With each discussion within the academia and the intelligentsia, the concept has grown even more vague, complex and confusing for the most of us and may even have resulted in a feeling of disconnect of the idea with the people. While it may have become clearer to some, many still are skeptical. I attribute this skepticism more to lack of clarity than to disbelief in the idea, while a few exceptions are always everywhere (outliers).
While the idea of GNH is without any doubt, as already evidenced in the world, a much needed shock to the conventional idea of development, implementing it or practicing it quite another. Bhutan faces a lot of responsibility as the founder and we owe it to our great leader behind the philosophy and idea to carry it forward for the Bhutanese people. Therefore, to succeed in it is imperative.
In the following paragraphs, I will try and share my own thoughts in my own words without the muffling affect of jargons.
It seems difficult for me not to think using the GNH prism. This is because GNH makes perfect sense and in it lives and breathes the lifeline of the Bhutanese democracy. GNH to me is about creating that enabling environment for everyone to prosper and progress, today and tomorrow. The transition to our 3 year plus democratic set up has been trying to achieve that and move towards that. There can be no timeline because it should be a continuous process, adapting at intervals but grounded on the same principles. When we ask if we have been practicing GNH, we are basically trying to look at the last 3 years and the developments in these 3 years. While implementation of GNH as a development philosophy should be relevant for all times, jumpstarting the process itself may require a some space at a time when we are undergoing a deep change in the structure of governance. After all in achieving our GNH, hence the development activities, the structural integrity would greatly impact delivery.
Skeptics would pull into the debate rising crime, increasing corruption and many other cases of publicized differences and inconsistencies. Unanswered questions at large would probably be the single biggest reason for skeptics. While increase in all these may certainly lead one to believe that GNH is not being practiced (not as many would have it) it may also need to be acknowledged that GNH should not be about consensus by everyone on everything. For that would question the whole fundamental of plurality of ideas in a democracy. I am however not suggesting that different ideas always have to be confrontational. It is more about ‘information’ that allows these questions to arise in the first place. Have we not progressed already in the presence of these floating questions? Turning these questions into real changes in the policies and laws is the next step. And we have had more than a few instances where such questions have been raised and also resulted into changes in laws and policies.
It is an extremely exciting stage of our young democracy as it tries to find its balance. Our faith in the system has allowed us to raise our concerns freely and openly for the benefit of the Bhutanese. Media continues to contribute in promoting accountability and transparency in governance (is doing a good job). The Judiciary has proven its independence. The Government is trying hard to deliver its promises and Parliament is carrying out its mandates by raising issues with the Executive and legislating. In rural Bhutan the much needed intervention to help our rural farmers enhance their income ‘the farm roads’ are being built even as we debate. Education enrollment rate is climbing higher than ever before. Conservation efforts continue to receive good support. Bhutan now aspires to play its part in the world beyond domestic affairs.
On one hand there are so many reasons for one to be optimistic and to think that we are heading in the right direction, one can not completely look away from concerns that skeptics hold. I am an optimist and I believe that we are practicing GNH in the larger picture. For it to completely take hold, each and everyone of us need to play our part. It is inevitable (it’s already starting to happen) because we have already started the process.
These are my own thoughts limited only by my own understanding. Like thousands who remain to be educated on it by our senior leaders in society, I will greatly enjoy this evening’s discussion on BBS TV. This is a good start and I hope the beginning of many to come.