In Bhutan, the government is mandated to ensure that all of its development activities, plans, policies and programs are designed to benefit the people and increase happiness. This development ideology does not regard economic gains as a yardstick to measure growth and development.
The Bhutanese idea of happiness was thus summarized by the Fourth King, when he declared, “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product.”
The development ideology of Gross National Happiness sits on four main pillars, 9 domains and 72 indicators. Good Governance, Economic Development, Preservation of Culture and Preservation of the Environment are the four main pillars of Gross National Happiness.
Development activities must be in line with these four pillars.
Government policies before being implemented are also put through a test to check if it breaches any happiness indicators. If a certain government policy does not fulfill the happiness criteria, they are revised again and screened.
Therefore, the government must continually work to create an environment where people can pursue happiness. Basic infrastructures like roads, electricity, schools, hospitals and telecommunication therefore receive major emphasis.
Health and education receive utmost priority and receive the biggest share of government budget. Primary health care and educations is completely free in Bhutan.
Gross National Happiness is also not possible without vibrant culture and healthy natural environment to live in. The constitution of Bhutan mandates more than 60 percent forest coverage at all times.
In recent times, Bhutan has received remarkable international recognition, when the current Prime Minister announced to the world that Bhutan is not just carbon neutral, but also carbon negative.
Bhutan’s lush green forest resources absorb more carbon than it can produce.
Tourism is one of Bhutan’s major revenue earning sector. But in a bid to preserve the environment and culture, Bhutan follows a tourism policy called the High Value- Low Impact.
Tourists are therefore required to pay a daily tariff of USD 200 to USD 250 depending on seasons.
Ultimately, the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness ensures every one is given equal access and opportunity to pursue happiness.
Economic prosperity does not always translate to happiness. To achieve happiness, while economic growth is desirable, it often leads to depletion of natural resources. Therefore, Gross National Happiness seeks a balance between its four main pillars.
In short, Gross National Happiness allows pursuing economic prosperity, but not at the cost of its environment and culture.