Bhutan turns to "Gross National Happiness 2.0" as crisis deepens

    WORLD  25 May 2024 - 09:07

    CNBC carries an article about Bhutan’s governing philosophy of “Gross National Happiness”, Caliber.Az reprints the article.

    Bhutan’s governing philosophy of “Gross National Happiness” has been heralded the world over for balancing economic growth with the well-being of its citizens.

    But recent discussions of “Gross National Happiness 2.0” by its newly elected Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay suggest that change on some level is underway as the country struggles with an economic crisis that’s left it — as Tobgay has said— “teetering on the brink of collapse.”

    GNH, as it’s known, has been the guiding principle of Bhutan since it was introduced by the former king Jigme Singye Wangchuck in the early 1970s.

    But with youth unemployment rates of nearly 30 per cent and about one in eight people living in poverty, has Bhutan reached a point where its quest for national happiness must change?

    “Yes and no,” Tobgay told CNBC in an interview on May 10. “Yes, because we’ve got to grow our economy.”

    But the tenets of GNH will not be abandoned, he added.

    “Should we throw caution to the wind? No. We can grow, and we can grow in a manner that is balanced.”

    Finding a new equilibrium

    Bhutan will continue to strengthen its economy in ways that are sustainable, equitable and “balanced with social progress, environmental protection, cultural protection and good governance,” he said.

    “In these areas we have succeeded, like nobody could have imagined,” he said.

    But he also signaled that the principle applied in the past may have been too one-sided.

    “We’ve been extremely cautious, very conservative, so we have lagged,” he said. “Looked at one way we have not really failed. But seen from the successes of the social progress area, we have failed economically.”

    Tobgay also said that Bhutan has been similarly guarded in its approach to tourism.   

    “We’ve been extremely cautious in how we have opened ourselves to the rest of the world as far as tourism is concerned,” Tobgay told CNBC. “We’ve been very conservative, very cautious.”

    If Bhutan erred, it was on the side of sustainability and conservation, he added.

    “We are paying for caution right now.”

    Doubling down on sustainable tourism

    Bhutan’s tourism industry is recovering slower than other countries in Asia. In 2023, international arrivals in the country were a third of 2019 levels.

    The country has changed its controversial “Sustainable Development Fee” three times since it reopened in September of 2022 —  first increasing it to $200 per adult per day, then lowering it twice.

    Those changes created “a lot of confusion,” said Tobgay. “Even as we speak, tourism is now beginning to pick up, but not to pre-pandemic levels.”

    Yet despite the economic windfall that mass tourism can bring, Bhutan is not retreating from its “high value, low volume” approach to tourism, Tobgay told CNBC.

    Today, its Sustainable Development Fee is $100 per adult per day, but Tobgay said, “Truth be told, I think $200 per day as a sustainable development fee many tourists are willing to pay.”

    He said Bhutan is still focused on increasing tourism “while at the same time controlling the numbers.”

    The country’s burgeoning tourism industry is one avenue to “generate the type of jobs that our able, our very capable youth aspire for,” he said.

    Thousands of young Bhutanese workers have left the country in search of employment opportunities abroad, according to Reuters. In the 11 months preceding May 2023, some 1.5 per cent of Bhutan’s population moved to Australia alone for jobs and skills training, the report said.

    “We hope that this is a temporary development ... and will give us time to strengthen our economy, through tourism, but through other interventions as well,” said Tobgay. “Then our children will remain here, those who are working outside, who would have gained valuable experience, would return back home.”

    Caliber.Az

    Subscribe to our Telegram channel


Read also

Swiss right-wing leader calls Ukraine summit "embarrassment"

16 June 2024 - 18:03

French ex-president warns of chaos risk ahead of election

16 June 2024 - 17:47

Germany eyes to return Afghan refugees through Uzbekistan Article by Bloomberg

16 June 2024 - 18:19

Türkiye doubles gas production

16 June 2024 - 17:18

Country where it’s still 2016

17 June 2024 - 08:50

Divers find remains of Finnish WWII plane shot down by Soviets

17 June 2024 - 06:02
ADVERTS
Video
Latest news

    Country where it’s still 2016

    17 June 2024 - 08:50

    Dutch cyclists urged to wear helmets as road deaths rise

    Brain is very vulnerable

    17 June 2024 - 08:01

    Divers find remains of Finnish WWII plane shot down by Soviets

    17 June 2024 - 06:02

    China’s "artificial sun" achieves magnetic field in nuclear fusion

    17 June 2024 - 04:03

    Inside mind of woman who ran 1,000km in 12 days

    "I feel broken"

