Opposition gives its take on Bhutan’s middling happiness rank

The World Happiness Report 2015 which is one of results of the happiness resolution passed by the United National General Assembly in July 2011 ranked Bhutan at 79 out of 158 countries just two places above Pakistan.

In response to a question on the issue the Opposition Leader Dr Pema Gyamtsho said that the yardsticks used by the UN and the Center of Bhutan Studies (CBS) would be different and also the timing of the survey would be important.

He said that since the survey was carried out in the transition period of 2014 just after a controversial election in 2013 and also the banning of import of vehicles, alcohol and so many other factors that would have influenced the answer.

He said another factor was that at the time people did not see the new leadership taking kindly to GNH though he was now happy that GNH was back on the agenda.

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said it depended on the criteria used as a different 2006 report ranked Bhutan 8th in the world.

He said that looking at the past CBS reports on happiness he was very apprehensive with the structure of the questions themselves. He said the CBS methodology was in act quite different from international ones.

He said that instead of CBS simply asking if a person is happy or not there were so many levels of questions. He also said that CBS kept on changing their methodology. The MP said that it was important to have a comparable data and standard for surveys.

Khar-Yurung MP Zangley Dukpa also agreed that the timing and methodology mattered including the target audiences and who gets interviewed. He also said that the happiness of people kept changing with their circumstances. He said it would be important for CBS to maintain its parameters and consistency and follow the same criteria and people.

The MP said that people were generally happy in Bhutan given the political stability, free education, healthcare etc but there would be people who would also not be happy.

Lamgong-Wangcha MP Khandu Wangchuk said Bhutan never claimed to be the happiest country but it said that it was working towards enhancing the happiness of its people. He said his own view was that unless the economy can create jobs Bhutan’s happiness levels would go down. He said if educated youth cannot find employment both the government and youth will not be happy. He said hundreds of youth not getting jobs after education then happiness levels would be affected and so huge changes are required to overcome these challenges.

Dorji Wangdi said that Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay in his first state of the nation address had said that happiness is not the business of the government and that it would be left to CBS. He said that even today CBS is involved in carrying out a happiness survey for the government.


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