GNH and the Rupee Crisis: A need to reset our national priorities

One of the biggest criticisms of the Gross National Happiness philosophy is that, it is an elitist philosophy. This view will get more traction as the head of the government, the Prime Minister, is away on a GNH meet in New York, meeting top global leaders and intellectuals when the country is facing its worst financial crisis till date. This crisis is getting worse by the day causing real economic pain to most Bhutanese.

If our elected leaders really want to find out how happy the people are, they should meet the vegetable and meat stalls vendors and find out how prices of basic food commodities have shot through the roof due to a weakened Ngultrum. They should meet some of the 29,000 small businesses owners across the country and find out how difficult it is for them to get supplies without rupees.

They should also meet the patients and students who are not getting adequate rupee either for their treatment or as educational allowances.

As our leaders speak of happiness from a well lit podium in New York, the situation back home is anything but happy.

Apart from the economic crisis there are a number of things that are making most Bhutanese unhappy. A few examples would be high unemployment, growing crime rates, growing alcohol and drug abuse, widening gap between the rich and poor, increasing corruption cases, and growing intolerance in political circles.

This conference was planned well in advance of any rupee crisis and cancelling it was not an option.

However, the issue is not just about the conference but how the same energy and focus used on GNH overall, should also be used in other more important areas like the economy.

There is no argument that the GNH is fundamentally a good philosophy but there is a time and place for everything and even too much of a good thing is not advisable. We should lecture the world on GNH, no doubt, but only when we have our own house in order.

The need of the hour is first to solve the rupee crisis in the short term and then come up with policies and measures to ensure we don’t face one in the future.

The issue as pointed above is about getting our priorities right. If even half the resources, energy and time spent on our GNH visits and conferences were applied in promoting Bhutan as an investment destination then we would see more investors coming to Bhutan. After all, investment is one of the long term solutions to the rupee crisis and unemployment.

There is also a perception that our elected leaders are more eager to please the world first and then think of national priorities and not the other way around.

An example is declaring Bhutan to be a carbon neutral country when Bhutan has so much manufacturing industry potential with huge upcoming hydropower resources and large industrial estates in the south.

There is growing public impatience with the current economic crisis and this impatience is turning into anger as people have the perception that their leaders  have lost touch with reality.

Bhutan no doubt faces strong pressures as a tiny and poor nation landlocked between two giant neighbors. In the face of such pressures we have strengthened our own unique identity and culture and in doing so have come out with a unique developmental philosophy like GNH.

This has been achieved and the time has now come to move on to the next goal which should be economic development only after which we can call ourselves self sufficient. Once we are not dependent on any other country for our needs, Bhutan’s sovereignty will be further strengthened.

The tiny and poverty stricken nation-island Singapore, like Bhutan, faced a similar situation. However, in a short time, the nation and its people focused on unprecedented economic development. As a result Singapore is a regional power, a global player, and Singaporeans enjoy a standard of life envied even in the developed world.

On the other hand Greece probably has the western world’s richest culture going back thousands of years with good governance philosophies that have defined subsequent western civilizations and empires like Rome, Britain, and America. However, after Greek leaders took their eyes off the economy, the country today is a text book definition of sovereign debt crisis in Europe.

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28 comments

  1. i dont agree giving negative statement base on anecdotal evidence and specially these news paper seems to cover our PM as your everyday news.

  2. i dont agree giving negative statement base on anecdotal evidence and specially these news paper seems to cover our PM as everyday news.What are the indicators that this news paper has used to measure the happiness among the vegetable and meat vendors.This is not the way you look at GNH.Our PM gives lecture to other countries since world has found deeper meaning in it.And for your kind information ,our PM clearly mentions our country is in pursue of GNH and never mentioned we have achieved GNH.Do more research and write rational news as a genuine Bhutanese citizen.And we like to read rational and unbiased news.

    • I agree,our development philosophy is focused on GNH,it doesn’t mean the every individual in the country should be happy,there will be problem,as human being when desire increase so do our problem.We should appreciate what our government is doing for us.

