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Abstract

Helping the Tibetan people to take control over the economy in their areas is vital for a socially sustainable development which would allow the Tibetans to preserve their identity and cultural heritage.

Tibet: The Geerdesi monastery in morning light.

The Lhamo Kirti (Langmu Geerdesi) monastery in Taktsang Lhamo (Langmusi), Sichuan province.

Some significant progress has taken place in recent times: a combination of several factors has led to the emergence of a class of Tibetan entrepreneurs:

  • Infrastructure has reached a level which has allowed the integration of the area into the Chinese and global economy.
  • The recent increase in food prices has put some money into the pockets of the local people.
  • The Chinese policy of "harmonious society" emphasizes a more socially balanced development; impressive results have been achieved in the countryside all over China through the reduction or total cancellation of taxes, massive subsidies from central and province level governments, the expansion of the rural health care scheme and other similar measures.
  • The Chinese economy has achieved a level of development where more and more people can afford travelling just for pleasure. The emerging tourism industry has channeled considerable funds to the Tibetan areas.
  • Tibetans have learned from Chinese of the Han, Hui and other nationalities how to engage in certain business activities where no Tibetan tradition existed like retail trade and tourism.

On the other hand, a couple of measures could hugely accelerate this process:

  • For many Tibetan entrepreneurs, access to start-up capital is extremely problematic. Providing them with adequate funding is certainly an important factor. Most of it could be covered by profitable loans at reasonable interest rates.
  • Organizational help like access to wholesale companies or international travel agencies could help them to improve their benefit margin and to extend their visibility and range. Arranging business contacts and developing adequate websites would be concrete examples of such help.
  • Using the Tibetan language on computers and smart phones remains problematic. For big computer system developers like Microsoft (Windows) and Google (Android), it would be extremely easy to solve this problem once and for all by adding this language to the standard versions of their systems.
  • The emergence of entrepreneurs meets some obstacles within the Tibetan society, like the low position of women or the opinion that you need a high level of culture and education to do business. Breaking the taboos surrounding these topics would not only further economic development; it could also improve the living conditions of many segments of Tibetan society.

This is a first intermediary report written after two stays of 2-3 weeks each in the Tibetan areas. In summer 2013, some of the measures proposed below will be tested on a small scale; the results will be published in a second intermediary report. Development of tourism is dealt with in another series of documents (see Developing a high value added tourism in the Tibetan areas through education, branding and coordinated marketing). An association will be founded in order to implement the measures outlined above; any active help or donation is highly welcome.

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