Bhutan: Statistics and the pursuit of happiness

Within the South Asia region, where about a third of the world’s poor live, Bhutan has had astonishing success in reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity. Following the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness, Bhutan has increased its GDP per capita to US$3,398 in 2018, exceeding South Asia’s average of US$1,905 in the same year.¹

GDP per capita (current US$)

Data: World Bank

Bhutan’s economic growth has been driven by its public sector through hydropower development, with hydropower contributing as much as 30% of the GDP.² In comparison, Bhutan’s private sector is weak given its mountainous terrain, small domestic market, sparse population, high transportation costs, skill shortages, and other factors.³

To consider future evidence-based policies to diversify the economy and develop the private sector, collection of high-quality data about the country’s economy is critical. Although, Bhutan’s statistical capacity had a low score of 60 in 2018, while its South Asian neighbors averaged 76.⁴

Statistical Capacity score (Overall average)

Data: World Bank

For Bhutan’s National Statistics Bureau (NSB), enhancing the quality and timeliness of statistics is an important initiative to support the data needs for the country’s Twelfth Five-Year Plan. Among other components, conducting the Economic Census is a key activity included in this effort.⁵

On the road to stronger statistical capacity