Gross National Happiness: Development Philosophy of Bhutan

Economists the world over have argued that the key to happiness is obtaining and enjoying material development. Bhutan however, adheres to a very different belief and advocates that amassing material wealth does not necessarily lead to happiness. Bhutan is now trying to measure progress not by the popular idea of Gross Domestic Product but by through Gross National Happiness.

His Majesty the third Druk Gyalpo (King) Jigme Dorji Wangchuck expressed his view on the goals of development as making “the people prosperous and happy”, while the fourth Druk Gyalpo emphasized that for Bhutan “Gross National Happiness,” is more important than “Gross National Product”.

While conventional development models stressed on economic growth as the ultimate objective, the concept of Gross National Happiness is based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other.

The philosophy 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”.

The four main pillars of Gross National Happiness are:

  1. Equitable and equal socio-economic development
  2. Preservation and promotion of cultural and spiritual heritage
  3. Conservation of environment and
  4. Good governance which are interwoven, complementary, and consistent.

These pillars embody national and local values, aesthetics, and spiritual traditions. The concept of Gross National Happiness is now being taken up the United Nations and by various other countries.

Gross National Happiness as a development paradigm has many implications on the Bhutan’s policies, as the concept is used as a framework for any development. Tourism is no exception and the policy of “high value, low impact” tourism has facilitated the promotion and preservation of Bhutan’s cultural and environmental values while facilitating foreign visitors the discovery of this unique country.

What to know more about Gross National Happiness? Visit these government websites:

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