To Mr. Khaw BoonWan, What did you expect?

(This is in reply to National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan of Singapore on his comments made on our country )
Dear Mr. Khaw,
I was not surprised when you said Bhutan is not the last Shangri-la on Earth, because I had a friend from your country who found Bhutan only "full of mountains and valleys". When you visited Bhutan, what did you expect? Those flying mountains you saw in Avatar? or Every Bhutanese merrily dancing in designer clothes? Well, you must have at least expected fancier cars and taller buildings but we only have taller mountains (not flying ones) and thicker forest (truly natural).
I am not surprised even when you said "Most of the time, I saw unhappy people, toiling in the field, worried about the next harvest and whether there would be buyers for their products." because I heard a proverb in school that goes, "Two men looked through the prison window, one saw the mud and other saw the horizon". I am only surprised that you have spend "Most of your time" in Bhutan looking in the fields. I am amazed at your ability to figure out whether the people are happy or unhappy just by looking at them- O' you even knew they were "worried about the next harvest". No wonder you country export human resources.

The Man who didn't find happiness in Bhutan. Source:channelnewsasia
I visited your wonderful country sometime ago, and it felt like a city from the future. The transportation system held me spell bound, Cleanliness of the street is so much that I didn't find a fragment of dust on my shoes after walking for the hours, Every building and car looks new, and there is no question about the civic sense among the people. Four days after I landed in Bhutan I woke up and started sharing the stories of your wonderful country- yes it took me four days of sleeping to shake of the hangover of many sleepless nights in your 24X7 country. I read the amazing history of your country and thought to myself, if Bhutan's to develop, Singapore can be our vision.
But since you questioned the presence of happiness in Bhutan, let me answer by telling you few things that you overlooked when you visited my country. Those people you saw in the fields weren't unhappy, if you have gone closer you would have heard them singing and enjoying the social lives, perhaps you won't understand that. If you have spent a little longer time watching them, you would have seen and a woman with basket on her back and holding arms with several children coming with steaming food- we don't have McDonald or KFC. Then everybody will sit down to eat their lunch, laughing and joking, feeding babies, for over an hour- you wouldn't have had so much time to sit and watch I know, times means money in your country. But we have luxury of time. People don't worry "about the next harvest and whether there would be buyers for their products." In fact, we don't do much commercial farming, we do most of them to keep with the tradition. And when the sun sets, doesn't really matter what time, people leave for their homes where they have a large family waiting. Large family because we don't chase away our children when they become 18 or children cast away their parents when they age.
We don't need Health Insurance to survive, nor have to go for Education Loan for educating our children. We don't hang the drug users, we counsel them to hang on to their lives, we don't have to have a job to survive, and when we fall sick even the furthest cousin comes to attend without having to update Facebook status.
If you reread our history you will find that our wise kings have hidden us from the outside world so that we could remain the way we are today. If we start mining our mountains and lumbering our forests, we can become Singapore but no matter what you do you can never become Bhutan. It is far too difficult. We shall be the last breath of oxygen on earth.
Bhutan may not be the Last Shangri-la but we are happy.
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10/21/2011 8:00 am

Wonderful post sir. Your reply to his comments on Bhutan is awesome. I was waiting for someone to come up with such a reply. Thanks you did it. keep posting! :)

10/21/2011 11:01 am

What a response,man! That was a smart and very evidential punch on his face. I think this man is very negative-perhaps he is overtly jealous of our unique development ideology and intact environment and traditions that SINGAPORE can never achieve.

10/21/2011 12:00 pm

Wow, smart response!

10/21/2011 10:30 pm

Hi Passu

Since the first time I visited Singapore in 1979 as an official of the Trade Ministry, I have been to that country about 50 times since. Therefore, I know that country and the mind set of the Singaporean people very well.

May I suggest that if His Excellency Khaw Boon Wan did not see the happiness in Bhutan, it is provably because he couldn't relate to what we consider happiness. You must remember that the Singaporeans measure happiness quiet differently from the way we do. On the other hand, you should also remember that he has been to Bhutan less than a week and so he is not qualified to make a statement on the state of affairs in our country.

Therefore, lets not get worked up over his views.

