The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is making waves with its radical approach to measuring development.
Instead of, as in the rest of the world, measuring the state of the nation in terms of material wealth or GDP, Bhutan is integrating the promotion of happiness into education, and then measuring how happy the people feel. The government believes this is the only indicator that counts, and the idea is strongly promoted by Bhutan’s much-loved Royal couple.
“I am happy, and it is possible to always be like that, if we control our minds. If we help others, it is possible,” claims schoolgirl Phuntso Wangm.
Gross National Happiness is an abstract concept, and Bhutan certainly has the problems of economic development, inflation, unemployment, a growing gap between rich and poor, and rural flight to the cities common to many underdeveloped nations.
By fostering GNH the government hopes to allievate the strains of Bhutan entering the modern world, although critics say the idea has become over-intellectualised and is going over the heads of the people.