In Bhutan, a stock trade a day keeps stress away

Wed Dec 9, 2009 1:59pm EST
 
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By Alistair Scrutton

THIMPHU (Reuters Life!) - Traders seeking a break from volatile global markets may want to head to Bhutan's bourse, where stocks are traded on just four computers -- when they have not crashed -- only twice a week.

"I've got one order to sell 2,820 shares," said 23-year-old Deki Peldon, the only broker for today's short trading hours in Thimphu, the capital of the tiny Himalayan kingdom.

"It's taken 2 to 3 weeks to find a buyer."

Welcome to the Royal Bhutan stock exchange, where just four brokers work and which will trade about $3 million shares this year, about what many financiers may deal with in the blink of an eye. The average daily trade in New York is more than 1 billion.

In a Buddhist country where national wealth is measured by Gross National Happiness -- an idea that spiritual and environmental health are just as important as material well-being -- the exchange is crawling slowly along as the country and its $1.3 billion economy tentatively embraces globalization.

The outside world is coming to Bhutan, slowly. Television arrived here in 1999 and there are now around 10,000 Internet connections in a country of under 700,000 people.

Bhutan still has no traffic lights since the first one was withdrawn after protests from residents that it was unsightly.

HELPING THE GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS   Continued...