Gross National Happiness

The term Gross National Happiness was coined by the fourth King of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuk in the late1980sThe conceptof GNH defines Bhutan’s development objectives as improvement in happiness and satisfaction of the people rather than just the growth of gross national product. The country believes that for holistic development of individual and society, it is essential that development achieve a sustainable balance between the economic, social, spiritual and cultural needs of the people. The concept reminds the country that the means must always be considered in terms of an end and therefore every step in material development and change must be measured and evaluated to ensure that it will lead to happiness,  not just more development.  An aggregate measure of country’s national production, in vein of gross national product, or gross domestic product. Gross National Happiness attempts to measure the sum total of not only of economic output, but also net environmental impacts, spiritual and cultural growth of citizens, mental and physical health and strength the corporate and political system.

Happiness is defined as the degree to which the people in a country enjoy the life, as they like to live without harming anyone in the society. Happiness is the ultimate objective of human being at the individual level, but GNH is the national goal in Bhutan. Happiness is oftenly equated with money by around the world except Bhutan. GDP is the common rod to measure the economic growth, progress, public welfare and well being of a nation by the economists. GNH is being presently pursued through four platforms

  • Sustainable development in primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors
  • Environmental preservation, cultural promotion in the aspect of associate family values
  • To promote the traditional cultural heritages
  • Transparency, accountability and decentralization policy by the good governance

The policy of economic transformation places certain pressures on society, but the country cautiously avoided the trend of rapid growth maximization rather it developed its new phenomenon of GNH. Bhutan and its Buddhist concept has internalize the overall sustainability of economic, ecological, ethical and spiritual aspects of human progress. Bhutan is much remarkable than other South East Asian Countries in some aspects because of their idea of GNH. There are many factors behind to support the concept of Gross National Happiness by the government and by the people over here which are

  • Isolated land in the high Himalayas
  • Sustainable political situation in the monarchy
  • Good Governance
  • People in the country are not very greedy
  • Negligible social crimes
  • Very low population (as per the recent date only 6, 00,000)
  • Highly dependent economy of the outside source
  • More than 75% of the land area is covered by forest
  • Very less chemical based industry at the domestic level
  • People are abiding the legislation and respect the monarchy and the members of parliament
  • Medical and education are completely free to all the people
  • Most of the people are happy with whatever they have
  • Civilization, modernization and liberalization are not much influenced the Bhutanese society
  • less corrupted system in Bhutan
  • The strong support to the concept of GNH from the public

These factors have proved that money, financial status and economic conditions and other facilities alone do not bring happiness and good health conditions to the people unless they develop their selfless life, moral, behaviour and character of the people in general. Now, the idea of GNH has started to influence other countries around the world where numerous economists, social scientist are trying to develop policies, which take into considerations not only the flow of money alone but also health care, leisured time with family, conservation of natural resources and other non economic factors.

Happiness is an immeasurable and an individual phenomenon. It is an exogenous variable, which means no one can say how much a person would be happier even after he or she achieves his or her objects and goals. One of the reasons for the basic economic problems of unlimited human wants could be the reason for this exogenous concept. Of course, there is no doubt that good health condition of the human being would keep them to work efficiently at all level to obtain the economic maximization personally at the micro level and generally at the macro level of the country.

A very popular fictional story, "There was a poor and good healthy person in the metropolitan city. His economic status even could not allow him to buy a cycle. He used to go for work by walk. However he had the desire to buy a cycle. The days came true in his life to get it. After few days, he desires to buy a motorcycle that too came true in his life one day. Then after few years with humans' basic nature of unlimited wants and greediness, this person decides to construct a new house and buy a luxurious car too. The days had gone and he obtained everything whatever he decided to get it over a period of time. He had become economically very strong but weak from the health aspect. One day he met the doctor for check up and the doctor advised him to do some excises like walk for some kilometers everyday to keep his body fit. Then he realized the early stages of his good health which made him wealthy but wealth brought him to ill health."

This story reminds us "Health is Wealth" and "Wealth is ill-health". Moreover, if wealth were being to fulfill the basic needs at limited and at the necessary level, wealth would give the protection and healthy life to human being. However if it is being abundantly or limitless then human has to protect them from the social crimes of steal, robbery and that it give them lot of pressures and ultimately make them ill health. This proves that "Too much of anything is good for nothing", whether it is money or anything else.

Happiness is defined as the degree to which the people in a country enjoy the life, as they like to live without harming someone in the society. In reality the social crime such as pilfer, steal, rubbery, murder, and killing at the domestic level and terrorism at the international level are harming the happiness and peace of the society. When looked into the real cause for these things modernization, civilization, material well-being might increase the crime and terrorism, which disturbs the peace and happiness of the society. The basic needs of human beings are food, medicine, clothing, shelter and a decent education. For a balanced development vision, all efforts will be made to ensure that

  • Not a single person remains hungry in the earth
  • Not a single person lacks the basic human needs of medicine, clothing and shelter
  • Not a single school-age child is denied the opportunity to attend school

The social and political peace enjoyed by the people of the country would be a cause of good governance, which makes Bhutan the envy of the neighboring countries. This sort of development approach focused on improving the quality of life, rather than increasing lucrative, is being experienced in some countries. Bhutan, which has faultless environmental protection system in place, puts its priority not on Gross National Product (GNP) but on Gross National Happiness (GNH). In terms of raising and maintaining the quality of life of the general masses Bhutan has rendered inestimable service to its people. The absence of poverty, good health and educational facilities, the high standard of environmental protection law enforces the country to be at the remarkable rate in the Asian continent. Currently, the Bhutan's idea of GNH may not be a popular concept around the map, but there is no doubt that days will come nearer to accept GNH and it would become as popular as GDP, GNI, and GNP very soon.

Dr. Selvaraj M


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