10/25/2011 3:17 pm

i am neither a philosopher nor a well learned extraordinary person to judge which country has this and that systems or so and so.
but i shall never forget that when anyone,minister or a mister dirties my motherland i will raise up to my feet and summon my sense of being a Bhutaneseness.
i don't even can't read the name of that person in a proper grammatical pronunciation and it doesn't bother me much as well,rather i tried to figure out what has his little tiny brain been affected when he made such a comment about my country.
A politician will do anything to keep his job - even become a patriot and well he is just one of it though.
what he knows about happiness is just nothing,not even a tiny dust resting under my feet and its just as a butterfly trying to explain to a caterpillar whats life....?
singapore's GDP can never reach up to 100% of perfection but GNH has immeasurable thoughts that measures beyond the length and breadth of singapore..
if WAN still doesn't understand despite the messages of a bhutanese,,,,this time its just as though a frog explaining to a tadpole....
Bhutan still reamins the most peaceful nation in south-Asian region and yes we bhutanese never ever celebrate independence day as singapore does,we rejoice the jubilee and the pride of being independent through decades and ages.we celebrate national day..!
singapore is just a fake developmet with busy and noisy streets,taller buildings and of course people with narrow thoughts, the health facilities are most advanced but less health for people,every where time and money has no difference but in a due course of time singapore forgets they forgot to make a living while earning.....
dear WAN....
let not your country forget that while they weigh money and time in their hands,they forget their health and to restore their health they waste their money....in the process of their life they live as if they are never going to die and by god's sake let not your people die with remorse as if they never lived.,,,,,!!!!
Bhutan is a wonder land where the last heaven continues and even after your words as such...it doesn't really matter much.....we are all happy though.....
kadrenchhoe.....!!!!

"If we start mining our mountains and lumbering our forests, we can become Singapore in a year but no matter what you do you can never become Bhutan." this line says it all. Great response!!!

10/25/2011 7:08 pm

Thank you for your post and I hope you can put this response on mr.khaw's Facebook. What he has said about Bhutan DOES NOT represent the view of all Singaporeans. I am Singaporean and I think we have much to learn from Bhutan.

10/25/2011 7:20 pm

@oneearthangel, thank you for your comment. I am glad that you are far more farsighted than mr.Khaw. I know his view doesn't represent Singapore, not even the Parliament of Singapore, he seems to have defended his ruthless developmental ideologies, which were questioned many other parliamentarians.

10/25/2011 10:49 pm

Yeshi, long time no see. I am glad you are back. You and Kuenga Lhendrup were dragging me to two opposite extremes on shingkhar-Gorgen farm road issue. Wish you luck there.
Coming to this Mr. Khaw, you are right he came here for a week and view our country through his thick materialistic lenses. He doesn't seem to want happiness for his people.

I totally agree with @ugyen wangchuk's anger, I wanted to write that way but then I calmed myself and wrote happily, explaining to him about basics of Happiness he seems to have missed all his life.

10/25/2011 10:52 pm

Dear Langa, Rikku, Kuenzang, LoEH and IRtT, thanks so much for reading and commenting. Without being a Bhutanese how could anyone understand about Bhutanese Happiness. so, lets forgive this unhappy man...

10/27/2011 11:20 am

You spoke my heart out....great one and well justified! Never heard of this guy visiting Bhutan, need to go back and read his version of Bhutan!

10/29/2011 11:18 pm

wonderfully written sir,but in between, speaking about GNH,i dont think we've got one in our country....it's just a tag or a name that the people of our country talk so much about.
i dont think our country has "gross national happiness",happiness might be there upto some level or surface,but we cant name that as GNH!

11/03/2011 5:36 am

Thank you PaSsu. I share your sentiment. This is what I think of Bhutan and Mr Khaw's view:
http://www.sgpolitics.net/?p=7203#comments

11/03/2011 6:46 am

Excellent! I was quite perturbed when our MPs mock at Bhutan in our Parliament recently. On WP's website, I posted my comment that what Opposition MP Sylvia Lim trying to tell the ruling party is to look beyond economic growth. She quoted Bhutan to register a point about the govt more concern and focus on the population happiness. Of course, Bhutan is so much different to Sg in terms of culture or geography. But those MPs missed the point completely. Instead, they mock at a small harmless Bhutan! See how arrogant are they? As a Singaporean, pls allow me to apologise to the Bhutanese for such a sly in our Parliament!

11/03/2011 7:03 am

thank you Passu for your comments! I'm Singaporean and my mum just came back from Bhutan a few days ago. She has nothing but praise for your country, about how simple your lives are and yet so contented. This is something that we have to humbly learn from you - that happiness is not a measure of how much money we have in the bank, but the wealth of relations and our surroundings that we enjoy.

11/03/2011 8:29 am

I have been to this lovely country and enjoyed every moments there. This is probably the only Nation that discourage smoking by banning it. Do the people still smoke; Yes, a tiny minority. Any punishment, uummm, not that I have heard about it.
Best wishes to all Bhutanese, my friends!

May I invite you to also visit my blog(pkweksh.blogspot.com)

11/03/2011 8:41 am

With a million dollar annual salary and a S$8 bill for a heart surgery, Khaw must be one of the happiest man in Singapore if not on this planet. Really ?

Does he now lives with a constant worry that he may not die any moment if his heart fails him one more time ? And he may feeling damn worried that he may not live long enough to enjoy his millions ?

Would one be happy if one has too many worries ? And I wouldn't be the least surprised if he were to announce on one fine day that he has decided to call it quits any minute tomorrow.

