Gross National Happiness


"A good system of government that is not dependent on any individual or personalities, a system that will function efficiently because of its in-built merits, that is a legacy we must create for future generation." The essence of what His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan aspires to build in the system as stated in the above quotation is introduced through the introduction of Gross National Happiness.

Gross National Happiness is a philosophy that embraces every aspect of development policies in Bhutan. It is based on the idea that a balance between spiritual and material development will lead to the happiness of people for a nation to attain development in its true sense. The concept was introduced in the 1960`s by the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. He emphasized that the ultimate fruit of economic development should be to make all the Bhutanese prosperous and happy. This philosophy was again expressed by him in 1971 in his address during the admission of Bhutan to the United Nations Organization. The vision of making all the Bhutanese happy was further articulated and elaborated by the fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuk. The philosophy found expression in many of his speeches of the philosophy became more prominent when he proclaimed that Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product(GNP).


Four Pillars of Gross National Happiness

  • Sustainable and Equitable Economic Development
  • Conservation of Environment
  • Preservation and Promotion of culture
  • Good Governance.


Sustainable and Equitable Economic Development.

One of the main aims of the government is to carry out economic activities in a sustainable and equitable manner. The government ensures that the benefits of the development are accessible to all th e citizens. This will ultimately lead to the progress of the Bhutanese social economic structure in sharing the attainment of Gross National Happiness. Thus, to improve the well-being of the Bhutanese the government commits itself to the development of basic facilities that is universally necessary. The government strives to achieve this by allotting the maximum share of the five year plan budget to the Health, Education and Agriculture sectors. The government believes that the development of these three sectors can enhance the quality of the life of the people. For instance, in 2004, the primary health coverage was above 90% and the life expectancy went to 60 years; the school enrollment reached 135,987; 587 kilometers of farm road were planned for the 9th five year plan. The other step that the government took is making the harvesting of the codyceps legal. This legalization of harvesting of codyceps has become another source of income for Bhutanese. Besides, about 15000 households have been electrified in the 9thfive plan.


Conservation of Environment

Bhutan has learned from other countries that deforestation leads to many natural calamities like, drought and the extinction of rare species. Therefore, Bhutan Government has considered conservation of environment as one of the pillar of Gross National Happiness. Conservation of environment and the Eco system is implemented not only to prevent natural calamities but also to serve as source of revenue for our government. For instance, our lush green environment has become attraction to the tourist. The possibilities to attract tourists have led to the opening of many tourist agencies resulting in the generation of revenue for the country. This clearly denotes realization of Gross National Happiness as Bhutan is not only successful in conserving its environment but also in generating income flow of rivers, leading to the development of hydro power, which is one of our country`s major sources of income. Keeping in view the importance of environment conservation, the National Environment Commission reviews the project proposal and ensures that there is no large scale environmental damage. The action that the government has taken is allocating funds to be used on project related to environment conservation. For instance, from 2004, each Dzongkhag received Nu, 200,000 for the conservation of environment and awarded Nu. 500,000 as a prize for a clean Dzongkhag.


Preservation and Promotion of Culture

Long time ago, there was no threat to the existence of Bhutan but slowly with the impact of globalization and the fast developments taking place, the existence of small country like Bhutan has been threatened in the form of losing its identity. Bhutan, in terms of size, population and its development is significantly compared with other develop nations. Therefore, one means of asserting our unique identity and age old traditions is through the preservation of our culture. It is necessary to let future citizens know and understand that it was under the leadership of kings that Bhutan was able to maintain peace, unity and independence as well as embark upon the challenges of modernization which in turn brought about economic prosperity and social justice to our people. The former Education Minister Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup commented that it was also desirable to let students know that the rich traditions of art, architecture and handicrafts have given Bhutan a unique identity and therefore preserving and promoting them forms an integral part of the nation`s effort towards socio-economic development. Therefore, this pillar of Gross National Happiness can also be strengthened by promoting our language and culture, art and architecture, performing arts, traditional etiquettes, textile, sports and recreation etc.


Good Governance

Good Governance is the most important pillar as, without it, the other pillars would become baseless. Good Governance guarantees that there is sustainable and equitable development, the environment is conserved and culture is preserved and promoted. To strengthen this pillar, the government has decentralized and empowered people in decision making, promotion of transparency and accountability, enhancement of foreign relations, drafting of new laws, and introduction of new constitution.


Values such as integrity, trust, responsibility, discipline, diligence, cooperation, care, courtesy, patience, politeness, friendliness, knowledge and skills, creativity, innovative, accountability, impartiality, visionary, dynamism, receptiveness, and approach-ability have important role to play in the organization and administration of a nation. They help to shape and nurture the development of the highest possible standard of behavior. It is, therefore, essential for all to reflect and translate their understanding and practice of the positive values in their work and conduct. All this values can be inculcated in citizens with the applications of the themes of the Good Governance.


The themes of Good Governance

Human Resources Development: Human Resources Development is important as it promotes efficiency in the functioning of the government. The various ways which leads to Human Resource Development are:


  • operationalizing a system whereby senior officials are required to act as role models for promoting a right values and professionalism.
  • Conduct training programmes on code of conducts.
  • Incooperate the employee`s behavior towards the public as one of the elements in the personnel performance By introducing programmes for new recruits including provisions for counseling, mentoring and evaluation.
  • Conduct continual in-service education and training to ensure updating professional knowledge and skills including the enhancing the ability of civil servants to analyze and draw conclusion, as well as to promote the understanding of national goals and consensual direction.
  • Introduce personnel development activities such as retreats and meditation practices.
  • Institute a process of systematic grooming and selection of leaders/managers at all levels.



