Bhutan’s era of ‘national happiness’ comes to an end

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Bhutan kidsBhutan’s new prime minister has said he will reassess the country’s economic policy that so far was based on the so-called “Gross National Happiness (GNH)” instead of “Gross National Product”, a system that put qualitative measures of societal psychology in the focus rather than cold and utilitarian Western-style metrics.

However, the GNH “philosophy” of the Buddhist kingdom in place since 1972 has obviously not caused enough happiness among its citizens but rather discontent over ballooning debt, corruption, widespread poverty, inefficient economy and high youth unemployment.

These factors were the reasons that former Prime Minister Jigme Thinley lost the July 2013 elections, and his successor Tshering Tobgay said he will reassess or even discontinue the happiness-based state policy.

In fact, the GNH has covered a lot of problems in Bhutan’s economy and society even though the previous government spent enormous efforts advocating GNH at home and abroad, and even sponsored a United Nations resolution promoting happiness. The idea has also been readily adopted in Western academic circles in the past.

However, Bhutan’s spiraling debt has led to a crisis in 2012 that caused a severe shortage of Indian rupees, leading the government to tighten import controls that further slowed the economy and restricted foreign goods.

Bhutan is one of the smallest and least developed countries in the world, with its economy mainly based on agriculture and forestry. The small industrial sector deals mainly with cotton. The economy is closely aligned with India’s through strong trade and monetary links and dependence on India’s financial assistance. Infrastructure in the mountainous region is poor and projects rely on Indian migrant labour.

Bhutan’s future economic potential lies in the development of hydropower and tourism, but heavy investments are needed to develop these sectors. After a long isolation from foreign direct investment, the government in the past years has been eager to attract investment in these priority industries as well as the financial sector.

The largest ever foreign direct investment and also the first equity investment in Bhutan was the International Finance Corporation’s $28 million purchase of stakes of the Bhutan National Bank in April 2013.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Bhutan’s new prime minister has said he will reassess the country’s economic policy that so far was based on the so-called “Gross National Happiness (GNH)” instead of “Gross National Product”, a system that put qualitative measures of societal psychology in the focus rather than cold and utilitarian Western-style metrics.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Bhutan kidsBhutan’s new prime minister has said he will reassess the country’s economic policy that so far was based on the so-called “Gross National Happiness (GNH)” instead of “Gross National Product”, a system that put qualitative measures of societal psychology in the focus rather than cold and utilitarian Western-style metrics.

However, the GNH “philosophy” of the Buddhist kingdom in place since 1972 has obviously not caused enough happiness among its citizens but rather discontent over ballooning debt, corruption, widespread poverty, inefficient economy and high youth unemployment.

These factors were the reasons that former Prime Minister Jigme Thinley lost the July 2013 elections, and his successor Tshering Tobgay said he will reassess or even discontinue the happiness-based state policy.

In fact, the GNH has covered a lot of problems in Bhutan’s economy and society even though the previous government spent enormous efforts advocating GNH at home and abroad, and even sponsored a United Nations resolution promoting happiness. The idea has also been readily adopted in Western academic circles in the past.

However, Bhutan’s spiraling debt has led to a crisis in 2012 that caused a severe shortage of Indian rupees, leading the government to tighten import controls that further slowed the economy and restricted foreign goods.

Bhutan is one of the smallest and least developed countries in the world, with its economy mainly based on agriculture and forestry. The small industrial sector deals mainly with cotton. The economy is closely aligned with India’s through strong trade and monetary links and dependence on India’s financial assistance. Infrastructure in the mountainous region is poor and projects rely on Indian migrant labour.

Bhutan’s future economic potential lies in the development of hydropower and tourism, but heavy investments are needed to develop these sectors. After a long isolation from foreign direct investment, the government in the past years has been eager to attract investment in these priority industries as well as the financial sector.

The largest ever foreign direct investment and also the first equity investment in Bhutan was the International Finance Corporation’s $28 million purchase of stakes of the Bhutan National Bank in April 2013.

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