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Phurba is from the remote hamlet of Dangchu under Wangdue Dzongkhag. He started his education from the last hut of erstwhile Dangchu Community School and then to Nobding and to Bajo. After class X, he went to Punakha HSS and obtained his degree in Economics from Sherubtse College, an affiliate to Delhi University. Prior to joining civil service, he did his Post Graduate in Public Administration from RIM. He is now an Asst. Planning Officer in Ministry of Education.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Gross National Happiness


Ladies and Gentlemen!

Very Good afternoon

After I picked number “3”from the lucky dip, for a couple of minutes, I was thinking what should I present to my international friends especially as I am second, number one being our coordinator who has already spoken. What subject could make my friends interesting? At certain point I even thought I should sing a Bhutanese song which needs no preparation and any ways no one can understand it. Or should I tell a short story? These were some of the questions I was asking to myself. I turned to two of my friends and casually asked them on what topic should I speak. Both of them suggested me to speak on Gross National Happiness as I am the first Bhutanese to speak in this august gathering. So finally I decided to speak on this topic even though I am not an expert on GNH. I was once again worried when Mr. Soren Villadsen informed the class that Bhutan has different method to measure the welfare of their citizen and he is going to discuss this and find out what this new animal is in the forest. If he is going to discuss should I stick to it? By then only a few hours left for me to really prepare this topic which deserves our best effort.  Due to many limitations, I will not be able to comprehend this topic within this few minutes. Never the less, I will try to at least give you some idea on GNH. By the way Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayan region in Asia tucked in between China in the North and India in the South. Some choose to call the “Last Shangrilla”.

You all will agree that all most all countries measure their development using GDP methods. In Bhutan however, we measure the growth of our country by Gross National Happiness. Our forth King in 1970s when he was a teenage young boy pronounced that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product”. Since then now more than 4 decades back Bhutan´s journey with GNH began. Our king then realized that existing development paradigm-GDP didn’t consider the ultimate goal of every individual that is to achieve Happiness. Our king thought that if all our trees are cut down and sell, our GDP will increase. Such an act of neglecting our environment will cause flood and other related damages and more investment would be required to mitigate them. This would further increase GDP but not necessarily improve the lives of people. On the other hand conventional GDP doesn’t take into account the volunteer work we do and also free time we relax and socialize. Therefore, GNH is more important.

Now what is GNH? GNH is defined as a “multi-dimensional development approach that seeks to achieve a harmonious balance between material well-being and the spiritual, emotional and cultural needs of our society.” (Website of GNHC). It is basically about holistic, sustainable and inclusive growth of the country. As said by an American management guru Peter Drucker, “What get measured, gets done”, since 2008 precise metrics to measure GNH was initiated.

GNH has four pillars and nine domains

1.       Sustainable and equitable Socio Economic Development

a.       Living standards

b.      Education

c.       Health

2.       Preservation and promotion of culture

a.       Cultural diversity and resilience

b.      Community vitality

c.       Time use

d.      Psychological well-being

3.       Conservation of environment

a.       Ecological diversity

4.       Good governance

a.       Good governance

Each of these domains has certain numbers of indicators and sub indicators to measure as objectively as possible.

Now in Bhutan we try to mainstream elements of GNH into all our plans or programmes. And all our progammes and plans have to pass to through GNH Policy and Project Screening Tool which ensure that relevant dimensions of GNH are considered in a systematic way while assessing policies and projects.

Lastly, I would like to clearly state here that presenting on GNH doesn’t mean that Bhutan has attained GNH. Like most of the developing nations we too are struggling with challenges of fulfilling the basic needs of our people. But at least we have GNH as our developmental goal that makes us unique from others. Never the less, I am happy to report that GNH index is 0.743 in Bhutan. Also Bhutan is one of the top 20 peaceful countries in the world to live in according to the recent Global Peace Index. The General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 66/281 of 12 July 2012 proclaimed 20 March the International Day of Happiness recognizing the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives as proposed by Bhutan. Thus many countries are now increasingly seeing GNH as an alternative goal for development.

This is in nut shell what GNH is.  If you are interested, please google on GNH. I am sure the browsers are bombarded with articles on GNH. As I said, this topic deserves much more time and effort.

Thank You