Bhutan is one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries. According to the United Nations' development program, 26.2% of Bhutan’s population lives on less than 1.25 US dollar per day. Around 30% of the people live below poverty line. Several organisations have development aid programs to promote education and other projects in Bhutan. However, this development aid is restricted by the government in order to protect the country’s traditional culture. Although it might be a financially poor country, it has rich cultural values and nature and the preservation of these is leading.
Bhutan’s economy is mostly based on agriculture, which together with livestock keeping is the main source of livelihood for over 80% of the population. The country hardly knows real industry, exept forestry and cottage building. Most of the consumer goods and essentials are imported and its major export goods are calcium carbides, cement, wood based products, minerals and horticulture products. Hydroelectric power is Bhutan’s largest export product, yet 70% of the population doesn’t have electricity and depends on firewood for energy. Bhutan’s major trading partner is India. The two countries have a free trade relationship agreement. Bhutan exports about 90% to India, which is the country’s source for 70% imports. The kingdom also has a preferential trade agreement with Bangladesh. Besides hydroelectric power, tourism also brings a lot of money to the country. Bhutan’s tourism industry is based on the principle of environmentally friendly, economical viability and sustainability. Mass tourism is prevented by the policy of ‘high value and low volume’. Tourists have to pay about 200 US dollars per day (including hotel, guide and driver), thereby keeping Bhutan an exclusive and expensive destination and ensuring the preservation of Bhutan’s culture and traditions.
Gross National Happiness
Unique in the world and introduced by Bhutan: Gross National Happiness (GNH). It’s an attempt to define quality of life more holistically and psychologically than the sec material Gross National Product. The concept was introduced to the country and the world in 1972 by king Jigme Singye Wangchung, who wanted to build an economy serving Bhutan's unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values. Instead of focusing on economic growth, the concept of Gross National Happiness is based on the assumption that society only grows when material and spiritual development go hand-in-hand, complementing and reinforcing one another. In a world dominated by hard currency and mass consumption, this refreshing concept globally inspires many leaders, academics, researchers and economists. In 2004 even an international conference on GNH was held in Bhutan, attracting over 80 participants from 20 countries.
“We in Bhutan view ourselves not as citizens of Bhutan but as Bhutanese citizens of the world and small as we may be,
we feel that one day we might be the conscience of the modern world.”
His Majesty the Fifth King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck