In response to Dr David’s critique of GNH – Part 2

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

The changes in the world was not made by academicians solely, it was supported by the willing leaders, think of the American leaders all of whom have asked academicians to bring forward changes.

The Breton Wood measure took a wrong shape, in the presence of so many academicians who should have changed the course of history by putting wellbeing in its measures, despite leaders stating that is was a wrong model of development as it ignored human wellbeing.

In July 2011, 68 countries co-sponsored that wellbeing and happiness must be a development goal and Bhutan was asked by the UN to present the GNH concept to the UN in April 2012. After that, the Prime Minister who you are criticising was appointed by them to chair a committee to work on the new sustainable development paradigm so that the earth survives for generations to come.

The urgent need to come up with a sustainable development model is felt everywhere in the world, it is additionally from the following facts.

Despite stunning achievements in science, technology, arts, literature, explorations, and so on, hunger, strife, war, economic turn down, unemployment, failing democracies, climate change and poverty are real and we are witnessing them every time.

Today to satisfy the world population, mother earth is made to produce almost two times her capacity. FAO reports that 850 million people are malnourished, 1,100 million do not even have access to drinking water and 7.7 million children die of hunger every year. Only the 20% of world population take two thirds of world income enjoy 86% of goods produced from our common heritage of natural resources and the poorest 20% consume just 1.3%. This is while 40% of the world’s population accounts for as little as 5% of global income. Where is the equity?

Dr. David asks the question, how to measure happiness and very well answers it at the end of the first paragraph of answer 6; “The real issue is not what we measure but how we behave”. This is exactly what GNH is trying to advocate. Simple is it not? We should not be lost in measures but learn to live mindfully, the key to happiness and success.

Thank you for pointing out to us our various social problems. We are aware of them; example, we have even calculated the HR cost on alcohol which is Nu 30 million a year. As we are blessed as a small country with a small population and our leaders are working tirelessly to resolve these issues we have no doubt it is just a question of time. Also, to match the market job requirement, we have several vocational institutes. Whether you believe or not, we are promoting human resource as one of our market forces.

Mrs Luechauer measures Dr David’s followers with 87% success and as well the 13% who disagree. Yet, I do not understand the statement Dr David made that people are scared to speak openly and cited an example of GCBS, Gedu. They may not be speaking publicly because we live with our culture of respecting the elders, seniors, teachers, leaders and so on. We do not call teachers, parents, seniors, and leaders by names (they are serene and holy for us); because we differentiate and value our culture so criticisms are not spoken openly). You will be surprised that in one of the early national assembly’s during 1960s two of the members voted against our third King. The culture of openly speaking may not be there but there are several systems and mechanisms established to speak one’s mind, the most recent being the social media and I am sure the Luechauer family is witnessing it.

We must thank Dr David for a long list of advice he gave on the second question of the third part. However, he did not suggest the kind of products we must go for. He wrote that he was irritated often when he wanted to buy some things and he was told to buy from India because Bhutan did not produce them, thank you for the advice. We are in between China and India who can produce goods including food items much, much cheaper than we and therefore we stand little or no chance to compete with them.

However, we are trying to create niche products – mainly in the service sector where we feel we stand a chance, such as tourism, education, health, IT, organic farming, hydropower, etc. But sadly very often we are shot down with many of our own critiques. So, Dr David it is not true that there is no voice as through the social media everyone is shot down. The proof is the response evoked by the GNH critique.

I also like Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs which is not far from GNH principles and values. The only difference is that actualisation takes place on success factor, while in GNH it is the spiritualisation value at the apex of the hierarchy, beginning with basic needs.

Thanks for suggesting that we develop entrepreneurs, the government since several years has begun such programs under the then Ministry Trade and Industries (renamed as Economic Affairs for more than five years) which shifted to Ministry of Labour and Human Resources. The Ministry of Finance and NGOs do provide for start up capital even without equity. I am sure developed nations did not produce entrepreneurs overnight; the culture is just beginning that is why there is such a shortage of such human resources. There are, as I already wrote, vocational institutes. We still have to import labour because parents in any developing and even developed countries wish their children to go to universities. Two years ago, His Majesty awarded a sanitary-sweeper giving the message to the nation that we do not have to be officers or executives to be leaders. We are leaders in our own working areas if we can conduct our duties, roles and responsibilities with right values.

