Bhutan’s recipe for happiness, which will soon no longer be a “poor country”

Bhutan’s recipe for happiness, which will soon no longer be a “poor country”

This BNB, “Gross National Happiness” which interests Westerners so much has existed since 1972. It is calculated on the basis of 33 different criteria: we are not talking about income or purchasing power but about personal and collective balance, psychological health , time spent with loved ones.

In its infancy, this indicator was not taken seriously at all, today it is cited as an example. This does not mean that the kingdom, which still protects itself from modernity, escapes globalization. Young people there consume Netflix and TikTok – like everyone else. But Bhutan, where Tantric Buddhism is the state religion, Bhutan where health care and education cost nothing, Bhutan places above all the happiness of its 800,000 subjects.

A negative carbon footprint

With a cardinal virtue: sustainable development. It is one of three countries in the world, along with Suriname and Panama, to have a negative carbon footprint. We talked a lot about it at the time of COP26. This means that it absorbs more greenhouse gases than it emits, thanks to its forests. They cover 70% of the territory. This figure must never fall below 60%, it is written in the constitution which also prohibits deforestation for commercial purposes.

The country produces its energy thanks to its hydraulic power stations and to fight against pollution – while traffic jams are starting to become problematic in the capital – the government has just relaunched a massive subsidy plan for electric cars. And yes, all of these are also indicators of happiness.

Tourist tax: 200 dollars per day

Tourism, on the other hand, pays the consequences. No question of being invaded by backpackers or mass tourism. When the borders reopened after the Covid, the government increased the tax imposed on foreign visitors: it went from 65 to 200 dollars per day. Mandatory. It is a “sustainable development” tax. And too bad if it reduces the number of tourists. Low volume but high value. For the government, long-term environmental protection is more important than the economy.

A “middle-income” country

Its model is a success since Bhutan will leave the group of poor countries – those that the UN calls the “least developed countries”. They are forty in total.

Angola or the Solomon Islands, which like Bhutan are officially due to leave this nomenclature at the end of the year, are in no hurry to leave it to obtain the status of middle-income country. Being part of this group also means benefiting from certain commercial and financial advantages. Bhutan, which will come out at the end of the year, sees it on the contrary as an additional subject of national pride.


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