HAVANA TIMES — What do Venezuela and Bhutan – as the Land of the Dragon and Thunder is known – have in common?
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s advisors may have never heard of Bhutan or its GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness), but, on the eve of a new electoral campaign, they have created the Vice-Ministry for the Supreme Social Happiness of the People (Ministerio para la Suprema Felicidad Social del Pueblo).
“Holy shit!” Yes, this is the wholehearted expression I used when I read about this “novel idea.”
I like the idea that Bhutan’s 4th king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, had said: every step a society takes should be assessed, not only on the basis of its economic performance, but also on whether it leads to general happiness or not.
In that Asian, Buddhist country, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) was replaced with the GDH (Gross Domestic Happiness). The questions made in the surveys with which the GDH is calculated include such queries as: “How would you describe your life? A) Very stressful, B) Somewhat stressful, C) Not stressful at all and D) I am not sure.”; “Have you lost much sleep over your daily preoccupations?”; “Have you perceived any changes in the architectural design of Bhutan’s houses over the last year?”; “In your opinion, how autonomous are our courts?”; “In the last month, how frequently did you socialize with your neighbors?”; “Do you tell your children any traditional stories?”
I don’t imagine many people in Venezuela could give a positive answer to these kinds of questions.
When Chavez took office, there were 16 ministries in Venezuela. He decided to reduce the number to 14 in order to combat bureaucratic excesses.
Bureaucracy is the great enemy of any system, and particularly of those that claim to be socialistic.
As it turned out, the Ministries then started to multiply, like the fish and the bread in the Bible story. And, as was to be expected, the bureaucracy grew in step with the ministries.
Now, President Maduro has created this unheard-of vice-ministry. A Ministry, a Ministry to provide people with happiness?
More than laughable, this is an insult to anyone’s intelligence, for, needless to say, we are not in Bhutan.
The government is justifying the creation of this Ministry saying it is aimed at centralizing and coordinating the more than 30 social programs (called missions) (including those named The Children of Venezuela, Jose Gregorio Hernandez, Gran Mision en Amor Mayor, Negra Hipolita, Sucre and Barrio Adentro) that operate around the country.
It’s ironic that the initial intention behind these missions was, precisely, to overcome the hurdles of red tape which would only slow down the much needed aid campaigns.
Now, they’re setting up a ministry for these missions. More than contradictory, this is clearly a pre-electoral campaign action, and a very crude one at that. This ministry will place obstacles in the way of those who have sincere intentions of working in these missions. The missions, for their part, will continue to lose effectiveness, because these kinds of mechanisms are mere palliative measures that tend to be short-lived.
The new vice-ministry will, in addition, give jobs to thousands of people who produce nothing (production, as we know, is the Achilles’ heel of this society). To date, no happiness has ever been achieved through a government decree.
To make already-existing (or dismantled) mechanisms more effective, to have gone to the root of Venezuela’s social problems, would have been a more sincere measure than the creation of a ministry with such a lofty-sounding name…and such clearly dishonest intentions.