled except seed 8,240,280 1.7 10 1,949,544 1.7 8 4.2


Oranges, fresh or dried 7,994,029 1.6 11 2,989,639 2.6 6 2.7


Mixtures of juices not fermented or
spirited


2,790,755 0.6 18 2,573,257 2.2 7 1.1


Beverage waters, sweetened or
flavoured


2,512,050 0.5 19 427,678 0.4 18 5.9


Apples, fresh 1,939,590 0.4 23 1,526,021 1.3 11 1.3


Total export 495,846,187 100.0 115,950,052 100.0 4.3


Source: United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database.




11TRADE ANALYSIS


2009a). Trade has increased significantly since 2001
(table 6). The ratio of exports to GDP grew from 0.22
in 2001 to 0.42 in 2008, primarily on account of the
sustained increase in the value of hydropower and
mineral-based industrial exports to India. The ra-
tio of imports to GDP ranges from 0.39 in 2001 to
0.43 in 2008, affected by import requirements for cap-
ital-intensive activities such as the mega-hydropower
projects. Except for 2007, the balance of trade (ex-
ports minus imports) has been always negative.


By far, the main export item from Bhutan (table 7)
is electrical energy, which in 2009 accounted for
42 per cent of total exports. Agricultural products
represented 4.7 per cent, and manufactures, only
3.4 per cent. Other relevant exports are related to min-
eral industries (e.g. cement). Within the top selected
commodities exported, potatoes, oranges and apples
are identified as the main cash crop exports. In 2009
they ranked tenth, eleventh, and twenty-third, and they


accounted for 1.7 per cent, 1.6 per cent and 0.4 per
cent of total exports, respectively. The main destina-
tions of Bhutan’s exports in 2009 were India (93.5 per
cent); Bangladesh (3.16 per cent); Hong Kong, China
(2.82 per cent) and Nepal (0.35 per cent).


As shown in table 8, petroleum oil was the major
imported item in 2009, accounting for 11.8 per cent
of the total. Manufactures represented 32.6 per cent
of imports and agricultural products, 12.8 per cent.
For the purpose of this study, it should be noted that
rice is among the major imported items. For example,
in 2009, rice ranked third among imports and in
value accounted for 2.8 per cent of total imports.
Bhutan’s main supplier is India, accounting in 2009 for
77.8 per cent of total imports. Other important
suppliers in 2009 were Singapore (2.9 per cent), Japan
(2.2 per cent), China (1.9 per cent), the Republic of
Korea (1.5 per cent) and Malaysia (1.5 per cent).


Table 8. Top 20 import commodities (in dollars, percentage and rank)


Item 2009 1999 2009/1999


Value ($) % Rank Value ($) % Rank


Petroleum oils and oils obta 62,398,276 11.8 1 10,982,443 6.0 3 5.7


Ferrous products from direct reduction of iron ore 20,584,071 3.9 2


Rice, semi-milled or wholly milled 14,898,669 2.8 3 8,459,039 4.6 2 1.8


Wire of refined copper > 6mm wide 12,213,633 2.3 4 9,996 0.0 550 1,221.9


Shovels and excavators with revolving superstructure 11,988,360 2.3 5


Wood charcoal (including shell or nut charcoal) 11,883,627 2.2 6 1,883,815 1.0 18 6.3


Automobiles, spark ignition engine of 1000-1500 cc 10,781,374 2.0 7 1,449,821 0.8 31 7.4


Coke, semi-coke of coal, lignite, peat and retort
carbon


8,959,135 1.7 8 2,170,507 1.2 15 4.1


Coal except anthracite or bituminous, not agglomerated 7,805,521 1.5 9 1,132,057 0.6 39 6.9


Dump trucks designed for off-highway use 7,433,724 1.4 10 15,428 0.0 483 481.8


Towers and lattice masts, iron or steel 6,754,893 1.3 11 14,529 0.0 493 464.9


Automobiles, spark ignition engine of <1000 cc 6,411,292 1.2 12 241,869 0.1 125 26.5


Flat rolled i/nas, coat/zinc, corrugated, w >600m 6,348,585 1.2 13 1,686,228 0.9 23 3.8


Electrical apparatus for line 6,094,636 1.2 14 41,810 0.0 329 145.8


Petroleum bitumen 5,771,803 1.1 15 810,489 0.4 47 7.1


Waste or scrap, of cast iron 5,529,532 1.0 16 20,220 0.0 437 273.5


Milk powder < 1.5% fat 5,219,743 1.0 17 1,521,677 0.8 28 3.4


Refined soya-bean oil, not chemically modified 4,951,413 0.9 18 240,356 0.1 126 20.6


Beer made from malt 4,912,374 0.9 19 2,527,901 1.4 10 1.9


Coal or rock cutters, self-propelled 4,618,983 0.9 20


Total Imports 529,407,521 100.0 182,077,408 100.0


Source: United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database.




12 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


India has always been Bhutan’s largest trading part-
ner, accounting on average for over 90 per cent of the
total value of Bhutan’s exports and over 80 per cent
of imports from 2000 to 2009. This trade pattern can
be attributed to India’s geographical proximity and the
extensive bilateral cooperation in hydropower develop-
ment. This has boosted energy exports from Bhutan
to India and also sustained the high import levels of
energy-related equipment from India to Bhutan (Royal
Government of Bhutan 2009b). It has been facilitated
by a bilateral free trade agreement, as well as the use
of the Indian rupee in trade and the fixed exchange rate
between the two national currencies.


2.2. TRADE AGREEMENTS


The Royal Government of Bhutan has actively promot-
ed trade through various bilateral, regional and multilat-
eral trading frameworks.


2.2.1. Bilateral trade agreements


At the bilateral level, Bhutan enjoys a free trade agree-
ment with India and preferential trade with Bangladesh.
Initiatives are under way to establish bilateral trade
agreements with Nepal and Thailand, with whom Bhu-
tan has direct air links.


Trade with India is duty free and transacted in Bhu-
tanese ngultrum and Indian rupees.5 While there has
been free trade between the territories of the Gov-
ernments of India and Bhutan since the Indo-Bhutan
Friendship Treaty of 1949, a formal agreement known
as the Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit
between Bhutan and India was signed in 1972 and
most recently renegotiated in 2006. Under the Agree-
ment, Bhutan also enjoys transit rights through In-
dia for trade with third countries. In December 2009,
Bhutan and India signed 12 memorandums of under-
standing, 4 covering hydropower and the remaining


8 covering information technology, health and medi-
cine, narcotics, civil aviation, agriculture and the envi-
ronment.


Trade with Bangladesh – conducted within the frame-
work of a preferential trade agreement originally signed
in 1980 – started only from 1988 after transit rights had
been negotiated with India. Bangladesh and Bhutan
renewed the bilateral trade agreement in 2003, grant-
ing each other MFN status. The protocol attached to
this bilateral trade agreement defines Burimari (Bang-
ladesh)—Changrabandha (India)—Jaigaon (India)—
Phuentsholing (Bhutan) as the transit route for bilat-
eral trade between Bangladesh and Bhutan. The trade
agreement was renewed in 2009. Key provisions in the
most recent agreement will result in the opening of a
new trade route in eastern Bhutan and an increase in
the number of commodities, which will receive duty-
free treatment in both countries.


Trade with Bhutan’s largest partners – India and, to a
lesser extent, Bangladesh – is thus conducted within
the framework of preferential arrangements; for India,
they take the form of free trade agreements. This is im-
portant as context because multilaterally agreed tariffs
would only apply to trade with non-preferential coun-
tries. In 2009, countries other than India and Bangla-
desh accounted for only 3.3 per cent of Bhutan’s ex-
ports and 21.7 per cent of imports. This non-preferential
share is even lower if preferential trade with other South
Asian countries within the framework of the South Asian
Free Trade Area (SAFTA) is taken into account.


Hence, despite relatively high non-preferential (MFN)
tariff rates, in practice there is very little or no protec-
tion of the domestic economy in the form of import
tariffs, since virtually all of Bhutan’s trade is either
with India, with which Bhutan has a free trade agree-
ment, or with preferential countries. The quest for an
appropriate policy space at the multilateral level (see
2.2.3) will thus pose the challenge of policy coherence:


Table 9. Export destination of major cash crops and tariff treatment, 2009


Crop Destination Export share (percentage) Tariff treatment


Potatoes, fresh or chilled
(not including sweet potatoes)


India 100 Duty free


Oranges, fresh or dried
Bangladesh 91 Preferential rate (15 per cent)


India 9 Duty free


Apples, fresh
Bangladesh 35 Preferential rate (15 per cent)


India 65 Duty free


Source: UNCTAD calculations, based on data from the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database and information provi-
ded by the Royal Government of Bhutan.




13TRADE ANALYSIS


coherence in terms of policy commitments taken at
different levels – bilateral, regional and multilateral.6
These remarks concern imports into Bhutan.


Similar considerations apply when Bhutan’s exports
are at stake. Major destinations of Bhutan’s exports are
countries where goods originating from Bhutan enter
duty free (like India, alone accounting for more than
three quarters of Bhutan’s exports) or under preferen-
tial arrangements. Table 9 provides some details on the
tariffs faced by Bhutan’s main export cash crops (po-
tatoes, oranges and apples) in major export markets.


2.2.2. Regional trade agreements


At the regional level, Bhutan is a member of two sub-
regional groupings: the South Asian Association for
Regional Cooperation (SAARC), with Afghanistan,
Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and
Sri Lanka, and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sec-
toral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC),
with Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and
Thailand.


Bhutan is a founding member of SAARC and has ne-
gotiated three trade agreements under its umbrella: the
Agreement on SAARC Preferential Trading Arrange-
ment (SAPTA); the Agreement on South Asian Free
Trade Area (SAFTA); and the SAARC Agreement on
Trade in Services (SATIS).


The Agreement on SAARC Preferential Trading Ar-
rangement was signed on 1 April 1993 and became
operational on 7 December 1995. Its focus was on
preferential tariff reduction. Four rounds of trade ne-
gotiations concluded under the Agreement covered
over 5,000 commodities, with an incremental trend in
the product coverage and the deepening of tariff con-
cessions. However, the impact of the concessions ex-


changed was limited, as the tariff concessions were
modest and the major export products did not benefit
from large tariff cuts. There was consensus that the
SAARC countries should move to a free trade agree-
ment.


The Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area was
signed by India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lan-
ka, the Maldives and Bhutan on 6 January 2004 and en-
tered into effect on 1 January 2006. Members of SAFTA
have committed to phased tariff cuts for intra-SAFTA
trade over a ten-year period beginning in January 2006
(table 10). Tariff reductions will proceed in two stages,
at a different pace for least developed members and
non-least developed members. This tariff liberalization
programme would cover all tariff lines except those
kept in the sensitive list (negative list) negotiated by the
member States and subject to periodic reviews. Bhu-
tan has about 150 goods listed as sensitive, exempted
from reduction commitments. The South Asian Free
Trade Area was primarily envisaged as the first step
towards the transition towards a customs union, com-
mon market and economic union.


Many important areas, including services, were left out
to be further negotiated. The Fourteenth SAARC Sum-
mit in New Delhi in April 2007 stressed that to realize
its full potential, SAFTA should include trade in servic-
es. Signed on 29 April 2010, the SAARC Agreement
on Trade in Services has established a framework for
promoting and liberalizing trade in services within the
region. It is patterned after the General Agreement on
Trade in Services: the sectoral classification estab-
lished by the World Trade Organization is used as the
basis for negotiation; liberalization commitments are
scheduled on the basis of a positive list approach, fol-
lowed with a request-and-offer modality to achieve pro-
gressive liberalization.


Table 10. SAFTA Trade Liberalization Programme


SAARC members Phase 1 Phase 2


Two years
(1/1/2006–1/1/2008)


Five years
(1/1/2008–1/1/2013)


Eight years
(1/1/2008–1/1/2016)


Least developed members
(Bangladesh, Bhutan,
Maldives, Nepal)


Tariffs cut to a maximum rate
of 30 per cent (if actual tariff
rates already below 30 per cent,
reduced by 5 per cent yearly)


Subsequent tariff reduction from
30 per cent or below to 0–5 per
cent


Non-least developed members
(India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka)


Tariffs cut to a maximum rate of
20 per cent (if already below 20
per cent, reduced by 10 per cent
yearly)


Subsequent tariff reduction from
20 per cent or below to 0–5 per
cent


Source: Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area, article 7.




14 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


Bhutan belongs to BIMSTEC, a regional economic
grouping under which members will progressively
reduce and ultimately eliminate tariffs and non-tariff
barriers for virtually all goods. The grouping further
promotes progressive liberalization of trade in servic-
es and an open and competitive investment regime
to promote foreign direct investment. Liberalization of
trade in goods is based on the negative list, while ser-
vice is on the positive list.


2.2.3. Multilateral trade agreements


At the multilateral level, Bhutan is negotiating on its
accession to WTO. The Royal Government of Bhutan
submitted its application on 6 October 1999, which
was accepted by the WTO General Council. The
Memorandum of Foreign Trade Regime was formally
submitted to WTO in February 2003. Bilateral market
access negotiations are ongoing on the basis of re-
vised offers in goods and services. The multilateral
examination of the foreign trade regime is proceeding
on the basis of a draft working party report circulated
in December 2007. Because of Bhutan’s inherent
limitations due to location and small domestic market
size, WTO members will likely have greater interest in
services than in the market access to goods. Tourism
is a sector in which WTO members might show inter-
est. Energy is another area that could interest WTO
members, in view of Bhutan’s vast hydropower poten-
tial and the market for electricity in India and Bangla-
desh (Dorji 2004).


The remainder of this section briefly describes some
of the likely implications of Bhutan’s membership of
WTO and discusses some policy options.


Domestic protection and policy space for
development


At present, Bhutan’s customs duties on merchan-
dise imports tend to be relatively high, compared with
those prevailing in the region (see table 11). The sim-
ple average of import duties (applied MFN rates) was
21.9 per cent in 2007. Of this, the average for agri-
cultural goods was 41.4 per cent, while rates applied
to non-agricultural products were significantly lower
(an average 18.9 per cent). From a more detailed as-
sessment of MFN applied rates (Royal Government of
Bhutan 2004b), it appears that the majority of items
are subject to a duty of 10, 20 or 30 per cent. Tariffs
on beer and non-alcoholic beverages are levied at 50
per cent, while tobacco and alcoholic beverages are
subject to a levy of 100 per cent. Cereals such as rice,
wheat and maize that are imported from non-prefer-
ential countries are hit by a 50 per cent MFN-applied
rate.


Although the simple average of MFN-applied import
tariffs is high in comparison with many countries, sug-
gesting a high degree of trade restrictiveness, this
does not substantially affect trade. In practice there
is very little protection of the domestic economy in the
form of import tariffs, since virtually all of Bhutan’s im-
ports are sourced from India, with which Bhutan has
a free trade agreement, or from other countries, such
as Bangladesh and SAFTA members, that enjoy sig-
nificant preferential margins. The tariffs are largely in
place not as a protectionist measure but to conserve
hard currency reserves (Royal Government of Bhutan
2009b). However, MFN tariff negotiations and the ero-
sion of preference margins may lead to some form
of trade diversion whereby imports from preferential
partners such as India would be replaced by imports


Table 11. Most-favoured-nation-applied tariffs in selected South-Asian economies


Country Year
Simple average of import duties


All goods Agricultural goods Non-agricultural goods


Bangladesh 2008 14.7 17.6 14.3


Bhutan 2007 21.9 41.4 18.9


India 2009 12.9 31.8 10.1


The Maldives 2009 20.4 18.3 20.7


Nepal 2009 12.4 14.3 12.1


Pakistan 2009 13.9 17.1 13.4


Sri Lanka 2009 11.2 24.8 9.2


Source: UNCTAD, based on WTO statistics, Trade Profiles.


