GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS IN BHUTANThe ConceptSome countries in Asia and the Pacific have recognized the importance of an a...
Largely because of GNH, Bhutan has seen improvement in many key development indicators,which include:   • Per capita incom...
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Gross national happiness in bhutan

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about one of the new measures of economic prosperity of a nation.

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Gross national happiness in bhutan

  1. 1. GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS IN BHUTANThe ConceptSome countries in Asia and the Pacific have recognized the importance of an approach ofdevelopment accounting for the progress in achieving the welfare of society. For the last threedecades, the Kingdom of Bhutan has followed the guiding principle enunciated by His MajestyKing Jigme Siongye Wangchuck, who stated, “Gross National Happiness is more important thanGross National Product.” The principle describes development as a continuous process towards abalance between material and non-material needs of individuals and society. The country’sphilosophy of development, while recognizing the importance of economic growth as essential, tosupport and nurture the spiritual and social needs of the community, is not an end in itself, butone among many means of achieving holistic development.The theory of Gross National Happiness (GNH) established by His Majesty the King of Bhutan in1972, is the foundation for development in Bhutan. GNH is based on the ideology that thepursuit of happiness is found in all people and is the strongest force of desires. Included in GNHis a “middle path” approach in which spiritual and material pursuits are balanced.GNH is a program for social and economic revisions toward implementation andinstitutionalization of the belief that development should promote happiness as its primary value.Equal importance must be placed on socio-economic development, spiritual, cultural andemotional needs of the people. Economic growth is just one aspect that improves the socialrequirements of society and is not seen as the dominating force in development. GNH hasbecome the philosophical foundation for the policy making process and implementation inBhutan. This is apparent in the 9th and 10th Five Year Plans of Bhutan, in which GNH is theoverarching structure.The Four Pillars of Gross National HappinessGross National Happiness contains four main pillars: • Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development • Conservation of environment • Preservation and promotion of culture • Promotion of good governanceSustainable and equitable socio-economic development does not prohibit economic growth anddevelopment, but is implemented by placing a priority on health and education sectors. It isestimated that over 30% of the national budget of Bhutan is placed on the social sector. Thisfinancial dedication is tangible evidence of the government’s commitment to provide a securelivelihood for its citizens and one in which its population is healthy and educated. Along thesesame terms, capacity building in the development of professional skills to manage developmenthas been a common program implemented. Other important social development facilities arewidely available throughout the country such as schools, hospitals and agricultural centers.Additionally, policymakers have introduced a personal income tax in order to redistribute wealthmore evenly.The Impact of Gross National Happiness
  2. 2. Largely because of GNH, Bhutan has seen improvement in many key development indicators,which include: • Per capita income • Life expectancy • Infant and maternal mortality rates • Health coverage • School enrollment • Literacy ratesEnvironmental conservation is also valued widely throughout Bhutanese society as manycitizens’ sources of livelihood are dependent on their natural environment, especially thoseworking agriculturally. It is commonly believed that irresponsible activities in nature will lead tonegative and therefore unhappy outcomes. Most Bhutanese accept the fact that the environmentshould be preserved for others and the future generation, limiting severe environmentaldegradation. Environmental benefits observed by GNH policies include: • Characterization of the country as a biodiversity hotspot • Increased preservation policies • 72% forest cover, 26% protected areas • Written policy that the country will keep a minimum of 60% forest coverBhutanese Preservation of Culture and Good GovernanceThe preservation and promotion of Bhutanese culture is another factor in development and GNHstrategy, as Buddhist cultural pureness ideology is widespread. It is widely believed that adecline in traditional heritage and culture will lead to a general dissatisfaction of society and hastherefore preservation of culture is a high government priority. This is observed in the schoolsystem as all children are taught Bhutanese cultural values.Good governance is apparent through the government’s dedication of promoting happiness andwell-being of its citizens foremost. His Majesty the King withdrew from the executive functionof government in 1998 and universal voting rights were introduced in 2002. Civil society has hadthe opportunity to provide input in legislative matters and a goal is in place to have a multi-partysystem by 2008.Sources:Prepared on the basis of Chapter 2: Development Philosophy of the National DevelopmentProgram of Bhutanhttp://www.undp.org.bt/Governance/GNH/the%20philosophy%20of%20GNH.pdfhttp://www.unescap.org/esd/environment/mced/tggap/documents/2RPD/presentation/5_Session%205/pdf/26_Kunzang%20C.%20Karma.pdf#search=%22gross%20national%20happiness%20bhutan%20background%20%22

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