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Bhutan: Glossary
Country Study > Glossary


Asian Development Bank - Established in 1966, the Asian Development Bank assists developing member countries in economic development and promotes growth and cooperation. Membership includes both developed countries and developing countries in Asia, and developed countries in the West. Nepal joined the bank in 1966, Bhutan in 1982. The bank is headquartered in Manila.

birta - Nepalese tax-free land tenure granted by the government primarily as a pension or as a reward to political supporters and family members, important especially during the Rana period; abolished 1959.

Colombo Plan for Cooperative, Economic, and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific (Colombo Plan) - Founded in 1951, originally under a slightly different name, to coordinate and aid development among newly independent countries. Members include nations throughout the Asia-Pacific region (Nepal joined in 1952; Bhutan in 1962). Donor countries include Australia, Britain, Canada, India, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States. The organization's headquarters are in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

dzong - Bhutanese combined administrative and religious complex; a fortified monastery and often the seat of government for the local jurisdiction.

Fiscal year (FY) - In Nepal: July 16 to July 15. In Bhutan: July 1 through June 30 after July 1, 1988. Prior to March 31, 1987, the fiscal year was from April 1 through March 31. The period from April 1, 1987 to June 30, 1988 was used for FY 1988. The text of this book uses FY 1990, for example, when referring to 1989-90.

Gorkha - A principality west of Kathmandu and the ancestral home of the Shah kings, which became the House of Gorkha.

gross domestic product (GDP) - A value measure of the flow of domestic goods and services produced by an economy over a period of time, such as a year. Only output values of goods for final consumption and investment are included because the values of primary and intermediate production are assumed to be included in final prices. GDP is sometimes aggregated and shown at market prices, meaning that indirect taxes and subsidies are included; when these have been eliminated, the result is GDP at factor cost. The word gross indicates that deductions for depreciation of physical assets have not been made. See also gross national product.

gross national product (GNP) - Gross domestic product (qv) plus the net income or loss stemming from transactions with foreign countries. GNP is the broadest measure of the output of goods and services of an economy. It can be calculated at market prices, which include indirect taxes and subsidies. Because indirect taxes and subsidies are only transfer payments, GNP is often calculated at factor cost by removing indirect taxes and subsidies.

Gurkha - the British derivative of Gorkha evolved from the name Gorkha , which originally was applied to the soldiers of that region. The Gurkha soldiers of Nepal, who became famous for their service in the British and Indian armies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, principally were composed of members of the Magar, Gurung, Limbu, and Rai tribes, and were not a single ethnic group, tribe, clan, or caste.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) - Established along with the World Bank (qv) in 1945, the IMF is a specialized agency affiliated with the United Nations and is responsible for stabilizing international exchange loans to its members (including industrialized and developing countries) when they experience balance of payments difficulties. These loans frequently carry conditions that require substantial international economic adjustments by the recipients, most of which are developing countries.

jagir - A type of land tenure in Nepal granted primarily to military personnel, allowing them tax-free access to produce from the land in return for military service. This tenure was a basic feature of military service in northern India and in Nepal during late medieval times, and disappeared in Nepal only in the twentieth century.

Khasa - A term applied to the peoples and languages in the western parts of Nepal, closely related to the cultures of northern India.

Kirata - A Tibeto-Burman ethnic group inhabiting eastern Nepal since before the Licchavi Dynasty, just prior to and during the early years of the Christian era.

ngultrum - Bhutan's unit of currency adopted in 1974. In November 1990, the official exchange rate was US$1 equals ngultrum (Nu) 17.95 and at par with the Indian rupee (Nu1 = Rs1). There are 100 chetrum (Ch) in one ngultrum. There are 5, 10, 25, and 50 chetrum cupro- nickel coins and a 1 ngultrum bronze coin, and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 ngultrum notes. Large ngultrum amounts are counted using the Sanskrit terms lakh (100,000) and crore (10 million); thus Nu1 lakh = Nu 100,000 and Nu 1 crore = Nu10 million). The term is derived from the Dzongkha ngul , meaning silver, and trum , probably a Hindi word, meaning money. Before 1957 Indian and Bhutanese coins circulated in nondecimal paisa and rupee denominations (1 rupee = 64 paisa); after the decimal system was adopted in 1957, paisa, rupee, and sertum circulated (1 sertum = 100 rupees; 1 rupee = 100 paisa).