Note: For MFN-applied tariffs, the simple average of import duties refers to the simple average of ad valorem and calculable ad
valorem equivalent of MFN applied HS 6-digit duties.




15TRADE ANALYSIS


from MFN partners, including neighbouring China.
Nevertheless, logistics may remain a major obstacle
to trade diversification.


Less visible constraints on the implementation of
pro-poor policies and policies specifically targeted
at women may arise from other areas of discipline
in WTO, including the Agreement on Trade-Related
Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the
Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
(SPS Agreement) and the Agreement on Trade-Relat-
ed Investment Measures (TRIMs).7 These disciplines
may possibly interfere with a holistic strategy that
combines gender, food security and agriculture. They
point to a more subtle source of complexity: the dif-
ficulty to integrate intangible values and assets in a
system of law – WTO law and practice – that appreci-
ates these values and assets only by way of exception
or to the extent that they translate into market values.


Despite the costs in terms of reduced policy space,
Bhutan seems willing to engage in the multilateral
trading system to enhance its negotiating leverage
and protect its rights, particularly compared with its
large neighbours. Within the WTO context, Bhutan can
increase its limited leverage by consensus-based de-
cision-making and the use of strategic alliances. Also,
the country could have recourse to the WTO dispute-
settlement mechanism to vindicate rights, so as to be
less exposed to the power disparity that would oper-
ate in a bilateral situation.


Bhutan must actively engage in negotiations to retain
the flexibility needed to pursue its development objec-
tives. Should the need arise, it may wish to create a
policy space to protect its agricultural sector by bid-
ing agricultural tariffs at a relatively high rate. Drawing
lessons from Nepal’s accession, Bhutan may wish to
resist the imposition of WTO-plus conditions that are
often imposed by existing members on an acceding
country, particularly in the field of intellectual property
protection.


External market access


WTO accession is expected, by some, to add momen-
tum to Bhutan’s export trade to third (non-preferential)
countries, leading to trade diversification and a higher
inflow of hard currency (trade with third countries is de-
nominated in dollars). However, WTO accession would
not add much in terms of enhanced market access
to developed market economies.8 Bhutan, as an LDC
and irrespective of its WTO status, currently enjoys du-
ty-free access to large export markets. These include:


• The European Union (EU), under the “Everything But
Arms” initiative, which gives LDCs duty-free access
to the EU for all products, except arms and ammuni-
tion;9


• The United States of America, through 31 December
2010 – the extension of the scheme is pending –
within the framework of the U.S. Generalized System
of Preferences (GSP).10 Some textiles produced with
cotton, wool, manmade fibre, other vegetable fibre,
which is of potential export interest to Bhutan, were
excluded from the list of GSP-eligible articles. How-
ever, several certified textile handicrafts, such as
wall hangings, pillow covers and fabrics certified by
the beneficiary country as handmade and folkloric,
could be imported duty free in the United States un-
der bilaterally negotiated GSP-certified textile handi-
craft arrangements;


• Canada, under the General Preferential Tariff and
Least Developed Country Tariff schemes.11


For Bhutan, market access barriers to these export
markets are essentially framed in terms of non-tariff
barriers, as discussed below.


2.3. MAjOR OBSTACLES TO EXPORT COM-
PETITIVENESS AND DIVERSIFICATION


Given the vulnerabilities that arise from a non-diver-
sified export base and market, a major challenge for
Bhutan is to expand its non-hydro exports and diversi-
fy its export markets. The Royal Government of Bhutan
is currently promoting agricultural diversification into
oranges, apples and other temperate commodities in
which Bhutan has, within South Asia, some compara-
tive advantage. Bhutan is also strategically positioning
itself in a number of high-value niche exports, such as
mushrooms and lemon grass oil. Beyond agriculture,
the Royal Government of Bhutan is particularly keen
to promote trade in knowledge-based and cultural in-
dustry goods and services as a long-term strategy to
diversify and broaden its economic and export base
and to generate quality employment (Royal Govern-
ment of Bhutan 2009b). Within the framework of the
European Commission-sponsored Trade Develop-
ment Project, the Department of Commerce has iden-
tified export priority sectors, such as handicrafts and
wood-based products (European Commission 2003).


The ability to diversify strategically into these sectors
will be contingent on overcoming supply-side bot-
tlenecks and fulfilling increasingly stringent require-
ments in export markets.




16 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


In Bhutan, some key supply-side constraints to export
diversification and competitiveness in agriculture are
inherently related to climatic and soil differences, in-
cluding limited availability of arable land, rough ter-
rain and poor soil quality. Others are related to in-
frastructural or institutional deficiencies, particularly
with respect to inadequate rural facilities, low-yielding
seedlings, the low adoption level of modern technolo-
gies, insufficient support services, limited access to
finance and poor farmer linkages. More generally, the
weak transport and communication infrastructure is
a critical constraint to export diversification. Bhutan
also suffers from high transaction costs associated
with customs clearance. For example, the number of
days to process an export and import shipment is sig-
nificantly higher in Bhutan than in other countries in
South Asia (see table 12). This is reflected in Bhutan’s
relatively low ranking (161st out of 183 economies)
under the trading across borders indicator – a meas-
ure of the costs and procedures involved in import-
ing and exporting a standardized shipment of goods.


A final major constraint and challenge is the low level
of technological base and weak education or school-
ing record, particularly among women.


These supply-side constraints are to be assessed in
interplay with, and against the background of increas-
ingly stringent requirements in target export markets.
These include both technical barriers to trade and
sanitary and phytosanitary measures, as well as pri-
vate-sector standards.


Specifically, the application of sanitary and phytosani-
tary measures is an important dimension in the expan-
sion of trade in edible products, including a number of
niche exports of potential interest to Bhutan. There is
a pressing need for Bhutanese exporters to adapt and
respond to changing requirements in export markets.
This is particularly challenging because these require-
ments are continuously evolving, for example, pesti-
cide regulations.


Other market entry barriers would stem from the struc-
tural characteristics of supply chains and markets. In
the area of fresh fruits and vegetables, for example,
and to access to niche markets for edible products,
compliance with private food standards has become
de facto mandatory, because of the market power
of global retailers and importers. This has important
exclusionary effects for those who are not able to in-
vest heavily to meet the requirements, which involve
sunk costs and economies of scale. Private actors –
whether supermarkets, traders and other off-takers –
have assumed a pivotal role in the agriculture sector
and mediate access to markets. Hence, the ability of
Bhutanese producers and exporters to reach lucrative
markets in high-income countries will be contingent
on their ability to integrate into these off-taker driven
supply chains.


Indicator Bhutan South Asia OECD


Documents to export
(number)


8 8.5 4.4


Time to export (days) 38 32.3 10.9


Cost to export
(dollars per container)


1,352 1,511.6 1,058.7


Documents to import
(number)


11 9 4.9


Time to import (days) 38 32.5 11.4


Cost of import
(dollars per container)


2,665 1,744.5 1,106.3


Source: World Bank, Doing Business 2011 data.


Table 12. Trading across borders




17TRADE ANALYSIS


NOTES


5 The former being pegged to the Indian rupee at parity, and the latter, circulating freely in Bhutan as legal
tender.


6 Important exceptions and safeguard mechanisms have been incorporated in the bilateral trade agreements.
In the free trade agreement with India, for example, either contracting party may maintain or introduce such
measures or restrictions as necessary for the purpose of (a) protecting public morals; (b) protecting human,
animal and plant life; (c) implementing laws relating to imports and exports of gold and silver bullion; (d)
safeguarding national treasures; and (e) safeguarding such other interests as may be mutually agreed upon.
Furthermore, the Government of Bhutan may impose such non-tariff restrictions – not stricter than those ap-
plied to goods of third-country origin – on the entry into Bhutan of certain goods of Indian origin, as may be
necessary for the protection of industries in Bhutan.


7 Both the TRIPS Agreement and the SPS Agreement have important implications for agricultural development,
food security and biodiversity conservation in Bhutan. In particular, the TRIPS Agreement requires members
to provide intellectual property protection to plant variety, whether in the form of patent protection or an ef-
fective sui generis system (article 27.3(b)). As part of their obligation under the TRIPS Agreement, a number
of acceding LDC members, including Nepal and Cambodia, were asked to join the International Union for
the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, and to enact a plant variety law as per the model prescribed by the
Union. The Union is seen as granting a high level of protection to commercial plant breeders but as weaken-
ing the position of farmers, restricting their rights to save, reuse, exchange and sell seeds. Bhutan may wish
to carefully draft its plant-variety protection regime, so as to reconcile breeders’ and farmers’ rights, and pre-
serve benefit-sharing mechanisms for traditional knowledge (UNDP 2004). The SPS Agreement and relevant
disciplines relating to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade would likely impinge on Bhutan’s ability
to discriminate against genetically modified organisms and genetically modified products. Another area of
concern is represented by the TRIMs Agreement, which would forbid domestic content, trade-balancing
requirements – limits on the purchase or use of an imported product up to a maximum value or volume in
relation to local products – and foreign-exchange-balancing requirements.


8 Although it may expose Bhutan to the risk of increased imports from third countries, with significant pressure
on the convertible currency reserves.


9 http://ec.europa.eu/trade/wider-agenda/development/generalized-system-of-preferences/everything-but-
arms/


10 Bhutan qualifies as a least developed beneficiary developing country under the U.S. Generalized System
of Preferences, which was instituted on January 1, 1976, by the Trade Act of 1974. Congress had author-
ized the GSP through 31 December 2010 (its extension is pending). The programme has promoted eco-
nomic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for about 4,800 products from
131 designated beneficiary countries and territories. The combined lists of developing and least developed
beneficiary countries included most dutiable manufactures and semi-manufactures and also certain agricul-
tural, fishery, and primary industrial products not otherwise duty free. Some goods were excluded form the
list of GSP-eligible articles, including textiles produced with cotton, wool, manmade fibre and other vegetable
fibre.


11 Under the least developed country tariff schemes, Canada unilaterally provides duty-free and quota-free ac-
cess for all products from LDCs, with the exception of over-quota access for supply-managed products in
the dairy, poultry and eggs sectors. See http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commer-
ciaux/ds/other-trade.aspx?lang=eng&menu_id=59&menu=R.






III


Gender
mainstreaming


in Bhutan




20 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


A review of the Royal Government of Bhutan’s docu-
ments reveals a long-standing commitment to gender
equality. The Government ratified the Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
Women in 1981 and has included goals of achieving
gender equality in the four consecutive five-year poli-
cy plans beginning in 1992. The stated commitments
to address gender gaps have become increasingly
detailed, the most recent of which were unveiled in
2008. The National Assembly established the National
Women’s Association of Bhutan as a non-governmen-
tal organization in 1981, and the National Commis-
sion for Women and Children was founded in 2004.
Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Ashi Sangay Choden
Wangchuck, also heads a new organization meant
to target marginalized women that is called RENEW,
which stands for Respect, Educate, Nurture and Em-
power Women. The Government has also expressed
its commitment to the achievement of the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) and the SAARC Devel-
opment Goals, both of which have gender compo-
nents. Furthermore, in 2008 a National Plan of Action
on Gender was formulated, which outlines seven key
areas,12 including economic development with a focus
on employment.


3.1. GENDER ASSESSMENT IN BHUTAN


3.1.1. Gender under Bhutanese law


According to the 2008 Gender Assessment of the
Ministry of Economic Affairs (Royal Government of
Bhutan 2008b), “Laws in Bhutan treat women and
men equally, and women’s rights and interests are
safeguarded by the provisions of different legal acts,
including the Draft Constitution of Bhutan”. Bhutan’s
Inheritance Act of 1980, for example, guarantees
equal inheritance rights to men and women. Tradi-
tional inheritance practices – which in Bhutan favour
daughters – are even more progressive than modern
law. As a result, 60 per cent of rural women hold land
registration titles – a higher figure than anywhere else
in South Asia.


The draft constitution has since been formally adopt-
ed – on 18 July 2008 – and constitutional article 9,
clause 17, states, “The State shall endeavour to take
appropriate measures to eliminate all forms of dis-
crimination and exploitation against women, including
trafficking, prostitution, abuse, violence, harassment
and intimidation at work in both public and private
spheres”. The inclusion of such an anti-discrimination


clause does demonstrate a strong State commitment
to gender equality, though it does not specifically in-
clude the economic, political and social participation
of both genders.


3.1.2. Bhutanese women’s current socio-political
and economic status


While women in Bhutan enjoy full gender equality un-
der the law, there are several areas in which women
are at a disadvantage compared with men.


As mentioned earlier, the literacy rate for women,
which stands at 45.9 per cent, is lower than that for
men, which is 65.7 per cent. This translates into lower
levels of female participation in formal employment
and high public office. The gap is particularly acute
in rural areas, where only 39.2 per cent of women are
reported to be literate.


Although labour force participation rates for women
have increased significantly, from 38.4 per cent in
2001 to 64.6 per cent in 2009, women tend to be en-
gaged in less remunerative occupations or remain as
unpaid family members, particularly in the agriculture
sector, which absorbs 72.1 per cent of female employ-
ment. However, even if women are engaged in less re-
munerative work, data (Royal Government of Bhutan
2007) reveal an absence of the feminization of poverty
in Bhutan, as poverty is slightly higher among male-
headed households.


Another area requiring attention is the low representa-
tion of women in parliament and high public office,
as well as civil service (Royal Government of Bhutan
2009b). Women are only marginally represented in
public decision-making forums: in 2009, only 13.9
per cent of parliamentarians were women, with no fe-
male government ministers (UNDP 2010). About 29.7
per cent of civil servants were women; in the judici-
ary, they accounted for 2 per cent of the judges, 6 per
cent of the assistant judges and 40 per cent of the of-
ficials at the lower registrar levels (Royal Government
of Bhutan 2009b).


Both the 2004 CEDAW periodic reports of Bhutan
(Royal Government of Bhutan 2004a) and the 2001
Gender Pilot Study (Royal Government of Bhutan et
al., 2001) highlight the sociocultural stereotypes about
women within the Bhutanese society. The Pilot Study
noted that men and women perceive women as less
capable and confident than men, and the CEDAW Re-
port mentions the extent to which these perceptions
and notions of a gender role assigned by society are




21GENDER MAINSTREAMING IN BHUTAN


not compatible with higher education and employ-
ment. Bhutan’s ranking on UNDP gender indices is
low. Under the gender development index – the UNDP
human development index adjusted downwards for
gender inequality – Bhutan ranked 133rd out of 155
in 2007. This low ranking – mainly due to the relatively
low adult literacy rate and earning capacity of women
– is not caused by explicit legislative barriers, but by a
lack of gendered policy implementation to overcome
the sociocultural obstacles to women’s greater and
more equitable participation in society.


The current prime minster, H.E. Lyonchhen Jigmi Y.
Thinley, speaking to government officials at a work-
shop on high-level sensitization held by the National
Commission for Women and Children in July 2010,
reiterated the sociocultural barriers to women’s full
participation in economy. He urged the officials to “be
mindful that even as we pride over our traditions of
gender parity, ours has been and, in many ways con-
tinues to be, a society where the women have mod-
estly played the subordinate role” (Pelden 2010). At
the same gathering, the Commission’s Director, Dr.
Rinchen Chophel, emphasized the difficulties in main-
streaming gender and gathering reliable gender data
because many senior officials considered the topic to
be sensitive. The lack of gender disaggregated statis-
tics and studies is significant obstacle to conducting
gender analysis in Bhutan and consequently, to gen-
der mainstreaming in Bhutan.