11/03/2011 8:49 am

Hi Passu,

Thank you for your eloquent and gentle response to a typical politician's speech. I'm Singaporean and do not agree with this minister's interpretation of "happiness" at all - like you implied in your post, money is not the be-all and end-all in life.

I hope I will get to visit Bhutan one day and experience Bhutanese happiness for myself.

11/03/2011 9:01 am

Thank you so much for your well-written post, Passu - I read it the first thing in the morning and I'm so relieved you wrote it. Politicians in Singapore have the habit of telling us what to do and how happy / successful we are, but the vast majority of the increasingly better-educated population have learnt to see through their hazy viewpoints and discern the truth for ourselves.

I, and many Singaporeans I shared your article with, totally agree with your views, and that we shouldn't try to be presumptuous about other countries and cultures without even understanding it from their perspectives. May our people learn from the Bhutanese and strive to be more appreciative of others, and to live more meaningful and carefree lives.

11/03/2011 9:21 am

I'm somewhat amazed by how some of our Members of Parliament - I'm Singaporean - are so flippant in their views about other countries, yet condemn others when they make remarks about Singapore for "interfering with our domestic affairs". Alas these incumbent ministers have been far too arrogant for long, and one day they will rue their attitude.

PaSsu, you have no idea how many Singaporeans admire the Bhutanese life. Our Mr Khaw certainly doesn't, which shows how much in touch he is with his constituents.

11/03/2011 9:24 am

well said!

People measure happiness differently. U can't judge others people happiness based on your (Mr Khaw) judgment.

Does he know we Singaporeans most of them are not happy because of inflation, raising housing price, etc..

Successful doesn't equals to happiness..
How wealthy the country can be also doesn't measure up the wealth of happiness.

11/03/2011 9:31 am

my sentiments exactly about having the best figures and what not. It doesn't matter much to the everday-man.
I really don't care about these figures and digits. and I really don't mind the older Singapore back again where people had heart and care for one another.

11/03/2011 9:44 am

Well done.

Give it to him.

11/03/2011 9:51 am

THANK You for your judicious post that highlights the glaring impertinence and ignorance of some of us in Singapore. I have never been to Bhutan and i certainly look forward to visiting sometime in the future and learning from you what this rat race in Singapore has taken from us.

11/03/2011 9:58 am

I'm from Singapore, Bhutan sounds amazing. Do the world a favour and keep it that way.

11/03/2011 9:59 am

Ah Khaw equates money with happiness, a trait he shares with other members of his PAPaya gang.

After reading this post and it's accompanying comments, Ah Khaw will lie down and die, from shame if not from anything else, for that is the only way he will know true happiness...

11/03/2011 10:17 am

Dear Bhutanese, let me, as a Singaporean, also apologise for these insulting comments made by a myopic member of our nation's ruling party.

These sentiments are shared by the older generation in Singapore, who grew up through much hardship. No doubt the ruling party (People's Action Party, or PAP) has done much to bring Singapore into the state it is now.

But the PAP has also taught Singaporeans over the years that they should keep safe what they have and be thankful for it, without teaching them to take risks. It has taught them hard work, without creativity. It has taught them leadership, without humility. And times have changed. The world is in turmoil, and the PAP's mindset is causing Singapore to lose its competitiveness, while the gap between its rich and poor is one of the widest in the world.

Outsiders always comment that Singaporeans have become a materialistic yet simple-minded people who know everything about their Apple iPhones yet cannot hold an intelligent conversation on world affairs, art or culture.

Maybe Bhutan may not have economic freedom yet, but Singapore's people lack freedom of thought. Which is worse? Bhutan has room to grow in many areas, while Singapore has reached its bursting point. And the sad, desperate Singaporean mindset is seen in comments like Mr. Khaw's.

As the joke goes: "I may be fat, but you're ugly. And I can diet."

11/03/2011 10:18 am

PasSu,

Many of us better-educated and more intelligent Singaporeans disagree with what Khaw Boon Wah said about Bhutan. Most of us are capable of recognizing that he jumped at this issue for seemingly nothing, because we know implicitly there is a big difference in approach between Singapore and Bhutan. Bhutan cares so much for its people that you guys have a Happiness Index. Singapore cares so little that it tacks ministerial pay to GDP and focusses only on improving that. He didn't need to comment with such asperity on your beautiful country, unless it was to show feeble-minded Singaporeans that Singapore's way is still better.

That's the thing about Singaporean ministers. Utterly insecure.

Please, never change to be like us. Modernize if you must, as you already have in some ways, but never adopt our mentality. We are a cautionary tale to the world: here but for the grace of God go you.

11/03/2011 10:22 am

I'm a Singaporean and I just want to thank for writing this beautiful rebuttal/article. Long live Bhutan!

11/03/2011 10:42 am

i'm glad to see this article, i was actually quite disturbed/disgusted to see my minister's comments on Bhutan, and am relieved to see that the Bhuntanese feel the same. May you guys enjoy life always :)

11/03/2011 10:53 am

I'm from singapore,and I'm really appreciative that you can see through our obscenely paid multi million dollar ministar's bull shit.

