The Late Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck said that the goal of development is to make “the people prosperous and happy.” The importance of “ prosperity and happiness” was highlighted in his address on the occasion of Bhutan’s admission to the United Nations in 1971. This vision was elaborated by the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck who declared in the first years of his reign that, “ Our country’s policy is to consolidate our sovereignty to achieve economic self-reliance, prosperity and happiness for our country and people.” His Majesty’s subsequent pronouncement that “Gross National Happiness is more important that Gross National Product” has captured the imagination of scholars and policy makers across the world.
Gross National Happiness is anchored on the premise that the rich are not always happy. While conventional development models stress economic growth as the ultimate objective, GNH is based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to compliment and reinforce each other.
Gross National Happiness comprises four pillars: economic self-reliance, environmental preservation, cultural promotion, and good governance which are interwoven, complementary, and consistent. These pillars embody national and local values, aesthetics, and spiritual traditions.
Guided by GNH, Bhutan has treaded the path of economic development but not at the expense of the happiness of the people. It has allowed Bhutan, for example, to both expand its network of roads and increase its forest cover. In most other developing countries the arrival of roads is inevitably followed by deforestation. The high value low volume tourism policy has facilitated high revenue generating as well as promotion and preservation of cultural and traditional values.
This development philosophy embraces the Middle Path. In the age of globalization, Bhutan’s spiritual, cultural and traditional values continue to influence the lives of its people. The government strives to enhance self-reliance and reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. Intensive efforts have been made to ensure good governance as it is the main basis of progress and happiness.
This article is the 4th article in this series of 9 articles titled “Paeans to the King”.
Reprinted from “Paeans to the King”, a free complimentary advertisement booklet with the 11th November 2007 issue of the Bhutan Times.