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Bhutan's Happiness Dilemma

(LinkAsia, December 16, 2011)

Sydnie Kohara:

What would happen if a nation decided to measure progress, not in terms of productivity but in terms of happiness?  That's what happened in Bhutan a decade ago when the king created the Gross National Happiness Index. But even this remote nation is finding it hard to escape the pressures of work and the influence of the media. Here's a report from NHK World.


12/12/11 - 6PM Broadcast


Bhutan was filled with an air of celebration when the country's king married in October. Watching over the couple was Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the previous king and father of the current monarch. He introduced the Gross National Happiness index around 10 years ago. 

Since then, Bhutan has followed policies that emphasize the level of happiness of its people, rather than pure economic growth. The country has worked to protect traditional culture, such as ethnic costumes as well as family and community ties. It also placed restrictions on excessive development. Children are told at school that happiness comes not only from making money, but also from helping each other. 


What I think exchange value means is making others happy. By giving our happiness to others. 


But while support for the king remains strong, clouds are gathering over the nation's pursuit of happiness. It all started when the country lifted a ban on television and the internet in 1999. Easy access to information from abroad has led more people to desire material wealth. 

Bhutan's capital, Thimpu, has seen a surge in the number of young people arriving from farming villages in search of a better life. The city's population has soared by 20,000 over the last five years. That's caused a serious job shortage, pushing the unemployment rate in urban areas up to 7.5%. 

24 year-old Karma Jamtsha  comes from a village in the east of the country. He moved to Thimpu wanting to become a school teacher. But he has only been able to find temporary jobs. 

Karma Jamtsha:

To get a job it is so difficult because there is a lot of competition with the nations and the youth.  And it is so difficult to get a job here. 


Bhutan's government is promoting tourism as a way to create jobs while preserving traditional culture.  It's busy attracting foreign capital to build hotels. The government also built a vocational school to train workers for the tourism sector. Tuition is free. Students learn everything from western table manners to how to mix cocktails. 


Either I can open up my own resort hotel. So through my experience I can give a good service for my guests. 


But there are also concerns that more tourism will cause overdevelopment. Bhutan faces a dilemma: how to find a right balance between economic growth and preserving traditional culture in its quest to make its people happy. Takeaki Yoda. NHK World. Bhutan.


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