3.2. GENDER STRATEGIC PLAN OF THE
ROYAL GOVERNMENT OF BHUTAN


Several government documents that encompass
trade policy serve to guide the course of public policy.
Figure 1 shows a diagram from the Tenth Five-Year
Plan, which depicts how these plans work together.
The overarching and long-term goals are to maxi-
mize gross national happiness, Vision 2020 Goals,
MDGs and other international development targets.
These long-term goals are then achieved through
the Tenth Five-Year Plan, which is divided into five
categories detailing specific strategies. Viewed from
a gendered perspective and particularly from one of
mainstreaming gender in trade policy, a key constraint
of this structure is that it does not include goals and
indicators promoting gender equality. Although MDG
3 does promote gender equality, there are no indica-
tors that are directly linked to promoting economic
equality, such as promoting women’s access to credit
or entrepreneurship. Despite many shortcomings to


better mainstream gender in trade policy to be further
illustrated below, the Tenth Five-Year Plan has a much
more progressive gender equality agenda. This does
reflect the progress being made by those advocating
for women’s rights, particularly the right to develop.


High-level support for the promotion of gender equal-
ity has changed dramatically in recent years. Gen-
der and women’s rights was previously a topic that
was subject to political divisions and therefore, little
discussed. This policy seems to have been chang-
ing since 2008 with the Tenth Five-Year Plan and the
United Nations Development Assistance Framework.
The statement made by Foreign Secretary Dasho Daw
Penjo on the concluding day of the General Debate of
the United Nations General Assembly in September
2010 was especially telling. Expressing interest in a
non-permanent seat on the Security Council, he wel-
comed the establishment of the United Nations Entity
for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women,
also known as UN Women, and expressed support of
the Organization to further advance issues of gender
equality and women’s empowerment.


3.2.1. Tenth Five-Year Plan (2008–2013)


The United Nations Development Programme recent-
ly applauded the efforts of the Tenth Five-Year Plan to
mainstream gender: “The Royal Government of Bhu-
tan has considered the theme of women in develop-
ment as an integral part of the country’s Tenth Five-
Year Plan by ensuring equal opportunities for men
and women, reflecting the high priority it places on
maintaining gender balance and equality”. It was the
first five-year plan in which Bhutan did not separate
gender into a separate focal point, stating, “…each
sector is required to effectively mainstream gender is-
sues into their policies and programmes. Sectors are
also required to maintain gender disaggregated data
to help identify and monitor potential gender gaps”
(Royal Government of Bhutan 2009e).


Despite the Tenth Five-Year Plan’s commitment to
gender mainstreaming, volume 1, section 1, there is
no mention of gender in the targets, objectives and
strategies outlined for the trade sector or any of the
other key sectors listed – industry, tourism, geology
and mines. According to the Plan, the trade sector
aims to achieve the following objectives:


• To alleviate poverty through trade;


• To improve contributions from trade to the national
economy;




22 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


• To create a liberal and enabling environment for the
growth of the private sector;


• To pursue trade liberalization and support private-
sector development;


• To enhance employment and revenue generation;


• To ensure stable market access for Bhutanese prod-
ucts;


• To promote competition and fair trade practices;


• To promote efficient distribution of goods and ser-
vices;


• To strengthen the sector’s institutional and profes-
sional capacity with a view to fulfilling its mandate;


• To expand growth of exports, particularly convertible
currency exports.


Without specific targets, objectives and strategies,
particularly with regard to capacity-building to encour-
age the full participation of both genders in the 10 ob-
jectives outlined above, not only has gender not been
mainstreamed, but the achievement of the objectives


TENTH PLAN MAIN
OBJECTIVE: POVERTY


REDUCTION


MAXIMIZING GNH
VISION 2020 GOALS


MDGs AND OTHER IDTs


CORE STRATEGY:
VITALIZING INDUSTRY


NATIONAL
SPATIAL


PLANNING


SYNERGIZING
INTEGRATED


RURAL URBAN
DEVELOPMENT


EXPANDING
STRATEGIC


INFRASTRUCTURE


INVESTING IN
HUMAN CAPITAL


ENHANCING
ENABLING


ENVIRONMENT


GNH - Gross national happiness ; IDTs - International Development Targets


Figure 1. Planning strategy


Source: Royal Government of Bhutan, Tenth Five-Year Plan (2008–2013).


may be limited as well. The goal to alleviate poverty
through trade may be especially difficult to achieve
without gender mainstreaming, as women tend to
represent a high percentage of the population living
below the poverty line.


Volume 2 of the Plan is organized by ministries, each
of which is responsible for specific objectives. The
Ministry of Economic Affairs is responsible for 18
different categories,13 each coupled with a results-
based strategy, budget and managerial design. The
only mention of gender within the Ministry’s plan was
in the section, Development of Micro, Small and Me-
dium Enterprises Programme. This is an important
thematic area to include women, as they tend to be
involved in this sector. However, this sector is tradi-
tionally characterized by low skills and wages. Other
categories in the Plan cover sectors that have much
larger budgetary allocations, however, they are gen-
der blind. Enabling more Bhutanese women to work
in the more highly skilled and well-paid sectors would
help narrow Bhutan’s gender wage gap. Moreover,
the reduction in brain waste could result in a more
competitive sector.




23GENDER MAINSTREAMING IN BHUTAN


The Royal Government of Bhutan has been criticized
by UNDP for its “gender-neutral position” to planning,
policymaking, programme formulation and implemen-
tation. According to the Organization, the continued
gender gaps in key areas of education, the national
economy and political participation are the “result
of subtle and indirect forms of gender bias that ex-
ist in the society” (Gender Mainstreaming – UNDP
Bhutan). Although UNDP did not specifically refer to
this as institutionalized discrimination, the prevailing
gender gaps and gender-neutral policies represent a
systemic lack of political will to institutionalize policies
promoting gender equality.


3.2.2. National Plan of Action for Gender
(2008–2013)


The Royal Government of Bhutan’s National Plan of
Action for Gender (2008–2013) outlining its gender
strategy represents a strong commitment to gender
mainstreaming. The section entitled Economic De-
velopment (Focus on Employment) provides a de-
tailed description of the current economic situation of
women in Bhutan, as well as a results-based action
plan for achieving gendered economic development.
An essential component of this strategy is that the 24
planned activities are to be implemented by various
governmental agencies, not solely a gender focal
point or agency. The Ministry of Economic Affairs is
committed to seven of the activities, which demon-
strates a deeper commitment to gender mainstream-
ing than exemplified in other Ministry documentation.


3.3. MAINSTREAMING GENDER IN TRADE
STRATEGIES


3.3.1. Department of Trade


Bhutan’s Department of Trade has an extensive web-
site providing information about its trade agreements,
objectives, mission, vision, events and other trade-re-
lated information. The Government also has a website
that gives information about its government, citizens,
business and overseas services. Gender issues are
not addressed. The lack of mainstreaming gender
into the main vehicle through which the Government
communicates development and trade objectives and
its philosophy appears to be inconsistent with the ap-
parently strong commitment to gender mainstreaming
underscored in the National Plan of Action for Gender
(2008–2013) (Royal Government of Bhutan 2008c).


3.3.2. Development agencies’ gender and trade
strategic plans


Other institutions that can significantly affect a coun-
try’s commitment to gender mainstreaming in trade
policy are international lending agencies. The Inter-
national Monetary Fund supported the development
of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (Interna-
tional Monetary Fund 2010a), which does not refer to
gender issues. Another example can be found in the
Asian Development Bank’s Country Strategy and Pro-
gramme 2006–2010 (Asian Development Bank 2005).
Though gender-related issues are addressed in some
detail in the document, its analysis and related rec-
ommendations are not linked to those concerning the
trade sector.


The United Nations Development Assistance Frame-
work for the Royal Government of Bhutan is a strate-
gic partnership plan involving United Nations agen-
cies, the Royal Government of Bhutan and various
other stakeholders and agencies (United Nations
and Royal Government of Bhutan 2007).14 The most
recent plan, from 2008–2012, states that MDGs are
the overarching development goals, with the Com-
mon Country Assessment 2006 as a point of refer-
ence. While gender is mainstreamed throughout the
United Nations Development Assistance Framework,
it relates directly to five key outcomes15 and helps to
foster trade and economic development. At the time
when discussions started regarding the formulation
of the 2008–2012 United Nations Development As-
sistance Framework, Bhutan, in spite of its interna-
tional commitments, was still debating the relevance
of gender in the local context. Little sex-disaggregated
data was available at the national level and gender
mainstreaming was a relatively new concept within the
country. Nevertheless, gender equality goals linked to
the achievement of MDGs 1, 2, 3 and 8 were listed as
national priorities. Such goals in the United Nations
Development Assistance Framework led to the follow-
ing positive results: (a) Bhutan started to meet more of
its commitments as a signatory to the Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
Women through periodic reporting on the status of
women in the country; (b) the momentum was cre-
ated for gender mainstreaming in Bhutan, as reflected
in the Tenth Five-Year Plan 2008–2013 and the formu-
lation of the National Plan of Action for Gender 2008–
2013; and (c) Bhutan took action on women’s issues
on the basis of the Concluding Comments made by
the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination




24 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


Against Women. For example, women’s political par-
ticipation increased, the bill against domestic violence
was approved, and sex-disaggregated data began to
be more widely collected (Gender Evaluation Report
2010).


Although the United Nations Development Assistance
Framework has provided momentum for gender
mainstreaming in Bhutan, more remains to be done
to translate commitments into practice. The Mid-Term
Review Process 2010 for the Bhutan United Nations
Development Assistance Framework provides a num-
ber of recommendations to give impetus to gender
mainstreaming in the Framework. The recommenda-
tions are grouped under the following headings:


• Gender perspective in planning, implementation,
monitoring and evaluation;


• Systematic collection and reporting of sex-disaggre-
gated data and dissemination of data, studies and
reports across sectors;


• Strengthened coordination and leadership on gen-
der mainstreaming by the Royal Government of
Bhutan in partnership with the United Nations;


• Strengthened role of the Gender Task Force and
Gender Focal Points;


• Consultation and institutionalization of gender-re-
sponsive budgeting;


• Continuing gender sensitization and capacity-build-
ing;


• Policy and legal reform and advocacy;


• Strengthened multilateral and bilateral partnerships;


• Formulation of gender strategy plan for the United
Nations as part of the United Nations Development
Assistance Framework;


• Sound gender analysis for the United Nations De-
velopment Assistance Framework 2013–2017 and
additional partnerships.


3.3.3. Gender considerations in trade agreements


Bhutan’s two bilateral agreements with India and
Bangladesh (see 2.2.1), make no mention of gender.
They contain no evidence of an ex ante gender as-
sessment of the agreements or gendered capacity-
building efforts directly linkable to the agreements.


Practically since its inception in 1985, SAARC has
made serious institutional commitments to gender.


In 1986, under the Integrated Programme of Action,
it established the Technical Committee on Women in
Development. The Committee, meeting at regular in-
tervals, has experienced some institutional changes,
evolving into the SAARC Integrated Programme of Ac-
tion in 2000 and the Regional Integrated Programme
of Action in 2004 (Nag 2008). In 2001, SAARC signed
a memorandum of understanding with the United
Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to
develop a SAARC gender database called Mapping
Progress of Women in the South Asia Region.


Despite extensive efforts to promote gender main-
streaming in trade policy, the trade agreements ne-
gotiated by SAARC do not have provisions for main-
streaming gender, nor there is evidence of an ex ante
gender assessment prior to the enactment of these
agreements.


Regarding BIMSTEC, upon textual analysis of the or-
ganizational documents, including Economic/Ministe-
rial meeting minutes, project proposals, documents
relating to the working structure and the BIMSTEC
website, it appears that the Organization has made no
efforts towards gender mainstreaming. Gender has
not even been integrated into the 13 priority sectors
of cooperation.16 They do mention poverty alleviation.
The two trade agreements negotiated by BIMSTEC,
the Framework Agreement on the BIMSTEC Free
Trade Area and the Protocol to the Framework Agree-
ment on BIMSTEC Free Trade Area make no mention
of gender either. Furthermore, there appears to have
been no efforts to undergo an ex ante gender assess-
ment and no gender sensitive capacity-building ef-
forts linkable to the agreements.


3.3.4. Trade facilitation and supply-side services


There is some scattered evidence of gender biases in
access to extension layouts and other supply services.
It appears, for example, that women farmers have not
benefited equally from agricultural extension services,
especially training programmes (Royal Government
of Bhutan et al. 2001). Access to credit also remains
an obstacle for women, particularly rural women. For
example, as of June 2006, 5,965 women (37.7 per
cent of beneficiaries) were benefiting from rural credit
from the Bhutan Development Finance Corporation,
compared with 9,843 men (62.3 per cent); as of Sep-
tember 2008, the proportion of females had lowered
slightly to 36.8 per cent (National Plan of Action for
Gender 2008–2013) (Royal Government of Bhutan,
2008c).




25GENDER MAINSTREAMING IN BHUTAN


NOTES


12 Good governance; education and training; economic development with a focus on employment; health;
violence against women; prejudices and stereotypes; and ageing, mental health and disabilities.


13 Promotion of domestic and foreign trade, development and management of petroleum oil and lubricant
services programme, development of micro, small and medium enterprises programme, development and
management of industrial estates, strengthening institutional framework for industrial development, sustaina-
ble environmental management and institutionalization of cleaner technology, development and strengthen-
ing of intellectual property and copyrights, power transmission programme, rural electrification programme,
accelerated hydropower development programme, institutional strengthening of the energy sector, develop-
ment of renewable energy, strengthening of national hydrological and meteorological services, electricity reg-
ulation and private-sector participation in major hydropower projects, capacity enhancement in geo-scientific
investigations and mineral development, and assessment and monitoring of climate-change-induced and
geological hazards.


14 “The United Nations Development Assistance Framework for Bhutan (2008–2012) provides a collective, co-
herent and integrated UN response to national needs and priorities and is consistent with Bhutan’s overall
development vision articulated by Gross National Happiness. The United Nations Development Assistance
Framework, formulated through a highly consultative and participatory process with the Royal Government of
Bhutan and other stakeholders, embodies a rights-based and results-driven development approach aimed
at poverty reduction and pursuit of the MDGs.” (United Nations Development Assistance Framework for the
Kingdom of Bhutan 2008–2012, Thimphu, May 2007:3)


15 By 2012, opportunities for generation of income and employment increased in targeted poor areas (MDG
1 and 8), by 2012, increased access and utilization of quality health services with emphasis on reproduc-
tive health, maternal and child health and nutrition, HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and non-communicable diseases,
(MDG 4, 5, 6), by 2012, access to quality education for all with gender equality and special focus on the hard-
to-reach population improved (MDG 2, 3), by 2012, institutional capacity and people’s participation strength-
ened to ensure good governance (MDG 1, 3, 8), by 2012, national capacity for environmental sustainability
and disaster management strengthened (MDG 7).


16 BIMSTEC priority sectors: trade and investment, transport and communication, energy, tourism, technology,
fisheries, agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism and transnational crime, protec-
tion of biodiversity/environment and natural disaster management, culture and people-to-people contact
(www.bimstec.org/sector.html).


.






