Bhutan’s happiness ranking has dropped to 97th out of 157 countries this year from 84th place out of 150 countries in 2016.

This is according to the World Happiness Report 2017.

At question hour session of the National Assembly yesterday, Opposition Leader Dr Pema Gyamtsho asked the Prime Minister what could have contributed to the drop in Bhutan’s happiness ranking and what are the government’s plan to improve the ranking.

“We are deeply concerned about the drastic drop as a country that promotes happiness as an ultimate goal of development,” the Opposition Leader said. “The drop is significant because the survey was based on 3,000 people in each country on a common set of indicators, which is why the result can not be considered bias.”

In response, Prime Minister said that an agency called Gallup Poll had conducted the assessment of happiness.

“Gallup Poll had interviewed about 1,020 people in Bhutan. Neither Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research (CBS), nor the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) was aware of the assessment,” Prime Minister said. “This is why the findings of the report cannot be trusted. It is worrying.”

Prime Minister further added that the drop in Bhutan’s happiness ranking had the CBS worried. The centre later enquired Gallup Poll how the assessment was done.

“The Gallup Poll said that the agency interviewed about 1,020 people from 20 dzongkhags face to face and now the Opposition Leader says about 3,000 people were interviewed. If these many people were actually interviewed, we would have come across at least one of them,” Prime Minister said. “The CBS has also not seen a single question. When CBS questioned Gallup Poll, it was told that the questionnaire was confidential and later stopped responding altogether.”

Prime Minister said that the agency had not even sought approval from the NSB. Approval from the bureau is required for any kind of survey. “Even if it was approved, the government did not come across any assessment question.”

Prime Minister added that the people should consider the findings of CBS and NSB as the true picture of the country’s happiness level.

The Opposition Leader said that if the country does not compare the findings from abroad with the findings from inside, internal report would always be considered best. “We’ve to give credit to external agency’s report as well because the methodologies and questionnaires are similar. It appears like we accept external report only when the happiness level increases.”

Prime Minister said that because there was no evidence of a survey conducted or of people from the Gallup Poll having come to Bhutan to do the assessment, the report could not be trusted.

Yangchen C Rinzin