Bringing GNH home

Happiness for some

Happiness for some

GNH is synonymous with Bhutan. So it’s important for us to participate in and contribute to the growing international knowledge base on GNH. Still, I was a little concerned when, recently, our prime minister personally led a 24-member delegation to a GNH conference in Brazil. After all, it had been barely 10 weeks since he had visited Japan to tell them about GNH.

Like some, I felt that the PM should have been in attendance when the nation’s highest legislative body was in session. Like others, I believed that he should have stayed behind to help victims of the recent calamities rebuild their lives. And, like a few others, I felt that while hitting the lecture circuit may be important, especially when GNH is in the spotlight, our head of government would find ample time and opportunity to do after he leaves office.

As it turns out, it was a good thing that our prime minister attended the Brazil conference! The visit, it appears, taught him one important lesson: that GNH is not exactly thriving in its birthplace. Yesterday, upon his arrival back home, he told the media that Bhutan was “falling behind” in the implementation of GNH. Today, he reported to the National Assembly that in parts of Brazil he saw GNH at work – individuals, NGOs, universities, private businesses, and local governments, we were told, had all made it their business to promote gross national happiness. And, he excitedly told lawmakers of immediate plans to operationalise GNH.

Very good. Our government now understands what the common man has long known: namely that, to increase happiness levels, we need is less talk and more action.

Talk about happiness, however convincing, will not make emerging problems like poverty, malnutrition, unemployment, income disparity, crime, corruption, drug abuse, domestic violence, child labour, and garbage go away. Only hard work will do so.

Otherwise, Bhutan and GNH may quickly become a contradiction in terms.

Photo credit: Kuensel


Facebook Comments:


  1. I am fully with you on this issue. I just hope that the govt./PM will take up the GNH with more action, something visible, some changes for someone somewhere than mere talking, talking, explaining, justifying left and right, inside and outside the country.

  2. Your Excellency,

    It is not about “Bringing GNH Home” but it is about “Keeping GNH Home.”

    Having listened to our Lyonchhen’s Brazil visit report for half an hour on BBS TV from 7:30 pm to 8 pm on 30 November 2009, I was simply heartbroken on behalf of the vast majority of “invisible people” of Bhutan.

    I was also watching the bewildered facial expressions of our MPs including Your Excellency’s facial expression. Looking at our MPs facial expressions, I got the feeling that they probably know more about our own real GNH than “imported” version of GNH from Brazil that Lyonchhen was talking about. I am wondering why our Lyonchhen who propagated “our” GNH so eloquently until now (and made sense) got converted into a “hippie” and came back telling Bhutan “GNH must now begin in Bhutan.” Begin??? What happened to the real GNH work HM4 has done for 34 years?

    I strongly disagree with our Lyonchhen and say that “Bhutan is not lagging behind in GNH.” Bhutanese Society is GNH Society. GNH is in our “values” and in our “thinking.” It is simply because the real builders of Bhutan or real agents of GNH are “invisible” to Lyonchhen’s powerful and priveleged eyes.

    I have seen real agents of GNH, however “invisible,” in our teachers, in our doctors, in our civil servants, in our parliamentarians, in our soldiers, in our SME enterpreneurs, in our NGOs, in our villagers, in our monks, and, of course, in Our Beloved Kings.

    Only thing we are lagging behind is not GNH but just one component of our “GNH Ecosytem” which is economy. All we need to build is strong economy to sustain GNH. We need strong economy because everything costs money. Quality of Education costs money. Environmental conservation costs money. Cultural preservation costs money (check the restoration expenses of just Punakha Dzong and Paro Taktshang). Good governance costs money.

    We may be lagging behind in “hijacked” version of GNH but not in real GNH.

    I am seriously worried if we start doing what Lyonchhen said he will do – start “teaching new GNH” in our schools, villages, civil service, business, and NGOs, then I think it will only “disintegrate” real GNH values and it might even collapse our society in the long run, long after all of us currently alive are gone.

    GNH is our “value” system or “decision making conscience”. Values cannot be forced upon the society by administrative dominance.


  3. rightly said…I was bit disturbed to read the Kuensel story of our PM realising GNH from Brazil tour. I though our PM/government is well aware of the fact that majority of Bhutanese live below poverty and when people don’t have enough to eat…..from where will the philosophy of GNH be realised.
    I think any person with half a brain would understand that there is no GNH in Bhutan, he/she wouldn’t require to travel half the world

  4. I do not understand why we are wasting so much of our financial and human resources on GNH when GNH is nothing but just another name to the old wine in a new bottle. As OL said, it is difficult for me to fathom why our PM should attend the global conference on GNH. Why not the FM? Why not the head of the GNH commission? And why at this time when our country needs the PM at home more than anytime? And it is even more difficult for me to comprehend why so many people have to follow the PM. 24 member- delegation!! Why not one,two,three,four, six,or ten? Why 24? Was it necessary?