    • I think we have to put a brake on GNH and come to terms with the practical situation of a country.

  3. I also find that this news paper is always trying to find fault…….rather than help government and PM in making the nation strong.

    • Yes, the Bhutanese is no doubtfully bringing lots of issues that is very provoking BUT has the paper editor ever thought that some of these issues are old and stale news. Does he have anything new or breaking news to write.

      On the other hand the paper, when read through his views and types of articles written is nothing but igniting some sort of turmoil in a peaceful country. Does he have the sense of belongings with this country. If yes then I think he as an intelligent person should know what is wrong and right for our country. Further as a reputed journalist, he should also understand the ethic and morals of a journalist and what he can write as a citizen. But looking at his articles it seems he does not have a sense of belonging to this country, the country where he was educated and now earns his livelihood. 

      Finally, he should learn to be a responsible journalist and not birdbrain.

  4. Ala may be a DPT member. The Rupee crises deserves focus and I see no wrong in it. The crises also means this government has failed in governance. Lucky this is Bhutan. Had it been elsewhere people would have turned violent.

    We need responsible government who does homework.

  5. This is what I say honest opinion about GNH. GNH is only good in the mouth of politicians, when people have to go out early in the morning for work, live only on daily wages, pay children’s school fees, buy vegetables, meat, bus fares, houserent, electricity bill, water bill, then GNH is only dream. The politicians are rich, high salary, travel in business class, get free dinner, lunch, wine, dine,, so for them GNH philosophy is good to advertise…

    I would as these very leaders to go and live 1 month with poor people in thimphu not in village and then talk about GNH. Bhutan manufacture alcohol (AWP), pollute environment (pasakha, bjemina, gomtu, industries, minning, coal, hydropower), violence (rape, murder, stabbing), corruption (land, money), I dont know how can politicians say this country is GNH, this is totally bullshit… 

  6. It is a foregone conclusion that your (Ala) PM is eyeing a post in the UN. It is just unfortunate that the ruppee crisis happened when he was about to elevated to the UN alters. Divine intervention? Think so.

    The article does not discourage your PM to go lecturing the world. That’s his privilege as the PM, as the boss! But charity and happiness should begin at home. The article is asking just that. Put the house in order.

  7. Great news. This is what we call a good piece of writing, well thought. This surely in not allegation. It is just a reminder, so ala could read it again and take it positively for we know that we can hardly solve the global issues if we neglect and hide our own problems.

  8. GNH is nor for the general people.This is for the country as a whole.
    As I always said if your country is protected you are.This GNH idea can make the friendship tie with other nation.This is not for someone to get one extra bottle of ARRRA Sarchop) or CHURMA (in kheng) Just support it…….

  9. the rupee crises is to stay here for many years to come and as pointed out, there is no solution in sight. the big wigs and the influential are not affected by this situation. that is why they speak of GNH everywhere they open their mouths. surely, the government has been in slumber and the home work was forgotten. the authorities say that this crisis is temporary but i don’t agree because the hydro power income will just suffice the government needs and the ordinary people’s plight will continue on.

  10. i dont see any problem in Bhutan.Development is fastest among the Asian Countries.Country is politically strong and people are overall happy.We are enjoying all the peace and happiness.People like kezang D,Trueson and Yangzom seems to measure GNH in terms of product. Don’t confuse this concept with work and earning.It seems you people are not happy because you people know not how to practice GNH concept.Ask yourself when you will be happy?Happiness comes only when you know how to be contented with what you have.

  11. yeah sure ala you all are enjoying as dordor already mentioned influential people are unaffected so you are also included in that group. Don’t include us in happy and enjoying group.

  12. Tenzing Lamsang is waiting his paper to be closed. He is a chaos creator and the greatest enemy of the DPT. Look at these two men- JYT and TL. 
    They are the extreme opposites and the government must bring Tenzing to the court. He seems to be a ngolop agent cutting the roots of the DPT governmnet. 
    I challange Tenzing – that in one month if I can not shut your mouth and your paper karma is not my name. You will repent when you will have to pay through your nose for all this mistake that you are doing. we are the happiest people in the world but you are one unhappy. so go join the ngolops – you deserve that.

