Over the last 14 years, poverty in Bhutan has substantially decreased. This is a result of the nation’s philosophy of Gross National Happiness and its developmental Five Year Plans. Support from other nations has also helped make Bhutan’s successes possible. With further support, the nation could eradicate poverty within its borders.
Bhutan, officially named the “Kingdom of Bhutan,” is a small nation in South-Central Asia. Historically, poverty in Bhutan has been an ongoing struggle. In 2003, the poverty rate in Bhutan was well above 25%, and the proportion of the population in extreme poverty (living on less than $1.90 a day) was 17.6%.
However, there have since been major successes in the fight against poverty in Bhutan. As of 2017, poverty in Bhutan was 8.2%, less than a third of what it was 14 years prior. More impressively, the proportion of Bhutan’s population living in extreme poverty dropped to 1.5%.
Gross National Happiness
The key to success in fighting poverty in Bhutan can be attributed to the nation’s developmental philosophy. The nation does not believe in measuring its progress through the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) lens used by other countries. Rather, Bhutan evaluates its success through Gross National Happiness (GNH) indexing.
The GNH system directs Bhutan’s government to step in and present the country with the best path to maximize the happiness of its citizens. The nation places a high priority on taking the initiative to fight poverty and inequality for this reason. In the country’s 1629 legal code, it states: “If the government cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the government to exist.” This sentiment still stands today in Bhutan. The government continues to direct its focus on allowing more and more people to pursue happy and healthy lives.
Five Year Plans
To combat poverty in Bhutan, the country began a series of five-year development plans in 1961. Fittingly named “Five Year Plans,” each successive half-decade strategy sets forward a targeted initiative to address the largest assessed proponent of poverty in Bhutan.
Part of the success of the Five Year Plans was derived from its flexibility. As Bhutan continued to develop and change, the development strategies were able to shift with it. Each new implementation of the Five Year Plans would involve recreating the successes of the previous plan. Thus, any practices that proved to be inefficient could be replaced.
Nevertheless, all of the Five Year Plans initiatives had some commonality that greatly boosted the fight against poverty in Bhutan. The strategies all pushed for increased sources of income generation, expanded social resources, and rural development.
Bhutan’s strategic development planning, in combination with its GNH philosophy, was crucial toward its successes against poverty. However, Bhutan’s vast success would not have been possible without assistance from foreign nations. Further global efforts will continue to play a large role in the fight to eradicate poverty in Bhutan.
– Asa Scott