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.
In 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:
- Psychological well-being
- Time use
- Community Vitality
- Cultural diversity and resilience
- Ecological diversity and resilience
- Living standard
- 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