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National Development: GDP vs GNH III

National Development: GDP vs GNH III 12 Values and ...
3 days ago - National Development: GDP vs GNH III 12 Values and Development: “Gross National Happiness” Text of the Keynote Speech Delivered at the Millennium Meeting ...
Values and Development: “Gross National
Text of the Keynote Speech Delivered at the Millennium
Meeting for Asia and the Pacific, 30 October ~ 1 November
1998 Seoul, Republic of Korea
His Excellency Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley
Chairman of the Council of Ministers
Royal Government of Bhutan
Mr. Chairman, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:
I am most grateful to His Excellency Nay Htun, UN Assistant
Secretary-General, for the honour he has conferred upon me
by inviting me to address this important meeting. I also wish to
 express my appreciation to the Government of the
Republic of Korea for the warm hospitality that my delegation
has received. I have accepted this invitation without false
modesty, because it reaches beyond me as an individual
towards my country, the Kingdom of Bhutan. We are deeply
honoured by the fact that UNDP and Government of the
Republic of Korea have considered fit to recognize our
development philosophy as a worthwhile topic to be shared
with you today. The Royal Government and the people of
Bhutan value this inestimable opportunity through which the
development ideal evolved by His Majesty the King is given a
hearing beyond our own border.
I expressly bring to the distinguished gathering the greetings
and good wishes of the King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme
Singye Wangchuck, who has been the fountainhead of
philosophy, concepts and policies of our development for
nearly three decades. His Majesty has proclaimed that the
ultimate purpose of government is to promote the happiness of
the people. This point has resonated in many of his speeches
and decrees, which stress both increasing prosperity and
happiness. His Majesty has said: “Gross National Happiness is
more important than Gross National Product”, and has given
happiness precedence over economic prosperity.
1. The Place of Happiness in International Development
Policies Happiness is a shared desire of every human being. It is
possibly the ultimate thing we want while other things are
wanted only as a means to its increase. It is my great privilege
to talk on gross national happiness as a non-quantifiable
development objective in Bhutan. However, I am under no
illusion that I can explain all the doubts that will arise, within
the compass of this short and simplified talk.
I am neither a social scientist nor an enlightened monk with specialist
perspective into this issue. My shortcoming in this field is
compounded by an indifferent academic climate: happiness
has usually been considered a utopian issue. The academic
community has not developed the tools we need to look at
happiness, one of our primary human values. This has led to a
paradoxical situation: the primary goal of development is
happiness, but the subject of this very goal eludes our analysis
because it has been regarded as subjective. The current
approach may be too obtuse and unnecessarily scientific. We
do not need scientific proofs to assess happiness meaningfully.
We can, and in my opinion we must, raise policy and ethical
questions about happiness. It is a universal proposition and
value. It is a goal all humanity shares in common.
I venture to submit that happiness should be made a major
focus in assessing welfare. Much is known about income
disparities but nothing about the happiness gap either
between social groups or between nations. The trends of
happiness of people are unknown. Happiness is not the direct
concern of many governments or international agencies.
Consequently, social and economic policies have not been
designed explicitly to address happiness. Although, many
agencies have been highly sensitive to the movements in the
social and economic indicators, it is hard to find any
institution articulating causal relationships between these
indicators and happiness. Its absence in most policies
contras ts sharply with the primary concern of each individual
human being in his or her daily quest for happiness. But we
infer rather boldly from improvements in socio-economic
indicators that there might be growing happiness behind it.
Most socio-economic indicators are an attempt at measuring
means; they do not measure ends. In this context, the Human
Development Index initiated by the UNDP is the most
innovative yardstick towards measuring the ends or objectives
of development. Development strategies will certainly be
influenced by its new ethos. Our five-year plans have paid
particular attention to strategies for human development, as
shown by one-fourth of our plan budget allocated to health
and education sectors. I would like to pay my sincere tribute
to the UNDP for devising and promoting HDI, the best index of
well being we have. I hope that the authors of Human
Development Report will consider the appropriateness of
integrating some measure of happiness into this index.
I wish to propose happiness as a policy concern, and a policy
objective. In turn this may call for a new policy orientation.
