Happiness research is now one of the hottest fields in development economics, thanks to Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index (GNH), which replaces the traditional Gross National Product (GDP) as gauge of national progress. A high-level meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Monday, April 2, tackles GNH, raising the concept to new heights. The GNH, which is partly a critique of modernization theory, suggests that human welfare does not necessarily advance with material wealth. While Bhutan has become a favorite among Western policymakers and development experts seeking enlightenment on the secrets of national happiness in an age of globalization, Bhutan’s own Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley admits he faces major challenges in a country where about a quarter of the population of 725,000 lives below the poverty line. Thinley said, “Making others happy is a painful and often difficult task.”
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