This Joint Staff Advisory Note focuses on the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) Progress Report for Bhutan. Bhutan’s PRSP aims to galvanize the poverty reduction efforts of the Royal Government of Bhutan, building on past achievements. It targets an average growth rate of 8¼ percent during 2004/05–2006/07, which is about 1¾ percentage points above that experienced during the Eighth Plan and the first two years of the Ninth Plan. Pushing the economy to this higher growth trajectory will be a challenge; however, some increase in the growth rate can be expected over the medium term.
Bhutan has evolved from a closed economy to a trading nation that exhibits a high degree of dependence on trade. Exports have grown rapidly but overall the country’s trade deficit continues to widen owing to an even faster growth in the value of imports. The manufacturing and industry sector is constrained by various factors that impede its further development. FDI and joint ventures are some of the mechanisms that must be actively promoted to help jump start the process.
The overarching objective of Bhutan’s Tenth Five-Year Plan (10FYP)—which is also the Royal Government of Bhutan’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP)—is to sustain this trajectory and reduce poverty further. Political stability, prudent economic management, and development of the hydropower sector delivered robust economic growth during the 9FYP. Favorable economic performance was underpinned by sound macroeconomic policies. The 10FYP forecasts an average fiscal deficit of about 3 percent of GDP, the same as in the 9FYP and in line with the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB)'s strategic fiscal policy goals.
This paper examines the origins and use of the concept of Gross National Happiness (or subjective well-being) in the Kingdom of Bhutan, and the relationship between measured well-being and macroeconomic indicators. While there are only a few national surveys of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan, the concept has been used to guide public policymaking for the country’s various Five-Year Plans. Consistent with the Easterlin Paradox, available evidence indicates that Bhutan’s rapid increase in national income is only weakly associated with increases in measured levels of well-being. It will be important for Bhutan to undertake more frequent Gross National Happiness surveys and evaluations, to better build evidence for comovement of well-being and macroeconomic concepts such as real national income.