Sunday, September 11, 2011

Growth in Buddhist Economy by Jeffrey Sachs

Recently my friends drew my attention to articles of Jeffrey Sachs, Professor of Economics at Columbia University, inspired by Bhutan. One of them titled 'Growth in a Buddhist Economy' can be read clicking HERE

I found the article very interesting and commented on it as follows:

"I'm happy that Mr. Sachs highlights Bhutan as a unique country with enlightened public policies and political leadership dedicated to put these policies in practice. Many other countries, including the US, many times lack both, but especially leadership.

I was a volunteer in Bhutan - which is about 6% of the size of France - working with young entrepreneurs funded by the country's first registered charity, the Loden Foundation. I saw many parts of the country and I spoke with various people from taxi drivers to elected officials, from drug abusers to monks and former monks, from journalists to tourist guides. I was impressed by the concept of Gross National Happiness and the way the government, religious leaders, and the King are implementing it.

However, I also became concerned about rapid urbanization and its side effects such as consumerism, pollution, crime, youth unemployment, drug abuse, social disintegration, imported bad quality food, new diseases, etc. Of course, these issues are still limited in scale, but dynamically increasing since cable television, foreign visitors and the Internet bring new dreams to people that in many ways challenge their traditional culture based on communal rural life, frugality and Buddhism. As new consumer goods, entertainment services and well marketed cultural habits such as Birthday parties, Valentine Day, wedding ceremonies, Halloween, even Santa Claus, are imported to the country, people's attitudes are gradually changing without realizing the long term negative consequences. They want more or different things rather than what they really need and what their natural environment can bear. I saw Coca-Cola drinks and potato chips piled on the altar offered to the temple which was located in the middle of the forest in high mountains! This means people bother to buy and then bring plastic garbage walking hours to their sacred places, because they attribute value to these unhealthy food items.

Such a transition Bhutan is currently going through, or any large scale economic and social change, requires good leadership as well as good experts and advisors independent from business interest to effectively influence and pressurize domestic and international leaders to make the right decisions that work for the majority of citizens and for the Planet. Meetings and discussions and articles and books are great and important, but I'm afraid we are all running out of time and we must act now to save Bhutan for a better world and create a better world for Bhutan."

More on Buddhist Economics in my blog HERE

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