While achieving self-reliance and reducing dependency has always been a national goal, the benefits of development are not shared equally because of the growing income gap.

Yet, foreign minister, Dr Tandi Dorji said Bhutan’s progression to graduation from LDC is deliberate and that it is perhaps a time to reimagine development more inclusively.

To grapple with issues miring the last mile ride such as climate change and economic vulnerabilities, the foreign minster at the 14th round table meeting yesterday said that the support of development partners is crucial.

“Bhutan’s graduation is not a reason for development partners to lean back and walk out but to lean forward and engage with the changing quality and terms,” the UNDP administrator, Achim Steiner said.

However, he said the future of development is passing through a profound period of transformation with disruptions on one hand and extraordinary opportunities on the other.

Often, he said leadership crisis and lack of confidence in the government compromise the ability of communities and nations to decide its development path.

For Bhutan, he said the journey had been pursued with wise leadership and articulated by the GNH principles.    

GNH, he said has matured enough to advance to the next level.

This round table meeting, he said is an opportunity for international development community to seek ideas and inspiration from the way Bhutan would define its path ahead.

GNH, Achim Steiner said has matured from a concept to value and to a purpose-led vision and then into a development paradigm.

“The greatest thing in human history does not arise from the wealthiest, most powerful or biggest nations; sometimes the most disruptive, far-reaching ideas emerge out of a community that has the vision, cohesion and sense of purpose,” he said.

However, he said the future of development in one sense is driven by factors beyond the country’s immediate control, climate change being the biggest threat.

Director for Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, Sabina Alkire, said that Bhutan has pioneered not only in the field of wellbeing and happiness but also in reducing multidimensional poverty.

Pointing to the GNH survey and poverty report, she said the country should think of addressing some of the conflicts. For instance, Gasa is best in terms of GNH index but poorest from the perspective of multidimensional poverty. So are Haa and Dagana.

In charting the developmental plans, the secretary general of Tarayana Foundation, Chimi P Wangdi, said people, especially the rural lot need to be taken on board. Engaging the people and using their traditional knowledge, she said would impart a sense of ownership in developmental activities.

“How can a country graduate without having basic infrastructure in place? We still have a lot of work to be done in the rural community, for people with disability and those who are economically vulnerable,” she said.

President of the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH, Dasho Karma Ura also added that integration of governance into GNH need to be done at a faster pace because the process of globalization os much faster.

The culture of thinking in bureaucracy and state enterprises should also shift to GNH, he said. Decision-making and policy making is to some degree attuned with GNH but impact assessment of such policies is crucial because it has to be supported by evidence.

Annual budget, he said has been orthodox since 1961. The impact of budgetary allocation also needs to be assessed, sector-by-sector.

Dasho Karma Ura also said that party pledges also need to be assessed. “Sometime pledges have privilege position to escape the assessment process,” he said. “GNH should be embedded in legislation and to do that we have to influence the legislative process from happiness perspective.”

Administration of justice, he said, should also be made more sensitive to happiness and wellbeing. In doing so, he said the there branches of government could converge in happiness and wellbeing.

Tshering Dorji