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Gross National Happiness

Development Philosophy of Bhutan

Gross National Happiness

Happiness is integral to Bhutanese. Recognizing the importance of happiness over material wealth, The Fourth King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck officially declared, happiness as an ultimate measure of a nation, rather than economic gains in the 1970s.

Bhutan’s policies, plans and major government programs are all screened and happiness-tested before being implemented. The philosophical concept of GNH (Gross National Happiness) has since then taken a primary position in any government policy. The concept eventually evolved into a development model.

The Gross National Happiness Commission, Bhutan’s planning commission ensured government plans included the element of happiness.

The basic idea of GNH was in creating an environment where every individual is given an opportunity to be happy. Such a society could be achieved by preserving the culture, protecting the environment, and through good governance and balanced economic development: the four main pillars of GNH.


Bhutan’s concept of GNH as a development philosophy can also be seen in economic concepts such as Development Economics, which rejects gross domestic product and emphasizes the importance of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Major government targets continue to be reducing the inequality gap, providing jobs and alleviating poverty.

The pursuit of economic wealth in the west had proven to be troubled with economic pains, financial crises and continued degradation of the environment. Because of this, the concept has attracted a lot of interest from international economists, politicians and thinkers.

After the country’s peaceful transition to democracy in 2008, happiness became the spirit of the constitution. It mandated a 60 percent coverage of the country’s forest for all the times to come.

The United Nation has embraced the concept of GNH and declared 20th March as the International Happiness Day. In Bhutan, November 11th, the birth anniversary of The Fourth King  is celebrated on a grand scale across the country among people from all walks of life.