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

On Monday, March 20, on this International Day of Happiness, we head to Bhutan, a tiny country squeezed between India and Tibet, where wealth is measured in Gross National Happiness. This year, the kingdom will no longer be categorized as a “poor country.”
The concept of GNH, or “Gross National Happiness,” which so interests Westerners, has existed since 1972. It is calculated based on 33 different criteria: it does not refer to income or purchasing power, but to personal and collective balance, psychological health, and time spent with loved ones.
At the beginning, this indicator was not taken seriously at all, but today it is cited as an example. This does not mean that the kingdom, which still protects itself from modernity, is not subject to globalization. The youth there consumes Netflix and TikTok – like everyone else. But Bhutan, where Tantric Buddhism is the state religion, where healthcare and education are free, places the happiness of its 800,000 subjects above all else.
A negative carbon footprint.
The country produces its energy through its hydroelectric power plants and, to fight against pollution – as traffic jams are starting to become problematic in the capital – the government has just relaunched a plan of massive subsidies for electric cars. And yes, all of this is also an indicator of happiness.
Tourist tax: $200 per day.
Tourism, on the other hand, pays the consequences. There is no question of letting backpackers or mass tourism invade us. When the borders reopened after Covid, the government increased the tax imposed on foreign visitors: it went from 65 to 200 dollars per day. Mandatory. This is a “sustainable development” tax. And too bad if it reduces the number of tourists. Reduced 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.