I would like Dr David to read our constitution. Today we have close to 150 laws, acts that were framed over last eight years and as far as people are concerned we are not giving them time to digest one but bring out several in a year. This may bring a lot of regulatory impact and in some cases it may be costly for a small economy like ours.

If the ongoing financial and economic models were good, a question to every reader, why is the world suffering from economic turndown, financial crises, social distress, failing democracies, and the global warming due to excessive production?

GNH, on the contrary checks policies, one example is when Bhutan wanted to join WTO, and the GNH Policy Screening Tool was employed. The 24 best minds from all areas of competencies were asked a question – should Bhutan join in WTO? 19 interviewees said ‘yes’ and five said ‘no’. Then the tool was given to answer the same question to the same group of minds. Surprisingly, 19 answers were analysed as ‘no’ and five answer as ‘yes.’  If you have doubts, please check with GNH Commission to confirm.

GNH is already in application in Bhutan. Since over 3 decades we are using the four pillars (equitable and sustainable socio-economic development, cultural resilience, environment preservation, and good governance) of GNH to frame our five year plans. GNHC is using the GNH survey results to make strategies and prepare policies, plans, and programs so that the four pillars are equally and fairly extended for the equal benefit of the population.

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  1. In my view this question from Dr.Samdu’s rebuttal sort of sums up these debates that have been raging after the chain of critique from Dr.David on GNH. “If the ongoing financial and economic models were good, a question to every reader, why is the world suffering from economic turndown, financial crises, social distress, failing democracies, and the global warming due to excessive production?”. This is a question that needs to be asked even to our supposedly pro GNH government given the current state of our economy, governance and spate of corruption allegations against our very leaders who stand in the international arena as prophets of GNH. To most Bhutanese there is no denying on the noble values and intentions that GNH espouses, its the application where most ordinary citizens get confused and perceives a yawning gap and mismatch between idealism and realism. Most people in all commonsense understand that GNH deserves its place not for all the confusion and hypocrisies in the name of GNH but for the genuine intention and the goodness with which it was born from our wise beloved K4 as a balanced solution for a troubled world. I pray that GNH blossom like a beautiful flower as the gardeners and the gatekeepers do their weeding in their backyard.

  2. Dr Saamdu Chettri,
    Be practical. GNH is a very good concept. We don’t deny it as so called Dr. David. But did it really hep Bhutanese.
    All those who are advocating GNH are very much into corruptions and scam. Here it is like saying “man you better be content with what you have” and admire at what we are doing- Accumulating land and money. You be poor and happy with GNH. You work for us.

    But lately after seeing all this scam and your justification i have to a conclusion that “GNH IS USED AS A TOOL TO BECOME RICHER AND ACCUMULATE WEALTH AND KEEP OTHERS POOR” by those who are advocating it.

  3. Dasho Dr. Samdu stated that GNH is simple as people to learn to live mindfully, to behave judiciously, intelligently, to be content etc. It is not simple. It is yet complicated as you had been convincing people. Yet people do not buy your philosophies. What keeps me asking is what conditions can you provide to keep people behave mindfully?. How can you change each individual with the same attitude, same thinking, same degree of emotions etc that is most people content, mannered, intelligent, judicious.. In fact every individual is nurtured to be a content and happy the moment they are born till adequately educated but why is not after all same?. If all of you at top rung of social class are learnt to be happy why are you there for so ambitious? why corruption is at big stake? Go to villages and start supporting them grow. 70% of the citizens are still primitive way of living. A living culture of date back to 500 years. Nothing much have changed. Most parents and cousins are still living there. They know nothing about agriculture marketing, mechanization farming, least literate, know nothing of about Government, democratic systems and world. Can one develop country without involving money? With our country’s economy could not afford to buy basic things how can you equate to buy emotions. A emotion that is not fixed like computers. it is every second variable. Mind is fleeting, temporal, wary, etc. Just jotted for learning processes. Good luck

  4. yes! i agree with the comment made above, GNH is not very practical and our government & PM is trying hard to advocate it ,but the question to all is that can we really achieve GNH if we continue stressing to our negative point. we should do small things in our own waays which contribute to GNH,

  5. Do we have comparative advantage (niche products according to Dr. Chettri) over India, Thailand and Malaysia to provide world class education? The primary concern of expats in Bhutan is health care. If we want to have a college that would provide world class education, we also need a hospital that would provide world class medical care. Why would people come to third world to get world class education? When Thimphu city does not even have a proper public toilet, it is a tall talk to talk about world class education. The education city promoted by the government is doomed to fail.