I hope you understand that a lot of Singaporeans do not subscribe to his myopic viewpoints, and we do not grade our success solely based on GDP like this guy in his ivory tower.

Long live Bhutan.

11/03/2011 10:56 am

To the Singaporeans in this thread - yes, indeed we cannot become Bhutan in a literal sense. Given that reality, perhaps we need to think about and define what happiness means for us, in a way that we can achieve. That's the whole point isn't it?

11/03/2011 11:18 am

Tashi delek - please ignore the idiot Khaw. We are embarrassed to have a minister like that. Bhutan is the most awesome place I've been to, and for the life of me, I am extremely envious, and will give anything to live in a paradise that is Bhutan.

11/03/2011 11:19 am

Hi Sir. Very well written post. As a Singaporean, I have always admired how your country maintained traditional values and culture despite modernisation, something my country is lacking.
I must say that many of us strongly disagree with Minister Khaw's comments which were said only to justify the various poor policies implemented by the government. As you said, please do forgive this unhappy man.

11/03/2011 11:23 am

Classic case of PAP trying to brainwash Singaporeans, saying that we should be contented with the way our country is right now by putting down other nations with their vague and flippant views...

Can I change my nationality to Bhutanese?

11/03/2011 11:24 am

I have never been to Bhutan. But I love to and to learn from u! Thanks for sharing ur thoughts!

11/03/2011 11:26 am

Dear Passu,

Thumbs way up for your post.
Minister Khaw, what were YOU thinking?!

11/03/2011 11:29 am

I'm a born & bred Singaporean...& this post was awesome! Kudos to you.

11/03/2011 11:36 am

To Passu and all Singaporeans here,

I am a Singaporean as well. Though I am of no status, I would still like to apologise to you and Bhutan on behalf of our minister.

As you can already tell from his comments, this is what education and scholarship is all about, in our country. Everything is measured by numbers, money and results. If there was an unhappiness index we would probably top the chart, and leave 100 empty slots below us for other countries to fit in.

If you would even bother to waste your precious time reading all our minister's articles, you would notice that words change from time to time; statements and opinions seem to contradict each other but don't matter because most Singaporeans have bad memory. Most of us normal people dont really have the luxury to remember politics anyway; we are most of the time piled up with work.

In here, it is also the same with the sunset; it doesnt matter day or night, we work all the same. Many also work on weekends and public holidays. The gap between the rich and poor is indeed so great that some minister mentioned that housing is affordable. Billions of investments can be lost yet CEO still stays at the helm.

Apologies again for relating too much to business/money. However this is all that revolves around the island; thats if you arent too keen on gambling at our 2 posh casinos that has crashed many people's lives.

I am sad to say that probaby most Bhutanese are extremely rich people, because most of us dont even have our own piece of land. All that shitloads of 30year long debts paid for 99year lease apartment that is 20storeys up in the air.

I am currently in a regional position, and prefer to see the world rather than be a frog in a gold well. One day, I hope to settle down in other country too.

11/03/2011 12:02 pm

Hi Passu

I always believe money can only buy material things but not happiness and health.

Thanks for sharing.

SG Girl

11/03/2011 12:04 pm

As a Singaporean, i must apologise that a leader of my country had made such an insensitive and myopic comment. As a country, we have made great progress that has helped us attain material happiness. It was no small feat and a great achievement. However, not everyone's measure of happiness is the same. It has come at a great cost, the people are not really happy anymore. We have lost almost all our natural forest cover and at least 60% of our animal species. Our streets are overcrowded and our lives filled with stress over how to earn that additional dollar. we have instant food because we have to work and we cannot tuck our children into bed because we have to work. Singapore and Bhutan are both visions of paradise to different people and both have valuable lesson to teach each other. If we keep trying to prove that one is better than the other, stressing over who is happier and getting bothered by individual remarks, we would all lose focus of what's truely important and then no one will be happy.

11/03/2011 12:09 pm

hi

i am also a Singaporean. I DO NOT AGREE with what Khaw said!

tks for such article! And Bhutan still remains the place I will go visit one day for sure! Else I will die with regrets!

cheers

11/03/2011 12:21 pm

As a Singaporean, I applaud you for your post. I agree with what you said, and Mr Khaw do not speak for most of us.

Continue being happy in your homeland. Some of us here are truly envious of the lives you described.

11/03/2011 12:32 pm

Dear Pasa,

I do agree with some of your points, but I guess Mr Khaw purpose is not to put Bhutan down, rather to compare and show that we are two different countries, and both have their own issues to managed.

For every message, there is a intended audience and intended purpose. I think his purpose and message is more targeted at Singaporean then Bhutan.

One thing I think Singaporean have forgotten is enjoying life in simple pleasure, and the one that is giving themselves pressure is yes, just themselves.

