Gross National Happiness: Development Philosophy of Bhutan
The idea of Gross National Happiness has recently received international recognition and the UN has implemented a resolution “…recognizing that the gross domestic product does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people,” and that “…the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”.
This was most clearly demonstrated when, way back in the 1970s, The Fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck famously pronounced, “For Bhutan, Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product!”.
Gross National Happiness, or GNH, is a holistic approach to development that aims to enhance the happiness and wellbeing of its citizen. GNH steers the government away from chasing unrestrained material growth, towards sustainable economic development that is balanced with social progress, cultural protection, environmental preservation and good governance.
GNH drives all development in Bhutan. And to make sure that development is truly holistic, GNH is built on four inter-related pillars.
The first pillar of GNH is equitable socio-economic development. This pillar ensures that economic growth is clean, green and equitable, and that all citizens are provided free healthcare, and free education.
The second pillar, protection of culture, ensures that in this age of globalization, Bhutan do not lose its culture and traditions. This is important, not just because Bhutan are a small country, but also because, as the last surviving Mahayana Buddhist country, Bhutan as the world’s custodians of a unique spiritual and cultural heritage.
The third pillar of GNH is the preservation of the environment. That’s why 72% of Bhutan is under forest cover. That’s why more than 50 percent of its total area is protected as national parks, nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. That’s why Bhutan is biological hotspot. That’s why the Constitution requires Bhutan to ensure that; “… a minimum of sixty percent of Bhutan’s total land shall be maintained under forest cover for all time.”
And that’s why Bhutan is carbon neutral country. In fact, Bhutan is a carbon negative country: Its forests sequester three times more greenhouse gasses than what the entire country emits.
The fourth pillar of GNH is good governance. The great and visionary monarchs first focused on making the government transparent, accountable and decentralized. And introduced democracy. Actually, imposed democracy! People didn’t want democracy. So King imposed it, against the will of the people! What this means is that Bhutan is probably the only country in the world that didn’t have to fight for democracy.
Today, Bhutan is a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy. The elected government had been faithful to the ideals of Gross National Happiness. The government creates happiness for the people.
The Constitution of Bhutan dictates that, “The State shall strive to promote those conditions, that will enable the pursuit of Gross National Happiness”.