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About Gross National Happiness and Gross National Product — 3 (continued)

By Matthieu Ricard on March 13, 2012

Excerpts from a statement from the Prime Minister of Bhutan, H.E. Jigmi Y. Thinley, in preparation to the 2nd of April debate on GNH at the United Nations.

That total misguided reliance on GDP was never clearer than in the global economic collapse of 2008-09 when the world's leaders almost unanimously decided that the most important thing they could do was make the economy grow again — in other words, to stimulate GDP. The world is now paying the price of that one-sided approach as governments slide into devastating debt from which they cannot emerge.

All this leads me directly to the key announcement I want to make today. From now on, [in Bhutan] we will start accounting properly for all this country's precious wealth — including our natural wealth and our human, social, and cultural wealth — and we'll stop focusing narrowly on our financial and manufactured wealth alone, as if that was all that mattered. Of course, we'll continue to count that, but from now, we'll be able to figure, for the first time, the true costs of economic activity, and we'll be able to balance that activity with a proper accounting of our natural, human, and cultural wealth, which of course are key pillars of Gross National Happiness. In short — we'll create balanced GNH Accounts for this country, and thereby build the world's first comprehensive set of national accounts.

We are in good company here, since this is precisely the action recommended by the Stiglitz Commission that was appointed by French President Sarkozy. We'll be the first country actually to do it in practice, and we are already drawing on some of the world's top expertise to do it well and credibly. It won't be easy, it will take time to do properly and fully (several years in fact), and there will be huge methodological challenges, like the inadequacy of money to properly describe the value of non-market activities like ecosystem services.

But we have already begun work, thanks to Drs Costanza and Kubiszewski here, by starting to train our national statisticians, key GNH Commission and Finance Ministry officials, and others, in the new concepts and methods. And — even though we don't yet have complete GNH Accounts ready — we are now releasing the first natural, social, and human capital results of our new expanded accounting system.
(to be continued)