New Internationalist

Bhutan kicks goals for well-being

February 2004

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.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 364 This column was published in the February 2004 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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