Bhutan’s Quest for Happiness: Balancing Growth and Well-being in Troubled Times


**Bhutan’s GNH 2.0: Balancing Progress and Well-being**

Nestled in the Himalayas, Bhutan has captivated the world with its unique philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH). However, as the country grapples with economic challenges, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay is proposing a revised version: GNH 2.0.

**A Question of Balance**

Bhutanese people

GNH has long been Bhutan’s guiding principle, emphasizing a holistic approach to development that prioritizes the well-being of citizens over economic growth alone. However, with youth unemployment soaring to nearly 30% and poverty affecting one in eight people, Bhutan stands at a crossroads.

“We’ve got to grow our economy,” Tobgay asserts. “But we can grow in a manner that is balanced.”

**Sustainable Growth and Tourism**

GNH 2.0 involves strengthening the economy in ways that align with the country’s values of environmental protection, cultural preservation, and good governance.

Bhutan’s tourism industry, however, has faced obstacles in its recovery from the pandemic. After reopening in late 2022, the “Sustainable Development Fee” for international visitors was increased to 0 per adult per day before being lowered twice.

“We’ve been extremely cautious in our approach to tourism,” Tobgay admits. “We’ve paid for that caution.”

Despite these setbacks, Bhutan remains committed to its “high value, low volume” tourism strategy. The current Sustainable Development Fee stands at 0 per adult per day, with Tobgay expressing belief that tourists are willing to pay the higher fee of 0 to contribute to the country’s sustainable development.

**A Lifeline for Youth**

Bhutan’s tourism industry is crucial for generating employment opportunities for its highly capable youth. Thousands of young Bhutanese have sought work abroad, with around 1.5% of the population migrating to Australia alone in the past year.

“We hope that our children will return home once we strengthen our economy through tourism and other measures,” Tobgay says.

**Weighing the Future**

Bhutan’s GNH 2.0 represents a delicate balancing act. It aims to boost the economy while preserving the country’s core values and protecting the well-being of its citizens.

As Bhutan navigates this path, it will be closely watched by the world, eager to see how a nation can reconcile economic progress with the pursuit of genuine happiness.

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