Boundaries of Citizenship
There seemed to be a minimum standard of living below which the government will not let its citizens fall; providing health care, education, reasonable housing, and other essential services. In my brief time in Bhutan I saw very little of the kind of extreme poverty I am accustomed to seeing in developing nations, with a notable exception. Thousands of migrant laborers from India build the roads and provide much of the labor for the booming construction industry. My hosts said that Bhutanese would not do these jobs because they were too hard and paid so poorly, and added that these men earn more in Bhutan than they can in India. Traveling around Thimpu I saw a number of small third world style slums with ramshackle dwellings, often attached to construction sites, for these marginalized workers. I could not help but wonder if the GNH principle of economic equality applies to these guest workers. While I hesitate to raise this perspective, I do so with the belief that honest dialogue and critical thinking are core to Bhutan’s emerging democracy and furthering the goals of Gross National Happiness.
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