Alternative Growth Models: Lessons From The Happiest Place in Asia

At last month’s UN General Assembly, Bhutan’s Prime Minister denounced what he called a “monster of a consumerist market economy” that “enslaves humanity and thrives on the insatiable nature of our greed,” urging instead for an alternative form of economic governance that shies away from the indulgent emphasis on GDP. EconomyWatch spoke to Bhutan’s Chief Planning Officer, Mr. Karma Galay, and found out exactly what the nation sees as a viable and sustainable form of alternative development.

Nestled at the edge of the Himalayas and landlocked between two of the world’s most populous nations India and China, one can be quite quickly forgiven for not having heard of the little kingdom of Bhutan.

Related: Slideshow: The 10 Happiest Countries in the World

Long romanticized as a secluded paradise, or the “last Shangri-la”, Bhutan’s idea of personal fulfillment is not just a spiritual pursuit, but a government policy. In fact, while the rest of the world clamors relentlessly in the pursuit of economic growth, the Bhutan state has taken upon itself the responsibility of creating the enabling conditions for what it deems a conscious pursuit of “Gross National Happiness.”

The notion of Gross National Happiness was first coined by Bhutan’s former king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in the 1970s as an alternative to Gross National Product. Today, the Bhutanese are refining the country’s guiding philosophy into what they see as a new school of economic, political and social science.

“The concept of GNH has evolved from something philosophical to scientific approach. More appropriate measures have been set up and constructed to get a better measure of happiness. It is a serious project in Bhutan,” said Mr. Karma Galay, Chief Planning Officer of Bhutan.

Related: Bhutan’s Economy, Bhutan’s Economic Structure, Bhutan’s Economic Forecast

“There is a lot of beauty and respect for the idea (of GNH),” said Galay. Conceding that there may be several sceptics, Galay argues that the idea is nonetheless applicable and relevant to the Bhutanese economy. “The power of sharing in Bhutan is real and strong, it is part of the culture of the people. Some may say that the concept is too idealistic, too vague for application, or even that it is a Buddhist value. But likewise, the idea of sharing and happiness is a universal value upheld by all people and religions,” he said.

Read the fully story by Michele Lin on EconomyWatch: Development, But at What Price? Lessons from the Happiest Place in Asia 

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