Bhutan’s Leader Says Land of Happiness Index Leaves Him Unhappy

March 29 (Bloomberg) -- While Bhutan is known for the “happiness index” it uses to measure well-being, Jigme Y. Thinley says he is often unhappy as prime minister of one of the world’s poorest nations.

“It’s difficult” to be content “because of the frustrations and challenges that I, as prime minister, face in a country with limited resources, with all kinds of constraints and where a good section of our population tries to survive in conditions of poverty,” Thinley told reporters today in New York.

Forest-laden Bhutan, sandwiched between China and India and with a population of 725,000, uses a “Gross National Happiness” index to gauge the success of its economy. The index, praised by fans such Nobel laureate economists Joseph E. Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, takes into account elements such as stress and physical exercise to measure the standard of living.

At the United Nations to promote this “holistic approach” to development, Thinley said he recognizes Bhutan’s harsher realities by more conventional barometers of well-being. More than a quarter of Bhutan’s population lives on less than $1.25 a day, and 70 percent of the population is without electricity.

Thinley said the Occupy Wall Street movement was justified, giving added impetus to Bhutan’s push to convince world leaders to consider broader measures of prosperity.

It has to do with “the growing discontent on the basis of the reality and truth that resources are not equitably accessible and distributed,” Thinley said in an interview.

A priority for Bhutan is ensuring that the country’s development doesn’t damage its culture or its environment, he said. Until 1974, no tourists were allowed into the Buddhist nation, nestled in the Eastern Himalayas, and ruled by a 32-year-old monarch known as the “Dragon King.”

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