IV


Trade
liberalization


or facilitation,
female employment


and welfare in Bhutan




28 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


This chapter explores some of the impacts of trade
liberalization or facilitation on household welfare, with
a focus on gender issues. Trade policies tend to have
strong redistributive impacts, which will favour some
groups or individuals, while penalizing others. The aim
is to shed some light on the question as to who would
benefit from further trade expansion in Bhutan. In par-
ticular, it aims to analyse whether there is a gender
bias in the gains from trade. As discussed elsewhere
(see chapter 2), the Bhutanese economy is already
characterized by a fair degree of openness in terms
of import tariffs or quantitative restrictions, since the
bulk of Bhutan’s imports are sourced from countries,
namely, India and Bangladesh, with which Bhutan en-
joys free or preferential trade. Similarly, major destina-


tions of Bhutan’s exports are countries where goods
originating from Bhutan enter duty free or under pref-
erential tariffs. Accordingly, trade liberalization is here
intended broadly to essentially cover aspects of trade
facilitation, for example, in the areas of customs pro-
cedures, transport and standards compliance. Trade
facilitation in these areas would contribute towards
Bhutan’s export competitiveness and have a signifi-
cant trade-enhancing effect. The analysis is also rel-
evant to assess the gendered impact of a reduction in
MFN, or non-preferential, tariff rates, which are rela-
tively high in Bhutan. In Bhutan, an MFN tariff-reduc-
tion strategy would be essentially aimed at eroding
preferential margins and diversifying import sources
with a view to reducing exposure to a single market


Box 2. The basic framework
Who is benefitting from trade liberalization or facilitation? A quantitative model approach17


Trade policies have diverse impacts on individuals: some will benefit from trade liberalization or facilitation, others
may suffer, yet others may not be affected. The impacts that trade policies have on individuals depend mainly
on two factors. First, they depend on the influence that trade policies have on domestic prices (of goods and
factors of production, such as wages, earnings, returns to capital and land) where individuals operate. Owing
to regulatory frameworks, some domestic markets and/or economic sectors may be sheltered from the effect of
trade policies, while others may be fully dependent on international markets, and thus on trade policies. Second,
the impact of trade policies depends on the degree of exposure that individuals have to the various goods and
factors of production. Individuals employed in export sector, for example, textiles, may not be affected in the
same manner as those in import- competing sectors, such as rice. The degree of exposure also depends on the
extent of self-subsistence activities that the individual is engaged in. In LCDs such as Bhutan, many households
engage in self-sufficient activities, that is, production for own use. Those activities, largely independent of price
shocks, are therefore isolated from trade policies.


Trade policies affect economies through their impact on prices (goods and factors of production) and by their
effect on government revenues. There are three main effects on households: (a) the consumption effect, which
refers to the effect of trade policies on the price of the goods consumed by the households; (b) the income effect,
which refers to the effect on households’ income, including earnings, sales of agricultural products or any other
goods and other forms of income such as government transfers; (c) the revenue effect, which refers to the effect
on the generation and distribution of government revenues. Revenues may indirectly affect households through
transfers and the provision of public goods.


The quantitative analysis of the effect of trade policies on individuals is generally conducted in three steps (see
appendix 1 for technical details): First, the measurement of the extent to which trade policies affect domestic
prices of goods and factors of production, including estimating or making assumptions on the degree of which
international prices pass through to domestic prices of goods and factors of production, as well as how much
trade policy contributes to government revenues; second, the identification and quantification of the sources of
income and the consumption basket for each household, which provides a measure of the dependence between
the real income of the households and the change in price of a particular good of factor of production due to
trade policy; and third, the consideration of how the changes in the prices (of goods and factors of production)
due to trade policies are mapped into each household’s budget and income shares. This allows calculating the
positive or negative effects of trade policy on a household’s real income. Results can be aggregated by the re-
levant dimension, for example, region, gender, or poor/non-poor, so as to better identify any subgroup that may
gain or lose from the trade policy.




29TRADE LIBERALIZATION OR FACILITATION, FEMALE EMPLOYMENT AND WELFARE IN BHUTAN


such as India. The report also discusses tariff liberali-
zation in sectors of potential export interest to Bhutan,
such as textiles, which in the United States is largely
excluded from the list of GSP-eligible articles.


Given that most women work in the agriculture sector,
a particular focus has been given to how this sector
would be affected by trade liberalization or facilitation.
An agriculture model has been used to analyse the ef-
fects of trade. The main outline of the model appears
in box 2, while the details are provided in appendix 1.


A caveat should be made here: the bulk of this chap-
ter focuses on specific trade sectors – the main ex-
ported and imported agricultural commodities – for
which the available microsurvey data allow to gener-
ate a meaningful quantification of the likely gender im-
pacts of trade liberalization or facilitation. The report,
however, does not provide an in-depth assessment
of other sectors in which Bhutan is either currently
competitive or where there is a potential to become
competitive in the future, owing to the unavailability of
microsurvey data.


The gender analysis is limited, in that this chapter es-
sentially discusses employment and income effects
on female- versus male-headed households, while
disregarding intra-household dynamics rooted in so-
cial patterns, for example, decision-making process-
es and command over resources within the house-
hold and intra-household transfers. Yet, drawing on
a quantitative model, the analysis provides important
insights of the impacts of trade expansion on house-
hold welfare, with a focus on gender issues.


4.1. AGRICULTURE


As discussed earlier, agriculture is the main source of
livelihood and income in Bhutan, especially for wom-
en.


By combining trade and microsurvey data, the analy-
sis in this section attempts to quantify the redistribu-
tive effects of trade liberalization or facilitation in major
agricultural export crops (potatoes, oranges and ap-
ples) and import crops (rice). This section presents
both an overview of the major findings from the over-
all analysis (see 4.1.1) and the detailed analysis (see
4.1.2). It then turns to consider ways to reconcile a
focus on export cash crops with broader trade-related
concerns relating to food security, biodiversity conser-
vation and traditional knowledge (see 4.1.3).


4.1.1. Main findings from the quantitative model


The analysis in chapter 2 has identified key agricultural
products for which the impacts of trade are potentially
sizeable and quantifiable: on the export side, pota-
toes, oranges, and apples, which are the main export
crops, in which Bhutan shows a revealed comparative
advantage; on the import side, paddy rice, the Bhuta-
nese staple food, which is the principal imported crop,
in which Bhutan has a comparative disadvantage. The
analytical framework used in this report implies that
the net producers of export goods, such as potatoes,
oranges and apples, and net consumers of imports,
such as rice, will gain from trade.


The principal conclusions that emerge from the analy-
sis are as follows:


• The Bhutanese population would face potential ben-
efits from trade expansion in these commodity sec-
tors;


• There appears to be little or no gender bias in the
gains from trade;


• Trade liberalization or facilitation would have a pro-
poor impact in the case of potatoes and oranges,
while it appears that non-poor households would
benefit more than poor households from expand-
ing apple exports. Import liberalization or facilita-
tion in rice will benefit net consumers. Since the
share spent on rice sharply declines with the level
of household well-being, lower rice prices will have
a pro-poor bias for net consumers. The impacts on
net producers of rice were not documented. Howev-
er, 75 per cent of farming households are engaged
in rice production, and thus may be affected by a
change in the price of rice due to trade liberalization.


A closer examination of the findings leads to the fol-
lowing observations:


• Since potato and orange producers tend to be sig-
nificantly poorer than non-producers, an expansion
of exports of these crops has a pro-poor bias ben-
efiting the poorer segment of the population. There
is no an association between the probability of being
a grower of potatoes or oranges and the number
of females in a household or the proportion of the
number of females in total household size.


• Since apple producers tend to be better off than
non-producers, an expansion of apple exports is
likely to benefit both poor and non-poor households,
but non-poor households are likely to benefit rela-




30 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


tively more than poor households. There seems to
be a positive association between apple production,
and thus being a likely recipient of the gains from ex-
ports, and the number of females in the household.


• Rice, the main staple of Bhutanese households,
is largely imported. Import liberalization or facilita-
tion would most likely bring about a decline in rice
prices. While this can hurt net producers, it benefits
net consumers. Furthermore, lower rice prices will
have a pro-poor bias for net consumers, since the
share spent on rice sharply declines with the level
of household well-being. There appears to be little
gender bias in the gains from trade liberalization or
facilitation in this area: households with more women
tend to allocate a lower share of their expenditure to
purchase rice, especially in urban areas. Therefore,
these households will enjoy lower gains from trade
liberalization or facilitation in rice.


The following table summarizes these findings in tabu-
lar form.


Table 13. Summary of the effects of trade liberalization
or facilitation


Male-headed Female-headed


Poor Non-poor Poor Non-poor


Exports (price increases)


Potatoes ++ + ++ +


Oranges ++ + ++ +


Apples + ++ + ++


Imports (price declines)


Rice ++ + ++ +


Source: UNCTAD.


Note: + indicates positive impacts; ++ indicates positive and
larger impacts.


4.1.2. Detailed analysis


For analytical purposes, it is important to identify the
main agricultural goods produced, exported and im-
ported by Bhutan. The prominent role of its exports
(potatoes, oranges and apples) – and its imports
(rice) has already been discussed. Here, the study at-
tempts to determine whether these crops are indeed
produced by smallholders. If so, this means that the
crops to be explored in the trade and gender analytical
work have been successfully identified.


Table 14 describes the structure of production and
trade of vegetables and fruits in 2009. The data used
are from the Annual Agricultural Sample Survey and


from the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics
Database. Maize and paddy rice account for 58.6 per
cent of the total land allocated to vegetable produc-
tion. While imports of maize are rare – the country is
self-sufficient in maize – rice accounts for 22 per cent
of agricultural imports. Similarly, around 5.5 per cent of
the land is allocated to potatoes, ranked in third place.
In turn, potatoes account for 35 per cent of agricultural
exports. Other important exports are cardamom and
ginger, with shares of 8 and 2 per cent, respectively.
These crops, however, are not relevant in the house-
hold survey data (cardamom production is not record-
ed and ginger is merged with coriander and garlic).
These data thus confirm that it makes sense to focus
on the impacts of rice imports and potato exports.


Mandarins/oranges, areca and apples are the fruits
representing the highest number of bearing trees in
2009. These are thus the main fruits produced in Bhu-
tan. However, only oranges/mandarins and apples are
significant export products, accounting for 34 and 8.2
per cent of agricultural exports, respectively. These
data thus confirm that it makes sense to focus on the
impacts of exports of oranges and apples.


Using the analytical framework of appendix 1, the
study now explores the impacts of trade liberaliza-
tion and trade facilitation in potatoes, oranges, apples
and rice on the economy, and especially on women.
Trade liberalization and facilitation tend to cause an
increase in the price of export goods and a decrease
in the price of imports. To study the impacts of these
price changes on employment, income and welfare,
it is important to determine the net producers and the
net consumers. For this, it is imperative to know, for
each product, the amount produced, the amount au-
to-consumed, the amount sold, and the amount pur-
chased in the market. Unfortunately, this information
is not available in Bhutan. The Bhutan Living Standard
Survey does not include detailed employment infor-
mation. It reveals whether someone is employed in
agriculture, but does not provide any information on
relevant disaggregated activities within the sector. In
addition, the Survey includes a detailed expenditure
module, but not an income module. This prevents the
quantification of income sources and income shares,
key pieces for identifying net producers or net con-
sumers and measuring exposure to trade.


The study outlines a procedure that uses the available
information in the best possible way so as to shed
some light on the likely consequences of trade expan-
sion in agricultural products. Different procedures are
adopted for export crops and import crops.




31TRADE LIBERALIZATION OR FACILITATION, FEMALE EMPLOYMENT AND WELFARE IN BHUTAN


Commodity
Area


(acres/trees)
Percentage


of total
(acres/trees)


Production
(metric tons)


Yield
(kg per acre/
kg per tree)


Percentage of
agricultural


export


Percentage of
agricultural


import


Vegetables, crops and others


Maize 70,603 32.0 61,161 866 0.0 1.3


Paddy 58,609 26.6 65,763 1,122 0.7 22.0


Potato 12,156 5.5 46,161 3,798 35.0 0.7


Finger millet 8,587 3.9 3,535 412 0.0 0.2


Wheat 7,709 3.5 3,679 477 2.0 1.9


Chili 5,686 2.6 8,887 1,563 0.0 0.0


Sweet buckwheat 5,603 2.5 2,240 400 0.0 0.0


Mustard 5,570 2.5 1,741 313 0.1 0.1


Cardamom 5,133 2.3 433 84 7.9 0.0


Barley 4,956 2.2 2,398 484 0.0 0.0


Bitter buckwheat 3,923 1.8 1,619 413 0.0 0.0


Radish 3,167 1.4 5,672 1,791 0.1 0.0


Ginger 2,546 1.2 3,766 1,479 2.0 0.0


Bean 2,272 1.0 1,823 802 0.1 0.0


Turnip 2,140 1.0 9,368 4,377 0.0 0.0


Green leaves 2,034 0.9 2,224 1,093 0.0 0.0


Soya 1,667 0.8 546 328 0.3 7.3


Others 18,135 8.2 10,316 850 - -


Total 220,496 100.0 231,332 1,147.3 48.1 33.5


Fruits


Mandarin 1,570,380 56.4 44,177 28 34.0 0.0


Areca 585,649 21.0 6,375 11 - -


Apple 315,875 11.4 15,086 48 8.2 0.0


Banana 165,756 6.0 2,183 13 0.0 0.1


Guava 40,656 1.5 955 23 0.0 0.3


Peach 33,754 1.2 1,234 36 0.0 0.0


Pear 17,334 0.6 1,109 64 0.0 0.0


Walnut 14,711 0.5 236 16 0.0 0.0


Mango 13,279 0.5 315 24 0.0 0.0


Plum 12,236 0.4 434 36 0.0 0.0


Passion fruit 8,094 0.3 174 21 0.0 0.0


Persimmon 4,610 0.2 166 36 0.0 0.0


Total 2,782,334 100.0 72,444 30 42.2 0.4


Total vegetables and fruits 90.3 33.9


Source: Estimation based on Annual Agriculture Sample Survey 2009 and the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database.


Table 14. Vegetable and fruit production




32 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


The analysis first looks at exports of potatoes. The
problem is to identify net producers of potatoes –
and also oranges and apples – without any produc-
tion information. The expenditure modules are used
to construct an estimate for production of different
goods. In the consumption questionnaire in the Bhu-
tan Living Standard Survey, households report ex-
penditures on various products and identify whether
these expenditures refer to home-produced goods or
market purchases. In principle, for the export crops
considered (potatoes, oranges, and apples), it is clear
if a household consumes the product and if the same
household also produces it. As a result, the informa-
tion on consumption of home-produced potatoes can
be used as a proxy for being a potato producer (this
also applies to oranges and apples). Since these are
export crops, farmers are likely to be net producers of
the crop and the producers can be identified indirectly
using data on auto-consumption. Under this assump-
tion, it is useful to build a dummy variable equal to one
if a household reports any home consumption of the
target export crop and use this dummy as a meas-
ure of exposure to exports in place of the net income
shares derived in the analytical framework described
in appendix 1.


There is a simple test to assess how accurate this
procedure is. The procedure will work if a household
that owns and consumes the crop does not purchase
the good on the market. That is, if the household is
consuming a fraction of its own production, then a net
producer should not report market purchases of the
crop. This can be tested in the data collected.


The results are reported in table 15, which shows the
total number of producers of each crop: potatoes,
oranges, apples and rice. The fraction of producers
who also report market purchases of these products
can be calculated by using the expenditure module.


