Will Bhutan Inspire The World To Follow Sustainable Development?

Bhutan Measures Gross National Happiness (GNH), Not GDP !

In the tiny Himalayan Kingdom Bhutan progress is measured in terms of what it calls the Gross National Happiness (GNH), not by the Gross National Product (GDP) popular worldwide. Way back in early 1970s its king rejected the concept of GDP and declared that the Gross National Happiness (GNH) is more important than GDP. Since then the GNH has been the guiding philosophy of Bhutan’s governance.

GNH and bhutan constitutionIn order to help the policymakers frame policies strictly within the guiding principles of GNH the Center for Bhutan Studies (CBS) was established in 1999. The aim behind this autonomous research center was to promote and deepen the understanding of Gross National Happiness. The Center took up the task of quantification of the progress and spelled out 9 domains of human well-being which would be probed through 33 indicators. The final calculation yield the Gross National Happiness Index which is a number between 0 and 1.

The nine domains of GNH are:

  1. Health
  2. Education
  3. Psychological well-being
  4. Time use
  5. Community Vitality
  6. Cultural diversity and resilience
  7. Ecological diversity and resilience
  8. Living standard
  9. Good governance

These nine domains are grouped as four broader pillars of GNH. The pillars are 1. Sustainable and Equitable Socio-Economic Development, 2. Conservation of the Environment, 3. Preservation and Promotion of Culture and 4. Good Governance. These pillars embody national and local values, aesthetics, and spiritual traditions.

Under a new Constitution adopted in 2008 all government programs — from agriculture to tourism to foreign trade — must be framed not for economic benefits they may offer but for the happiness they produce.

As Bhutan’s prime minister has explained, the goal is not happiness itself which is a concept each person must define for himself. Rather, the government aims to create the conditions for “the pursuit of gross national happiness.”

The Idea of Gross National Happiness is Spreading Across the World

The old model is broken. We need to create a new one… In this time of global challenge, even crisis, business as usual will not do… It is time to recognize that human capital and natural capital are every bit as important as financial capital. It is time to invest in people… Clearly we must unite around a shared vision for the future – a vision for equitable human development, a healthy planet, an enduring economic dynamism. – Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General

Bhutan’s Prime Minister Jigme Thinley of Bhutan describes today’s economic growth as empty – it is not adding value to human lives. It is a growth just for the sake of growth fueled by greed, insatiable human greed, to accumulate wealth. It is clear that there is no sustainability in chasing ever increasing consumption in the name of progress. Today’s global economic activities are only fueling the global warming and climate change processes which is posing a serious threat to the existence of humanity.

In 2004, Bhutan held an international seminar on Operationalizing Gross National Happiness. It created considerable interest in the global community and motivated them to setup a Gross International Happiness Network. Clearly the influence of Gross National Happiness is no more confined within Bhutan Borders. The concept of Gross National Happiness is now being taken up the United Nations and by various other countries.

In September 2013, Bhutan submitted a report titled Happiness: Towards A New Development Paradigm to the UN General Assembly. It is hoped that the report will influence the UN’s Post-2015 development agenda.

Recently, Canada, France and Britain have added measures of citizen happiness to their official national statistics. The U.S. government is also considering adopting some measure of people’s happiness as well.

Read in more detail: Bhutan’s GNH – A Sane Idea That Could Change The World

About Goodpal

I am a firm believer in healthy people (mind and body both), healthy societies and healthy environment. Please feel free to comment, share and broadcast your views -- I like rational and intellectual discussions. Thanks for stopping by. Have a Good Day!
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8 Responses to Will Bhutan Inspire The World To Follow Sustainable Development?

  1. Siri says:

    It is time to recognize that human capital and natural capital are every bit as important as financial capital. It is time to invest in people – How miserably we failed here.

    Clearly one only hopes such saner voices are heard and influence the post 2015 Development framework as well as national goals rather than the obsession with GDPs.

  2. Goodpal says:

    Good to see you back.

    In nutshell, we need development with ethics. Only then things get saner and conflicts of interests reduce. The core issue here is: Human life and well-being is inherently multidimensional. Why the obsession to see it in terms of simple economic indicators?

    Have a good day!

  3. Siri says:

    As Amartya Sen says, economy exists for the people and not people for the economy. The crony capitalism that we see in India today, for instance Reliance Gas Prices etc., can only be minimized if we break the bureaucrat – politician – corporate nexus, which again happens only if we bring in electoral reforms so as to attract the best in the country with impeccable credentials to politics, and change the bureaucratic culture by changing incentives and plugging the loopholes. Only question is – Will it happen before enough damage has been done so that things become irrevocable :-/

  4. Goodpal says:

    Superb! Really insightful comment.

    Actually, the British occupation of India has destroyed our original thinking and culture. Else we would not be copying the UK or US for governing India. We would have been standing on our own feet like Germany, Japan or China. Even look Bhutan has the strength of its culture to follow happiness when others have made a mess of the planet in the name of growth!

    The question is: Will Indians ever derive strength from its highly evolved spiritual past?

  5. Siri says:

    Even the history of India is being looked through communal/ pseudo secular lens in India. Indians might derive strength if right questions and issues are discussed and raised in the media and people are aware that their sufferings are result of unjust societal or institutional arrangements and not their own fate. Only then will they stop resigning everything to fate and start asserting for what is rightfully theirs, influencing policies that are just.

  6. Goodpal says:

    You are absolutely right. The healthy aspects of Indian history have been systematically attacked, distorted and deleted particularly by the colonial masters and their cronies. When we talk of Indian history, it automatically implies to Hindus. So clearly, young Hindus feel almost rootless and as if they are somehow inferior to other communities in India. It is this “hurt” psyche Hindu thinkers are worried the most. When the British left they ensured that someone similar inherits their empire. Nehru had the right background. As a result the systematic degradation of Hindus and whatever they believe in continued even after 1947 at the hands of British trained (or brain-washed) “secularists” who did a brilliant job of fragmenting Indian society. That’s why we have this situation today.

  7. Siri says:

    But somehow, just looking at Indian history as Hindu history, would be demeaning and unjust to many other communities that are non- Hindu. It wouldn’t inspire any nationalistic spirit in them, if it were that way I feel.

  8. Goodpal says:

    What is wrong in admitting that Muslims and all others came from outside as invaders. Later they forced conversions and grew in numbers. If you want to respect Maharana Pratap who fought with Moghuls in rajasthan, what is the problem. He was defending his land and people.

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