    You name me one country in this world which did not consider all the four aspects of the GNH pillars in their development and planning efforts and I will accept this philosophy as a new and noble one, original to Bhutan. The fact is GNH was there since long time back and all the civilised nations had been implementing it for centuries. The only difference is that they didn’t call it GNH as we do. They called it by other collective names: quality education, good healthcare, clean environment, nature and wildlife conservation, preservation of culture and traditions, strong economy, freedom of speech and thought, corruption free administration, human rights and so on. Then why are we making a big fuss about it? Why don’t we, as OL said, talk less and work more and make our country a country with no corruption, no poverty, no malnourishment, no unemployment, no crime, no drug abuse, no child labor? Why don’t we work more to build good schools, good hospitals, good roads, good houses, good playgrounds, good rural roads, good bridges etc etc?

    Honestly, I am worried where this GNH will lead our country at the end.

  5. That is the price we are paying for quantifying GNH and attempting to measure happiness. Whoever heard such a ridiculous thing!!!!!

  6. Aro Khampa says

    Let’s see the problems:

    1. 23% of the Bhutanese population is under poverty line.

    2. Vast numbers of people, especially children are malnourished.

    3. Corruption is rampant… Nepotism is not far behind.

    4. Unemployment is at the highest. Even university graduates cannot find jobs.

    5. Inflation is also very high. The cost of everything has gone up.

    6. The country is still run on the foreign aid.

    7. Politicians are busy painting a colorful picture of Bhutan.

    8. The common people of Bhutan (the rural 70%) have no idea of GNH. For them life is pretty much back breaking farm-work from morning to night.

    9. The health facilities are lousy. People (who can afford) started going to Bangkok even for simple procedure as delivery.

    10. Infrastructure such as roads and buildings has been consistently reported as not up to world standard.

    11. Our country is classified as an LCD (Least Developed Country).

    So what hell are we doing?

    We are falling back even as we are discussing. Rest of the world (outside SAARC) has moved far ahead. Basic necessities like clean water and electricity still are out of rich for significantly portion of the population. And here we are busy discussing on what GNH is and what it is not. I think what Bhutan needs is economy, economy and economy. Then we can use that money to help our rural poor, give jobs to the unemployed, build hospitals, develop our culture, and perhaps also spread GNH. We must first and foremost have the ability to run our country with our own money (instead of sucking up to some donor nations every time we need to do something). We need leaders who can think outside the box to come up with creative solutions to our problems.

  7. Drugi Meser says

    I was thinking exactly what OL has written.

    When parliament session started, 5 ministers were away in the name of official meetings. The attendence of all MPs are necessary since they were elected to represnt people in parliament. I cant understand why they postpone other meetings when HM can do that. HM suspended his visit to eastern Bhutan to be in the opening session. 4th Session is important as there are many agenda to be discuss since country was going through roughest hour after 21 september earth quake and there is need to rebuild the country.

    Now these absentees are bringing GNH from Brazil and regrets that Bhutan is lagging behind in implementation of GNH. As one pointed out, we are not lagging behind but we have started the GNH journey since 36 years ago when K4 started the GNH process in 1972. I feel sorry that he has not reliazed this.

  8. Agree with Tshering Tobgay that we should put our words into actions (finally) but I think most of the comments here are inadvertently supporting what the PM/Lyonchen is saying.

    Therefore lets agree (politics aside) that we all agree that GNH needs work on in Bhutan.

    • Hello Sonam,

      Please allow me to disagree with you on this. I think you are missing the point here. Our people are already “working on GNH” and a huge part of our financial and human resources are spent “working on GNH” The point is–that is a huge waste of our meagre resources! We “need not work on GNH” per se at all. Instead, we must focus working on other aspects of development and then GNH will be “worked out automatically”. Parts of Brazil looks like they have realized GNH because they have worked to achieve it rather than waste their time, money and people fretting about GNH all the time.

      “You do not have to be a Buddhist to become a Buddha”. With GNH, our people are working so hard to prove their Buddhism-ness and forgetting the Buddhahood in the end. That is the point.

  9. Agreed,
    This time again, Look at the picture in Paro Airport about the reception too. WE discussed it here last time. 24 people go for weeks to Brazil on GNH conference, maybe another 20, including 4 ministers in picture, left office for atleast half a day or 4-5hrs to receive PM and his team from Paro. Ridiculous!
    Why on earth do 4 ministers have to go all the way for 120km+ to receive a PM returning from a conference!
    Maybe I will do a calculation and submit another post.OMG!!

    • Yes la, chhimi. Seeing off and receiving at Paro Airport by a huge delegation of orange scarves, red scarves, white scarves and no scarves will not make our Lyonchhen a better Lyonchhen.

      A hallmark of true leadership is “humility”, not fanfare!


    • Well, i thought that is a part of our culture and tradition. If we start securitizing everything, then probably our age old culture and traditions will not have its place in today’s society. I won’t be surprised, very soon, if you all start complaining about elaborate chipdril cermonies, zhu drey phunsum etc as it also incurs cost!
      It’s Just my opinion assuming that seeing off and receiving high officials are part of our tradition and culture (governance system).

  10. Tangba,

    when I meant work on GNH, it depends on what you mean by GNH. For me, GNH is development in its basic sense, trying to provide basic needs to people. If you don’t agree with me on this, then I think its simply because you have something else in mind.

    Taking GNH global before it has been defined in Bhutan, setting up conferences by inviting outside academia, before our people can even asking our own people what it means to them; renaming the Planning Commission to GNH (which to me sounds more airy) are some of the things that have blown the whole GNH thing out of proportion. But that is just my view. You have a right to disagree with me on that.


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