For potatoes, only 3.2 per cent of the producers also
buy the product; for oranges, this share is only 2.2
per cent; and for apples, it is 5.7 per cent. These low
shares are reassuring. The situation, however, is dia-
metrically different for rice because 61.5 per cent of
rice producers also purchase rice on the market. This
means that the same procedure will not work well for
rice. But this is reassuring because rice is a net import
and thus a high degree of purchases in the market
should be expected, even for producers.


The procedure, however, has some shortcomings.
First, producers and non-producers can only be ten-
tatively identified, although with some error. Second,
the procedure works only if a producer consumes
something of its own production. If a producer sells
all its production, it will not be possible to identify him
or her in the data. While this might pose a problem for
large producers, it is reasonable to assume that all
net producers will consume at least a small amount
of their own production. Finally, the procedure imper-
fectly determines who the producers are, but it does
not provide any indication of the extent of production,
and thus of the potential benefits derived from trade.
In other words, this procedure treats a large seller and
a small seller in the same fashion.


Table 16 provides a characterization of household
producers and non-producers for each crop. Almost
30 per cent of households produce potatoes and or-
anges each; only 9 per cent produce apples. There
are great disparities between rural and urban areas.
With regard to potatoes, 45.5 per cent of rural house-
holds are producers and 54.5 are non-producers; in
urban areas, only 3.2 per cent of the households pro-
duce potatoes. For oranges, the share of rural house-
holds that produce the crop is roughly 40 per cent;
only 1 per cent of households report the production
of oranges in urban areas. Finally, for apples, around
10 per cent of rural households are producers. There
are also some differences between female- and male-
headed households, especially in the case of potato
producers, where female heads represent 37.2 per
cent of all potato producers.


Potatoes


Potatoes are the main export horticulture crop by vol-
ume and India is the major export destination. In con-
trast to other export crops, potatoes are very adapta-
ble and can be produced at almost all land elevations,
a major characteristic of Bhutan. For instance, it is the
only agriculture option available to those households


Table 15. Producers and buyers of commodities, 2007


Product Total producers


Producers and buyers


Total Percentage
of


producers


Percentage
of total


households


Potatoes 41,424 1,319 3.2 1.0


Oranges 36,320 796 2.2 0.6


Apples 11,276 638 5.7 0.5


Rice 48,829 30,007 61.5 23.8


Source: Estimation based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey
Report 2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007.




33TRADE LIBERALIZATION OR FACILITATION, FEMALE EMPLOYMENT AND WELFARE IN BHUTAN


Table 16. Characteristics of producers and non-producers


Potatoes Oranges Apples Rice Total per
product


Producer Non-
producer


Producer Non-
producer


Producer Non-
producer


Producer Non-
producer


Number of households


Total 41,424 84,502 36,320 89,606 11,276 114,650 48,829 77,097 125,926


Female-headed 15,426 23,306 10,956 27,776 5,796 32,936 18,541 20,191 38,732


Male-headed 25,998 61,196 25,364 61,830 5,480 81,714 30,288 56,906 87,194


Rural 40,091 47,976 35,958 52,109 9,216 78,851 43,324 44,743 88,067


Urban 1,333 36,526 362 37,497 2,060 35,799 5,505 32,354 37,859


Percentage of households


Total 32.9 67.1 28.8 71.2 9.0 91.0 38.8 61.2 100.0


Female-headed 39.8 60.2 28.3 71.7 15.0 85.0 47.9 52.1 100.0


Male-headed 29.8 70.2 29.1 70.9 6.3 93.7 34.7 65.3 100.0


Rural 45.5 54.5 40.8 59.2 10.5 89.5 49.2 50.8 100.0


Urban 3.5 96.5 1.0 99.0 5.4 94.6 14.5 85.5 100.0


Mean per capita expenditure


Total 2,148 3,847 2,021 3,802 3,703 3,247 2,806 3,594 3,288


Female-headed 2,348 4,003 2,215 3,789 3,753 3,272 2,968 3,689 3,344


Male-headed 2,030 3,788 1,938 3,807 3,650 3,238 2,707 3,560 3,263


Rural 2,071 2,652 1,989 2,662 3,313 2,279 2,460 2,317 2,387


Urban 4,472 5,417 5,242 5,385 5,447 5,380 5,532 5,358 5,383


Proportion of
female-headed 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.5 0.3 0.4 0.3 0.3


Mean share of
females 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5


Mean number
of females 2.7 2.5 2.7 2.5 2.7 2.5 2.7 2.5 2.6


Total females 113,657 209,108 98,964 223,801 30,929 291,836 133,588 189,177 322,765


Percentage of
total females 35.2 64.8 30.7 69.3 9.6 90.4 41.4 58.6 100.0


Source: Estimation based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report 2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007.


in regions above 2,500 meters. According to Roder
et al. (2007), “considering its contribution to the indi-
vidual household income, the adoption of this cash
crop had no doubt the most important impact on the
socio-economic conditions of rural households in the
higher regions of the country”.


To examine the welfare impacts of enhanced opportu-
nities for potato exports, the study now provides a de-
tailed description of the dummy variable that identifies
potato producers, hence the households most likely
to benefit from potato exports. The analysis starts with
non-parametric regressions of this dummy on house-
hold log per capita expenditure and illustrates the po-
tential distributional impact of potato exports across


different levels of living. The main results are reported
in figure 2.18


The probability of being a potato producer in rural ar-
eas is over 55 per cent at the left tail of the distribution
(households with the lowest per capita consumption)
for female-headed households and around 45 per
cent for male-headed households. This probability
declines sharply with per capita consumption for both
types of households. Given the theoretical framework,
an expansion of potatoes exports, mostly to India,
would in principle benefit the left tail of the distribution,
the poorest households. It would also benefit female-
headed households relatively more than male-headed
households. Results for urban areas are comparable




34 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


to results for rural areas. Given that there are only a
few urban potato producers, the following section fo-
cuses mostly on rural households.


Another look at gender issues


A look at the differences between female- and male-
headed households does not necessarily capture all
the impacts on women. So far, it has been assumed
that female-headed households are affected directly
by an expansion in potato exports if they are involved
in its production. However, women living in male-head-
ed households can also benefit from exports if these
benefits are distributed among all members within the
household. Without delving into intra-household allo-
cation issues, which are hard to tackle, additional light
can be shed on how women are affected by trade by
examining the following two indicators.


First, it is important to explore the association be-
tween the probability of being a potato producer –
consider the dummy indicators, as before – and the
number of females in the household. The results are
in the left panel of figure 3. The data show no appar-
ent link between the probability of being a potato pro-
ducer and the number of females in the household.
This suggests potentially uniform benefits across
households, independently of the number of females.
In other words, a household with no females is more
or less equally likely to be a potato producer, and thus
to enjoy gains from potato exports, than a household
with 8 to10 females.


One problem with this measure is that, for a given
gain or loss, the higher the number of females, the
lower the per capita gain. Therefore, while in princi-
ple households with different numbers of females are


Figure 2. Potato producers and per capita expenditure


.1


.2


.3


.4


.5


.6


.0


.05


.1


.15


.2


Pr
ob


ab
ili


ty
o


f b
ei


ng
a


p
ot


at
o


pr
od


uc
er


5 6 7 8 9 10
Log per capita consumption


Female-headed Male-headed Total Female-headed Male-headed Total




Pr
ob


ab
ili


ty
o


f b
ei


ng
a


p
ot


at
o


pr
od


uc
er


6 8 10 12
Log per capita consumption


Rural Urban


Source: Based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report 2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007.


Figure 3. Potato producers and women




0


.1


.2


.3


.4


.5


Pr
ob


ab
ili


ty
o


f b
ei


ng
p


ot
at


o
pr


od
uc


er


0 2 4 6 8 10


Number of females in household


Rural Urban Total Rural Urban Total




Pr
ob


ab
ili


ty
o


f b
ei


ng
p


ot
at


o
pr


od
uc


er


0 .2 .4 .6 .8 1


share of females in household


0


.1


.2


.3


.4


.5


Source: Based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report 2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007.




35TRADE LIBERALIZATION OR FACILITATION, FEMALE EMPLOYMENT AND WELFARE IN BHUTAN


Figure 4. Percentage of households producing potatoes by Dzongkhag


.66 - .78


.345 - .66


.22 - .345


.07 - .22


.685 - .85


.45 - .685


.19 - .45


.11 - .19


Source: Based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report 2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007.


equally likely to be benefitted by trade, the per capi-
ta gain may differ. To explore this further, the analysis
considers the relationship between the probability of
being a potato producer and the share of females in
total household size. The non-parametric regression
is plotted in the right panel of figure 3. As before, it
appears that trade liberalization or facilitation by an
expansion of potato prices and its effects on potato
producers would have similar effects for households
with different compositions of females. For example,
a household without any females – a share of 0 – is
more or less equally likely to be a potato producer,
and thus to enjoy gains from potato exports, than an
only female household with a share of 1.


Another aspect of this analysis is the regional dimen-
sions of trade and gender in Bhutan. Geographical


All producers


differences arise from climate, land type, road ac-
cess, electricity provision and other factors. Below
are the regional disparities that arise from the distri-
bution across the country of households that produ-
ce potatoes, and of female-headed households that
produce potatoes. Figure 4 reports the percentage
of households that produce potatoes by district. Po-
tato production is concentrated in the north-east of
the country, not only for total households but also for
female-headed households; as a result it is more likely
to benefit from potato exports than the rest of Bhutan.


Net consumers


The analysis so far has shown that Bhutan is a net
exporter of potatoes and that most households are
net producers of the product. Hence, trade libera-
lization or facilitation in potato markets would bring


Female-headed households




36 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


net gains not only for women, but for the country as
a whole. This result, however, is valid mostly for rural
areas, where the vast majority of the net producers
resides. In urban areas, 96.5 per cent of households
are non-producers. These households may be hurt by
trade liberalization or facilitation if they consume pota-
toes. To measure non-producers’ exposure to higher
prices of potatoes as a result of trade liberalization or
facilitation, one can look at budget shares spent on
potatoes. However, the reported budget shares are
too small to be relevant. Figure 5 shows the relation-
ship between the share spent on potatoes and the log
of per capita household expenditure in urban areas.
The poorest households in Bhutan report spending
only about 1 per cent on potatoes. The average share
declines sharply, and plummets to almost zero for
households at the top of the distribution. This means


that a 10 per cent increase in the price of potatoes
would cause the real income of poor households to
decline by only 0.1 per cent, while richer households
would be virtually unaffected. These magnitudes are,
for all practical purposes, negligible.


Oranges


Citrus production is the highest value export crop for
Bhutan. More than 90 per cent of the production is
exported to Bangladesh. Oranges grow mostly in the
subtropical southern regions of the country. Farm size
is measured in terms of number of trees. Based on
data collected by the Australian Centre for Internation-
al Agricultural Research in 2008, (Australian Centre
for International Agricultural Research, 2005), 34 per
cent of citrus producers were of medium size, owing
between 101 and 300 trees. These data also revealed
that 32 per cent of citrus trees in Bhutan were more
than 20 years of age, which is when their productivity
may begin to decline. This should be kept in mind for
policy purposes.


In the analysis of the potential impact of orange ex-
ports, the approach explores the correlations of the
likelihood of orange production with key household
characteristics, such as gender of the head of house-
holds, demographic structure and location (rural or
urban households, analysis by district). The likely im-
pacts of trade expansion are very similar to those of
potatoes.


Figure 6 shows that the probability of being a rural
orange producer ranges from 45 per cent for house-
holds at the bottom of the income distribution to
around 10 per cent for households at the top of the
distribution. This means that the probability of being


Figure 5. Potatoes budget shares


Source: Based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report
2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007.




0


.005


.01


.015


4 6 8 10 12


log per capita expenditure


Sh
ar


e
po


ta
to


Figure 6. Orange producers and per capita expenditure




0


.2


.4


.6


Pr
ob


ab
ili


ty
o


f b
ei


ng
o


ra
ng


e
pr


od
uc


er


5 6 7 8 9 10
log per capita consumption




0


.005


.01


.015


Pr
ob


ab
ili


ty
o


f b
ei


ng
o


ra
ng


e
pr


od
uc


er


6 8 10 12
log per capita consumption


Rural Urban


Female headed Male headed Total Female headed Male headed Total


Source: Based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report 2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007.




37TRADE LIBERALIZATION OR FACILITATION, FEMALE EMPLOYMENT AND WELFARE IN BHUTAN


Figure 7. Orange producers and women




0


.1


.2


.3


.4


.5


Pr
ob


ab
ili


ty
o


f b
ei


ng
o


ra
ng


e
pr


od
uc


er


0 2 4 6 8 10


Number of females in household




0


.1


.2


.3


.4


Pr
ob


ab
ili


ty
o


f b
ei


ng
o


ra
ng


e
pr


od
uc


er


0 .2 .4 .6 .8 1
share of females in household


Rural Urban Total Rural Urban Total


Source: Based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report 2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007.


Figure 8. Percentage of households producing oranges by Dzongkhag


.495 - .76


.33 - .495


.145 - .33


.01 - .145


.515 - .74


.345 - .515


.135 - .345


.02 - .135


Source: Based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report 2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007.


Female-headed households


All households




38 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


an orange producer is higher for the poorest house-
holds, and thus the poorest farmers are more likely to
benefit from trade liberalization or facilitation. Further,
there are only minor differences between female- and
male-headed households, which points to the fact
that in principle there is no apparent gender bias in
the gains from trade.


Figure 7 shows that the probability of being an orange
producer is roughly similar for households with both
different numbers of females and different shares of
females. As with potatoes, trade liberalization or fa-
cilitation would bring similar benefits to households,
regardless of the number of females in the household.


Figure 8 shows that orange production is concentrat-
ed in the south-east of the country. Note that orange
production is regionally more scattered than potato
production. The bottom panel of figure 8 illustrates
the regional distribution of female-headed orange
producers, which is similar to the pattern observed at
the national level.


Apples


Apples were initially introduced in Bhutan in 1960 and
the country started exporting small quantities to India
in 1970. In 1980, the apple boom began and in the
1990s, new varieties of apples with good harvest po-
tential were researched (Royal Government of Bhutan
1999b).


There are distinctive features in the correlation of
the probability of being an apple producer and vari-
ous gender characteristics of the household. Figure
9 shows that, unlike with potatoes and oranges, the


probability of being an apple producer increases with
per capita expenditure. In fact, the probability tends to
be zero at the left tail and reaches around 30 per cent
for female-headed households and to almost 20 per
cent for male-headed households at the right tail. This
indicates that an expansion of apple export is likely to
benefit both poor and non-poor households, but non-
poor households are likely to benefit relatively more
than poor households.


The left panel of figure 10 reveals another interesting
feature of apple production: the probability of being
an apple producer increases with the number of fe-
males in the household. For instance, while a rural
household with no females has a 10 per cent prob-
ability of being an apple producer, a household with
8–10 females is twice as likely to be an apple produc-
er. In principle, apple exports are a potential source of
gains for females. The right panel of figure 10 shows
that the correlation with the share of females also in-
creases, but less markedly.


Figure 11 shows the percentage of households pro-
ducing apples and the percentage of female-headed
households producing apples across districts. Pro-
duction is relatively scattered across the territory and
no obvious regional pattern can be discerned, except
perhaps that little apple production takes place in the
southernmost part of the country.