    • I agree with Karma although I will refrain from sounding as confrontational as him or her. Tenzin has become sort of a household name in our society. The other day my daughter threatened to go to Tenzin if I didn’t pay heed to her sovereign right to pursue any activity she wanted. It is very disturbing to note the negative impact that he is creating. The populist segment of society will probably applaud every article he writes about some case from the days of yore. But at what cost. Cultivating such negative sentiments in a young democracy can have a very demoralizing and disillusioning effect on the majority who are innocent. What is particularly infuriating is that he seems to walk around with this sense of moral authority when all he is concerned about his own parochial interests. 
      Perhaps people who complain too much should migrate to some African country. I think we need to accept that we are a developing society and that some incidents are inevitable. We are leagues ahead of many countries and in time we will be able to root out corruption and some other problems of hierarchical abusing. And I don’t condemn the media’s efforts to inform the public but there is a clear distinction between informing and influencing through selective information but all I see is negative news. 
      It was very disheartening to note the negative media from our powerful media houses at home with regards to the GNH conference. When the whole world and humble media houses like CNN, BBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and nobel laureates like Joseph Stilgitz were applauding the leading role Bhutan was playing dogs in our backyard were hijacking the event. Do you even realize the significance of such an event for a small sovereign nation like Bhutan wedged between two giants that are suspicious of each other. I guess you won’t since you are not concerned about the nation as a whole.
      GNH is a transition that requires inter generational change. We can’t expect an overnight transformation. But we must acknowledge that there are many positive developments taking place; at the policy level as well as infrastructure development. We are indeed a nation that has been thoroughly spoiled. It is disheartening to hear people criticizing the government blindly without any basis or with limited information. But I am still optimistic that the efforts of some vested interest groups will not derail the nation’s broader pursuits.  

      • A philosophy should remain as philosophy. Our daily activities contradicts from GNH philosophy. Why do you want to be a hypocrites? Lets live a practical life and solve the practical problems.

    • I am in support of TL. I have never seen a more patriotic journalist than TL. He has revolutionise journalism in Bhutan. That is what we need in our country in 21st century. One man could stand up against the mighty politicians. We have never seen that before. I want to see more journalist like him fighting with pen rather than with stick. That is a true civilization.

    • calling the editor of a paper the worst defamatory name (ngolop) in his OWN website takes the cake as far as stupidity is concerned. He can easily get your IP and track you down and he has the right to do so. 

      are you so confident the PM is going to defend you or what?

  13. Fear not karma, if you have done nothing wrong, he won’t make story out of you. Tenzin lamsang is a real hero, a son of Bhutan who is doing right things at right time. His paper creates many transparency thats what we people of Bhutan also need and shouldn’t neglect us. Laws of Bhutan is above all people of bhutan whether he/she is senior goverment officer or begger in a town, so therefore it should be applied same. Tenzing Lamsang, keep same spirit.
    Lastly if Karma shut down Tenzin Lamsang and The bhutanese, then i assure you that the all Gangkar khawa will melt and all rivers in bhutan will flow backwards……..

    • Lamsang’s rear licker

      • i don’t know whose chamcha or how many corruption you have done that’s why you are feared with Tenzin lamsang. hahaha….

        • Why should i fear someone like Lamzang when I am serving my nation in my own capacity. Perhaps it is you who have engaged in some corrupt activity which is why you are trying to suck up to him so that he does not splash your name all over the news. Since my conscience is clear I do not care about provoking him. But you on the other hand are ready to award him the Druk Thuksey medal…

          • ..because your conscience is clear or because you are already in his radar!! usually the latter.

  14. Of late, I’m also really concerned with the kind of social unrest that is being sowned by this paper in my peaceful country. I think it is time to close our eyes and ponder whether Bhutan can have anyone better to lead the country than our present PM. We are a household name and has created a mark in the global arena because of his personal efforts thereby improving our country’s image as a sovereign and independent nation. No matter what attempts people make to blur my vision, atleast my loyalty to the good things that our PM is doing for the country can never be shaken!

