How are we really faring with GNH?

We are a society that is wont to praising ourselves and our successes however small they measure up to.  One way, this is good, for we must all celebrate and partake of the fruit and delight in the process of making of our nation.

The other way, however, is the danger – the danger of not getting the real picture as we bask happily in the sun of our small successes.

The provisional findings of the latest Gross National Happiness (GNH) Survey show that 91.2 percent of Bhutanese are happy. According to Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research, GNH in Bhutan has increased by 1.8 percent since the last survey that was carried out five years ago.

However, we must also take into account that survey of matter as subjective as happiness and contentment has a problem. For, how do you dig deep into the heart of an individual and feel the pulse of happiness that it holds everyday? There are factors that influence the answer.

Traditional wisdom says that there are two kinds of statistics, the kind you look up and the kind you make up. As George Bernard Shaw said, it is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics. Now, it’s up to us to figure out how deeply, extensively, or narrowly happy we are. Should we be moved by the statistics?

It is interesting to note that people’s satisfaction with the government’s performance in the areas of employment, equality, education, health, anti-corruption, environment and culture, has decreased compared with the findings of the last survey. These are important components that affect the well-being of every member of a society. Still our happiness level has gone up.

Happiness level decreased in areas like psychological well-being, community vitality, and driglam namzha. This is a different voice altogether. When psychological well-being of citizens is on the ebb, there is a problem. When community vitality is decreasing, there is a problem. When a society’s value systems are being increasingly abandoned, there is a serious problem. Yet we are by much happier than we were five years ago.

All these, in fact, go to show that we are doing badly with the 11th Plan at the core of which lies achieving rural prosperity and urban wellbeing. Bhutanese farmer, according to the survey, have the lowest levels of GNH, lower even than the unemployed group.

It is only natural that people’s expectations will remain high what with routine elections and lofty promises MPs make. The survey also shows that people’s perception of rights, participation in meetings, and intention to vote has worsened. This doesn’t speak well of a nation that gave birth to the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness.

The findings from the survey are disorientating. We take comfort in the fact that these are provisional findings. Get us the real picture and we will have the right direction to move on.

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