Paddy rice


The analysis will now switch to imports. Although al-
most 75 per cent of farming households are engaged
in rice production, 74 per cent of the consumption


Figure 9. Apple producers and per capita expenditures


Rural Urban




0


.1


.2


.3


Pr
ob


ab
ili


ty
o


f b
ei


ng
a


pp
le


p
ro


du
ce


r


5 6 7 8 9 10


log per capita consumption




0


.02


.04


.06


.08


.1


Pr
ob


ab
ili


ty
o


f b
ei


ng
a


pp
le


p
ro


du
ce


r


6 8 10 12


log per capita consumption


Female headed Male headed Total Female headed Male headed Total


Source: Based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report 2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007




39TRADE LIBERALIZATION OR FACILITATION, FEMALE EMPLOYMENT AND WELFARE IN BHUTAN


Figure 10. Apple producers and women




.05


.1


.15


.2


Pr
ob


ab
ili


ty
o


f b
ei


ng
a


pp
le


p
ro


du
ce


r


0 2 4 6 8 10


Number of females in household




.04


.06


.08


.1


.12


Pr
ob


ab
ili


ty
o


f b
ei


ng
A


pp
le


p
ro


du
ce


r


0 .2 .4 .6 .8 1


share of females in household


Rural Urban Total Rural Urban Total


Source: Based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report 2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007.


Figure 11. Percentage of households producing apples by Dzongkhag


.105 - .44


.055 - .105


.02 - .055


.01 - .02


.18 - .53


.065 - .18


.02 - .065


.0 - .02


Source: Based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report 2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007.


Female-headed households


All households




40 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


of rice in Bhutan’s urban areas is made of imported
Indian white rice.19 The fact that domestic supply of
rice does not satisfy the rising demand, thus leading
to increasing rice imports, can be explained by dif-
ferent factors. First, the shortage of arable land and
the low productivity of farm labour contribute to low
supply, relative to demand. Second, pest damage
from boars, monkeys and other animals is large, with
losses ranging from 18–71 per cent of the value of
the crop (Tobgay and McCullough 2008). This also
increases labour requirements to look after the crop,
especially at night. A comparison of per unit costs of
production of different agricultural crops in Bhutan
with India and Bangladesh (Deb 2004) revealed that
yields as well as per unit variable costs of production
of irrigated rice in some localities such as Paro and
Tongsa were comparable to India and Bangladesh.
However, in most of the locations, rice production in
Bhutan was not internationally competitive. Therefore,
rice continues to be a major Bhutanese import.


Under the assumption that trade liberalization or fa-
cilitation should likely cause a decline in the price of
rice, net producers would be hurt while net consumers
would be better off. As before, there is not enough
information to identify net producers. Identifying net
buyers is instead feasible when assuming that they
need to purchase some rice in the market (they are
thus allowed to produce something at home but not
to sell in the market if they are buying at the same
time; in other words, identification is possible when
assuming that a net buyer who buys in the market is
not selling). Net buyers enjoy a gain from lower prices
only on the amount purchased on the market, not on
the amount which is home produced, assuming that
home production is valued at market prices. Conse-
quently, budget shares of purchased rice can be used
as a measure of exposure to import liberalization. This
study, therefore, describes the impacts on consumers
but not on producers.


In both urban and rural households, rice expenditures
represent a large share of Bhutanese household to-
tal expenditure, especially among the poor. Figure
12 shows that the rice budget share at the left tail
of the income distribution is approximately 10 per
cent in both urban and rural areas. As expected, the
share spent on rice sharply declines with the level of
household well-being. As far as net consumers are
concerned, it follows that lower rice prices will have a


pro-poor bias. Figure 13 depicts the relationship be-
tween the share of purchased rice and the number of
females in the households. In principle, households
with more women tend to allocate a lower share of
their expenditure to purchased rice, especially in ur-
ban areas; therefore, these households will enjoy low-
er gains from trade liberalization or facilitation in rice.
This association is not too strong, however.


Figure 12. Rice share in total consumption and log
of per capita expenditure


Source: Based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report
2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007.




0


.02


.04


.06


.08


.1


6 8 10 12


log per capita expenditure


Sh
ar


e
of


ri
ce


Rural Urban


Figure 13. Rice share in total consumption and log
of females


Source: Based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report
2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007.




.01


.02


.03


.04


.05


0 2 4 6 8 10


Number of females in hh


Rural Urban


Sh
ar


e
of


ri
ce




41TRADE LIBERALIZATION OR FACILITATION, FEMALE EMPLOYMENT AND WELFARE IN BHUTAN


4.1.3. Broadening the scope of the analysis to
non-trade concerns


Up to now, the analysis has been premised on consid-
erations of income. Intangible values and assets as-
sociated with natural, social and cultural capitals were
somewhat discounted in the analysis. Questions now
arise as to how to reconcile a focus on dynamic export
crops with considerations of food security, equitable
development, biodiversity conservation and cultural
heritage. This section briefly assesses these trade-re-
lated concerns in the context of Bhutan’s agricultural
diversification strategy and sketches some elements
of a holistic approach that attempts to strike a balance
between dynamic and traditional sectors.


Food security


As discussed previously, Bhutan currently depends
on rice for its consumption needs. Although almost 75
per cent of farming households are engaged in rice
production, 74 per cent of the rice consumed in Bhu-
tan’s urban areas is white rice imported from India.
Wheat imports are relatively small and the country is
self-sufficient in maize.


As discussed earlier, net consumers would benefit
from welfare gains deriving from a further liberaliza-
tion of rice imports, for example, the reduction of MFN
tariffs. Yet, the potential benefits of lower rice prices
through imports interact with a concern about food
self-sufficiency. While food policy objectives in Bhutan
have shifted over time, with a progressive move from
food self-sufficiency to food security (Peljor and Minot
2010), the 2007–08 global food crisis has highlighted
some of the risks of relying on food imports, leading
to renewed interest in staple grain self-sufficiency in
Bhutan.


In Bhutan, diversification from low-value staple crops,
such as maize and rice, into higher-value export com-
modities, such as orange, potato, and apples, seem-
ingly involves some form of land diversion. While the
share of cereals accounted for 75 per cent of the
cropped area in 2000, it dropped to 59 per cent of
the cropped area in 2008. The share of cereals in the
value of production fell from 59 per cent to 42 per cent
between 2000 and 2008. The livestock population
is reported to be on the decline as well, and its im-
portance compared with crop agriculture has seem-
ingly decreased over the 2000–2008 period (Pradhan,
Dewina and Minten 2010).20 This trend raises some
concerns not only about food security, but also about
equitable development, biodiversity conservation and
cultural heritage.


Equitable and inclusive socio-economic
development


Agriculture diversification into high-value export
crops, while inducing a new dynamism to the econo-
my, is likely to accentuate inequalities of income and
wealth. Research by Pradhan, Dewina and Minten
(2010) finds that richer farmers are better able to di-
versify their sales in a larger number of crops than
poorer ones. Indeed, given the labour requirements,
costs and risks associated with horticultural produc-
tion, very few farmers are able to specialize fully in
horticulture, although many can produce some fruits
and vegetables in addition to their cereal crops. Data
from the Renewable Natural Resource Census 2009
show that the larger farmers are mainly involved in fruit
cultivation, as 80 per cent of the land devoted to or-
chards is held by farmers in the highest land quintile
(Dukpa and Minten 2010). This finding was confirmed
earlier with regard to apples, whereas it yields oppo-
site conclusions for potatoes and oranges. However,
the analysis offers a static picture: as trade becomes
more sophisticated, only the more dynamic elements
would likely be able to compete.


The strong emphasis on equity and social harmony in
the gross national happiness paradigm points to the
need for reconciling economic dynamism and social
inclusiveness. This can be readily achieved by means
of redistributive policies and processes that lead to
equitable outcomes, as spelled out in the policy rec-
ommendations.


Traditional knowledge and biological
conservation


In a number of countries, land diversion into export
crop production has eroded the ongoing cultivation of
domestic/extant/farmers’ varieties, reduced biodiver-
sity and has had an effect on the traditional knowledge
associated with local staple food production. Overall,
agricultural diversification into high-value export crops
and the shift from subsistence to commercial agricul-
ture typically occur in parallel with the erosion of the
distinctiveness of traditional agrarian systems. Given
the unique biodiversity and ecosystems that are found
in Bhutan, as well as the invaluable cultural heritage
associated with its traditional agrarian society, this is-
sue deserves special consideration.


A strategy geared to agriculture diversification and
commercialization in Bhutan should thus be cautious-
ly designed so as not to encroach with the attainment
of sustainable and equitable socio-economic devel-




42 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


opment, the conservation of the environment, and
the preservation and promotion of cultural heritage.
The integration of these non-trade concerns calls for
a holistic approach that attempts to strike a balance
and eventually unleash synergies between dynamic
export sectors and traditional ones. The aim is to dy-
namize the traditional sector, that is, to preserve it, but
in a more sophisticated way that conjugates elements
of tradition and innovation. Beyond tariff protection21
and productive investment in staple food production,
a key component of this dynamization strategy is to
identify high-value niches within the traditional sec-
tor, and to establish synergies and complementarities
with other dynamic activities. A number of high-value
niche products can be targeted as source of liveli-
hood for disadvantaged rural people and as export
commodities, for example, the collection and sale of
mushrooms, medicinal plants and plants for the ex-
traction of essential oils. The production of traditional
paper and natural dyes, as well as many cottage and
handicrafts industries, also rely on the traditional ag-
riculture and forestry sectors for their raw materials.
Low-impact, high-value ecotourism, particularly if
community based, can also be a strategic component
of a holistic strategy aimed at dynamizing the tradi-
tional agriculture sector.


The challenge is to operationalize linkages and build
entrepreneurial and even export capacity. This may be
possibly done by implementing a strategy based on
geographical indication or even trademark protection,
in the context of strategic alliances between produc-
er associations (built around appellation areas) and
large off-takers (traders, specialized wholesalers and
retailers) (UNCTAD 2008). In this respect, in high-in-
come countries, customers (consumers and tourists)
are increasingly willing to pay for symbolic product at-
tributes (Daviron and Ponte 2005) based on intangible
assets and values that are typically associated with
cultural heritage and the conservation of biodiversity.
By capitalizing on its traditional production systems,
Bhutan could strategically position itself in this area,
which would also allow the country to translate some
sources of competitive disadvantage, for example,
the low adoption level of modern technologies such
as chemical fertilizers and plant protection chemicals,
into a comparative advantage (organic farming).


A related critical issue, in terms of cultural heritage
and biodiversity conservation, is to favour agro-eco-
logical research and local breeding tailored to local
conditions, and geared to conserving and improving


plant genetic resources. Any yield-improvement strat-
egy should also be premised on the use of technolo-
gies with minimal environmental impact. As discussed
above, Bhutan should continue to operate within the
broad principles of organic agriculture – an important
source of potential comparative advantage.


4.2. HYDROPOWER RESOURCES AND THE
MINERAL SECTOR


4.2.1. Hydropower resources


The hydropower sector itself can neither generate sig-
nificant employment for women nor backward linkage
effects within the economy. Indeed, only 1.1 per cent
of the total population works in this sector, 0.4 per cent
of which are women (Royal Government of Bhutan
2009a). All capital goods related to the construction
of hydropower plants must be imported. There are
nonetheless some important gender-specific aspects
to consider.


First, women would indirectly benefit from the expan-
sion of this sector, via government spending and
spillovers. In 2009, electricity accounted for 42.1 per
cent of total export earnings, or $208 million. In the
fiscal year 2008-09, the sector contributed 40.4 per
cent of total governmental revenue through corporate
income tax and profit transfers (Royal Government of
Bhutan 2009c). Also, the availability of cheap electric-
ity inputs has led to the development of certain power-
intensive industries such as cement-based operations
(Shi 2009) – a further source of government revenues.
Well-managed public spending can be translated into
high quality public services that can benefit the whole
population and in particular women.


Second, improved access to electricity would lessen
the burdens on women who rely on biomass fuels,
such as wood, charcoal and agricultural residues.
Collecting traditional fuels is indeed a physically
draining and time-consuming task, disproportionably
incumbent on women. As poor rural women spend
much of each day indoors at the cooking fire, the
use of these traditional fuels also raises public health
concerns (UNDP 2005). More generally, modern en-
ergy services would help women meet their practi-
cal needs (using electric pumps to get underground
water, for example), their productive needs (women’s
microenterprises are often heat intensive as in food
processing and/or light intensive as in home-based
cottage industries in which work is carried out often




43TRADE LIBERALIZATION OR FACILITATION, FEMALE EMPLOYMENT AND WELFARE IN BHUTAN


in the evenings), and their strategic needs (using the
radio or the Internet for distance learning, information-
sharing, marketing, advocacy and coalition-building).
All of this would have crucial, though indirect effects
on women’s employment. According to findings from
the Bhutan Living Standard Survey 2007 (Royal Gov-
ernment of Bhutan, 2007), almost 73 per cent of all
households have access to electricity. However, there
is unsatisfied demand among 39.7 per cent of the ru-
ral population. There are plans to remediate this by
2020 with the Rural Electrification Master Plan, which
will provide “electricity for all”.


4.2.2. The mineral sector


The endowment of mineral-related resources has fa-
cilitated the growth of a mineral-based industry that
generates significant export proceeds (Shi 2009).
However, mining and quarrying contributed to only
2.3 per cent of GDP in 2008 (see table 1). More im-
portantly, for the purposes of this study, the sector of-
fers little direct employment opportunities, especially
for women. Only 0.2 per cent of the workforce is in
mining; in manufacturing, employment in cement-
related industries is also negligible. As in the case
of hydropower resources, there will not be sizeable
quantifiable impacts on female employment. How-
ever, indirect effects through increased governmental
revenues and expanded public services may be im-
portant. Their assessment goes beyond the scope of
the present report.


4.3. MANUFACTURES AND TOURISM


For the sake of completeness, this section inves-
tigates two promising sectors for the Bhutanese
economy: manufactures and tourism. As with electric-
ity and cement, the available data do not present a
meaningful quantification of the likely impacts of trade
liberalization or facilitation. Nevertheless, the descrip-
tion of these sectors is important because they are a
potential source of growth.


4.3.1. Manufactures


The Bhutanese manufacturing sector has undergone
significant changes in the past few decades. Before
the 1960s, manufacturing was mostly a household
activity based on products such as handicrafts, wood
and bamboo products, where production was carried
out on a small scale. Since then, the number of indus-
tries has expanded steadily and nowadays, the sector


is dominated by a small number of major operators,
some of which are involved in processing Bhutan’s
agricultural production.


On aggregate, only 4.7 per cent of total Bhutanese
employment was in the manufacturing sector in 2009
(see table 3). At first glance, this may indicate that
trade liberalization or facilitation will have only small
impacts at the national level. The Bhutan Living Stand-
ard Survey 2007 (Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007)
contains information on the distribution of employ-
ment by main occupation and by gender in manufac-
tures (see table 17). Almost half – 47 per cent – of
manufacturing employment is in textiles. This sector
is especially important for women: 85.7 per cent of
all women employed in the manufacturing sector are
in the textile sector. However, textiles comprise only a
negligible share (0.95 per cent) of Bhutanese exports.
In comparison, males are more evenly employed and
are concentrated in the glass, furniture, and wood-
products sectors. These are not, however, trade-fo-
cused sectors.


The analysis in this section has offered an aggre-
gate and static picture that does not fully capture the
strong dynamic potential of discrete segments and
industries within the sector.


