When the world’s worst two soccer teams played off in the 2002 World Cup in ‘the other final’, Bhutan – ranked 202 – was there, with its Foreign Minister telling film-makers that Gross National Happiness, not winning finals, was his country’s main game. Despite globalization, development in Bhutan – Land of the Thunder Dragon – remains proudly and distinctively Bhutanese. As well as economic indicators, Bhutan uses non-quantifiable goals such as spiritual well-being and Gross National Happiness (assessed through economic self-reliance, environmental preservation, cultural promotion and good governance) to plan and execute development. The King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, has made these priorities clear: ‘Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product’. This is translating into laws such as the Forest Act whereby all trees – even those on private land – are owned and protected by the Government, as well as tourism restrictions: only 5,594 tourist visas were issued in 2002. The concept was introduced by the King in the late 1980s, but has evolved from a society that maintains the values of the world’s last Mahayana Buddhist kingdom.
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