Country Listing

Bhutan Table of Contents



At the apex of the executive branch is the Druk Gyalpo, who is both head of state and head of the government. Responsible to him are two advisory and executive organizations: the Royal Advisory Council and the Council of Ministers. There also is the Royal Secretariat, which serves as an intermediary between the Druk Gyalpo and the Council of Ministers.

The Royal Advisory Council was mentioned in the 1953 constitution of the National Assembly (members of the council are concurrently members of the National Assembly), but it took on greater importance in 1965 when the Druk Gyalpo installed representatives elected by the monastic bodies and the National Assembly. In 1989 the council's membership included a representative of the government, two representatives of the monasteries, six regional representatives, and a chairperson, all for five-year terms. The chairperson and the government representative are appointed by the Druk Gyalpo; the two monks represent the central and district monastic bodies. Monk representatives, according to 1979 regulations for council membership, are required to be literate and "highly knowledgeable about the Drukpa Kargyupa religion." Monk nominees are subject to the approval of the speaker of the National Assembly. The regional representatives are elected by the National Assembly from a list endorsed by village assemblies. Representing the southeastern, southwestern, western, eastern, central, and the Thimphu-Paro-Ha regions, they are required to be literate, knowledgeable about Bhutanese traditional culture and customs with "some knowledge of modern customs and etiquette," "well-behaved and able to speak well," "able to shoulder responsibility, and far-sighted." As the principal consulting body to the Druk Gyalpo, the Royal Advisory Council is a key state organization and interacts most directly with the National Assembly.

Chaired by the Druk Gyalpo, the Council of Ministers was established in 1968 with the approval of the National Assembly. In 1991 it comprised seven ministers and the Druk Gyalpo's representative in each ministry (agriculture; communications; finance; foreign affairs; home affairs; social services; and trade, industry, and tourism). The largest ministry by far was the Ministry of Social Services, which ran the nation's education and health systems and included nearly 26 percent of all civil service employees. Two of the ministers in 1990--the minister of finance (Ashi Sonam Chhoden Wangchuck) and the minister of home affairs (Dasho Namgyal Wangchuck)--were members of the royal family.

Until the 1960s, the Royal Secretariat played a major role in government affairs. The key officials of the Royal Secretariat were the Druk Gyalpo's representative in the Royal Bhutan Army, the royal chief secretary, and the royal finance secretary. After the establishment of the Council of Ministers and subsequent shift of administrative and financial matters out of the palace, however, the Royal Secretariat's day-to-day role diminished in importance. Relations between the two bodies have been described as cordial, nevertheless, and ministers usually were selected from among Royal Secretariat personnel.

Data as of September 1991