In particular, the textile handicraft industry could ex-
pand significantly in Bhutan if certain conditions were
met. It would first be necessary to establish intellectual
property protection for the traditional textile designs.
The challenge will also be to establish linkages with
strategic off-takers in global supply-chains (branded
retailers, specialized wholesalers and traders). Finally,
while handicraft textile would enter the EU duty free
under the Everything But Arms Initiative, Bhutan would
need to seek tariff reductions to access other markets,
including the United States. The textile handicraft sec-
tor has important gender-specific aspects, as weav-
ing is closely associated with women and is the only
one of Bhutan’s traditional arts and crafts that is domi-
nated by women.


Beyond textile handicrafts, agro-processing industries
also have significant potential in Bhutan, particularly
if linkages with the tourism sector are operational-
ized, for example, food supplies to hotels or catering
for meetings and workshops. This will be contingent
on the ability of local suppliers to meet stringent food
safety and quality standards, in addition to require-
ments for timely deliveries, as well as quantity and
consistency of delivery.




44 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


Table 17. Main sectors in manufacturing and related trade


Sectors
Female Male Total Exports Imports


Persons % Persons % Persons % Value (dollars) %
Value


(dollars) %


Spinning, weaving and
finishing of textiles


4,711 85.64 89 1.90 4,800 47.08 1,263,220 0.95 3,227,790 2.86


Glass and glass
products


152 2.76 1,045 22.26 1,197 11.74 1,449,637 1.09 4,708,425 4.17


Furniture 38 0.69 890 18.96 928 9.10 811,377 0.61 500,485 4.43


Products of wood,
cork, straw and plaiting
materials


68 1.24 495 10.54 563 5.52 19,146 0.02


Basic chemicals 79 1.44 359 7.65 438 4.30 539 0.00 88,019 0.08


Beverages 79 1.44 183 3.90 262 2.57 3,644,535 2.73 7,909,184 7.01


Sawmilling and planing
of wood


10 0.18 212 4.52 222 2.18


Basic iron and steel 40 0.73 150 3.19 190 1.86 123,252,735 92.33 49,387,370 43.76


Office, accounting and
computing machines


52 0.95 116 2.47 168 1.65 239,222 0.21


Casting of metals 0 0.00 119 2.53 119 1.17 3,803 0.00 854,751 0.76


Medical appliances and
instruments


26 0.47 91 1.94 117 1.15 4,818,924 4.27


Printing and service
activities related to
printing


13 0.24 91 1.94 104 1.02


Rubber products 52 0.95 52 1.11 104 1.02 3,049,273 2.28 21,295,728 18.87


Television and radio
transmitters


26 0.47 73 1.55 99 0.97 13,560,487 12.02


Other textiles 13 0.24 67 1.43 80 0.78 5,280 0.00 500,610 0.44


Not elsewhere classified 12 0.22 53 1.13 65 0.64 13,937 0.01 1,248,618 1.11


Other manufacture 130 2.36 610 12.99 740 7.26


Total 5,501 100.00 4,695 100.00 10,196 100.00 133,494,336 100.00 112,858,759 100.00


Source: Estimation based on the Bhutan Living Standard Survey Report 2007, Royal Government of Bhutan, 2007,
and the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database.


4.3.2. Tourism


Tourism is a rapidly growing services sector for Bhutan,
and has significant potential in terms of generating for-
eign exchange and employment, particularly for women.


In terms of earnings, tourism has always been an im-
portant source of hard currency for Bhutan. By 1996 it
was the sixth largest producer of revenue for the country,
and the third largest foreign exchange earner. Earnings
from tourism were $1.67 million in 1985, almost $6.0 mil-
lion in 1996, and $38.8 million in 2008, representing 2.9
per cent of Bhutan’s GDP in 2008. Tourism earnings are
also transferred to local communities for repairing and
maintaining trekking trails and supporting trekking-relat-


ed activities. Tourism also has a positive effect on rural
employment, since guides, drivers, office staff, hotel and
catering employees are often recruited among the rural
population.


A survey on tourism in Bhutan presents evidence of a
large proportion of women in employment (UNCTAD
2007), supporting the view that women may benefit from
the expansion of tourism. The promotion of community-
based tourism and forms of ecotourism is also viewed
as an effective catalyst for poverty reduction, promotion
of cultural heritage and environmental protection in rural
areas (Royal Government of Bhutan, 2009b). Like tex-
tiles, tourism remains as a source of potential gains from
trade.




45TRADE LIBERALIZATION OR FACILITATION, FEMALE EMPLOYMENT AND WELFARE IN BHUTAN


NOTES


17 This box is based on the framework developed by Nicita 2009.


18 These graphs were derived using the local polynomial regressions of Fan (1992, 1993). See also Pagan and
Ullah (1999).


19 There are some differences in price and quality between red rice, which is a nutritious and traditional compo-
nent of the Bhutanese diet, and white rice, which is cheaper and readily available.


20 The Fifth and the Sixth Five-Year Plans (1981–86 and 1987–92) called for self-sufficiency in staple foods, the
Seventh Five-Year Plan (1992–97) still advocated self-sufficiency, but also recognized that it might not be a
realistic goal, the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1997–2002) shifted its focus on food security, though it called for the
value of agricultural exports to exceed the value of agricultural imports. In 2007, the Bhutan National Food
Security Strategy Paper adopted the definition of food security from the 1996 World Food Summit. Food
self-sufficiency refers to the ability to meet consumption needs, particularly for staple food crops, from own
production rather than by buying or importing. According to a widely accepted definition, food security is
achieved when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious
food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life (Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations, 1996).


21 Tariff protection could be conveniently used in a focused way, for example to transitionally protect sectors
where Bhutan is building its comparative advantage. In the mid-term, this strategy should strive to establish
conditions for self-sustaining growth.






V


Policy
recommendations




48 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


Drawing on the previous analysis, this chapter makes
some policy recommendations. As discussed, there
appears to be little or no gender bias in the gains
from trade. Available data reveal an absence of the
feminization of poverty in Bhutan. Accordingly, policy
recommendations tend to be gender-neutral, except
when specific gender issues need to be mentioned.


5.1. OVERCOMING SUPPLY-SIDE
OBSTACLES AND ENHANCING
EXPORT COMPETITIVENESS


Critical supply-side constraints hinder Bhutan’s ex-
port competitiveness. The ability to benefit for market
access will be contingent on overcoming these key
supply-side obstacles. From a policymaking perspec-
tive, this calls for the mobilization of internal resources
(transfer of resources within the economy, across sec-
tors) and the pooling and alignment of external funds.


In terms of domestic resource mobilization, a key is-
sue is sustained growth in other sectors of the econ-
omy (hydropower) and transfer of resources within
the economy, across sectors. Special credit lines to
agriculture through public programmes or state banks
would also contribute to channel funds to the sector.
Public investment would need to be targeted carefully,
favouring productive investment in strategic physical
infrastructures, quality assurance and traceability sys-
tems (including organic labels), and suited innovation
(research and development) and extension systems
supportive of ecological agriculture.


Turning to international development cooperation, a
number of Aid for Trade initiatives, including the En-
hanced Integrated Framework, can catalyse devel-
opment assistance in support of Bhutan’s efforts to
develop the basic economic infrastructure and tools
the country needs to promote export trade and diver-
sification. Enhanced South–South cooperation could
also play a useful role in strengthening research and
development, particularly in agriculture. The key chal-
lenge is to align aid flows to the priorities expressed in
Bhutan’s sectoral strategies.


…with due attention to gender-specific issues


There is some scattered evidence of gender biases
in access to extension layouts and other supply ser-
vices. It will be important to integrate gender consid-
erations in the design and implementation of support
schemes, not to have mute supply-side response to
policy incentives. In practice, this gender focus will re-
quire the inclusion of gender when planning extension


layouts and other support services. This will involve
the use of more inclusive, participatory approaches
when assessing needs: for example, women can work
with the extension workers to evolve appropriate tech-
nologies that will ease their workload.


…and to Bhutan’s unique biodiversity and
special ecosystems


Bhutan has a strategic commercial interest in preserv-
ing its still dominant organic farming systems. Ac-
cordingly, any yield-improvement strategy will have
to take into account all possible negative externalities
associated with the erosion of Bhutan’s natural capi-
tal, and take preventive and corrective action. A major
concern should be to strengthen ecologically based
agricultural practices supportive of Bhutan’s unique
biodiversity and special ecosystems.


At the domestic level, this calls for public support (by
means of structured incentives and disincentives)
for alternative technologies that minimize damaging
effects on the environment, such as biological pest
management and composting. It would also be im-
perative to establish the legal and technical infra-
structure needed for the implementation of a credible
national organic standards and certification scheme.
The enactment of an effective sui generis law for the
protection of plant varieties should also figure promi-
nently on the agenda of policy-makers. While accord-
ing specific privileges to commercial breeders, an
effective sui generis legal system relating to the pro-
tection of plant varieties should also provide for cus-
tomary farmers’ rights (to save, reuse and exchange
farm-saved seeds and propagating material from
protected varieties). In addition to farmers’ welfare,
this will contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity,
which has traditionally occurred through the process
of on-farm experimentation.


At the international level, more aid should be made
available to strengthen ecological farming methods
and infrastructure, and support the implementation
of national organic schemes. At the same time, there
needs to be a full operationalization of the flexibilities
enshrined in relevant multilateral disciplines, so as to
allow some policy space to differentiate between con-
ventional versus organic products. Finally, the flexibil-
ity provided for in the TRIPS Agreement (requiring an
effective sui generis system for plant variety protec-
tion) should not be diluted by forcing acceding coun-
tries to adopt systems similar to those devised by the
International Union for the Protection of New Varieties
of Plants or allowing patentability of plant varieties.




49POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS


5.2. MEETING MARKET ACCESS AND
MARKET ENTRY REqUIREMENTS


A number of high-value niche products can be tar-
geted as source of livelihood for rural people, and
as export commodities: for example, handmade
textile and other handicraft manufactures, as well as
forest-based products, such as mushrooms, medici-
nal plants, and plants for the extraction of essential
oils. These niche sectors could provide employment
for women and build upon their traditional knowledge.
However, a number of market access or entry issues
arise on the demand side. On the supply side, the
ability to benefit from market access or entry will then
be contingent on overcoming supply-side obstacles
and build entrepreneurial and export capacity.


Tariff barriers – Tariffs are not a major issue, as
Bhutan enjoys free trade with India and preferential
trade with Bangladesh and other SAFTA countries, as
well as duty-free access (all goods except arms) to
the EU and, to a more limited extent, to the United
States and Canada. However, the impact of certain
preferential schemes was limited by exclusion from
their product coverage of items of export interest to
Bhutan. Under the preference scheme of the United
States, in particular, some textile manufactures could
not qualify as GSP-eligible articles. Bhutan may wish
to follow closely the extension of the U.S. Generalized
System of Preferences programme, and seek duty-
free treatment for its certified textile handicraft prod-
ucts (eventually under GSP-certified textile handicraft
arrangements).


Non-tariff barriers – In spite of low or preferential
tariffs, Bhutan’s exporters would still face, in many
sectors and industries, obstacles in the markets of
destination, due to burdensome legal and administra-
tive conditions imposed by the importing countries. In
particular, compliance with technical barriers to trade
and sanitary and phytosanitary measures has be-
come a major challenge for exporters from develop-
ing countries, particularly in relation to dynamic, non-
traditional commodity sectors (e.g. horticulture and
fisheries). To some extent, the recent surge in this type
of non-tariff barriers has offset the commercial signifi-
cance of negotiated tariff reductions. Compliance with
these requirements can be particularly challenging for
women, due to gender gaps (e.g. in education) and
gender biases (seemingly, in the delivery of support
services). There is a pressing need, particularly for the
LDCs, to enhance their ability to adapt and respond
to changing requirements in export markets. This is


challenging, especially since these requirements are
continuously evolving (e.g. pesticide regulations).
Mobilizing Aid for Trade is critically important to boost
ability to adapt on the supply side. There is also a
pressing need to achieve a greater degree of clarity,
predictability and information about non-tariff barriers
through the full and meaningful operationalization of
the transparency provisions enshrined in the relevant
WTO Agreements.


Market entry barriers – Besides market access bar-
riers – tariffs and non-tariff barriers – Bhutan will most
likely face a number of actual market entry barriers
that stem from the structural characteristics of sup-
ply chains and markets. These impediments include
important structural (for example, sunk costs and
economies of scale) and behavioural barriers, such as
access to distribution channels and the abuse of mar-
ket power by incumbent firms, which severely hinder a
new competitor’s ability to enter new export markets.
Critical to overcome these barriers are policy options
and models for integrating Bhutanese small agricul-
tural producers in supply chains in a sustainable man-
ner. A number of models of organized supply chains
have been relatively successful in integrating small
producers into new supply chains. These include out-
grower schemes, supermarket and off-taker-driven
supply chains, as well as supply chains facilitated by
non-profit organizations (UNCTAD 2006). By linking
small producers to a guaranteed buyer who will also
supply inputs, know-how, equipment and finance,
these schemes can help Bhutanese farmers integrate
into global supply chains and reach global markets.
Given its distinctive development strategy (gross na-
tional happiness paradigm), Bhutan may particularly
wish to link with fair-trade schemes and organic labels
(non-profit-organization-facilitated supply chains, but
also, and increasingly, retailers’ brands).


5.3. TRADE-RELATED ASPECTS
OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY:
A PRODUCT DIFFERENTIATION
STRATEGY BASED ON INTELLECTUAL
PROPERTY


In high-income countries, customers (consumers and
tourists) are increasingly willing to pay for symbolic
product attributes based on intangible assets and val-
ues (Daviron and Ponte 2005). These are typically as-
sociated with cultural heritage and the conservation of
biodiversity. By capitalizing on its image, Bhutan could
gain brand identification and strategically position itself




50 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


in high-value markets. This may be done by imple-
menting a strategy based on geographical indication
or even trademark protection through strategic allianc-
es between producer associations built around appel-
lation areas and large off-takers, for example, traders,
specialized wholesalers and retailers (UNCTAD 2008).
To the extent that gender contributes to gaining market
recognition, gender should be an integral component
of this strategy.


Both geographical indication and trademarks can be
used as a source of niche marketing to identify prod-
ucts of Bhutanese origin. Geographical indications
consist of place names, or words associated with a
place. Trademarks may consist of names, figurative
elements, colours and different signs that combine
the characteristic attributes of the product with crafts,
music or other expressions of folklore from the country
of origin. In practice, the effectiveness of this strategy
is largely a matter of consumer perception (UNCTAD
2008). Geographical indications are essentially mar-
keting tools: they function if they are understood by
consumers to denote the origin and the quality of
products, and if this distinctiveness translates into a
price premium. Similarly, whether a sign functions as
a trademark is a matter of consumer perception and
high advertising budgets are necessary for promoting
brand recognition in consumer markets. Involvement
of external actors, such as industrial processors and
branded consumer goods companies domiciled in the
consuming countries, can help to penetrate consumer
consciousness, as well as to meet the costs associ-
ated with legal protection. In this respect, trademark
protection is particularly complex and costly because
of the requirement to register separately with each na-
tional or regional office where protection is sought. In
addition, geographical indications would need to be
legally protected to avoid misuse, for example, the
false use of geographical indications by unauthorized
parties. These requirements can be more easily met
within the framework of strategic alliances between
producer associations organized around appellation
areas and the off-takers domiciled in the consumer
countries.


Geographical indications and trademarks are inher-
ently different. Whereas the former may be used by all
producers who make their products in the place des-
ignated by a geographical indication and whose prod-
ucts share typical qualities, the latter gives its owner
the right to exclude all others from using it and to li-
cense its use in return for royalty payments. Further-


more, geographical indications, unlike trademarks, do
not trigger royalty payments.