Much as Bhutan is a place as you have describe, I would like to ask how many Singaporeans would put down what they have now and go back to that way of living? Would they live a life without Health Insurance again, and when illness strike, will they be happy with treatment that they get in Bhutan or would they still prefer to go through the detailed examination through one of the best medical system? Would they want their child to go through the education system in Bhutan and lead a simple life there or would they want their child to be able to compete in the global arena? Do they really do not have a choice or are they not willing to give up the material comfort that they are enjoying. Are they willing to take up the farming tools and be back there again or would they prefer to still whined behind the hidden laptop about how unfair life is when they are enjoying the material comfort that they have.

Every system has it's pros and cons and there are give and take.

11/03/2011 12:39 pm

thank u for introducing such a wonderful country to us, stark contrast to our rubbish concrete jungle. I am a locally borned singaporean as well but i believe i will never have as much pride to announce to the whole world my nationality as compared to a bhutanese. live life the way you want it, i envy yours

11/03/2011 12:43 pm

Wow this is a good response!

11/03/2011 12:55 pm

Hi, I am a Singaporean and I just want to thank you for this brilliant rebuttal to a warped argument from a clueless politician. Continue to stay happy, and I hope to visit your country one day.

Comparing Bhutan and Singapore is just like comparing an Apple with an Orange. In the first place this should not be brought up. Stay within Singapore issue. Do not drag other countries and it has cause unhappiness with the Bhutanese.

11/03/2011 1:07 pm

Mr Khaw was simply speaking about the economic plight of Bhutanese. Please don't twist and turn his words. To those Singaporeans demeaning Mr Khaw on this blog, shame on you all. To those Bhutanese who are speaking up for your country, please at least have the decency to at least read Mr Khaw speech and understand his point in context before getting into a needless rage.

"I saw Bhutan children enjoying the river like all children do. They had no sandals in their hands for they could not afford any. But they seemed happy, with angelic innocence, without any worry. I met and heard about foreigners who volunteered in Bhutan: many Singaporean retired teachers bringing IT to the schools, doctors providing immunisation and eye care for the villagers. They were happy as they found meaning in what they were doing, helping others." - Mr Khaw

(PS: Singaporeans on this blog are really make me feel ashame of being Singaporean. Completely naive, and very willing to poke at the incumbent without having to at least have the common decency to research into the integrity of this blog post.)

11/03/2011 1:07 pm

Putting Singapore to shame. Great job! The difference between Bhutan and Singapore is that Bhutan believes in humanity whilst Singapore has lost its humanity. What the Singapore minister said is clearly one of the many many messages (and lies) I've heard since I was a child growing up that no other country in the world is better than Singapore, no one can be happier elsewhere than in Singapore. What a big fat lie! Even people across the causeway are happier and more well-adjusted than Singaporeans. Great job and thank you for speaking up! I'm sure Singaporeans like myself appreciate your candor because we are not allowed to speak for ourselves.

11/03/2011 1:08 pm

Hi,

I'm a purebred Singaporean and I truly appreciate your article. It is clear that Mr Khaw's views were ignorant and myopic. Even though Singapore is a financial success, our foundations as a nation remains questionable. I am glad you are concerned about the future of Bhutan, but let me be unequivocal about the shortcomings of Singapore: half of our talent pool is imported, our people are shackled to the whims of our ruling elite, Singapore has one of the highest Gini coefficients (inequality) among market societies, Singaporeans are among the least 'free' people in developed nations and lastly our birthrates are among the worst in the world and is set to decline even more.

Singapore has yet to come up with any effective policy to resolve its many social tensions and shortcomings. What we have achieved is merely a successful capitalised meritocracy that bequeaths the elite and foreign expertise with riches and power while the rest of our hardworking society drives this financial powerhouse. Do not be fooled by our facade of equality and happiness.

11/03/2011 1:09 pm

People need to stop blowing things out of proportion all the time and getting so overtly sensitive.

11/03/2011 1:15 pm

Perhaps one should ask what is the definition of happiness.

Mr. Khaw's definition is being successful and well-to-do, which is hard to acquire in the laid-back country like Bhutan.

Passu's definition is the simple pleasures in life that is hard to acquire in the progress-driven city of Singapore.

Both are wrong only to the people who view the opposite as true, but none are wrong to those who understand the nature of how we are.

What matters is you are happy, and if you are not, seek for it, and it shall be found.

Dear Mr.Khaw Boon Wan,
I noticed you can't find happiness in Penang too, that's how you had sold your birth country and your sould for Happiness with "Super Fat Salary" here !!!

11/03/2011 1:22 pm

Mr Khaw: "expected" too much
Passu blogger: What did you expect?

Singaporean: Expected this la. KBW's mind is as big as a modern HDB flat.
)

11/03/2011 1:38 pm

Fantastic post. Thank you :)

just another singaporean.