In order to enhance the a culture of Professional excellence:

  • Appoint the right person for the right job.
  • Institute in-house programmes for front line employees to instill customer-friendly skills.
  • Encourage professional bodies such as association for engineers, teachers, health and medical professional, finance and accounts, etc.
  • Publicize values and work ethics through news bulletin/ other publication of government agencies, and the media to check corrupt-practices.
  • Institute award system for innovation.



Motivation is essential for professionals in all the organization to perform efficiently. There are many ways to motivate such as:

  • Improve the working conditions and facilities that impact staff performance and motivation.
  • Create a merit base system where high performers are awarded and non-performers are penalized.
  • Encourage employees to make professional judgments and exercise innovations and judicious discretion when warranted.
  • Enhance difficult area allowance and free housing with minimum basic facilities in rural areas.
  • Make it mandatory for all civil servants being considered for promotions for grade five and above to work in remote Dzongkhags and Gewogs for a minimum of one to two years.



Good Governance demands transparency in the functioning of the system and the organization which will ultimately lead to the satisfaction and happiness of the employees. In order to create transparency certain projects have been undertaken.


  1. Under the Japan International Cooperation Agency Technical Cooperation, the local Government and decentralization project was signed between the RGOB and JICA in March 2004. This project is to build organizational and individual capacity building at central, Dzongkhag and Gewog level through training and material capacity development by constructing Gewog Centre and providing equipments.
  2. ICT for communication: ICT helps in utilization of information and communication technology to promote transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in public service delivery.In order to achieve these, the project supports the following:


  • Establishment of key foundation for E-Governance initiatives in Bhutan
  • Strengthening cooperation between the RGOB and the private sectors on ICT based on the Bhutan ICT policy and strategy.
  • Providing access to information for rural women and men.


For instance, the following goals have been achieved:

  • National Data Standard has been developed.
  • The development of e-signature and a national intranet are in the process.
  • The heads of the ICT units of all ministries are trained in IT management and relevant people have undergone training to manage tele-centres and are now posted in the tele-centres.


  1. E-Governance in Bhutan: this is to create a “Smart Government” models within the Ministry of Information and Communication and thereafter deployed it in other government agencies. This was done by facilitating communication and collaboration among the various departments under the ministry and providing applications to manage certain process in the organization in an efficient government. The following are the achievements so far:


  • Established necessary hardware and software for developing e-governance applications, including applications for document management
  • Increased efficiency and effectiveness of online communication between departments within the MoIC through the provision of hardware and consultancy requirement.



In order to cut down the corrupt practices and to encourage proper management of public resources the following steps have been undertaken:


  • Encourage decision making by fixing responsibility and accountability both at the system and individual level and introducing a proper system of monitoring following the mechanism of delegation of responsibility and accountability.
  • Ensure the accountability is not compromised and decisions are not delayed. A system for the following of the decision of the committees and the meeting must be institutionalized or coordinated to realize the optimal benefit from the decisions.
  • Undertake proper and complete handling/taking over at the time of transfer, resignation, superannuation, termination, etc.
  • Anti-corruption Commission was established to promote transparency, efficiency, and accountability with respect to management of public resources. It reviews and analyses systematic problems and commands preventive measures through consultation and research.
  • Royal Audit Authority was set up to audit and report on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the use of public resources.


Features of Good Governance

The features of Good Governance are clearly defined by Karma Ura, Director, Centre for Bhutan Studies. The following are the salient features of Good Governance:


Fair and Representative Election

In order to enable fair and representative election, the constitution has specified bicameral legislative structure comprising a National Assembly and National Council. The electoral system will have two rounds of elections for national assembly so as to ensure government stability. In the first round, the two parties who win the maximum votes will be chosen. In the second round, these two parties will sit for election for the Ruling Party and the Opposition Party. All parties will receive state funding to curb corrupt practices.


Competent, Honest and Transparent Government

Government competence and honesty are needed to formulate and implement just policies or decisions. Aspects of competence and honesty include efficient management of budgets and public expenditures, capable and responsive civil service, and building social consensus on policies. Honesty of a democratic government implies providing impartial information to the public, collecting public feedback on alternatives to a decision and involving people in the decision making.


Fair and Equal Law

The constitution of Bhutan states clearly shows that a society has to be free of oppression and discrimination. For those who cannot afford it, legal aid will be provided to secure justice. Bhutan`s obligations under International law, such as universal Declaration of Human Rights, are fully enshrined and all acceded international treaties will be honored.


Active and knowledgeable Citizens

Engaged citizenship is an absolute necessity for a democratic country to function well. Therefore, the citizens must be well informed of the happenings in the system of government. For this, accountability will be fostered by the Opposition Party as well as by the flow of unbiased information on the public. Two private Newspaper, Bhutan Times and Observer have been established.


Shared Belief in the Public Good

The constitution ensures public good as the main purpose of government. This means the Ruling Party that forms the government is entrusted with the responsibility in upholding the principles enshrined in the Constitution for the well-being of the people and the security of the nation.


Reasonable Equality in Wealth and Power

Although Bhutan has been an egalitarian society, income inequality exists between rural and urban society. Therefore, promoting equitable distribution of public facilities among people regardless of where they live has been reflected in the constitution and has been regarded as an important priority of the tenth five year plan. Free education for all children up to the tenth standard and free access to basic public health service has also been mentioned in the constitution and has been implemented for a long time.


Gross National Happiness is a unique philosophy that is becoming popular even in other countries. This development philosophy is unique as it emphasizes more on Gross National Happiness than on Gross National Product. However, this philosophy aims to balance between the materialistic need and the spirituality with its four pillars. Among the four pillars, Good Governance is the most important pillar as without it the other three pillars will not be able to stand and function independently.Read more..

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