Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Bhutan - In the shadow of the GNH sun

By all accounts, the high level meeting on happiness and well being, convened by the Bhutanese government last week at the UN headquarters in New York, to define a new economic paradigm for the global community was a landmark beginning.

The Bhutanese delegation reportedly felt overwhelmed by the response, and intimidated by the expectations of the global community.

To be able to influence the global community towards a new economic model that is more sustainable, holistic, inclusive, and equitable takes some doing, and Bhutan has done that. It should be a matter of pride for every Bhutanese.

At home though, the mood has been anything but happy, with critics and skeptics labelling the meeting as a waste of time and resources. The Indian Rupee situation has not helped either, with it basically blanking out everything else, exposing some structural weaknesses, and leading to a good deal of discourse on what should be done to be more financially secure.

But critics and skeptics are, and rightfully so, pointing to the problems facing this country of GNH, and questioning why so little attention is being paid to them by leaders and decision makers. These outpourings could be interpreted as citizens in a democratic Bhutan, exercising their right to expression, even if there is nothing good to say; instead of just saying the politically correct thing, without really meaning it.

GNH may have taken birth in Bhutan, but most agree, including the leaders, that Bhutan is far from being a GNH country. There is so much more to do, because the business of happiness is a serious one.

Yet, as much as the world needs a new economic paradigm Bhutan also needs as much the GNH vision to keep it from going off course because there are indications that it just might.

While the world’s greed in ravishing the planet is scoffed at, here citizens are morphing from needy to greedy consumers. That is why the GNH vision is so relevant to Bhutan and her citizens.

In last week’s meeting, the global community identified four dimensions for the new economy: wellbeing and happiness; ecological sustainability; fair distribution; and efficient use of increasingly scarce resources.

With Bhutan to take the lead on further expanding the basic construct of the new economy, there is much to do to put wellbeing and happiness at the centre of development, not only for the global community, but also and especially at home.

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