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Be happy, not just rich, says UN chief Ban Ki-moon

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Bhutan's Prime Minister Jigme Thinley (left) and Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica's presdent, during a United Nations panel discussion Monday on "happiness and well-being."

The world needs a new economic model based around “gross global happiness” rather than simply making money, according to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban, speaking at a meeting organized by the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan called “Happiness and Well-being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm”, said social and environmental factors should be considered, a statement posted on a United Nations website said.


“Gross National Product has long been the yardstick by which economies and politicians have been measured. Yet it fails to take into account the social and environmental costs of so-called progress,” Ban told at the meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York Monday.

“We need a new economic paradigm that recognizes the parity between the three pillars of sustainable development. Social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness,” he added.

Bhutan introduced the idea of “Gross National Happiness” in the early 1970s and in 2011 the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution noting that using a purely financial indicator “does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people in a country.”

May 7, 2009: Government policies and programs will be judged by the happiness they produce in the tiny mountain kingdom of Bhutan.

Ban noted that other countries have become interested in the idea, such as the United Kingdom, where authorities are experimenting with measuring “national well-being,” the statement said.

The President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, added that “today’s unprecedented ecological, economic and social challenges have made the achievement of happiness and well-being an unachievable goal for many.”

“It is imperative that we build a new, creative guiding vision for sustainability and our future -- one that will bring a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach that will promote sustainability, eradicate poverty and enhance well-being and happiness,” Al-Nasser said, according to the statement.

With a royal wedding, television in Bhutan comes of age

In December last year, in a speech to India’s parliament, Bhutan’s Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley outlined his country’s ideas.

According to an edited version of his speech posted online, Thinley said the world today was “deeply troubled.”

“Somewhere, along the way, we lost our nobler sense and let our greed take over to engender an obsession for creation of wealth at any cost,” he said in the speech. “Economists or powers behind market forces and their flawed theories fuelled this obsession.”

According to the CIA Factbook, the first democratic elections in Bhutan were held in 2008. Some 47 percent of the population are literate and its GDP per person is $6,000.

Its economy is "one of the world's smallest and least developed," the Factbook says. "The industrial sector is technologically backward, with most production of the cottage industry type," it adds.

The first radio station was launched in 1973 as a private company but is now owned by the state. The first TV station, also state-owned, was allowed by the government in 1999.

It introduction prompted concern about children copying WWE wrestling moves, pornography, the loss of Bhutanese culture and a rise in crime, according to BBC News.