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Loren urges inclusion of a Gross National Happiness index in government’s economic indicators

November 21, 2010

SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA RENEWED HER CALL FOR THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT TO CHANGE THE WAY ECONOMIC GROWTH IS MEASURED, AMID INCREASING INTEREST AMONG COUNTRIES, SUCH AS THE UNITED KINGDOM AND FRANCE, TO INSTITUTE A “HAPPINESS INDEX” IN MEASURING A COUNTRY’S GROWTH.
“Along with the gross domestic product and other traditional economic yardsticks, it is equally important for us to know whether our economic activities make our people in the environment they live in healthier, educated and better acquainted to their cultural roots,” Legarda said.
Senator Legarda, recounting her advocacy mission in Bhutan in May 2009 as United Nations Regional Champion for Disaster Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, added, “We should be inspired by The Kingdom of Bhutan. Their development philosophy of Gross National Happiness transcends the concept of Gross National Product as it presents its four pillars — sustainable and equitable socio-economic development, environmental conservation, promotion and preservation cultural, and good governance. The adoption of these GNH indicators, in fact, makes the Bhutanese people strive to preserve their environment and cultural heritage and thus promotes sustainable development.”
“Our government avidly monitors the growth rate of the country, with a decimal increase provoking a barrage of expressed pride among economic managers. But there still remains gross inequality of income among social classes. On top of that, and this is probably the height of injustice, disasters are added misfortunes that the poor simply cannot and should not be made to bear. I believe this neglect stems from the fact that we don’t measure growth by other more meaningful standards,” Legarda lamented.
“As we continue to measure growth in terms of economic indicators, we forget those equally important factors such as good governance, socio-economic development, environmental and cultural preservation. We should incorporate these criterion in our country, just like in Bhutan.”
“I am eager to work with the government’s economic team, should it require legislation, for us to go the extra mile of taking into account the quality of life of our people and the quality of our environment in measuring growth. New indices that factor in environmental protection and investments in disaster risk reduction would more accurately reflect development, particularly of the vast majority of our people who can no longer accept the growing gap between statistics that show continuing progress in growth and the increasing hardships they experience in their daily lives. Most important, this will provide context and perspective for crafting and implementing fundamental policy changes that will be needed by the government to sustain and foster life in the country,” Legarda concluded.