IN Happy Bhutan : The Prime Minister is a doctor on Saturdays.

It's Saturday in Bhutan and Lotay Tshering has just completed urinary bladder repair surgery on a patient at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Hospital.

But Tshering is no ordinary doctor. During the week, he also happens to be the prime minister.in the Himalayan Kingdom famous for measuring citizens  Gross National happiness.

''For me it's a  de-stresser,'' said Tshering, who was elected prime minister of the nation of 750,000  people last year in only it's third democratic election since the end of absolute monarchy in 2008 . ''Some play golf, some do archery, and I like to operate. I am just spending my week-ends here,'' the 50-year-old said.

No one at the hospital bats an eye lid as Tshering wearing a faded lab coat and crocks, walks through the busy corridors. Nurses and hospital attendants continue with their jobs as normal.

The Buddhist Kingdom  is in many ways a case apart, benchmarking itself on happiness instead of  economic growth.
One of the pillars of  Gross National  Happiness is conservation of the environment.

Bhutan  is carbon negative and its constitution mandates that 60 percent of the country remains forested. It is also big on eco-tourism and charges a daily fee of  $250 per visitor in high season.

The capital Thimphu has no traffic lights, the sale of tobacco is banned, and television was only allowed in 1999.

Tshering, who trained in Bangladesh, Japan, Australia and the United States, began his political career in 2013, but his party failed to make headway in that year's elections.

After losing,  King Jigme khesar Namgyel Wangchuck commanded him to lead a team of doctors and travel with the monarch's entourage to far flung villages for free medical treatment.

Now, as prime minister, he spends Saturdays treating patients referred to him and Thursday mornings offering  medical advice to trainees and doctors.

Politics, the  prime minister said, is a lot like being a doctor. ''At the hospital I scan and treat patients. In the government, I scan the health of the policies and try to make them better,'' he said.

''I will continue doing this until I die, and I miss not being able to be here every single day,'' he added.

And on the days when he drives his car around the capital Thimphu  -instead of using his official chauffeur   -an all-too-familiar urge takes hold of him.

''Whenever, I drive to work on weekdays, I wish I could turn left left towards the hospital.'' [AFP]


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