Archive for January 18th, 2019

Gross National Happiness and Macroeconomic Indicators in the Kingdom of Bhutan

January 18, 2019

Sriram Balasubramanian (World Bank) and Paul Cashin (IMF) in this interesting paper:

This paper examines the origins and use of the concept of Gross National Happiness (or subjective well-being) in the Kingdom of Bhutan, and the relationship between measured well-being and macroeconomic indicators. While there are only a few national surveys of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan, the concept has been used to guide public policymaking for the country’s various Five-Year Plans. Consistent with the Easterlin Paradox, available evidence indicates that Bhutan’s rapid increase in national income is only weakly associated with increases in measured levels of well-being. It will be important for Bhutan to undertake more frequent Gross National Happiness surveys and evaluations, to better build evidence for comovement of well-being and macroeconomic concepts such as real national income.

Some history:

The most important element of the Bhutanese model of development has been the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH), and the GNH index and tool which has been formulated alongside this philosophy. GNH was in Bhutan in 1972 by the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singhye Wangchuk, the father of the current king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (see Government of Bhutan, 2015). He declared that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product”. The King had envisioned an economic development model which was based on the tenets of Buddhist philosophy and holistic development, which had its core functions preserving the environment and emphasizing the role of happiness and collective well-being in the lives of people.

This emphasis on happiness was to override the role of monetary incomes which was at the heart of the GDP driven global development model. With assistance from international organizations and bilateral development partners, the government also incorporated major development related
issues into its agenda such as sustainability, climate change and inequality. While GNH has evolved over time, in its quest to stay relevant, the role of GDP in Bhutan has also changed through the years. In the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, GDP was primarily used as a tool for Bhutan’s financial indicators and as a benchmark for access to international grants and loans from multilateral agencies. Even though publicly the primacy of GNH is being advocated by Bhutan, GDP measurements have thus also played a substantive role in the country’s development.

In this context, this paper will look at the relationship between the evolution of GNH and the evolution of GDP and other macroeconomic indicators.

Should read the whole thing..

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