of development of a GNH society
both developed and developing countries, planning is concerned mainly with
the creation of the material basis of 'good life' while its content is
to be defined by individuals. By conventional definition of development
as well as ranking of countries by per capita income, both high levels
of material possession and consumption that makes it possible for developing
countries to "catch-up" with the developed, are necessary criterion in
the concept of a developed nation.
However, this notion of development
planning is at odds with the vision of a future for Bhutan that is not
focused only on material or external development, but also on ecological
and cultural integrity.
any case, conventional development theories do not specify happiness as
the goal of development; happiness is seen as a possible by-product of
development. Equally, conventional development theories see the problem
of happiness as an individual concern, not a primary policy concern of
the state. The term subjective well-being, by which happiness is known
in western literature, is telling.
Bhutanese cultural context, the original meaning of development of the
state, and the individuals within it, meant observance largely of enlightenment
education with respect to ethics, intellect and wisdom by its population
in order to reach happiness (dewa). And the function of the Gross
National Happiness (GNH)
state is to remove conditions and constraints, both physical and mental,
to achieving it.
the concept of Gross
National Happiness promulgated by His Majesty the King, social welfare accrues not
only from material goods but also from unquantifiable spiritual and emotional
well-being. GNH raises happiness as the most important value that should
guide policies. A proximate concept is deljor (abbreviated form of delwa-jorpa).
Wealth (jorpa) is necessary to a certain degree but only to get freedom
from wants to pursue fulfilling activities that fundamentally restrains
the people from inflationary expectations damaging to their true happiness. Accumulation
of wealth (jorpa) appears hollow if all of human effort is consumed in
its pursuit, leaving with little freedom (delwa) and happiness (dewa or
Causes of Rapid Development
of Bhutan occurred most rapidly since 1961,
when the five-year plans were launched by the Third King. To give a picture
of conditions prevailing before 1961, the first historic batch of 20 Bhutanese
pupils completed high school only as late as 1968.
This is not to say that there were no education or health services: the monastic
education system flourished, as it does today, as parallel system
to Western education.
The achievements are particularly remarkable
given the modest base levels from which the process began. But a broad
framework to guide, as well as evaluation, national choices and decisions
were to come out with the achievements are particularly remarkable, given
the modest base levels from which the process began. But a broad framework
provided by GNH to guide, as well as to evaluate, national choices and
decisions that could move in different directions, had to wait for the
accession of the Fourth King in 1971.
rapid development can be attributed to several distinct causes:
and the most important impetus are the activism and dynamic leadership
of the kings of Bhutan, who had a central role in national policies in pre-1998 polity. A visionary, the present King could consummate his farsightedness
with his immense capacity and energy for hard work. During a phase of rapid
transformation, strong coordination and clear directions are prerequisites.
Policy drifts, that could arise from party political cycles, have been
prevented because of the existence of a disciplined vertical command structure.
Continuity and cohesiveness in policies probably could not have been maintained
without the benign but decisive authority of the king. People have internalised
the value of monarchy as an active agency of development as well as tradition.
However, His Majesty has increasingly transferred power and authority from
the Throne to other institutions in the long-term interest of the nation.
cause of rapid transformation is that Bhutan possesses rich resource
endowments such as hydropower and biodiversity, combined, unlike
many other developing nations, with a low population density.
Hydropower is the main area of commercial investment and exploitation, and the rocket-engine
of the economy.
a population of 600,000 people, Bhutan has a low density. There
is no labour surplus, contrary to the situation in many developing countries.
Research show that Bhutan had about 260,000 people in 1747;
so the dynamics of demographic was such as to create a stable population over the last 250 years. Primary health services combined with water
and sanitation programmes have improved public health. Owing
to these and other factors, the population growth rate was discovered to
be already 3 percent in early 1990s,
but it has come down to 2.5 percent by 2000 due to successful family planning campaigns.
well-functioning administrative machinery and community organisations are not usually acknowledged as important factors of development. The presence
of well-developed administration and cohesive community organisations is
the third cause of rapid development. Their calibre and integrity are essential
conditions for rapid development to occur. The former is an instrument
of delivering goods and services, the latter one of receiving and utilising
them, at the initial stage of development. Later, community organisations
should progress to being author and subject of their own development. The 2002 DYT and GYT Acts point to such community organisations as bodies which
can determine the nature and scope of transformation, including certain
regulatory autonomy, within the community.
crucial cause of rapid development has been the long-term support of
various donors. Not a single donor, whether multi-lateral or bilateral,
who have come to participate in Bhutan's development has so far quit the
country. This has to do with the transparent utilisation of aid, and the
realisation of intended purposes.
cause, also often insufficiently stressed, is the primacy of Bhutanese
culture. As a country whose experience remained different from that
of historical trends in both the sub-continent, and in Tibet and China,
Bhutanese culture and ethos evolved in relative continuity. This culture
has been a source of defining development strategies of one's own choice
and pace. To a large extent, the adoption of stereotypical ruling strategies
and policies has been averted, and the decision making process in Bhutan
has insisted on its own terms of development collaboration. Culture as
a criterion of evaluation and perception has been embedded in the mores
of high officials.
Its unifying grip may, however, be weakened as new generations
move up the official hierarchy and as the administrators, professionals,
business people, and industrialists do not necessarily have the same mooring
in culture and traditions. This only reinforces the need for strengthening
the intellectual and research bases rooted in values and culture of
GNH that can support Bhutan's search for a path away from dominating influences
of concepts and means towards homogenisation. Cultural distinctiveness
is seen defensible for its intrinsic value as well as for the defence of
the sovereignty of a nation faced with asymmetry of power with its neighbours.
Karma Ura, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper