Gross National Happiness (GNH)-Measuring Human Welling being in Bhutan

In today’s class, we have mentioned GNH as a potential substitute for GDP. GDP has failed to measure whether activities are good or bad due to its only focus on economy. For example, natural disasters could contribute to the GDP growth since it stimulates economic activities such as increasing demands for construction.

By contrast, GNH has become a more comprehensive indicator since it draws upon a broader set of social, environmental and health measurement. One of the GNH creators Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley mentions” we have to think of human well-being in boarder terms. Material well-being is only one component. That does not ensure that you are at peace with your environment and in harmony with each other.”

In detail, GNH aims to evaluate sustainability, wellbeing and quality of life. Its measurements include the value of voluntary work and unpaid housework, natural capital such as energy, air and water quality, sustainable transportation, levels of health and education, crime, pollution and recycling levels.

However, GNH has its own limitations. Certain elements such as happiness from love is hard to be measured by a quantify method; also people have different perceptions towards what happiness really means to them. In addition, GNH is only an indication and does not solve the real problems. For example, after releasing GNH in Bhutan, the country still faces challenges such as poverty and alcoholism.

In my opinion, GNH is a valid substitution towards GDP.  However, its measurements need to be constantly improved.

Reference links:

http://www.kuenselonline.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=6522

http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/UNSSC/UNPAN026298.pdf

http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-61364-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html

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6 comments on “Gross National Happiness (GNH)-Measuring Human Welling being in Bhutan
  1. I like the idea of the GNH very much, but I think it’s rather complementary than a real substitute. Our business background still requires highly tangible indices like GDP in order to assess the attractiveness of a market.
    A very positive aspect is the ability to benchmark countries in details like recycling level or crime – this would put a lot of pressure on national politicians towards a broader development I presume.
    If you are interested in futher “alternatives” to the GDP I recommend this blog post:

    http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/30/alternatives-to-the-gdp/

  2. shaneennis says:

    While I do think that the practice of adopting an alternative measure of economic growth compared to the traditionally accepted GDP standard is a major step forward in terms of integrating sustainable development issues into a country’s economic system I think Bhutan also illustrates that this practice (when only applied by a few economies) can be somewhat useless.

    I’ve been watching a few videos on Bhutan and the whole concept of GNP/sustainable development recently and found two rather interesting clips (see links below). The videos largely focus on the impact climate change is affecting Bhutan and could be potentially disastrous for its economy. Many of Bhutan’s glaciers are retreating at an extremely high rate, with some experts predicting that they may be gone by the year 2035. The activity of glacier melt in Bhutan is a special case however. Because of its natural topography silt and boulders carried downstream from the glaciers form large dams which prevent floods in Bhutan. However as the rate of glacier melt increases, scientists are worried that the level of water the dams are required to hold will inevitably break as the pressure of holding the water becomes too high. Considering the fact that agriculture is the main livelihood of 80% of Bhutan’s population this would clearly be disastrous for the economy, never mind the 750 million people that scientist estimate will be affected across Asia if the glaciers keep melting.

    Therefore I think the case of Bhutan shows that although GNP is certainly a means of developing a sustainable economic system within a country unless it is supplemented with large scale projects to reduce the damage already caused to the environment in a country, from activities such as global warming, it isn’t a perfect solution.

    Links:

  3. jeremy says:

    The GNH indicator is by no means perfect and, by definition, it will be subjective. However, sometimes it might be better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.

  4. evignoles says:

    Have a look at this video from TED.com. In it, Chip Conley argues that business leaders must learn how to measure the intangible as well as the tangible ie. the things that really matter in life as opposed to those that, to a lesser extent, don’t. He uses an interesting quote from Einstein:

    “Not everyting that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

    He also proposes a formula for measuring happiness:

    The Happiness ‘Emotional Equation’ = Wanting what you have / Having what you want

    Food for thought…

  5. evignoles says:

    Embedding didn’t work…here’s the link:

  6. kynengia says:

    I think GNH focus on the results of our ability to adapt to situations and hence may not paint the true picture.

    According to the book “Gross National Happiness,” by Arthur C. Brooks, It forecasts that the happiness research will help in shaping corporate strategies. Stating on the subject of the “economics of happiness”, that although the reasons for being happy is not known but there is consistency in their response to the question on if they are happy or Not, and how satisfied people are. Hence happiness is not a function of how much income but rather, how sustainable the level of income.

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