Gross National Happiness (GNH)

GNH and other development philosophies

The other developmental philosophies that can be compared with GNH as a development philosophy are:

  1. Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW)/ Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI)
  2. Green GDP (Eco-friendly)
  3. Genuine Savings (GS)
  4. Ecological Footprint (EF)
  5. Human Development Index (HDI)
  6. Living Planet Report (LPR)
  7. Happy Planet Index (HPI)
  8. Millennium Development Goals and Indicators (MDGs)

1. Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW)/ Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI)

The Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW), later revised and renamed the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), is a measure that uses GDP as a foundation. It was first proposed in 1989 by Daly and Cobb in their book For the Common Good as “a way of measuring the economy that will give better guidance than the GNP to those interested in promoting economic welfare” (Daly and Cobb 1989, 401).

In developing the ISEW, the authors built on work by Zolotas on the Index of Economic Aspects of Welfare (EAW) and Nordhaus and Tobin’s Measure of Economic Wealth (MEW). In particular, Daly and Cobb wanted an index that accounted for both current environmental issues and long-term sustainable use of natural ecosystems and resources. In 1995, a group called Redefining Progress issued a revised method and changed the name of the measure to the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). While GDP is a measure of current income, they design GPI to measure the sustainability of that income, measuring whether progress results from living off the interest of community capital or spending it down.

Comparison: In GNH the issues of ecosystem is taken care with enshrinement in constitution Article 5 (The Environment) where at least 70% forest cover is guaranteed for all times to come beside any developmental activities in the country. We consider the focus on income distribution to reduce the gap between haves and have-not guided by GNH policies.

“Both the GPI and ISEW use the same personal consumption data as GDP but make deductions to account for income inequality and costs of crime, environmental degradation, and loss of leisure and additions to account for the services from consumer durables and public infrastructure as well as the benefits of volunteering and housework. By differentiating between economic activity that diminishes both natural and social capital and activity that enhances such capital, they design the GPI and its variants to measure sustainable economic welfare rather than economic activity alone” (Talberth, Cobb et al. 2007, emphasis added).

2. Green GDP (Eco-Friendly)

Many attempts have been made to develop Green GDPs—GDPs that factor estimates for environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources into the national income accounts to arrive at a single number. Work on a Green GDP for Japan in the 1980s informed the Daly and Cobb efforts on the ISEW. Green GDP calculations also have been developed for countries as diverse as Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, and the US, although none of these efforts have resulted in regular reporting of the results. It describes the recent efforts by China to measure and report on a Green GDP below in the section on barriers.

Comparison: It must produce In GNH context green products indigenously, branded as “Brand Bhutan” and using natural resources in the country but not at the cost of undermining the happiness ideology”

3. Genuine Savings (GS)

Genuine Savings (GS) was developed for the World Bank (World Bank 1997) and is defined as “the true level of saving in a country after depreciation of produced capital; investments in human capital (as measured by education expenditures); depletion of minerals, energy, and forests; and it takes damages from local and global air pollutants into account” (Hamilton, Ruta et al. 2006, xv). This includes the value of global damages from carbon emissions. GS measures the built, natural, and intangible capital that is required for human society to exist and to thrive. They relate intangible wealth to the social and human capital of a nation and includes skills and know-how of the labor force, trust and cooperation/collaboration, efficient judicial systems, clear property rights, and effective government. Like the GPI, the national income accounts are the underpinnings of GS. The calculation subtracts amounts for environmental degradation and resource depletion and adds in amounts for investments in human capital. GS attempts to measure sustainable use of resources, although it does not take into account equity issues related to consumption. We have calculated the GS for 120 countries.

One significant finding detailed in the World Bank’s 2006 report Where is the Wealth of Nations? Measuring Capital for the 21st Century is that increased wealth in a country is primarily the result of an increase in intangible wealth—human capital and the formal and informal institutions that humans create. As shown in Figure 4, 25 percent of the wealth of poor countries is natural capital—this percentage declines as a country gets wealthier because high-income countries have a larger percentage of wealth in intangibles (human and social capital). One conclusion from this is that, especially for the poorest nations, increasing economic activity by selling off natural resources results in lower welfare in the long run.

Comparison: In the purview of GNH, we consider the saving in terms of tangible and intangible cultural heritage and fragile ecology and manpower, right person in right job to ensure happiness in ensure in line with taking accounts of such national assets.

4. Ecological Footprint (EF)

The Ecological Footprint (EF) was developed by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees as a way to account for flows of energy and matter into and out of the human economy and convert those flows into a measure of the area of productive land and water required to support those flows (Wackernagel and Rees 1996).

We intend the EF to be used as a resource management tool for assessing whether and to what extent an individual, city, or nation is using available ecological assets faster than the supporting ecosystems can regenerate those assets. Most recent estimates show that humanity’s Ecological Footprint is 23 to 40 percent larger than renewable rates; how- ever, the vast majority of this overshoot is attributable to carbon emissions and not mismanagement of terrestrial or aquatic biomes (Venetoulis and Talberth 2006). Future improvements to footprint methods will remedy EF’s current inability to distinguish between sustainable and unsustainable use of these biomes. The EF has been used as a standalone index of environmental sustainability and is also used as part of composite indicators described below. Over the last 12 years, we have calculated EFs for most nations and for many subnational regions.