    I do not think education, health, IT and organic farming are niche products that Bhutan can excel.

  6. In Buddhism there is a practical course known as Tonglen. Tong means giving and Len means taking. This is one of the most difficult practices where Buddhists are supposed to undergo this pratical training in order to realise the selflessness of person. It is about giving our happiness to others and then taking their sufferings to oneself and this is quite unusual behaviour as every one of us are reluctant to share one’s pleasant things with other’s unpleasant circumtances. This will require surrendering one’s ego and that is why our Lama teach us to undertake 100000 protratations before one becomes suitable vessels for receiving pith instructions to achieve ultimate ultimate happiness. But ironically most of the politicians, beaurucrates, academicians, scholars, experts are loaded with egoistic attitudes which further expands in manufacturing more sufferings in the name of GNH. On the contrary we persist on cherishing ego instead of destroying it through understanding views of middle path. To understand this view one has to go beyond rational and logical conceptual mind.

  7. I hope Dr. Samdrup and JYT is not telling us to go and meditate in the cave/jungle. GNH is not that.

  8. Dr. Samdru Chhetri? What kind of name is this? Perhaps given by JYT!!

  9. Dr Samdu has all praises for JYT. Now I understand why he was bent on promoting GNH in front of bunch of cham cha chilips in  GNH center Bumthang. What is the role of Ron Coleman  in Bhutan. Is he a citizen of Bhutan?  Was surprised to see him using Royal Bhutan Embassy Guest House in New Delhi.

  10. In wee hours of time what Bhutan need is not GNH but absolute justice, truth and education for taking Bhutan into 21st century IT world. In place of building GHN centre in Bumthang it will better to build professional education centre for the Bhutanese youths. I am not against GNH philosophy, am talking from need basis. GNH is noble philosophy including me all the citizens of this country love it but at the same time priority will be important. Our country also needed national reconciliation and healing that everybody is aware of it. Our GNH today must be participation in the pains and sufferings of Bhutanese people. GNH must answer the problems of Bhutanese people in our day to day life. When Bhutanese shine GNH will shine. Its my believe that, “ If GNH can reach out her destiny with the truth and justice Bhutan will have small contribution to the world”.

  11. pema wangchuk

    Explain GNH, not recite. Define its principles first then support with evidences. None so far really spelled out any principles of GNH rather poured out heaps of conditions that are necessary to feel GNH. All say it is good philosophy, have rich values. What are they? I really want to know what GNH is………..

  12. Well, here is a situation. MOst of the people who are commenting are either anti government or they dont know what GNH is. I’m a final year student studying here in North America and i’ve been here for the last four years. What I’ve seen so far is not like what we see in media. There are thousands of people who cannot afford education, health care and so on. And there are homeless people as well. Yes! In first world country. Is it possible? Of course. With that being said, the problems we have in Bhutan is nothing compared to America. US has 6% of worlds population, but it uses 60% of world’s resources. Bhutan doesnt want to be like the US! We get free health and education. Bhutan is a peaceful and beautiful country and we all should be proud to be Bhutanese. What first world countries have is no necessarily the best, but what we have in Bhutan is very special. Bhutan never said GNH is perfect. What bhutan is doing is that it is puting forward the idea of GNH in the international communities, but it is up to them to decide.

    • You think you are wise but the way you confront people directly by saying people were anti Government is not definitely wise way. Do not you understand that we are searching the truth and answers. Not necessary mean that when we are arguing we are against Government. Who is there who do not love own mother land? We love our country and Government more than you dumb head. You think you know more but i think you need to learn and understand better different angles and different perspectives.

    • lets be sincere. Just by telling the characteristic does not alone define GNH. Free education and free health does not tell about GNH, it tells about its by-products. Similarly, no point in case to infer substance of GNH by telling where one is educated…….Hope this heals!

  13. The concept of GNH is getting distorted because the people who r advocating it are in confusion. They are not able to distinguish truth from falsehood. Hence GNH is a tool for psychophants who live in pretention.

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