The concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) suggests that happiness is the ultimate objective of development. The concept of GNH, rather than GNP (Gross National Product), as a development objective and philosophy was envisioned and initiated by His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth King, in the late 1980s.
Three factors have exerted a major influence on the course of Bhutan’s development:
- a continuous and uninterrupted culture. Bhutan was never conquered or colonized, resulting in a nation with a strong identity of its own;
- a difficult terrain, which isolated it geographically and politically; and
- Vajrayana Buddhism provided a world-view upon which successive Kings of Bhutan have based their policies of developing Bhutan’s potential in every field.
The concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) suggests that happiness is the ultimate objective of development. It recognises that there are many more dimensions to development than those associated with Gross National Product (GNP), and that development should be understood as a holistic process that seeks to maximise happiness rather than just economic growth. For the overall development of the individual and society, it is essential to achieve a sustainable balance between the economic, social, emotional, spiritual and cultural needs of the people. This has led to the declared objective of viewing development as a continuous process towards maintaining balance between the material and the intangible needs of individuals and society.
Four major thrust areas have been identified as the main pillars of GNH. These are: economic growth and development; preservation and promotion of cultural heritage; preservation and sustainable use of the environment; and good governance.
Guided by the philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), Bhutan has been making steady progress in every sector. Hydroelectric power, economically the most significant sector for Bhutan’s goal of self-sustaining development, has had an impressive growth. Education and health sectors have made tremendous strides and continue to be most crucial social components of the country’s development programme. The government’s fiscal situation has been improving steadily. Progress has been made in the development of human resources and legal infrastructure. Full executive responsibility for running the government has been vested upon the Council of Ministers, elected by the National Assembly. Furthermore, the Constitutional Drafting Committee has recently completed the Draft Constitution for Bhutan which is intended to establish a dynamic political system by which people can govern themselves and ensure the progress of Bhutan as a nation.