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.