The Kingdom of Bhutan, also called the Land of the Peaceful Thunder Dragon, is a landlocked country in the eastern Himalayas sharing a border with China in the north and with India in the south. With its 38,394 sq.km it is about half the size of Austria. The south of the country is only 150 m above sea level while the northern mountain range rises to imposing 7,500 m. More than 70 per cent of the country is covered by wood; seven per cent are covered by snow and glaciers.
Only about seven per cent of the country is arable, three per cent of which are in fact used.
735,533 people live in 20 districts (so called dzongkhags) of Bhutan. Half of the population is younger than 27 years. 8.2 per cent of the population live below the national poverty line. In 2012 this number was at 12 per cent. In rural areas the percentage has not changed. The districts Dagana, Zhemgang, Mongar and Pema Gatshel range among the poorest. However, in urban areas, the poverty rate is only about 0.8 per cent.
In Bhutan more than 20 languages are spoken, the national language being Dzongkha and English being the second language of communication. Two further highly important languages are Tshangla (also known as Sharchopkha), in fact the language of the east and Lhotshampikha which is spoken in the south.
In 1907 Ugyen Wangchuck was elected first king of Bhutan. Under the third king Jigme Dorje Wangchuck (1952-1971) the country slowly started to open up and a modernisaton process was started. Following the death of the third king, his son Jigme Singye Wangchuck ascended the throne in 1972, aged only 17. He initiated the transition from absolute monarchy to a democratic constitutional monarchy.
The economic and social development took an upswing. However, primary importance was attached to “Gross National Happiness” rather than the “Gross National Product” as indicator of prosperity.
In 2006 the king handed over power to crown-prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck whose coronation followed in November 2008. In 2008 the first Constitution of the country was formally adopted.
The Parliament consists of the National Council and the National Assembly. Elections take place every five years.
Gross National Happiness
Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (17th century), Code of Laws of 1729:
„If the government cannot create happiness and peace for its people, then there is no purpose for the government to exist“
Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a multi-dimensional indicator for a holistic development and is firmly enshrined in the Bhutanese Constitution. GNH is the philosophy governing the Five-Year Plans of development.