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Bhutan Advocates Happiness As Measure of Economic Growth

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Download This week the UN held its first ever conference on happiness and wellbeing its New York headquarters.

The conference brought together hundreds of government representatives, academics, and civic leaders to endorse the importance of happiness as a part of public policy.

To mark the conference, the UN released the World Happiness Report – reflecting a new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness as criteria for government action.

Bhutan has led the way with this idea – the country has used the Gross National Happiness index as a measure of development for decades.

Ron Corben has this report.

Bhutan’s Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley highlights the importance of holistic development to the UN – which means including people’s happiness and well-being in the equation.

“A growing section of the world’s population, intellectuals, academics, scientists and so on, are searching for an alternative development paradigm. And because of the encouragement that we have received Bhutan dared to propose happiness and human well being as a resolution to be passed by the United Nations. We were pleasantly surprised by the unanimity with which the resolution was passed.”

Last year the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution noting that purely financial indicators of economic growth do not reflect the happiness of a country’s population.

This idea comes from Bhutan.

It adopted  the Gross National Happiness index in the early 1970s to measure development.

The index brings together good governance, inclusive development, conservation and the preservation of Himalayan culture.

Kama Tsheetim is Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Commission Secretary. He explains the main principles of the measurement.

“It is an approach to development that we seek to balance the material with the non-material – spiritual, cultural aspects and the needs of the individual in society. This is based on a simple belief that at the end of the day what people want from life is to live a meaningful life.”

Traditional measures of economic progress are all linked to income – Gross National and Domestic Product. But economic growth comes with pollution, social dislocation and environmental damage.  

This is why Bhutan’s approach is an important alternative, says Kama.

“Basically what we see is that the way we are going about development today and particularly confusing progress with just GDP is actually leading to more problems than solutions. We’re not saying that creating jobs is not good or poverty – reducing poverty – of course they are a top agenda. We feel that development has to be sustainable.”

Hydropower sales to India are Bhutan’s main source of foreign exchange.

This is followed by tourism, aimed at attracting big-spending tourists while at the same time limiting the overall number of visitors. All tourists have to spend 250 US dollars each day.

This is in-line with the government’s commitment to preserve the environment and local culture, says travel consultant Isabel Sebastian.

“The policy makers here and particularly the Prime Minister are very committed to making Gross National Happiness the driving philosophy in Bhutan’s development. Therefore I have great confidence that things will go differently in Bhutan than in anywhere else. There is a great vision of the leaders here in Bhutan that really you don’t find anywhere else in the world.”

But Bhutan’s economy is also showing positive growth under traditional GDP measures.

The economy has expanded at an average of seven per cent over recent years. Income per capita is now more than 2,000 US dollars- up from just over 1700 dollars five years ago.

Bhutan has also been praised for being on target to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals over the next three years.

Doji Choden is the head of the UN Development Program’s poverty section in Bhutan.

“GNH elements of looking at environmental concerns, the social pattern of the community themselves, the holistic assessment, and then the community vitality. It’s not one priority or the other but it’s really looking at it quite holistically – looking at it from all perspective.”

But Bhutan is also experiencing social challenges, confronting issues of food security and youth unemployment. In many communities fertile land is limited.

But there’s more than one side to the Gross National Happiness story.

Despite claims it is as the happiest nation in Asia, human rights violations are a significant issue.

10 years after launching the Gross National Happiness index, the government enforced a ‘one nation, one people’ campaign.  This stripped a large portion of the Bhutanese Nepali-speaking minority, called the Lhotsampas, of their citizenship.

The campaign escalated to include harassment, arrests, and the burning of ethnic Nepali homes. Many fled to Nepal – and now more than one hundred thousand Lhotsampas have spent around two decades in refugee camps there.

According to Amnesty International, this has become one of the most neglected refugee crises in the world.

Gross National Happiness might be a holistic measurement – but only if it includes all the people.


آخری تازہ کاری ( پیر, 09 اپریل 2012 09:52 )  

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