5.4. PROMOTING EqUITABLE AND
INCLUSIVE OUTCOMES IN
EXPORT-LED STRATEGIES


The analysis points to the welfare gains that would
accrue from trade expansion in major crop exports –
potatoes, oranges and apples. In some instances –
oranges and potatoes – export trade seems to have
pro-poor and equalizing impacts. Expansion strategies
of cash crops, however, may also accentuate inequali-
ties of income and wealth. Some evidence of this can
be found in the apple trade. Given the labour require-
ments, costs and risks associated with horticultural
production, especially if conducted on a large scale
for export purposes, only the richest farmers may be
able to specialize in it. Moreover, there will most likely
be a tendency for buyers to source from large-scale
growers that are easier to coordinate and monitor. The
strong emphasis on equity and social harmony in the
gross national happiness paradigm points to the need
to reconcile economic dynamism and social inclusive-
ness. Diversification strategies in agricultural produc-
tion must, therefore, include instruments for redistribu-
tive policies and address the specific difficulties that
the poorer farmers face in reaping commercial op-
portunities. Strengthening producers’ organizations or
clusters should appear prominently on the agenda as
a means to overcome supply-side obstacles faced by
small farmers.


Price transmission along the domestic chain is also an
issue. For example, if a geographical-indication strate-
gy is implemented (see above), producers would need
to control the extra value unlocked by geographical-
indication recognition, that is, the premium price. Giv-
en that producers tend to be illiterate and vulnerable
– more than 87 per cent of women heading households
in rural areas have no formal schooling – it is likely that
this extra value would be appropriated by downstream
actors, from intermediaries to exporters to interna-
tional traders, with no significant transmission back
to producers. The extent to which export benefits are
reaped by producers, rather than taken by middlemen
or other categories, ultimately depends on the relative
bargaining power of small producers in their relation
with downstream agents, from middlemen to export-
ers. Promoting producers’ organizations and ensuring
effective extension services, particularly market infor-
mation services, would help empower producers. In a




51POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS


broader sense, however, there is a pressing need for
improvements in education and skill accumulation, es-
pecially for rural women.


5.5. PRESERVING LOCAL CAPACITY FOR
STAPLE FOOD PRODUCTION:
TRADE-RELATED POLICIES


Drawing on a theoretical model, the analysis finds that
further liberalization of rice imports, that is, a reduction
in MFN tariffs, would benefit net consumers. Since the
share spent on rice sharply declines with the level of
household well-being, lower rice prices would have a
pro-poor bias, as far as net consumers are concerned.
The erosion of preferential margins and diversification
of import sources would also reduce exposure to a sin-
gle market, such as India.


The major drawback of this analysis is that it does
not quantify welfare impacts on net producers. Also,
the analysis tends to discount considerations of food
security and other non-trade concerns. The 2007–08
global food crisis highlighted some of the risks of re-
liance on international trade to meet food needs at
the expense of stock holding. According to the Food
Price Index of the Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations, global food prices shot up to a
nominal record in January 2011, surpassing the levels
of the 2007–08 food crisis. In a context of tight sup-
plies, changing weather patterns and rising demand
in emerging economies, Bhutan may wish to preserve
some capacity for domestic production. Tariff regimes,
agricultural investments and market exploration repre-
sent policy tools that may be used by Bhutan to recon-
cile food security and agricultural modernization and
diversification strategies.


Tariffs – In negotiating tariff bindings, Bhutan may wish
to keep the bound tariff rates appreciably higher than
the currently applied rate, particularly with respect to
very sensitive products in terms of gender and food se-
curity. This tariff headroom will leave the country with a
considerable amount of flexibility when designing do-
mestic protection schemes aimed at empowering ru-
ral women and promoting livelihood security and rural
development (Tobgay 2006). In this respect, it should
be noted that WTO member States agreed to observe
restraint in seeking concessions and commitments
on goods and services from LDCs that were negotiat-
ing membership (WTO General Council Decision, 10
December 2002). Once its accession has been com-
pleted, as an LDC, Bhutan will be exempted from tariff-
reduction commitments under the WTO Agreement


on Agriculture. In practice, however, Bhutan may be
obliged to actively engage in negotiations to receive
the privileges enjoyed by the existing LDC members.


Domestic support – An alternative or complemen-
tary approach to tariff protection would be to increase
yields in staple food production through productive in-
vestment in agriculture. Key support elements would
include rural infrastructural services, adaptive research
in the areas of food crops and livestock, and extension
layouts in the areas of training, advisory services, pest
and disease control, variety and breed improvement,
fodder grassland and pasture development (Tobgay


2006). Relevant multilateral disciplines, such as the
Agreement on Agriculture, would allow considerable
leeway for implementing domestic support schemes in
favour of farmers, including rural women. The Agree-
ment would not put any restrictions on the use of
measures that do not or only marginally distort trade,
such as research and development, extension outlays,
rural infrastructural services and regional assistance
programmes. Such measures fall under the green
box in WTO jargon, and are exempted from reduction
commitments. Other relevant trade policy measures,
including subsidization of inputs and price-support
schemes, would qualify as trade-distortive measures,
or amber-box measures, normally subject to reduction
commitments. However, as an LDC, Bhutan would be
exempted from taking reduction commitments. In the
event of graduation from LDC status, some of these
measures, for example, non-product specific agricul-
tural input and rural investment subsidies, would con-
tinue to be permissible under the development-box ex-
emption granted to developing countries (Agreement
on Agriculture, article 6.2). Budget allocations for other
trade-distortive measures, both product- and non-
product-specific, would meet WTO requirements only
within a de minimis threshold: for developing countries,
10 per cent of the value of production of individual
products (product-specific support) or total agricultural
production (non-product-specific support). The prob-
lem is not legal, but financial. This yield-improvement
approach is costly, especially if coupled with subsidi-
zation schemes, which may play a role here, given the
strong pro-poor bias of a strategy geared to subsist-
ence agriculture. Key issues are thus sustained growth
in other sectors of the economy, in particular hydro-
power sector and large-scale energy-intensive indus-
try, and the transfer of resources within the economy,
across sectors.




52 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


Clustering or linkages – Beyond tariff protection and
productive investment in food production, an essential
component of a strategy aimed at empowering sub-
sistence farmers is to identify high-value niches within
the traditional sector (forest-based products) and to
establish synergies and complementarities with other
dynamic activities, for example, community-based ec-
otourism. Gender should be an integral component of
this strategy. Rural women, who form the backbone of
the agricultural labour force, are routinely concerned
with food security and biodiversity. As food providers
and custodians of biodiversity, they can play a catalyt-
ic and pivotal role in modernizing the agriculture sec-
tor in a way that contributes towards the attainment of
equitable socio-economic development and environ-
mental sustainability – two fundamental tenets of the
gross national happiness paradigm.


5.6. RETAINING POLICY SPACE TO ESTAB-
LISH LINKAGES IN TRADE POLICY


The study highlights the importance of clustering and
linkages between sectors and industries within the


economy. For example, it is worth exploring how to link
local agro-processing industries with tourist outlets.
Bhutan may wish to retain the policy space needed
to operationalize these linkages, including by means
of local content requirements. This would include, for
example, the provision of structured incentives to ho-
tels and other tourist outlets to source certain goods
and services locally. This type of measures would be
commercially sound under certain conditions. Most
notably, local suppliers may need to upgrade, in order
to meet the stringent food safety and quality require-
ments imposed by hotels and other tourist outlets.
Turning to legal constraints, the General Agreement
on Trade in Services would allow significant flexibil-
ity to source service inputs locally. However, relevant
disciplines under the Agreement on Trade-Related In-
vestment Measures would likely inhibit local content
and local value added with regard to goods, on the
grounds that it entails discriminatory treatment of im-
ported products in favour of domestic products. Bhu-
tan should carefully assess the policy implications of
these disciplines, and seek clarification when needed.




53REFERENCES


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57APPENDIX 1: ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK


APPENDIX 1: ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK


eh(p,uh,xh) =∑ wj + ∑ðh (p,Ö) + Th + xh
j i i o (1)


This appendix lays out the analytical framework used to assess the impacts of trade liberalization on welfare
and, in particular, on women. This framework builds on the standard agricultural household models of Singh,
Squire and Strauss (1986), Porto (2007), and Brambilla and Porto (2010).


The unit of analysis is the household, denoted by h. To measure welfare changes, the analysis adopts the
approach in Dixit and Norman (1980) and works with the budget constraint of the household. In equilibrium,
household expenditures, including savings, have to be financed with household income, including transfers.
That is,




The expenditure function e(∙) of household h , on the left-hand side, is defined as the minimum expenditure
needed to achieve a given level of household utility uh. It depends on a vector of prices of consumption goods,
p , on the level of utility uh and on other household characteristics, xh, such as household composition.


Income comprises the sum of the wages of all working members j (wj) and the sum of the profits ði made in
different economic activities i. Profits include, for instance, the net income from agricultural production (potatoes,
oranges, apples, rice) or farm enterprises. They depend on prices, technical change and key household char-


acteristics such as gender (summarized by Ö). Note that profits are defined as sales net of purchases of inputs


so that some of the effects caused by protection on inputs or intermediate goods can be captured by ði. In (1),
Th measures transfers (public or private), saving and other unmeasured factor returns. Finally, exogenous in-
come xh is added for technical reasons.


It is evident from equation (1) that household welfare depends on equilibrium variables such as prices and
wages that affect household choices and on household endowments. For instance, household consumption
depends on the prices of consumer goods and household income depends on the labour endowment (skilled,
unskilled), the wage rate, and the prices of key outputs. Therefore, changes in commodity prices affect welfare
directly via consumption and production decisions, and these impacts are heterogeneous insofar as they de-
pend on household choices and endowments. In addition, there are short-run impacts, when households do not
adjust; medium-run impacts, when households make partial adjustments; and long-run impacts, when growth,
investments, and long-run choices have taken place.


A crucial assumption that consents to work with equation (1) for welfare analysis is that the principle of separabil-
ity holds. Under this assumption, production decisions are independent of consumption decisions (utility maxi-
mization). This means that the income level of the household can be considered as exogenous (once optimal
production decisions have been made) when utility maximization takes place. The separability assumption is not
innocuous: it requires perfect and complete markets (for goods, credit, insurance and so forth). Further, just to
simplify the algebra, separability is also assumed between consumption and leisure in utility.


o




58 WHO IS BENEFITING FROM TRADE LIBERALIZATION IN BHUTAN? A GENDER PERSPECTIVE


First-order impacts
The analysis will now consider the impacts of changes in the price of commodity i. The short-run impacts on


the household can be derived by differentiating equation (1) (while keeping utility constant and adjusting Th).
Therefore




where cv =- dxo e is a measure of the compensating variation (as a share of initial expenditures) associated
with a change in the ith price. The compensating variation is defined as in Hicks (1939). The revenue of a planner
needs to compensate households for the price change. If a household loses from a price increase, the com-
pensating transfer of income from the planner is dxo e and the compensating variation cv is negative, that
is, a deficit for the planner. Instead, if the household benefits from a price increase, the compensating variation
is positive because it actually represents a transfer from the household to the planner, so that


xo
e


is negative.


In (2), si is the budget share spent in good i, bi is the share of household income from the production of
good i, Ø j is the share of the wage income of member j in total household income, and w


i
j is the elasticity


of the wage earned by household member j with respect to the price p
i
.


Equation (2) summarizes the first-order impacts of a price change. Note that dlnp
i
h has been purposely


indexed by h in order to introduce heterogeneity of price changes at the household level. The right-hand side
of (2) reveals impacts on both household consumption and income. On the consumption side, consumers are
worse off if prices go up, but are better off if prices go down. In a first-order approximation, these impacts can be


measured with budget shares, si. On the income side, there is also a direct impact on profits if the household
produces goods i , which depends on the share of income attributed to these goods, bi . In rural economies,
this source of income can account for a large fraction of total income. In more urbanized economies with more
developed labour markets, the role of the direct production of agricultural goods will be much less important.


Overall, the first term on the right-hand side of (2) establishes a key result in the literature: after a price increase,
net consumers, as defined by the difference between budget shares and income shares, are worse off and net
producers are better off. The opposite is true for price decreases: net consumers become better off and net
producers, worse off. Further, this shows that the welfare impacts will be heterogeneous across countries. An
exporter of agricultural goods will, on average, benefit from price increases associated with the international
liberalization of agriculture; but an importer will probably be hurt by those changes. In the context of the Bhuta-
nese trade liberalization, this general proposition implies that net producers of export goods, such as potatoes,
oranges, and apples, and net consumers of imports, such as rice, will gain from trade.


The result was introduced by Deaton (1989a), who launched a whole new literature by advocating the use non-
parametric density estimation and non-parametric regressions in economic development to study the distribu-
tional effects of price changes. Deaton (1989a) used data from the Thailand Socioeconomic Survey of 1981–82
to explore the distributional consequences of the export tax on rice across all Thai households. The ideas intro-
duced in Deaton’s work have been, and still are, extensively utilized in the literature. Early examples include Dea-
ton (1989b), who reviews applications for Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia and Morocco; Budd (1993), who investigates
food prices and rural welfare in Cote d’Ivoire; Benjamin and Deaton (1993), who study cocoa and coffee in Cote
d’Ivoire, too; Barret and Dorosh (1996), who look at rice prices in Madagascar; and Sahn and Sarris (1991), who
examine structural adjustments in several sub-Saharan African countries. Deaton (1997) provides an account of
the early use of these techniques in the distributional analysis of pricing policies.
Price changes also affect wages. This channel is described by the second term on the right-hand side of (2). The
mechanisms are in principle simple. When there is a price change, labour demand for different types of labour


ji i i i i (2)
cvh=(bh –sh)dlnph +∑ Ø j wj dlnph




59APPENDIX 1: ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK


and labour supply can change, thus affecting equilibrium wages. In (2), these responses are captured by the
elasticities i



wj , which will vary from one household member to another, provided that different members are


endowed with different skills – unskilled, semi-skilled or skilled labour – or if they work in different sectors (indus-
try premia). These impacts on labour income depend on the share of income contributed by the wages of differ-
ent members, Ø j. Clearly, if countries differ in technologies, endowments, or labour regulations, the responses
of equilibrium wages to prices can be heterogeneous across different economies.


As shown in equation (2), the response of wages can generate first-order effects on household welfare. To ac-
count for these responses, the standard net consumer/net producer proposition needs to be modified. To see
this, consider the extreme case where a farm-household consumes a product but does not produce it at all.
Instead, the farm earns income from selling labour in neighbouring farms. Omitting wages, this household is
a net consumer and could thus be hurt by a price increase. But if wages respond positively to prices, the final
welfare effect may not necessarily entail a loss. For details, see Ravallion (1990), Boyce and Ravallion (1991),
Porto (2005), and Porto (2006).


A few practical considerations


For the purpose of measuring the impacts of trade liberalization on welfare and gender, data are needed to com-
pute equation (2) for different types of households, that is, male-headed versus female-headed households. This
requires information on expenditure shares and on income shares, including wages and household production.
Bhutanese data do not include detailed income information and thus do not allow measuring (2) to clearly iden-
tify the net consumers and net producers. As a preview of the solution proposed below, it is useful to assume to
have instead proxies that indicate whether a household is a net producer or a net consumer. In principle, it would
be possible to use these proxies to describe the potential impacts of trade liberalization. Clearly, the fact that it is
not possible to observe the net shares, si-bi, comprises a loss of information that prevents the measuring of the
intensity of the impacts of trade. At the very least, however, studying those proxies should provide some useful
lessons about them.






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