    17 June 2024 - 02:04

    Throngs gather in Cuba to witness Russian Kazan sub up close

    17 June 2024 - 00:04

    What to look out for at Eurosatory, Europe’s biggest defense show

    16 June 2024 - 22:02

    Japan redefines EVs and creates new type

    Three brands merge for first engines

    16 June 2024 - 20:03

    Germany eyes to return Afghan refugees through Uzbekistan

    Article by Bloomberg

    16 June 2024 - 18:19

    Swiss right-wing leader calls Ukraine summit "embarrassment"

    16 June 2024 - 18:03

    French ex-president warns of chaos risk ahead of election

    16 June 2024 - 17:47

    Rapprochement between Russia, China irritates US

    Article by The New York Times

    16 June 2024 - 17:34

    Türkiye doubles gas production

    16 June 2024 - 17:18

    President Zelenskyy: History to be made at Ukraine Peace Summit

    Article in Neue Zürcher Zeitung

    16 June 2024 - 17:03

    Rare tissue-damaging bacteria spreads in Japan

    Fatal within 48 hours

    16 June 2024 - 16:45

    Asian leaders’ low attendance at Ukraine peace summit signals their other priorities

    The Straits Times

    16 June 2024 - 16:28

    Hamas leader eyes to reach Gaza deal

    16 June 2024 - 16:11

    Georgian party appeals to Putin to cancel visa regime

    16 June 2024 - 15:53

    What fate awaits Armenian government after early parliamentary session?

    Experts analyse

    16 June 2024 - 15:36

    French ex-president calls dissolving parliament "risky move"

    16 June 2024 - 15:19

    Xiaomi fires two key executives for bribes

    16 June 2024 - 15:01

    Azerbaijani, Pakistani leaders discuss enhancing bilateral ties

    16 June 2024 - 14:48

    FT: Russia overtook US as gas supplier to Europe in May

    16 June 2024 - 14:45

    Finnish president urges China to influence Putin to put end to war

    16 June 2024 - 14:28

    Syrian citizen shoots five people and committs suicide in Türkiye

    16 June 2024 - 14:12

    Random shooting in Michigan water park injures nine

    Including two children

    16 June 2024 - 13:55

    Prisoners in Rostov detention centre neutralised after taking hostage staff members

    16 June 2024 - 13:39

    IDF imposes daily humanitarian pauses in fighting

    16 June 2024 - 13:21

    Armenia arrests five more people due to clashes near parliament

    Second wave of arrests

    16 June 2024 - 13:04

    Britain reports new attack on ship off Yemen's coast

    16 June 2024 - 12:47

    Türkiye favours Russia's participation at summit in Switzerland

    16 June 2024 - 12:31

    Sweden, Iran exchange prisoners in breakthrough deal

    16 June 2024 - 12:15

    Armenian forces shell Azerbaijani Army positions in Nakhchivan

    16 June 2024 - 11:57

    Azerbaijan’s path towards complete restoration of sovereignty, Russia’s ultimatum and France’s panic

    Weekly review

    16 June 2024 - 11:51

    Azerbaijan sees increase in Indian tourist influx

    16 June 2024 - 11:35

    Unprotected and unpunished: Turning a blind eye to anti-Jewish attacks in Armenia

    16 June 2024 - 11:19

    French company risks losing Niger uranium mine sought by Russia

    16 June 2024 - 11:03

    German chancellor admits peace in Ukraine cannot be achieved without Russia

    16 June 2024 - 10:47

    Italian PM: Prospect of unfreezing Russian assets stems from peace negotiations

    16 June 2024 - 10:30

    Armenian PM offers Baku to create mechanism to investigate ceasefire violations

    16 June 2024 - 10:14

All news