11/03/2011 1:51 pm

Most in Singapore are astounded that a Cabinet Minister can make such flippant remarks without considering the gravity of such words, in Parliament no less.
Perhaps the Bhutanese King and Queen who are currently in Singapore for a State visit should properly point out the error in Mr Khaw's views as the Singapore government loves to do, point by point.

11/03/2011 2:15 pm

I applaud you for setting the record straight. We have much less than you have. Our government has long forgotten the its people and has forgotten how to listen to its people too.

11/03/2011 2:17 pm

Ah Kor, see wat u and your gang have done.

U have made Sinkapooreans unhappy and now u are doing the same to the Bhutanese...

11/03/2011 2:33 pm

Dear Passu,

Please don't let KBW's ignorant comments tarnish your image of Singapore. The majority of Singaporean comments here better represent what a true Singaporean is like!

Bhutan is the only country in the world to enshrine 'happiness' in their constitution. My opinion of this: it's genius.

Thank you for your post.

11/03/2011 2:40 pm

http://www.photovoice.org/bhutan/index.php?id=3

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/03/25/bhutan.refugees/index.html

Reading these 2 articles on how your own people are treated, do you call that happiness?

For me, on reading the above articles, I am not convinced that Bhutan is indeed what you described it to be? Do enlighten me further

I am sure every country have got their own indicators of happiness, be it economic performance, healthcare and welfare to the people, political reforms and what not. To be fair, Mr Khaw was rash in jumping to conclusion about the "happiness condition" in Bhutan, but perhaps, is it a different indicator that he has based this "happiness" upon?

11/03/2011 2:43 pm

Well said! Awesome response! I totally agree that when those people who are working in the fields are probably happier people compared to any of us struggling hard in the city.

Though I have not been to Bhutan (I will want to go there one day), I have heard alot of the nice things about Bhutan.

I am so proud of you in your contribution to share niceness about the country that you have visited to people back in your own country. This is really magnanimous :) A way that a true gentleman carries himself well..

11/03/2011 2:43 pm

well said.

11/03/2011 3:04 pm

Hi Passu

Nice post on the reality of Bhutan (and of Singapore's). Clearly, some people need to think before they speak or comment about other countries and their peoples' happiness.

I am Singaporean, but allow me to say that KBW is not the last minister to represent Singapore. Thanks to ministers like him, we have more than a few unhappy Singaporeans today!

11/03/2011 3:07 pm

Please do not take Mr Khaw's words seriously. He is a low-calibre parliamentarian with equally bad credentials. He graduated from the University of Newcastle in Australia while his peers are from ox-bridge/ivy leagues and the like.

He once suggested that Singaporeans can consider sending our elderly parents to nursing homes in neighbouring country Malaysia which are more affordable. I hope he will pave the way for us to follow by being the first to do so.

11/03/2011 3:56 pm

Singapore is a rock in a place which can only make money by trade. Hence it can only be happy through material things. Bhutan is a land surrounded by clouds and mountains, with no need to worry about being drowned by rising seas or recycling human waste water to drink. Hence it can be happy in many other ways. Everyone has their own blessings, but nobody should mock what they think of others' situations. Khaw, by the way, is a Malaysian by origin. :)

11/03/2011 4:03 pm

I am a Singaporean, and I salute you, Mr. Passang Tshering. I think you've not only managed to capture the sentiments of your countrymen, but also that of many of the Singaporeans following the debates here as well.

You have our respect.

11/03/2011 4:04 pm

I watched the entire report by Kaw in the parliament and It gave me a the most hurting experience of my life.

His report initially sounded like he was presenting his research to the Singaporean Parliament.

He mocked at our developement philosophy, without even understanding the meaning of it.

He mocked our religion and mocked a humble monk who was looking for a help. in doing so he mocked our religion.

he mocked our culture and our way of living. that was way too much for any citizen of Bhutan to bear.

But I as a genuine Buddhist person I am ready to forgive him for all the blunders he bluffed in the most holiest place in Singapore,, i.e Singaporean Parliament.

But I am now skeptical about how Kaw became Minister in such a prestigious office??????????

11/03/2011 4:50 pm

Well said, peter. To fellow sporeans who are so discontented with the govt, do stop for a min and ask urself y are u so unhappy? Are u not using the same yardsticks as those whom u deem materialistic? Are u able to drop out from the rat race? If u were the govt, wat wld U do? Its always easy to be a critic so as much as our govt is imperfect, we shld not get too carried away

11/03/2011 6:05 pm

well said. i'm grateful for you sharing your philosophy on happiness!

11/03/2011 6:16 pm

Dear Friend,
I am a Singaporean and even though you know that the statements made by that man are not representative of our people, I would like to apologise on behalf of my people.

I have never been to your country. Don't know if I will ever have the chance, being so caught up in materialistic singapore where if you dont work, you cant feed your family (Or even if you do work, for that matter).

I do hope that I will be able to meet you some day and share a meal with you so that Myself and my family can perhaps learn about each other's country and people.

