Gross National Happiness

The term “Gross National Happiness” was first conceived by His Majesty the fourth King of Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. He used this phrase to signal his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values. GNH serves as a unifying vision for Bhutan’s five-year planning process and all the derived planning documents that guide the economic and development plans of the country.

The Bhutanese grounding in Buddhist ideals suggests that beneficial development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. The concept of GNH is transcultural—a nation need not be Buddhist to value sustainable development, cultural integrity, ecosystem conservation, and good governance which we called four pillars of GNH. Through collaboration with an international group of scholars and empirical researchers the Centre for Bhutan Studies further defined these four pillars with greater specificity into eight general contributors to happiness—physical, mental and spiritual health; time-balance; social and community vitality; cultural vitality; education; living standards; good governance; and ecological vitality. Although the GNH framework reflects its Buddhist origins, it is solidly based upon the empirical research literature of happiness, positive psychology and well-being.

Four main pillars of Gross National Happiness are:

  1. Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development
  2. Conservation of environment
  3. Preservation and promotion of culture
  4. Promotion of good governance
  1. Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development.

           The Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development does not prohibit economic growth and development, but is implemented by placing a priority on health and education sectors.It is estimated that over 30% of the national budget of Bhutan is placed on the social sector. This financial dedication is tangible evidence of the government’s commitment to provide a secure livelihood for its citizens and one in which its population is healthy and educated. Along these same terms, capacity building in the development of professional skills to manage development has been a common program implemented. Other important social development facilities are widely available throughout the country such as schools, hospitals and agricultural centers. Additionally, policymakers have introduced a personal income tax in order to redistribute wealth more evenly.

           The Impact of Gross National Happiness

           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 rates
  1. Environmental conservation:

The Environment conservation is also valued widely throughout Bhutanese society as many citizens’ sources of livelihood are dependent on their natural environment, especially those working agriculturally. It is commonly believed that irresponsible activities in nature will lead to negative and therefore unhappy outcomes. Most Bhutanese accept the fact that the environment should be preserved for others and the future generation, limiting severe environmental degradation. 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 cover
  1. Preservation and promotion of Culture

         The preservation and promotion of Bhutanese culture is another factor in development and GNH strategy, as Buddhist cultural pureness ideology is widespread. It is widely believed that a decline in traditional heritage and culture will lead to a general dissatisfaction of society and has therefore preservation of culture is a high government priority. This is observed in the school system as all children are taught Bhutanese cultural values.

A Bhutanese film industry that has completely edged out both Holly and Bolly -wood exports in movie theaters. A media corpus that is growing and expanding in an enabling climate. A growing talent pool of writers and publisher in English and Dzongkha (national language)

  1. Good governance:

            This pillar has received the highest priority of our former king since the time of his coronation in 1974. Deeply convinced that the fate of Bhutan must not depend on the accident of birth. He worked methodically against popular will to transfer the absolute power of the ruler to the people. In so doing, he stands as a leader who has worked hard to distance and separate himself from the source of power and having succeeded, abdicated the throne at the age of 53. Some notable development in strengthening this pillar are;

Establishment of Bhutan as the youngest democracy in the world in 2008, with the first democratically elected government having assumed the privilege to serve on a platform of justice, equity and change with continuity

Commitment of the government to the principles of transparency, accountability and responsiveness and ensuring full independence in the functioning of the constitutional oversight mechanism and arrangement for check and balance.

A conscious pursuit to establish resilient democratic culture within, government, party, institutions and society at large to ensure that the faith of the people in democracy is firmly established ,and  that the people should never be compelled to consider other undemocratic alternatives.

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