nibbana - More commonly known in Western literature as nirvana. The goal of the path, the extinction of desire, hate, and the illusion of selfhood. A state of mystical union with the absolute one world soul (brahma), not an individual soul that attains it (as in Hinduism). For the Hindu, a state of liberation or illumination. For the Buddhist, there are no immortal particular souls, only the world soul, in which all beings, both animate and inanimate, are participants. The goal of spiritual practice in all branches of Buddhism. Enlightenment is the realization of the identity of the self with the absolute. The release from the cycle of rebirths and the annihilation of the individual being that occurs on achievement of perfect spiritual understanding.

official development assistance (ODA) - Those flows to developing countries and multilateral institutions provided by official agencies, including state and local governments, or by their executive agencies, each transaction of which meets the following criteria: it is administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective; and it is concessional in character and contains a grant element of at least 25 percent.

panchayat - In ancient times, a Nepalese public assembly, ideally comprised of the five (pancha) most important caste or occupational groups in the village. A pancha is a member of a panchayat . From 1962 until the 1990 constitution took effect, assemblies modeled on this ancient system formed the backbone of political structure in Nepal, at the village and district levels, and at the top in the National Panchayat, or Rashtriya Panchayat.

Rana - Term, used as an honorific personal name, signified strength in battle in late medieval north India. It was adopted as a title by Jang Bahadur Kunwar in the 1850s, and by his heirs after him, and became the standard name used for this Nepalese dynasty of prime ministers and their families.

rupee - (Rs) or Nepalese rupee (NRs), the unit of currency, universal since the late 1960s. The Nepalese rupee is linked to the Indian rupee and is fully convertible although restrictions were imposed during the 1989-90 trade and transit dispute. The equivalency rate used in Chapter 1 is Rs2.1=US$1 in 1919. By 1973 the official exchange rate was Rs6.55=US$1; in 1991, Rs30.80=US$1. One Nepalese rupee = 100 paisa.

samuha - Interest group within a pancha (qv). The term is derogatory when used by someone who does not belong to a pancha .

soft loan - A loan bearing either no rate of interest, or an interest rate below the true cost of the capital lent. The International Development Association, an affiliate of the International Bank for Reconstruction (see World Bank, qv), grants soft loans to developing countries for long-term capital projects.

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) - Comprises the seven nations of South Asia: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka; headquartered in Kathmandu. Founded as South Asia Regional Cooperation (SARC) organization at a meeting for foreign ministers in New Delhi on August 1-2, 1983; a second organizational meeting of foreign ministers was held in Thimphu in May 1985; inaugural meeting of heads of state and government in Dhaka on December 7-8, 1986. The goal is to effect economic, technical, and cultural cooperation, and to provide a forum for discussions of South Asia's political problems.

United States Export-Import Bank (Eximbank) - An independent corporate agency of the United States government, founded in 1934 to stimulate foreign trade during the Great Depression. The Eximbank facilitates export financing of United States goods and services by neutralizing the effect of export credit subsidies from other governments and by absorbing reasonable credit risks beyond the reach of the private sector.

World Bank - Informal name used to designate a group of four affiliated international institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International Development Association (IDA), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The IBRD, established in 1945, has as its primary purpose the provision of loans to developing countries for productive projects. The IDA, a legally separate loan fund but administered by the staff of the IBRD, was set up in 1960 to furnish credits to the poorest developing countries on much easier terms than those of conventional IBRD loans. The IFC, founded in 1956, supplements the activities of the IBRD through loans and assistance designed specifically to encourage the growth of productive private enterprises in the less-developed countries. The MIGA, founded in 1988, insures private foreign investment in developing countries against various noncommercial risks. The president and certain senior officers of the IBRD hold the same positions in the IFC. The four institutions are owned by the governments of the countries that subscribe their capital. To participate in the World Bank group, member states must first belong to the Intentional Monetary Fund (IMF -- qv).

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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