Read the full article from Kuensel, Bhutan's National Newspaper.
The country will begin quantifying GNH by measuring what GDP leaves out, such as its natural wealth including human, social and culture ones like GDP does goods and services.
During a press conference yesterday Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley said while the country continued to focus on its financial and manufactured wealth, it would also create balanced GNH accounts.
“From now on, we’ll be able to figure, for the first time, the true costs of economic activity, and we’ll be able to balance that activity with a proper accounting of our natural, human, and cultural wealth,” he said. “We’ll create balanced GNH Accounts for this country, and thereby build the world’s first comprehensive set of national accounts.”
He explained the new accounting system, which the UN-commissioned team of researchers helped with meant it would begin accounting, for instance, for the health of the forests and other natural resources.
For example, he said, if the country experienced a bad year of forest fires, the consequent forest loss as a depreciation of the country’s natural wealth would be counted.
“If we plant trees, we’ll count that as an investment in natural capital, just as we presently account for investments in our built capital,” he said.
All of these, Lyonchhoen said was hidden in the conventional GDP-based accounts.
The new accounts, he said, would point accurately to the country’s hidden strengths, like its rich natural and cultural heritage, on which it needed to build than taking them for granted.
Two researchers, Professor Robert Costanza Director, Institute for Sustainable Solutions, Portland State University and Research Assistant Professor in the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, Portland State University Professor Ida Kubiszewski worked out an estimate of the economic value of our country’s natural capital.
In their estimate of the value of the country’s ecosystem services, Prof. Kubiszewski said it provided Nu 760B worth of ecosystem services every year.
That Lyonchhoen said was 4.4 times more than the country’s whole GDP of Nu 72.3B a year.
Prof. Kubiszewski said the country’s 74.5 percent forest cover added the greatest value of USD 14.5B a year, making up more thah 93 percent of the total value of the country’s ecosystem services.
He also said 53 percent of the total benefits accrued to people outside the country largely from climate regulation that worked out to USD 3.5B a year and another USD 2.5B a year from tourism and recreation.
“Potentially there are ideas of payment for carbon sequestration,” he said, adding the forest in Bhutan was capturing carbon out of the atmosphere. “So, there may be the potential for payments for that purpose.”
If someone was producing these services, he said it should be kept preciously.
“We shouldn’t fail to recognise it,” he said, adding there was a need for institutions that could send the right incentives. “We need something, at the global scale that sees the need to protect the atmosphere as an aspect.”
Prof. Kubiszewski said on the one end, there was the objective wellbeing, which concerned with how people felt about life and how happy they were, while on the other side, there was the opportunities, assets and capabilities that allowed people to meet their needs, to feel the sense of wellbeing.
“We need to understand what our assets are in order that it help contribute to the wellbeing,” he said. “I think that’s the challenge we are incurring.”
He said the task was a difficult one, which, had it not been, others would have done it already.
“But I think, a country like Bhutan is a very good place to work out these details,” he said. “It’s a good model and by doing that, it can be a model for the rest of the world on how this process might work.”
Lyonchhoen said the new accounting system would help the country understand “more profoundly” what His Majesty the Fourth King meant when he said GNH was more important than GNP.
“In fact, it’ll help fulfill His Majesty’s vision of a happy and contented people,” he said.
By Samten Wangchuk