The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bhutan for top GNH and no mobiles

Published: September 17 2009 03:00 | Last updated: September 17 2009 03:00
From Mr Laurent Legein.

Sir, If indeed happiness is to supplant gross domestic product as a measure of progress, and if somehow the current French leadership and Joseph Stiglitz, 2001 winner of the Nobel economics prize, get credit for that (“Sarkozy recommends happiness as yardstick of economic progress”, September 15), the world would not be paying King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the former king of Bhutan (who graciously abdicated in favour of his son in 2006), the tribute he deserves.

For it is he who, in 1972, first coined the term “gross national happiness” and instructed his administration to construct a sophisticated GNH index (based on 72 variables, I was told by an enthusiastic bureaucrat) as a more holistic, and culturally appropriate, alternative to GDP.

GNH growth has since been the guiding objective in Bhutanese socio-economic and environmental policies. With universal healthcare coverage, high literacy rates, pristine landscapes and the purest air on the planet, this small, beautiful Himalayan kingdom certainly has plenty of GNH-improving qualities.

Oh, and did I mention that it has no global system for mobile communications or BlackBerry coverage anywhere in the country? That, for the duration of a short, blissful trip there, sent my own happiness index through the roof.

Laurent Legein,
Brussels, Belgium

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