  15. there are lots of young bhutanese who have potential to serve as PM so give them chance rather than praising existing one time and again.

  16. The High Level Meeting on Wellbeing and Happiness in New York on 2 April was gathering of close to 800 international participants including Novel Laureates,  Head of the Governments, Representatives of Permanent Missions to the UN, Country’s Envoys,  think tanks, NGOs/CSOs, Professors, Business Groups, Eminent Media Personnel, Spiritual Leaders of different Faiths, UN staff and SG Ban Ki Moon,  among many others present there. They had come to participate in that conference so titled: “Wellbeing and Happiness – defining a new economic paradigm” at the cost of their own expenses and time from all over the world to participate in that meeting, which was organized by Bhutan and initiated by our PM.  I believe such large attendance on 2nd April event was beyond expectation of the organizers and as a result could not fit into one designated UN hall which has capacity of 450 heads. They had to arrange the second hall, but had even over crowded the second over flow hall in the UN.  I have followed quite closely about this event. It was nostalgic to hear that participants were emotional and offered enormous applauds to our PM and Bhutan for the initiative. The international media such as NY times, Washington Post, CNN, BBC etc. have covered positively about this event and reflecting Bhutan’s initiative and what other country’s are missing in their development priorities. The 2nd April meeting was to alert what is actually happening with pursuit of GDP model, purely based on economic development in many other countries 
    I am saddened to hear a few of our domestic media and handful of people are trying its best to give negative news to the local people and world, which is completely opposite of Bhutan’s effort and impact made in NY early this month. As of now Bhutan has received tremendous goodwill and support as a small nation in building. It should be citizens of Bhutan to make concerted effort in building this nation with identity of beauty to talk about both at home and abroad. Mind you, through such big events as this one, it can only increase flow of tourism, which will generate foreign currency income in such economic down turn scenario, where tourism industry does not require to go and promoting Bhutan at their hard earned profits. 
    From my observation, the 2nd April event was not just a talking conference and board the flight next day and forget about it. As one my friend abroad who participated in this event, he said it was very different from many other conferences and meeting he had attended and same sentiments were expressed by other international participants. And they were appreciative of Bhutan’s initiative on this front. The follow up meetings on 3rd and 4th April was to actually submit viewpoints by breaking into four different groups i.e, sustainable and ecology group, communications group, Civil society group and Wellbeing and Happiness Group. Our PM and government will push forward to the UN and let other members states to follow GNH principles. If this being followed by the developed countries, only Bhutan will benefit from their wisdom. TL mentioned is his article “…. Bhutan’s sovereignty will be further strengthened”, there is not need to induce such doubts. We are very clear about our nationality. At this juncture, Bhutan only needs to graduate from LDC with sensible development. 

  17. Hello. I am a Singaporean. It is very wrong to say that Singapore enjoys a standard of living envied by the developed world. Sure, the economic development of the past few decades may have done a lot of good for our standard of living (no more slums, clean streets at least), but the situation is deteriorating.

    In order to boost the GDP the government opened 2 huge casinos – the first day they opened, a tourist lost all his money there and went to steal money at the airport; a lot of Singaporeans got addicted to gambling and lost all their money.

    The other thing the government is doing is bringing in lots of foreigners (Singapore’s population increased from 3 million in 1990 to 4 million in 2000 and recently passed 5 million – an influx of 1 million foreigners a decade!). This has strained our infrastructure and the trains are breaking down frequently.

    While pursuing economic development natural forest cover has been reduced and more buildings built – this has resulted in massive floods in the prime shopping district of Orchard Road and even Shenton Way, the prime financial district. The first time it happened, the Minister told us it was a 1 in 50 year flood – which repeated itself only a few months later!

    Economic development is not bad, but must be done carefully – many valuable lessons can be learnt from other countries. What is the objective of economic development? To be the richest country in the world, or providing enough for most citizens to live a comfortable life, enabling them to seek higher pursuits? Human greed knows no limits, but we need to know when to stop.

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