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Happiness should be part of national development, says Bhutanese educator

Last update: 11/09/2019
Thakur S. Powdyel (left) with rector of Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia (UIA), Prof Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
By Muhammad Basir Roslan

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 -- Bhutan is often praised for measuring its worth by its citizens’ happiness alongside its economy, and an educator from the South Asian country believes that other nations too should consider the happiness of their citizens in going ahead with their development plans.

Thakur S. Powdyel, Bhutan’s education minister from 2008 to 2013, says in a nutshell that nations should not only focus on the Gross Development Product (GDP) figures but also the Gross National Happiness (GNH) index.

This is because for a nation to bloom significantly in every aspect, there is also a need to keep in check the development of intangible elements yet so important within the society, such as cultural and spiritual elements too, he said.

"Most of the nations nowadays are focusing too much on the GDP advancement but this framework does not represent the whole story of it since it is just reflecting on the development of physical and material cores of that nation's economic realms only.

"In Bhutan, our Fourth King Jigme Singye Wongchuck had articulated and introduced an alternative framework a decade ago to measure the most holistic society development called GNH, in which it also measures all the other things that play an important part in society to attain the fullest happiness," he told Bernama when met after his talk on GNH: An Alternative Development Paradigm: Some Reflection, on Tuesday.

The one-hour talk, held at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), was attended by more than 200 undergraduates and IIUM staff who learned how GNH transformed a small nation like Bhutan to one of the happiest nations in the world.

Bhutan was ranked 95th of 156 nations in the World Happiness Report 2019 by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations. However, the Bhutanese feel they are actually far happier based on their GNH survey where the criteria used is close to their hearts.

Elaborating on the Four Pillars of GNH, Powdyel, the recipient of the Gusi Peace Prize in 2011, stated that the most important core is good governance while the other three were maintaining a balanced and equitable socio-economic development, environmental conservation and also cultural preservation.

"GNH is a sustainable approach to development, which balances material and non-material values in search of happiness. GNH will directly address both national and individual challenges by pointing to the non-material roots of well-being and offering ways to balance and satisfy the human being," he said.

Powdyel also noted that the GNH framework could be implemented by any nation by creating a special GNH commission that functions as the think tank and screening the government proposals and projects to ensure they align with all four pillars.

"But it is not compulsory for a nation to follow all these four pillars because they still can find other indicators relevant to their needs. GNH can also be modified accordingly, by adding or reducing the pillars as long as the nation and the citizens feel they have the opportunity to work on their well-being and attaining happiness," he said.

-- BERNAMA



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