Comparison: Carbon neutral and negative emission goals adopted lately, certain banned on import of excessive vehicles in Bhutan, every citizens enjoy the equitable share of development of hydro-power projects and electrifications of very households, and so forth ensure that GNH is achieved there-forth. 

5. Human Development Index (HDI)

Since 1990, the United Nations Development Program has used the Human Development Index (HDI) in its annual Human Development Report. The Pakistani and an Indian economist developed the HDI; Mahbub Ul Haq and Amartya Sen respectively.

The purpose of the report is to show how well the management of economic growth and human development is actually improving human well-being in the nations of the world. The inaugural report defines human development as the “process of enlarging people’s choices…to live a long and healthy life, to be educated, have access to resources needed for a decent standard of living,…[to have] political freedom, guaranteed human rights and personal self-respect.” However, the authors acknowledge the difficulty of quantifying the last three components, and the index focuses on “longevity, knowledge and decent living standards” as proxies for people’s ability to live long and prosperous lives (UN Development Program 1990).

  • It measures longevity using life expectancy at birth. This also serves as a proxy for other aspects of well-being such as adequate nutrition and good health.
  • It measures knowledge using literacy rate and school enrollment, which should reflect the level of knowledge of the adult population as well as the investment in the youth.
  • Access to a decent standard of living is measured using GDP adjusted to reflect purchasing power parity and the threshold effect using a logarithm of real GDP per capita. Initially reported for 14 countries, the UN’s 2007 report presented HDI results for 177 countries (UN Development Program 2007).

Comparison: In GNH nations, every graduate getting a decent job after study, acquiring knowledge and able to apply in real field. Free education up-to class 10, free health services, enough shelter and house to live are al taken care to ensure that happiness in there in the face of every citizen. With health services, life expectancy increased upto 60 years and all Bhutanese have improved their living standards. We see no poverty stricken citizens as major issues in Bhutan. 

6. Living Planet Report (LPR)

Along with several partner agencies, in 1998, the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund) published the first Living Planet Report. The report has two components: the state of the world’s natural environment and the burden placed on the natural environment by humanity.

The Living Planet Index (LPI) is a measure of the world’s forests, freshwater and marine ecosystems, specifically on the “extent and severity of biodiversity loss” (Hails 2006). The LPI tracks biodiversity trends by tracking the populations of 1,313 species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. In the initial reports, the Global Consumption Pressure—a measure of six subcomponents of human-related consumption of grain, marine fish, wood, cement, carbon dioxide emissions, and water withdrawals—was the measure of the human burden on the environment (Loh, Randers et al. 1998). Since 2002, we have used the Ecological Footprint as the measure of human consumption and waste generation. The 2006 Living Planet Report (LPR) showed that human use of the earth’s biocapacity is exceeding the regenerative capacity by 25 percent.

Comparison: it declares Bhutan as global ecological and biodiversity hotspot. The forest cover and environment in terms of flora and fauna is given serious attention with making nine Wild life Sanctuaries and parks Services under the auspices of Ministry of Forest and Agriculture and other organisations like National Environment Commission and Royal Society for Protection of nature (RSPN). Being the member of WWF), the country’s attempt to ensure happiness in species and animals and plants is much far in reality.

7. Happy Planet Index (HPI)

The purpose of the Happy Planet Index (HPI), developed and published by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), is to measure a country’s ecological efficiency in delivering human well-being.

The index is a composite of three measures:

  1. Life expectancy at birth,
  2. Life satisfaction, and
  3. Ecological footprint. 

Countries can also have similar life satisfaction measures but different overall results.  For example, although people in the US and New Zealand report similar levels of life satisfaction, New Zealand’s overall HPI is 13 points higher than the US’ because the average New Zealander has a slightly higher life expectancy and uses only half the resources of the average US citizen as measured by their respective Ecological Footprints (Marks, Abdallah et al. 2006).

An interesting result of comparing the HPI and HDI methodologies is that two countries can have very similar results for the HDI but have very different results of HPI. For example, Honduras’s HPI is 30 points higher than Moldova even though the two countries have similar HDI ratings, ecological footprint and life expectancy. The reason is that the Life Satisfaction in Honduras is more than double that of people in Moldova.

8. Millennium Development Goals and indicators (MDGs & I)

In 2000, leaders of 189 countries signed the United Nations Millennium declaration, which established eight international goals for improving the global human condition.

The goals included eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development. Forty-eight indicators were defined to measure progress towards these goals (UN DESA 2007).

Please note that it also mentions the above developmental philosophies are also under the heading of concept of GDP for better understanding on GDP. Indeed, above ideas are all GDP centric and take refinement for development goals.

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