Are we practising GNH in Bhutan? This is a profound question and there can be no simple answer to it.

Are we practising GNH in Bhutan? This is a profound question and there can be no simple answer to it.

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.


About Sangay Khandu

Elected to Parliament of Bhutan twice. Previously worked with the Central Bank, the largest SoE (power utility) and international organization.
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7 Responses to Are we practising GNH in Bhutan? This is a profound question and there can be no simple answer to it.

  1. Dasho, no doubt that implementing or practicing is quite another, when GNH is a mere conventional idea of development. What matters for me (as a layman) is the direct human happiness. My outlook on GNH always influences my opinion. For instance, my recent post in my blog ( is what GNH means to me. However, I wish to understand further on this abstract concept la. Thank you.

  2. ..cheers!!!
    the answer can be right or wrong at different levels of this discussions. i would say that the Government has already taken their party manifesto as a GNH in practice and we have no questions about its practice in Bhutan at the moment. however the more question may be such like; is this in practice we see today is an residues of the past activities since we all know that once upon a time we had a perfect Bhutanese way of GNH life in bhutan. however the present effort is more on the modern inclined kind of GNH which also greatly accepts modern way of the world as a whole.

    however, the issues of the present situation needs some serious actions. the crime rates r increasing, over the weeks the murder and youth drug related crimes have increased. there fore it may be high time for the concern offices, agencies and the so called responsible citizens to take up such discussions and inform the public and agencies to build better strategy for the present situation a well as build better stronger and brighter baselines for the future policies too. lets discuss more from different directions and angles, cos this subject is much like the Chicken and the egg subject and such concrete answer may not be outlines but lets consider with the subject itself – on the GROSS part…cheerrrrrsssss

  3. VK Shrotryia says:

    Good to get into the understanding of GNH through some of the policy makers themselves. My take on GNH is little different which derives much of it from the old writings. Outcomes are more important than the output. The public policy concentration has to be on such areas which result in long-term sustainability rather than numbers. Greater enrollment ratio may not always necessarily reflect on better education. Better GDP may not always reflect on better standards of living and better quality of life. One has to be more concerned about honest intention of improving quality of life, providing better health and education, better public services/amenities, sound and prompt redressal mechanism, positive work-culture, strong community ties, etc.
    Bhutan has been quite successful in disseminating and publicizing its development philosophy based on GNH. I personally feel it has also been quite successful in its implementation in many areas, however the concerns raised in this small write-up are very valid and pertinent to not to get missed out at any point of time on compromising on this noble idea for which this small nation has built big name.
    The future would lie on pragmatic thinking on valuing every policy on its contribution towards GNH. Long live Bhutan… long live GNH… let each one of us live happily and make others and our environment happy…. Keep it up love and wishes…

  4. dorji says:

    I really appreciate your ideas and principles of GNH. I also found you to be more democratic and accomodative person judging the general outlook of life you have..good on you. Just as a matter of discussion, i have very straight forward question, that is…Do you think we should solve the census issue of southern Bhutanese ( Imean the different forms..F1, F4, F5 and so on)? I do not expect you to give me a diplomatic answer..Thanks

    • Dorji, the response to your question is simple too. Yes, we should solve the census issue of the southern Bhutanese. To end it here without sharing a bit of what I know is happening would be incomplete. Efforts to that effect are on-going and positive impact is also visible. So yes, we should solve it.

      • Dorji says:

        Thank you for the prompt reply. I really appreciate you for taking time out to answer my question. I wish you all the best for your future endeavour, especially the one currently at your hand, The RTI Act.. I fully support your noble vision. I can not imagine a democracy without having this funadamental right…Thank you once more

  5. katang says:

    i find our education system heading into big trouble especially with many rich(wealthy) poor(academically) students getting their degree certificates from anyones college like in shillong, darjeeling and other parts,,, its a fact that most of the students studying outside save government schoalrhips are hangers by skin of their teeth barely having pass marks from pp to 10 but gets through thereafter with private education from questionable colleges ,,,
    so there is dearth of candidates which require class 6 or 8 or 10 for the job and super clogging of bachelors degree holder(80% private and questionable),,
    these 80% private students usually from strong background eats up 80% of job opportunities by displacing our poor geniune shercol graduates and has been going on for more than a decade,,,
    thats why we see nowadays most of our young workforce having very little attitude in conducting themselves in the office and without,,,
    and RCSC is the epitome of corrupt institution as there are quite a number of officers new and old who do not even have an elementary knowledge of Dzongkha and one wonders how on earth they got through dzongkha exams,,

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