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Let's Make Happiness The Gross National Product

20/06/2017 11:35
Artur Debat via Getty Images

Dear Theresa May and Honourable Members of Parliament,

From the emergence of the youth vote, Jeremy Corbyn's elevation to political rock star, and goatskin vellum trending on twitter, who would've thought a snap general election would deliver such delights, or have others in store.

I understand the Prime Minister and her party may not agree with my rather enthusiastic embrace of the results, but I ask them to take note of the sub-text.

This election has gifted us one of the most diverse parliaments in history. An infusion of energy, experience and expertise which promises to enrich the texture and tapestry of political debate and policy.

I had even started to hope of a creative shift, where the parties could soften their divisions, pool intellectual resources, exercise wisdom and imagination for the long-term needs of the country. Particularly when momentous and complex decisions need to be made. At this point in time, I am of course talking about Brexit.

However, like millions in the country I've been appalled at the Tory Party's decision to make a deal with the DUP, the Democratic Unionist Party, who's beliefs are particularly harmful to women and people in the gay community, to say the very least. If they've been promised funds as part of the bargaining process then we'll want to know where those funds have come from, given that school meals have been taken away from infants, the youngest in our society, for whom we have a moral and ethical responsibility.

Prime Minister, I expect you to put the nation's interests before party. Ditch the DUP, trust parliament to support the best way forward, one which is truly representative. You'll have shown your statesmanship and that you've read the sub-text.

Call in the brightest minds from the other parties, from universities, businesses and social organisations. There's a treasure trove of intelligence, social passion and maturity out there. Instead of a coalition of dogma, let's have a coalition of brilliance.

Let's go even further, let the general election keep on giving, and take a road less travelled. Shift the focus from GNP to GNH. From Gross National Product to Gross National Happiness. Negotiate Brexit within the framework of Gross National Happiness.

'The what?" You must be exclaiming with disbelief and incredulity. It wouldn't be the first time an idea has provoked scepticism and scorn. When the Labour manifesto was released for the recent election, it was treated as yet another suicide note, and yet it's humanity, rationale and aims, galvanised large sections of the population and became a game changer.

So, I ask you, Prime Minister May, instead of making a deal of desperation with the DUP, whose consequences could backfire spectacularly, consider making GNH the aim of your politics and Brexit.

"Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product"
- His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan. With his famous declaration in the 1970s, the former King of Bhutan challenged conventional, narrow and materialistic notions of human progress. He realized and declared that the existing development paradigm - GNP (or GDP) - did not consider the ultimate goal of every human being: happiness.

His majesty had: 'concluded that GDP was neither an equitable nor a meaningful measurement for human happiness, nor should it be the primary focus for governance;'

Thus GNH was born. Bhutan developed a 'middle path,' which concentrated on a fairer distribution of resources, along with environmental conservation and good governance.

The question which immediately arises is whether GNH can be applied to vastly different countries, which are heavily urban and industrialised. HRH Princess Kezang Choden Wangchuck, President of the GNH Centre Bhutan, puts it thus:
"...We see it as a dynamic design that must be constantly enriched and improved with the help of people from all walks of life who bring with them immense experience and knowledge with a shared inspiration to create a better world. In this regard, we are most heartened by the interest the world has taken in our development approach."

"Whatever work we do, whatever goals we have - and no matter how these may change in this changing world - ultimately without peace, security and happiness we have nothing. That is the essence of the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Our most important goal is the peace and happiness of our people and the security and sovereignty of the nation." His Majesty King Khesar, The 5th Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan.

Security and Sovereignty of the nation? How often did we hear these words during the referendum, and now about the Brexit negotiations? If Bhutan believes that security and sovereignty come from GNH, then surely, we can too?

'Happiness is more important than GDP.' Said Lord Gus O'Donnell, former head of the Civil Service, Permanent secretary to the treasury and UK member of the IMF. A man who should know something about national finance and the administration of the nation.

We're wedded to the idea that the more we produce, the more we facilitate business and its demands, the happier the country will be. I have no objection to hard work, production and providing for our material needs; as the daughter of Punjabi immigrant parents it was the mantra by which I was brought up. And yet we have huge levels of inequality, violence, social division, unhappiness and mental illness. Clearly something's not working.

Gross National Happiness (GNH) is no airy-fairy concept, where people expect 'magic money trees,' to provide for their needs. It has been developed into a practical tool, embedded into processes, and used as the filter by which to develop policies and make national decisions. It has four main pillars and nine domains.

The Four Pillars are: Good Governance, Sustainable socio-economic Development, Preservation and Promotion of Culture, Environmental Conservation.

The Four Pillars are then subdivided into nine domains, which cover areas such as Health, Education, Psychological well-being, Living Standards, and more. These are all used as screening tools to determine whether policies are fulfilling the aims of GNH.

I'm sure Prime Minister May, you'll want to work for a Brexit which delivers happiness, and allows the happiness of the country to be developed. I therefore suggest you ditch the DUP, adopt the GNH, and use the tools for the framework of happiness, developed by Bhutan. We've been through a gruelling general election, let it create a sea-change, a quantum leap.

The legal code of Bhutan 1729 states: "...if the Government cannot create happiness (dekid) for its people, there is no purpose for the Government to exist."

Warmest regards,
Ravinder Randhawa (Ms)
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