Recently, I read an article in which the author, a Bhutanese National wrote that, understanding and making GNH work at home is a prerequisite before anyone in Bhutan or elsewhere will accept and more importantly attempt to implement it as an economic development strategy. At present, GNH reminds me of nuclear disarmament, ending world hunger, promoting world peace, protecting the world’s women & children, and protecting the environment as “feel good” pursuits with which there is little to disagree conceptually.
Indeed some might argue that our very survival on this planet hinges on their attainment. It is this “we must or we need or you must or you should” level of GNH that things become a bit more problematic. They can also become a bit contentious.
Perhaps part of the problem is that despite there being genuinely different but valid opinions on the topics, they are also too large and too complex for most people to “get their heads around.” Can anyone imagine a more difficult concept to define and upon which to reach consensus than happiness? I can’t. However, there is a solution.
An old environmental slogan suggests that we should “think globally but act locally.” Acting locally in terms of economic development means Bhutan must first show the world that GNH is implementable, operational, sustainable and functional in Bhutan. I’ve made this argument on countless occasions. However, with Bhutan openly using the pursuit of GNH in its lobby to obtain a seat on the UN Security Council against Korea and Cambodia it is a message that is worth repeating. The jury on GNH is still out and it has yet to render a verdict on Bhutan. In fact, I would argue that despite being a “GDP” nation the Republic of Korea is by far a more worthy candidate.
Despite the opinion of some that I am “hyper-critical” it is not me doing the writing or reporting. The evidence as is constantly reported across all of Bhutan’s media outlets clearly indicates that Bhutan’s operationalization and implementation of GNH is falling well short of both the hope and promise GNH advocates portend.
Therefore, as they board their respective flights to the UN meetings, Bhutanese leaders cannot and must not ignore the realities as reported in their own backyard by their own media. The argument for the pursuit of GNH or the inclusion of Bhutan on the UN Security Council can only will be strengthened when the data demonstrates that GNH not only promotes economic development but that it fulfills the cultural, social, environmental, political outcomes it promises.
When GNH is sufficiently developed and operationalized such that Bhutan rivals, equals or exceeds the Republic of Korea on such internationally measured indicators as the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index; Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index; the Heritage Foundation Indices of Economic Freedom; or, the Global Peace Index from the Institute for Economics and Peace Bhutan will deserve its rightful place at the table. Sitting on the Security Council is an earned position. It is not or should not be an entitlement for espousing a few commendable goals such as GNH.
As it currently stands, GNH is a fad. It is a bit more difficult to discern whether or not Bhutan’s candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council is realistic or just another fantasy flight being promulgated by a few leaders. In either case, they are both topics that are talked about by the “few” not the many, as some media outlets and Bhutanese leaders would have the people believe.
What Bhutan needs is real economic development the type of development born of hard work, sacrifice, and in some cases even “suffering.” To this end, it is and has been my sincere hope and prayer, that Bhutanese leaders stop worrying so much about what they measure and whether they get a seat on the UN Security council and get busy doing the exceptionally hard work of building an infrastructure that someday, a day in the very, very distant future may, result in genuine and lasting happiness for the people and a seat on the UN Security Council.
Dr. David L. Luechauer – Krannert School of Management, Purdue University, USA