The man in charge with overseeing happiness in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is coming to the Philippines on October 17 to spread the word about gross national happiness (GNH), an alternative indicator of a country's economic and social well-being.

Saamdu Chetri, head of Bhutan's GNH Centre, has been invited by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez to conduct a series of lectures aimed at inspiring Filipinos to find a balance between materialistic and non-materialistic aspects of life, and other factors that are vital to human happiness.

Lopez said Chetri will be in the country on October 18-26 to conduct lectures in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

A strong believer of GNH, Lopez said she envisions the Philippines as a country whose citizens give great value to the environment in the pursuit of economic development.

“We are changing the paradigm of development from the Gross National Product (GDP) to GNH. And, this is the first time that we are really taking a serious look of making happiness a barometer of development," Lopez said.

GNH aims to measure quality of life in more holistic terms than in the standard and monetary-related gross domestic product (GDP), striking a balance between spiritual and material aspect of life.

According to her, GNH is a more of a human development approach rather than a material approach.

The target audience for the lectures includes representatives of people's organizations, indigenous peoples, civil society and local government units from 29 priority areas earlier identified by Lopez as models for sustainable development. Also to be invited are members of the academe, Senate and media.

The first lecture will be held on October 18 at the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City. The succeeding lectures will be held on October 20 at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, on October 22 at the Ateneo de Manila University and on October 24 at the University of the Philippines Diliman, both in Quezon City.

On October 21, Chetri will hold a lecture for members of the media on at the DENR central office in Quezon City.

Lopez expressed hopes the lectures will lead to the crafting of an action plan by leaders of various sectors and organizations in the priority areas based on the principles of GNH.

She was also expecting to generate commitment and partnership with different stakeholders in pursuing GNH.

As far as the DENR is concerned, Lopez said the agency aims to harmonize and integrate GNH in all its programs and projects.

GNH was coined in 1972 by Bhutan's former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

Since then, Bhutan has measured its prosperity through formal principles of GNH instead of relying on GDP.

That was to be measured by its people's sense of being well-governed, their relationship with the environment, satisfaction with the pace of economic development, and a sense of cultural and national belonging. ###