Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Gross National Happiness

In my last post I looked at how Gross National Product or GNP is no measure of a countries happiness. I based this solely on suicide rates. However, as you are well aware there is more to happiness than economic prosperity. In the mountain kingdom of Bhutan they do not measure their countries progress in GNP they measure it in Gross National Happiness.

The once secretive and kingdom opened its doors to the world in 1961 freeing it from its self imposed isolation. The Bhutanese people were aware that many indigenous cultures had been eroded by the influence of external cultures. Unlike many other cultures the Bhutanese lived sustainably in harmony with their environment. Change is inevitable but the government came up with a way to measure and steer the direction of their society taking into account not only economic prosperity but also religious, environmental and cultural prosperity.

In 1998, Jigmi Thinley (The Bhutanese Prime Minister) laid out the "Four Pillars" of GNH, which today form the overall guiding principle for development in Bhutan.

The first pillar is sustainable and equitable socio-economic development. This stresses the improvement of physical, intellectual, social and economic health through services such as health, education, trade and commerce, road and bridge construction, employment, urban development and housing. Bhutan's decades of development plans have focused on these. Although the country is by no means rich education and health care are provided for free by the state.

The second pillar is conservation of the environment. Only 16% of Bhutan's land is arable, so there is good reason to increase GDP by logging. However, the law requires that tree coverage be no less than 65%. At present about 72% of Bhutan is forest. The main source of power generation are hydro electric projects with Bhutan making sufficient energy from "run-of-the-river" projects to export significant amounts of energy to it's neighbour India.

The third pillar is preservation and promotion of culture. The Bhutanese government views this as a crucial strategy to preserve the country's sovereignty. It has implemented policies that conserve and promote Bhutanese religion, language and literature, art and architecture, performing arts, national dress, traditional etiquette, sports and recreation. For instance, the government requires all Bhutanese to wear traditional dress to offices, temples and official functions. Doing jimba (volunteering) is an integral part of Buddhist philosophy. Since the Bhutanese culture is essentially Buddhist, many customs are based on Buddhist ideals. Practicing jimba helps promote Buddhist values, therefore promoting national culture and traditions.

The fourth and the last pillar is good governance. The Bhutanese believe that good governance is vital for the happiness of the people. The fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuk handed his power to the power to the people. Now Bhutan is Constitutional Monarchy in 2008.

1 comment:

Akhtar said...

Wealth and material gains are the measure of happiness, it comes with the peace and to start with, the inner peace. We are waiting for the day when the happiness will be gauged with human attributes and not with material resources. Bhutan is a good example of this which should be followed by other countries also.