Watching how the country Bhutan works its way on development is truly admirable. In times when almost everyone in the periphery is trying to move away from agriculture to reach industrialization, the approach that they are doing towards sustainable development and riding against the tides of modernization can easily put someone in awe.
While most leaders in the periphery try to attract foreign investors to secure economic ground, the king of Bhutan committed to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values. Their economy is based on agriculture and forestry, which provides most of the jobs of their people. Agriculture consists largely of subsistence farming and animal husbandry, and many of the farmers use traditional methods of farming. While their agriculture is highly extensive, their industrial sector consists mainly of cottage type production. Their hydropower production and attraction to tourists also have great potentials in propelling their economy.
Though many countries define themselves through their Gross National Product, the king of the country of Bhutan disagrees. He coins the term Gross National Happiness, which defines the quality of life in more holistic terms. While conventional ideas on development stresses the need for economic growth, gross national happiness defines development quite differently. GNH measures the quality of nutrition, housing, education, health care and community life. It encompasses the idea of the development of the society as a whole, which happens when material and spiritual development occurs side by side and complements each other, thus making the people happy.
One can argue that this Gross National Happiness is just sugarcoating the economic progress of the some countries in the periphery, particularly those whose GNP is lightyears away from the core. The country Bhutan may have score high in the Gross National Happiness Index, but they can’t hide the fact that they are the 162nd in terms of the largest economies around the world.
But then, why would a country with a low GNP have happier people than people from the core countries? People in Bhutan are much poorer, so isn’t it ironic for them to be happy given their poor state? A much bigger irony; they are happier than their affluent counterparts.
In the Philippines alone, Pres. GMA has been busy showing figures on how the GNP of the country improved since her term started. But does the filipino people feel this “improvement”?
While GMA keeps on mentioning the country’s GNP, she forgets that GNP, as a measure, is one-dimensional, as it only pertains on the material production and exchange, which does not necessarily affect everybody in the country. Just because there’s an increase in the goods and products that are circulating the country does not mean that the general welfare of the people is uplifted. Increasing foreign exchange does not translate to better social services. The US may be the a global economic leader, but it also has skyrocketing sales of anti-depressants and multiple social crises. For many years political leaders in the philippines try to turn the philippines into an industrialized country like our asian neighbors, but in the expense of what? In a nation where emigrating citizens are considered heroes, just where are we heading? Maybe the Philippines should start on applying this new concept of development in the country, and instead of
In a much smaller scale, it seems that many of us have been misguided by dismissing the basic ideas of wellbeing. We don’t listen to what people say about how happy they are, we simply look at their place in the social strata and judge for ourselves. We just presume that if they’re earning more moolah and driving more expensive cars then they’re good. But more often than not it’s not the case.