18 May, 2024


Covid-19 & Gross National Happiness

By Nalin Abeysekera –

Prof. Nalin Abeysekera

Covid-19 has already done the damages for the entire globe. We do discuss technological advancements. We are really proud of and talking about Industry 4.0 and digital transformation of manufacturing/production and related businesses and value creation processes. In Science, humans consider as smartest animals on Earth. Even though it is difficult to measure the intelligence of animals there can be some indicators such as self-awareness, skill to use tools, and ability to learn new things that can be seen more in humans than other animals on the earth. Nevertheless, the ocean covers around 70  percent of the surface of the earth and more than eighty percent of our ocean is unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored! Like ocean which has mostly been unobserved by humans same can be seen with Covid-19 as all. Prior to this, we know the word called “Epidemic”  and we start to learn more about the word called “Pandemic” with Covid-19. This pandemic has affected human health and the global economy. But people started to think about what went wrong and a lot of “conspiracy theories” come into effect. Anyway, it is important to discuss Gross Domestic Happiness (GDN) in this scenario.

Gross National  Product  (GNP) Vs Gross National  Happiness (GNH)

We always talking about GNP. Gross National  Product  (GNP) is the sum of all domestic and foreign output generated by citizens of a given country. we consider GNP as a significant factor to solve national problems such as inflation and poverty. Nevertheless, now we have a new indicator called Gross National  Happiness (GNH)”.I think Covid-19 has issued a message to the universe on the importance of this concept at large. What is this Gross National  Happiness (GNH)? Interestingly GNH  suggests that sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing. As per Investopedia, this concept is a measure of economic and moral progress that the king of the Himalayan country of Bhutan was introduced in the 1970s as an alternative to gross domestic product. Mostly we talk about numbers and compare numbers. But sometimes numbers do not tell you the truth. So instead of focusing on quantitative measurements in economics GNH  takes the collective happiness and well-being of a population into consideration. More importantly, Nordic countries which have a combination of social welfare and economic system are dominating the ranks of the world happiness report in the year 2021. In 2021 Finland(for the fourth year in a row) was ranked the happiest country in the world and two other Nordic countries, Iceland and Denmark, followed by second and third place. It is important for Sri Lanka to learn the Nordic Model underpinned by a mixed-market capitalist economic system. India has been ranked 139 out of 149 countries in the list and Sri Lanka ranked 129 out of 149 countries. Unfortunately, you cannot see Bhutan in the rankings as the absence of Gallup surveys in recent years.


It can be seen that the world is moving from “numbers to measure growth” to “collective happiness and the well-being” of a population. As explained earlier the world is still calculating the damage of Covid-19 and there should be a paradigm shift in the thinking pattern of the people. Sri Lanka can learn from this and we can revisit our traditions to see how happiness has been defined by our ancestors. We have long been influenced by the heritage of Buddhism and “In Buddhism, happiness is achieved when a person can perceive the true nature of reality, unmodified by the mental constructs we superimpose upon it (Ricard,2014). So there is a message sent by Covid-19 on “true happiness” which we really need to interpret with inner peace.

*The writer is a Professor in Management Studies at the Open University of Sri Lanka. You can reach him on nalinabeysekera@gmail.com

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