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Bhutan: Local Government
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Structure of the Government > Local Government


Local government in 1991 was organized into four zones, or dzongdey, and eighteen districts, or dzongkhag. Before the zonal administration system was established beginning in 1988 and 1989, the central government interacted directly with district governments. The new level of administration was established, according to official sources, to "bring administration closer to the people" and to "expedite projects without having to refer constantly to the ministry." In other words, the zonal setup was to provide a more efficient distribution of personnel and administrative and technical skills. The zonal boundaries were said to be dictated by geophysical and agroclimatic considerations. Zonal administrators responsible for coordinating central policies and plans acted as a liaisons between the central ministries and departments and district governments. Each zonal headquarters had nine divisions: administration, accounts, agriculture, animal husbandry, education, engineering, health, irrigation, and planning. The divisions were staffed with former civil service employees of the Ministry of Home Affairs and with technical personnel from the various sectors in the districts. Four zones were established in 1988 and 1989: Zone I, including four western districts, seated at Chhukha; Zone II, including four central districts, seated at Chirang; Zone III, including four central districts, seated at Geylegphug; and Zone IV, including five eastern districts, seated at Yonphula. Although Thimphu District and Thimphu Municipality were within the boundaries of Zone I, they remained outside the zonal system. By 1991, however, only Zone IV was fully functioning.

Eighteen districts comprised local government at the next echelon. Each district was headed by an appointed district officer, (dzongda, assisted by a deputy district officer, dzongda wongmo or dzongrab), who was responsible for development planning and civil administration. Formerly appointed by the Druk Gyalpo, district officers have been appointed by the Royal Civil Service Commission since 1982. Each district also had a district development committee comprising elected representatives and government officials.

Districts were further subdivided into subdistricts (dungkhag) and village blocks or groups (gewog). Ten of the eighteen districts had subdistricts, which were further subdivided into village groups. The subdistrict served as an intermediate level of administration between district government and some villages in larger districts. These same districts also had village groups that were immediately subordinate to the district government. In the remaining eight smaller districts, village groups were directly subordinate to the district government. In 1989 there were 191 village groups, 67 of which were organized into 18 subdistricts and 124 of which were immediately subordinate to the district government. Subdistrict officers (dungpa) led the subdistricts, and village heads (gup in the north, mandal in the south) were in charge of the village groups. Despite greater central government involvement with economic development programs since the 1960s, villages continued to have broad local autonomy. There were 4,500 villages and settlements in 1991.

Bhutan also has two municipal corporations -- Thimphu and Phuntsholing -- headed by mayors (thrompon). Thimphu's municipal corporation was set up in 1974 as an experiment in local self-government. Headed by a chairperson, the corporation concentrated on sanitation and beautification projects. A superintending engineer, an administrative officer, a plant protection officer, and a tax collector served under a chief executive officer. Ward councillors carried out local representation in the city's seven wards. In subsequent years, municipal boards were set up in the larger towns.

Data as of September 1991

Last Updated: September 1991

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Bhutan was first published in 1991. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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