Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Darling of IFI's- Bhutan

Bhutan hopes to cash in on hydro-electric power

Fed-Up Money Treks to Bhutan to Grasp Gross National Happiness ;
Tshering Jamtsho uncoils the burgundy robe from around his chin and smiles as the first light of a Himalayan dawn streams through the casement chiseled into a stone-cold cell at the Pangrizampa Monastery.

Twigs crunch outside, a voice calls out from the dark and an apprentice enters the chamber gripping the ``Mopai.'' The ancient 250-page goatskin volume provides human calculators, called ``tsips,'' with intricate mathematical and astronomical formulas to compute a client's fate and fortune before birth, during life and in the afterlife.

``I am one of the 40 calculators,'' Jamtsho says over cups of the pungent yak-butter tea his predecessors began serving clients here in the Kingdom of Bhutan more than 1,500 years ago.

``What is your investment question?'' the 25-year-old financial analyst and Buddhist lama adds. ``Large numbers of Western businessmen come for our guidance.''

Last year, Jamtsho says, some 300 American and European bankers and businessmen made the grueling journey to Bhutan -- a country smaller than Switzerland, with 180 broadband subscribers, five elevators and less than 700,000 inhabitants -- to have the calculators of Pangrizampa use the hand-scripted Mopai as a financial forecasting tool.

``There's nothing extraordinary about this,'' says Tashi Yezer. He should know. Yezer is the chief executive officer of the Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan Ltd., the country's stock market, where the trading bell only rings on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 a.m. ``The exchange closes when our four stock brokers are done,'' Yezer says....

Bhutan now harvests only 2,000 megawatts, with plans to export 5,000 megawatts by 2020 and reach a capacity of 10,000 megawatts by 2028. ``We could have full capacity in a matter of years, if we followed the accepted market path,'' Dorji says, sitting beneath an embroidered tapestry of Buddha in the country's capital city, Thimphu, about 10 miles from the monastery...

``I intend to ultimately export Bhutanese bankers to New York and London and have them carry the philosophy of GNH as the model for corporate governance,'' Tshering says. ``The last thing I want is Western bankers coming here to modernize us with anything other than technology.''

Over at the stock exchange next door, the ground floor of a traditional Bhutanese timber building decorated with lotus flowers, clouds and phalluses to ward off hobgoblins, trading in the 16 listed companies has stopped and the combined market value holds firm at $25 million.

``We take a holistic approach to capital markets that's missing in the West,'' Yezer says, focusing on the nearby mandala, a geometric pattern that represents the universe. ``Buddhism isn't a religion or an excuse for how we do business, but it is based around a basic economic fact: What goes around, comes around. We call it karma.''

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