This also implies new departures in research, if the concept is
considered important. We need to ask how the dramatic
changes propelling us into the 21st century will affect
prospects for happiness. How will information technology
affect people’s happiness? How will shrinkage of biological and
cultural diversities affect the individual and collective potential
for happiness? Will the particular scientific world-view of
contemporary education and curricula undercut in the next
century the basis for the culturally rich and value-full basis of
daily life? Will the process of secularization and nuclearisation
of family increase man’s loneliness, and self-enclosure in the
midst of urban crowd? Does the rapid automation of society
and the economy increase or decrease the prospects for the
happiness of the individuals? How will global capitalism and
competitive international trade make people more vulnerable
to unhappiness and uncertainty of their lives? After all, with
the recent Asian currency crisis, we have seen that the
Goddess of Wealth in a market economy can be very fickle.
Will gene therapy help create desirable physical traits, and
increase happiness? What forms of global and regional
governance are best suited to promote happiness? There are
only a few of the enormous number of questions we can ask,
and we need to ask. I am optimistic that these changes in the
next century will enhance the material comforts of the
individuals. But the question still remains: will they increase
Gross National Happiness as a Goal of Development
in Bhutan Let me now elaborate on our experience, first by
outlining briefly the main philosophy of development in Bhutan, and
how it relates to gross national happiness. Both the
conceptual justification of advocating gross national happiness
and the operational consequences are sketched to give an
impression. I hope that our development philosophy will have
relevance beyond our own borders, and that the goals and
opportunities of the next century will be viewed also from a
new angle.
Gross National Happiness best captured our distinct
perception of the main purpose of development, rooted in our
philosophical and political thought. Added to that were also
the lessons we could draw from the experiences of other
developing countries. We asked ourselves the basic question of
how to maintain the balance between materialism and
spiritualism, in the course of getting the immense benefits of
science and technology. The likelihood of loss of spiritualism,
tranquility, and gross national happiness with the advance of
modernisation became apparent to us.
There are many telling experiences of how ordinary Bhutanese
themselves strive for a balance between spiritualism and
materialism. Allow me to narrate an incidence, which
poignantly brought out the case to me. When I was the
regional governor of Eastern Zone in the late 1980s, a
prominent man double cropped a high yield rice variety with
official encouragement. The man wielded much local influence
and we wanted other farmers to emulate him to diffuse the
high yield rice variety. He had a bumper harvest and
considerable surplus grain that year. We had a perfect success
story to motivate the rest of the farmers. You can imagine our
astonishment when our model farmer refused to grow it the
following year, because he said that the bumper harvest had
left him enough to live on for another year. He would rather
live leisurely and spiritually.
However, by and large, sharpening materialistic appetite, and
pursuing economic prosperity has come to be the purpose of
development planning everywhere. There is much to commend
in this approach, when and where the satisfaction of basic
needs has eluded a large part of the global population.
Material conveniences and technological improvements are
greatly desirable to ameliorate the harsh, brief and brutal
existence in many parts of the globe. But, beyond a level, an
increase in material consumption is not accompanied by a
concomitant rise in happiness. There is ample evidence to
support this conclusion.
In addition to the conventional notion of development that
focuses on quantifiable indicators of economic prosperity,
Bhutan’s vision of development stresses non-quantifiable goals
such as spiritual well being and gross national happiness. We
do this through a concerted policy of cultural promotion and
the provision of free education, health and other social
services. Cultural promotion is one of the four key objectives
that we have consistently upheld, over the last four decades.
The four major goals are economic self-reliance, environmental
preservation, cultural promotion and good governance.
Without good governance, none of the goals are achievable.
These four goals are superficially antithetical, but they are
fundamentally complimentary and consistent. The cost of
maintaining culture and environment often makes
development projects more expensive in the short run but
pays in the long term. It would have been easier for us to
become economically self-reliant had we not been so deeply
devoted to the promotion of our culture and environment.
Cultural and environmental objectives can be restraining
factors in the pursuit of blind economic interests. The
rich character of the society in Bhutan would have become
diminished, even impoverished, if we had allowed a flood of
cultural influences and environmental degradation to set in. At
the same time, the susceptibility of the people to a diminution
of  happines s would have increased if we concentrated only on
generation of wealth.
Enlightenment Education for Happiness Within Bhutanese culture,
 inner spiritual development is as prominent a focus as external
material development. This follows from an original meaning of
development in Bhutanese context in which development meant
enlightenment of the individual. I hasten to add that enlightenment
is not solely an object of religious activity.
