Calculating Happiness – Beyond Socio-Economic Development by Vijay Kapur & Enakshi Sengupta


By Vijay Kapur & Enakshi Sengupta

While India battles with scams, corruptions and protests to bring an end to the corrupt practices, not far from India’s border is a beautiful country nestled in the beauty and bounty of the mountains called – Bhutan. This country is busy calculating how happy it’s people are through its Gross National Happiness Index (GNH).

We are all quite familiar with world indicators focusing on country’s productivity, monetary growth, stock markets, consumption patterns etc. These conventional indicators results in calculating the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country. Yet, Bhutan was not happy calculating merely the material gain and wealth of its country. To the Bhutanese people the country can be called prosperous when its citizens achieve 360 degree happiness and do not focus only on wealth gain.

The 5th King of Bhutan His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, popularly known as King Khesar, announced the version of Gross National Happiness at a royal address in December 2006. His Majesty King Khesar underlined that the ultimate goal for social, economic and political changes in Bhutan lies in the fulfillment of the GNH Index. In it lies the “creation of a enlightened society in which happiness and well being of all people and sentient beings is the ultimate purpose of Governance ( His Majesty, King Khesar, 2008).

The Centre for Bhutan Studies constructed a single number index that can be divided into individual component indicators that are useful for crafting plans and policies for different Governmental departments. The GNH indicators have become tools of accountability. The common purpose embedded in a coherent set of indicators allows common men and women to judge their leaders, hold their leaders accountable for fulfilling the targets specified in the GNH Index.

These indicators include both the functional and emotive side of a human being. These indicators reflect values, shape the policies and programmes of the Government and provides a feedback on the effectiveness of the indicators.

Happiness to the Bhutanese people is a public good, valued by all individuals. Hence the Government of Bhutan takes the view that an important public good like happiness cannot be left to private devices and strivings. “If a Government policy framework, and thus a nation’s macro-condition are adverse to happiness, happiness will fail as a collective goal. Any Government concerned with happiness must create conducive condition for happiness in which individual strivings can succeed.” (

The GNH indicators have been designed to include 9 core dimensions that are considered as indicators of happiness and well being in Bhutan. These 9 indicators are selected on normative grounds and are equally weighted as each dimension is considered equal in terms of importance. The 9 dimensions are:

Psychological well being
Time use
Community vitality
Environmental diversity
Living standards

“GNH is the expression of a system of values that defined the Bhutanese system over centuries. This comes at a time when human society is nervous about human security….” (Dorji K, 2008)

His Royal Highness Dasho Jigyel addressing the Asia Society in New York said, “It is important for all of us, especially in Bhutan not to lose sight of the deeper vision underpinning the concept of Gross National Happiness ….and if some way of measuring happiness in numbers is the target of development economists, then it is important that the numbers remain the servant and not the master of the concept” (HRH Dasho Jigyel, 2008).

We Indians can only be hopeful that some day our country will be above the corrupt practices and implement such indicators of promoting joy and happiness amongst its citizens – a step beyond equitable and sustainable socio –economic development.

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