The basic idea of Gross National Happiness was to create an environment where every individual is given an opportunity to be happy. The concept of Gross National Happiness has its root during the reign of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, where he express his view on the goal of development as making the people of Bhutan a prosperous and happiness nation. With this strong view in mind, the importance of “prosperity and happiness” was highlighted and coined together by the fourth king of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk, when the country first entered the world map joining the United Nations in 1971, expressing the importance of happiness over material gain. The fourth Druk Gyelpo travelled far and near throughout the kingdom that he repeatedly allured to the need for the government and the leader to aspire to give to the people what they needed and desired most. His Majesty giving birth to a new development philosophy centered on the intangible human emotion of happiness. This new development philosophy of Gross National Happiness was officially declared, happiness as an ultimate measure of the nation, rather than economic gain in 1070s. The concept implies that sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards nations of progress and give equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing. The world economist argued that the key to happiness is obtaining and enjoying the material development. Bhutan, however, adhered to a very different belief and advocates that amassing material wealth does not necessarily lead to happiness. Bhutan is now trying to measure progress not by the popular idea of Gross Domestic Product but by through Gross National Happiness.
His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyelpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, expressed in his speech that the rich are not always happy while the happy generally considered themselves rich. While conventional development models stressed on economic growth as the ultimate object, the concept of Gross National Happiness is based on the premise that true development of human society take place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other.
The philosophy of Gross National Happiness has recently received international recognition and the United Nations has implemented a resolution “recognizing that the gross domestic product does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people,” and that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”. The United Nations also have embraced the concept of Gross National Happiness and declared 20th March as the International Happiness Day. In Bhutan, November 11th the birth anniversary of the fourth king Sigme Singye Wangchuk is celebrated on the grand scale across the country among people from all walks of life.
The four main pillar of Gross National Happiness
- Equitable and Equal socio-economic development
- Preservation and promotion of cultural and spiritual heritage
- Conservation of the environment
- Good governmence, which are interwoven, complementary and consistent
These four pillars embody national and local values, aesthetics, and spiritual traditions. The concept of Gross National Happiness is further classified into nine domains in order to create widespread understanding of Gross National Happiness and to reflect the holistic range of Gross National Happiness values.
The nine domain
- Psychological Well-being
- Time Use
- Cultural diversity and resilience
- Good Governance
- Community Vitality
- Ecological Diversity and resilience
- Living Standard
Crucial to a better understanding of Gross National Happiness, is its wider reach and awareness amongst other countries, and the various indices that have now been formulated to include material gains in their assessment of the country and lastly, the growing need to synthesize the moral with the cultural values as the core of economic policy.
Gross National Happiness as a development paradigm has now made it possible for Bhutan to take its developmental policies into the remote corners of the kingdom and to meet the development needs of even its most isolated villagers, while still accentuating the need to protect and preserve our rich environment and forest cover. The policy of high value, low impact tourism has facilitated the promotion and preservation of our cultural values.
Furthermore, the concept of Gross National Happiness has greatly enabled the pursuit of development, while at the same time promoting the attainment of happiness as the core philosophy of life. For the government, it has facilitated the drive towards self sufficiency and self reliance, the ultimate reduction in the gap between the rich and the poor and ensuring good governance and empowerment of her people as one of its key directives.