God Bless
Jacl

11/03/2011 6:17 pm

What is said doesn't represent what Singapore thinks about Bhutan. Purely his own views. :P

11/03/2011 6:19 pm

well put!

11/03/2011 6:30 pm

Ah Kor, how did you get to become a milster with that small and narrow mind of yours? $8 bypass oso must announce to the world. Must be by angkat bola.

11/03/2011 6:30 pm

...just wondering how happy the southern bhutanese are, outsed from bhutan in the 80's... suddenly declassified as citizens with rights overnight...

11/03/2011 6:31 pm

I found your blog because of this post which has become viral in my country. I must say I agree absolutely with you. And like what many readers said, Mr Khaw's view is definitely not representative of many Singaporeans.
You write beautifully.
I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts!
Thank you.

11/03/2011 6:52 pm

Love your post! I'm from Singapore, and while we enjoy many good things, they all come at a price; when life is good we feel that it's worth it. But when life is hard, we start to question the value in this exchange, and whether it was worth it for the things we gave up.

In the past 10 years, our leaders have gradually lost touch with its people; and you might notice their popularity waning. I would truly envision the ideal state of our nation as a technologically advanced nation with the same civic-mindedness as Bhutan. Forests and mountains are out of the question as we never had those to start with.

11/03/2011 7:13 pm

A picture paints a thousand words: I like the caption below the photo best. This guy has those droopy sad dog's eyes: I guess he's usually not happy!

11/03/2011 7:20 pm

To the people of Bhutan.

I am sorry. I am not even sure I am qualified to apologise on behalf of the people in Singapore. You see, I am a Singaporean father with 3 kids. At times, I wonder if this is even the right place to bring my kids up.

As Yeshey Dorji said, it is just a matter of perspective. To people in Singapore, sadly everything, including happiness is measured through financial status. To people here, everything is superficial. Everyone lives for themselves. Your idea about a distant cousin visiting a sick relative will never happen.

And honestly, it is really difficult to attain the happiness that your people have. To reach there, you must be able to see beyond what others in this money driven society and know the essence of true happiness.

And if you are able to see that like the Bhutanese do, ironically, only then do I consider oneself to be truly rich and wealthy.

11/03/2011 7:42 pm

First of 60,000 refugees from Bhutan arrive in U.S.

Bhutanese refugees began arriving in the United States on Tuesday, the first wave of what the United Nations describes as one of the world's largest resettlement efforts.

The U.S. has offered to resettle 60,000 of the estimated 107,000 Bhutanese refugees of Nepalese origin now living in seven U.N. camps in southeastern Nepal -- their home for the past 17 years. Six other nations -- Australia, Canada, Norway, Netherlands, New Zealand and Denmark -- have offered to resettle 10,000 each.

"Once they arrive, they will be sent to different cities around the U.S.," said David Derthick, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, which is screening and transporting the refugees.

The first group, arriving throughout the week, includes 121 refugees. They are being sent to New York; Chicago, Illinois; Syracuse, New York; St. Louis, Missouri; and other cities, the International Organization for Migration said.

The United Nations said several families had arrived in New York as of Tuesday, and more are en route to locations in Texas, Arizona and Maryland.

So far, however, only about 25,000 of the refugees have registered for resettlement, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Web site, and not many more than 10,000 are expected to leave Nepal by the end of the year.

Bhutan, wedged between China and India, is a Buddhist kingdom about half the size of the U.S. state of Indiana. It's considered one of the world's most isolated countries and the government strictly regulates foreign influences, including tourism, to preserve the country's Buddhist culture.


http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/03/25/bhutan.refugees/index.html

11/03/2011 7:55 pm

I was born in Singapore and now live in Canada, not as a refugee but am among the tens of thousands of Singaporeans who choose to emigrate each year. I have never been to Bhutan. Next year I will be organizing a tour (I am a travel agent) to discover happiness, mountains and valleys. http://www.cruiseworldtravel.com/eco-tours/bhutan

11/03/2011 8:06 pm

is anyone else wondering why the few people who are defending KBW either joined blogger just this month, or have "private" profiles with no online history?

and the singapore government is exploring ways to curb online anonymity?

looks like they're the ones who need the anonymity more...

11/03/2011 8:17 pm

I'm a Singaporean. Will be sharing your well written article on my FaceBook so that my other Singaporean friends will get to read this too.

Cheers and stay happy always. :)

11/03/2011 8:27 pm

im from singapore. well said, my friend. How i wish singapore is like bhutan.Really. singapore is more about GDP, its all about money money and money. The happiness that people wants here all cost money. I would love to visit bhutan someday.

11/03/2011 8:38 pm

Tshi Delek! Hey Passu! Sorry for what our so-called "minister" had said. I strongly believe that the Happiness Index of Bhutan is valid. The silly autocratic government of my country wouldn't even dare to put up such index for fear of the obvious.

