– His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo
Over the years, Bhutan has cultivated a unique approach to development with its national philosophy anchored on the principle of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which was promulgated as the country’s philosophy of economic and social development by the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk in 1972.
GNH refers to a set economic intervention that evaluates societal change in terms of the collective happiness of the people and lead to the adoption of policies aimed at that objective. Premised on the believe that all human beings aspire happiness in one way or another, the concept promotes collective happiness of the society as the ultimate goal of development.
According to GNH, true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual advancement complements or reinforces each other. In other words, it states that the means must always be considered in terms of the end and, therefore, every step of material development and change must be measured evaluated to ensure that it will lead to happiness, not just more development. The philosophy therefore, attempts to harmonize economic progress with the spiritual and emotional well-being of the people.
Bhutan believes that the holistic development of the individual and society can be achieved only through a sustainable balance between the economic, social, emotional, spiritual and cultural needs of the people. Development initiatives based on GNH values are therefore not restricted to the present population of any given society; it includes future generations and other societies, indeed all sentient beings.
GNH emphasizes that the country’s current pursuit of development should not cause misery to future generations, other societies, or to other sentient beings, as understood in the Buddhist concept. GNH has been Bhutan’s overarching development philosophy that has guided the country’s development policies. The country has made rapid development in a short period.
While the concept and development of GNH continue to evolve, concrete steps, such as operationalization of the GNH index, will continue to build potential and relevance of the concept to everyday socio-economic decision making.