Director of the GNH Centre Bumthang, Dr Saamdu Chettri in a two part opinion responds to the series of critical views expressed by Dr David L. Luechauer on GNH.
I am a late comer to the discussions on the subject. My thoughts are based on all three critiques of Dr David Luechauer. I would like to thank him for his mindful conversation with The Bhutanese. I wish to however, clarify a few things that has already brought some doubts in the minds of many readers who have little knowledge about GNH and doubtful /sceptical if it was a workable philosophy and many (87% of the participants according Mrs Luechauer) have supported this article with the flow of the critique’s thoughts.
At the onset, I must make is clear that this is not retaliation, (by no means it makes me happy if people thought so – as very well said by Dr David in his last critique, “It is not about the Kings”) but just a discussion to broaden the horizon of discussions thus far so that we also see the same perspective from other side of the coin.
Let me start with Dr David’s statement in the second part of his first answer where he mentioned having given leadership training to 50 financial officers from large companies, many of whom did not know where Bhutan was. And he concludes that answer stating that an average person on the street only knew about the King and Queen (definitely Bhutan). This meant these great financial leaders are not average persons. I think if Mr. Luechauer had asked them, how many countries were there in the world and how many of them are members of UN? I doubt if anyone would have known the answer. I am sure the financial officers, who after the training they received from Mr. Luechauer, would best address how to make profit, handle cash flows, manage fixed and variable costs, marginal cost, cost of production, investments, banking, insurance, advertisement, and so on – which are part and parcel of a national measure in GDP or GNP. America is big therefore a world by itself, so it is understandable when Dr David says these financial leaders do not use GDP or GNP to measure their business or the volumes of commerce. Nevertheless, the World Bank, IMF, UN and many other bodies do measure each country with one of these tools, which GNH is arguing, for various reasons, as a wrong one.
Before, I say why these are wrong measures, let me ask Dr David Luechauer as the teacher of the financial leaders, whether he also included and taught these companies’ officers to consider equanimity for employees and customers, produce in consideration with the environment (infinite and finite resources – sustainable and not sustainable), consider stress level to the society, nature, customers, employees, regard waste management, consider material value and equality from customer point of view? I am quite sure he did, otherwise companies with only profit motives are inhuman because they consume the common heritage produced by the earth for all of us for the benefit of a few million who can afford. Any production needs raw material and we all know where it comes from, the earth.
The measures GDP or GNP was formed 50 years ago in America and it has been rigorously used by World Financial Institutions and Global Organisation for measuring the growth of a county’s economy (financial component is just a small part of it). The GNH argues that these measures (GDP and GNP) do not measure and rather considers valueless, to name a few, standard of living, distribution of income, natural capital, human capital, voluntary works, household works like raising children, cooking food, cleaning etc., socialising, nature walk, meditation, gardening, black-marketing, real saving, security, etc. What it measures is destruction, for example, we cut all our forest and sell the GDP grows, the more green houses gas we emit by burning fossil fuel to run our cars, factories, machines, the more GDP grows; more crime, pollution, war, and sickness we have, the more GDP grows, simply because money is spent on prisons, politics, weapons, medicines, and pollution clean-up and re-building costs. Therefore, many things that make GDP or GNP grow; indicating an expanding economy, actually signify a decline in wellbeing of all sentient beings.
Dr David picks up the word ‘happiness,’ this is what everyone discovers first when we say GNH. Happiness has a profound meaning, it is not the fleeting one based on moments of pleasures. It is much more. In the words of the Prime Minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley, “We know that true abiding happiness cannot exist while others suffer, and comes only from serving others, living in harmony with nature and realising our innate wisdom and the true and brilliant nature of our own minds”.
Mr. Luechauer has tagged GNH as a socialist model connected to environment. He does not realise, as an American, how much money is spent on social causes, not all Americans are rich to have their own houses, insurance, medical expenses, old age care, etc, and it is in the billions. Research by academics has shown that if every person in the world had to live an American life, the present population in the world would require four planets or earths. I am not sure which kind of growth and living standard is Mr. Luechauer suggesting us to achieve and live with?
People are content unless they watch advertisements that condition their minds creating greed and excessive desire. Dr David does realise the simplicity of Bhutanese lives (and feels sorry for us) and that of our Kings living in small spaces. His account does show frustration under Gaeddu College of Business Studies, one reason he refers to is the working colleagues, who according to him, put little efforts and the other unspoken one is that nobody probably gave importance to unscripted experts. If Bhutan allowed unscripted experts to come in, there will be less Bhutanese and more unscripted foreigners in the country undermining our very existence in this case.
Dr. David also doubts that if Bhutan is not careful GNH could bring so much money that corruption could kill our country and further funds would overwhelm our land that we become no more sovereign. He must realise that Bhutan has very limited number of donors by choice and Bhutan has a strong and strict fund (donor or own) management system. Bhutan was given an award few years ago as the best country employing donor resources as Bhutan lives with its values. Mr Luechauer also argues that leaders must give more importance to democracy and less to GNH. Further he goes on to say in the first part itself that it is the job of the academician and not leaders to advocate/ research on such works as GNH and that Bhutan does not live up to its promises. Although Dr. David has profound ideas, he is confused and mixes too many things together because probably he has too many things to share. He talks of strengthening democracy and in next breathe asks the politicians to force people through process and programs to become self-reliant. He must take time on each of the potential topics and advice us, the beginner Bhutanese, on the principle of development and economic growth.
The first truth is that we are not recipients but donors, Bhutan produces Nu 760 billion worth of natural wealth each year; of which it uses just 47% and the rest is donated to the world. Rome was not built in a day nor was America. The US has a democracy of over 700 years (close to 1000 years) and we are less than five years old. Comparing many democracies around the world, we are already doing better.
The new democratic government promised five minimum programs (education for all, primary health services to all, drinking water to every house, lighting every house, road to every gewog, and telecommunication access for all) and it will be met more than 95% by the end of 2013. Why is Mr. Luechauer charging the government that it over promises and under delivers? I don’t understand. An economy cannot be built overnight. Our leaders are working towards it. Even America is not self-sufficient (may be self-reliant) and Dr David suggested that Bhutan becomes both a self-sufficient and self-reliant country. On the latter, I am confident Bhutan will become self-reliant in between 2020–25 based on the way many programs are taking us forward….. to continue