Enlightenment is blossoming of happiness. It is made more
probable by consciously creating a harmonious psychological,
social, and economic environment.
Enlightenment is a goal of psychological evolution for any lay
person, regardless of his or her formal faith. Some societies in
Asia, notably those in the Himalayas, have been conscious of
mental or psychological evolution. The mind has been an
object of conscious refinement. The psychological engineering
has been aimed at realization of positive mental and
psychological powers. These powers are not directed outwards
to the control of the natural world. Rather, they are turned
inwards, towards our own mind, so that we can understand
our mind and its relationship both with itself and with the
outer world. The knowledge of the self is important to attain
individual liberty and freedom, to gain happiness. I attach a
slightly different meaning to concepts like freedom and liberty
than is customarily done. We can gain freedom fundamentally
through the destruction of delusion, aggression and desire. It
would be inappropriate for me to digress too far on this topic.
Suffice it to say that, in varying degrees, the contemporary
world may be too acutely preoccupied with the self in the
sense of paying excessive attention to our selves, our
concerns, needs and likes. There is a paradox here: excessive
preoccupation with our selves does not lead to a real
knowledge of our self. Happiness depends on gaining freedom,
to a certain degree, from this particular kind of self-concern.
Bhutan’s traditional educational institutions and monastic
apparatus were eminently suited to the continuity of such a
philosophy of life. The ideology of the state and society, its
laws and ethics has been conditioned by this philosophy.
Today, this effort is being renewed by a curriculum that tries
to blend education in the Buddhist world-view with scientific
studies. This may appear to be a contradiction, but we are
convinced that they are fundamentally consistent with each
other. The permeation of society with such values and
perceptions is important for spiritual well being of the people.
Bhutanese development strategy entails widespread support to
monasteries and retreats. It further includes interweaving of
spiritual persons like monks and lay priests, not only in daily
life of the people, but also in health, education, and
environmental programmes.
Environmental Ethics and Happiness The normative emphasis
on minimization of self-concern and self-interest is usually
construed as turning away from the world as it is and rejection of
development or positive change.
This view is far from accurate. In our opinion minimization of
self-concern is an important step in the process of
constructing a happier web of human relationships and of
transforming Man into a less intrusive and destructive force in
our natural and human environment. Man is just a sentient
being, among other forms of existence. The assumption that
Man is on top of the chain of beings is a false comfort,
considering the mysterious web of inter-dependent
relationship that is now being confirmed through scientific
Reality is not hierarchical but whole, circular, enclosed
system. Sustainable development and environmental care is in
the interest of every being every day, not just in the interest of
future generations alone. A strong ethics of conservation,
underpinned by the beliefs just described, influenced
Bhutanese environmental policies. Bhutanese policies on the
environment and sustainable development in fact preceded
considerably the current global awareness of the deterioration
of eco-system
Permit me to cite some examples: Bhutan’s most significant
national park was created long ago in 1962. More than 26% of
the country’s area is now managed as protected areas so that
the country’s astonishing bio-diversity can be preserved. 72%
of the country is under forest cover, most of it in pristine
condition. Although forest is one of the main natural resources
of the country, one of the basic tenets of our development
philosophy is not to exploit it commercially. We are happy that
through the sink-services our natural forests provide, Bhutan
continues to contribute disproportionately to the cleaning of
the global atmosphere.
We would all agree that the mounting threat to the global eco-
system arises from two sources: (a) increasing population and
(b) increasing per capita resource consumption. In Bhutan,
family planning and education of women are intensively
promoted to slow down population growth so that the
equilibrium and harmony between man and nature, which
was characteristic of Bhutanese society, can be always
maintained. But, we also have begun to anticipate the problem
of high per capita resource use at some stage. The rationale for
reducing the size or scale of the economy relative to the eco
-system can not be derived effectively from conventional
economics, which is concerned more with efficiency of
production and distribution. Market economics is myopic
when dealing with the scale of economy relative to the eco
-system. I believe that we have to encourage ethics, ideologies,
faiths and institutions, which favour sustainable lifestyles at a
collective level. This is another reason why we in Bhutan have
chosen certain features of a culturist model of development.
Income and Happiness A growing income does not
always lead proportionately to an increase in happiness.
Consumption patterns everywhere seems increasingly to be
based on emulation of the
consumption patterns of our admired peers elsewhere. Our
need is increased when we find that others in our referenc
group have more. As psychologist and economist say,
happiness depends on relative income, not on absolute
income. In a world where everyone who has less is trying to
catch up with everyone else who has more, we may become
richer but happiness becomes elu
People may become richer but they will not have a greater gift
for happiness. Nations will not rank higher on the scale of
happiness as they move up on the scale of economic
performance. As is widely known, this is due to the fact that
the value of money in giving happiness or utility diminishes as
the amount increases. More seriously, the way people allocate
money does is not always optimal from a social point of view. I
can not stress more the enormous loss and waste, in terms of
overall sub-optimal expenditure, caused by what appears as
an individual’s rational choice resulting in sub-optimal public
choice. Personal car purchases leading to traffic jams, as well
as national military expenditures resulting in regional and
global insecurity illustrate this discrepancy. The results are
counter-productive, with far-reaching negative implication on
the climate of happiness and peace 21
Governance and Social Structures for Happiness
Individual’s quest for happiness, and inner and outer freedoms
is the most precious endeavour. It follows then that society’s
ideal of governance and polity should promote this endeavour
of the individuals. The founders of our country dedicated the
particular system of government in Bhutan to promote certain
visions of enlightenment and happiness of the citizens. The
country itself was perceived as a kind of mandala, a place
where Man could transform their infrastructure, polity and
social organizations to create gross national happiness.
The Royal Government of Bhutan and
His Majesty the King of Bhutan continue to be guided towards
 the fulfillment of that vision in the evolution of its political and
social structures, taking both the strengths of our resilient and ancient society,
and genuine virtues of western democracies. Before the advent
of modernization in Bhutan in 1961, Bhutan consisted of self
-reliant and self-subsistent communities, possessing well
-defined community based rules and institutions to facilitate
the use of common resources. In the earlier phase of
development relying on top-down planning, the importance of
such community structures and people’s knowledge was
compromised. Happily, their erosion have been checked now
due to the wisdom of His Majesty the King of Bhutan, and the
top-down decision making has been reversed. Since 1981, His
Majesty the King initiated a vigorous programme of
administrative and political decentralization. The
decentralization policy has enhanced the democratic powers,
social responsibilities, transparent processes, and structures
of villages and communities to make decisions at grass roots
The greatest change in the devolution of power took place in
June 1998 when His Majesty the King devolved full executive
powers on the Council of Ministers that was elected by the
National Assembly of Bhutan. Since then Bhutan has entered
into a new era of governance, supported by many other
measures to increase integrity, accountability and 22
transparency of government. Such democratic changes are a
part of a continuous process.
At th
e same time, we are committed to the strengthening of
social cohesion and unity on which gross national happiness
also depends. The pursuit of individual self
interests during
modernization often threatens the rich bonding of individuals
as members of exte
nded families and communities. We wish to
preserve social structures in which every one, whether
children or elderly, are honoured and respected. For example,
we wish to preserve the social value whereby people are
elevated with age. The breadth and qualit
y of social relations
lie also at the root of happiness of a person throughout his or
her life cycle: from childhood to old age. We can not relegate
any member of the society to homecare, without depriving
them of their happiness.
Concluding Remarks Bhutan has followed a multi
-dimensional approach to development: aimed at spiritual and material balance and
harmony. The international opinion towards Bhutan’s
development philosophy has always been supportive and I
hope it will continue to be favourable. But, every alternative
development approach is also a challenge. While we accept the
reality of globalisation and cultural change, we can always
endeavour to select the most beneficial aspects of it. To make
the correct choice is our greatest present and future tasks;
and we believe, very profoundly, that it is a challenge that
every country must take up and confront the challenge of
increasing human happiness boldly and creatively.
We remain deeply committed to economic,
political and social freedoms. A genuine experience of these freedoms and goals,
however, can not be deepened without inner freedom. The
nature of freedom and happiness, which all of us seek, will
itself become more profound with the inner freedom we can
I hope and pray that the third millennium will bring greater
happiness in all countries, and in all societies. May we begin
the third millennium by striving to promote a kind of global
and national governance which promotes gross national
happiness the most.
I would like to thank you for giving me this great privilege of
addressing you

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