Thanks for this great article. I shall share it amongst my friends.

11/03/2011 9:19 pm

Dear Mr Passu,

It is unfortunate that Bhutan was dragged into the discussion. I had been teaching about Bhutan's admirable spirit and sacrifice in striving to co-exist with the natural world to my students for some time now. It is a spirit I deeply respect, admire and envy.

It is true that a Singaporean doesn't worry about the next harvest.

The Singaporean worries about his child not being able to get into a 'good' school once he reaches the age of 7. A Singaporean worries about seeing the doctor, fearing medical fees he cannot afford. A Singaporean worries about having his own home to live in, when starting a family. A Singaporean worries about how to finance his education, when public education becomes too crowded from competition with foreigners, and private schools being too expensive. A Singaporean worries about not being able to graduate from a university after spending 15 years studying. A Singaporean worries about not being able to find a job, even after studying for 15 years, because foreigners are willing and able to accept lower pay and longer work hours on a temporary pass.

Honestly, I sometimes wish I would be worrying the next harvest, instead of the worries of a Singaporean. My understanding of the Bhutanese spirit has taught me to find contentment and look beyond what I don't have and appreciate what I do. I hardly consider myself rich, and I deeply value aspects of life other than material wealth, and it is depressing when the world around me worries on without being aware of it.

11/03/2011 9:29 pm

Hi, I am a Singaporean and I am sad to say that indeed we will never be truly happy like your country people. We may have everything in this concrete jungle, but we will never have this simple happiness. It is not shown on the outer appearance, but it is what you people had inwardly.

11/03/2011 9:31 pm

As a Singaporean, I'm ashamed there are elected officials who parade in public with a heightened sense of self-righteousness when it comes to describing their impressions of other cultures. Khaw's public description is merely a myopic perspective of another culture through the corrupted lens of capitalism and materialism. His view is not representative of all Singaporeans - only those few Singaporeans who share his arrogance and xenophobia. Many of us in Singapore are searching desperately for personal and national happiness. Instead of encouraging Singaporeans to look at the beautiful Bhutanese people as models of happy co-existence, he's chosen to deprecate that culture in full view of public scrutiny. He ought to be castigated in Parliament for making such onerous remarks, which only serve to underscore his folly, as well as tarnish Singapore's global image. Sincere apologies are in order from Khaw to the Bhutanese people.

11/03/2011 9:49 pm

Kuzoozangpo La~ I'm a Malaysian and I just visited Bhutan (October 2011) and I totally DISAGREE with what Mr. Khaw Boon Wan has commented about Bhutan (Although I don't know who this Mr Khaw is) Happiness is not judge by how RICH your pocket is, but how RICH spiritually and mentally you are~ and I believe Contentment is Happiness~ Money can't buy Fresh Air, Laughter, Blue Sky and Mountains~
Tashi Delek

11/03/2011 9:51 pm

Dear Passu, it's great to know that you love your country and you are very happy there. Unfortunately, our minister's comments were taken out of context in this regard. What he meant was he wasn't sure if Bhutanese are happy from what he had observed when he was there. Nonetheless, it wasn't our minister who brought this comparison - between an urban city state and a kingdom. It was an opposition party member who brought that up about your happiness index. So please don't be angry with our minister. By the way, there are Bhutanese living in exile in Nepal, do you think they're happy too?

11/03/2011 9:57 pm

Peldhen - you are absolutely right - how does a person like this become appointed to the highest office? The whole process is flawed: the students with the best grades at 18 get taken in to the civil service, given a generous stipend to attend the elite universities of the US and UK, and return to a cushy job back in Singapore. Apart from four years in Stanford or Cambridge, they aren't exposed to the myriad ways in which people live in the world, or even in the neighbouring countries. These scholars are quickly promoted and are coached by the old guard whose greatest achievement (circa 1980s) was to surpass all our neighbours in terms of GDP in a short time.

These people run a tight ship, with the core rationale as maintaining Singapore's continued economic competitiveness. All other concerns are subordinate to this relentless quest to stay at the top. Even its citizens are increasingly left out of the promise of economic development forged with the ruling party after independence.

As a Singaporean, I am thoroughly ashamed of my government. And it isn't just Khaw who espouses such rhetoric - I've seen it reproduced, unthinkingly, by other ministers, high ranking officials, and sadly, students from the elite schools who populate the future ranks of the government.

I wish our ministers should just keep their big mouths shut and get on with more pressing national matters than mundane talks about others. They are not paid cheap and time is money. Maybe Mr Khaw thinks happiness is owning a HDB apartment, a car and living in a place called Singapore. He forgot almost half of Singapore voted for the opposition. Now we have a little happy kingdom no more happy and angry with a guy called Boon Wan.

11/03/2011 10:14 pm

Hello, I am a Singaporean. I am totally disgraced by our minister. He is by himself, let me tell you. Most Singaporeans do not think like him. He is a joke but he is a joke by himself. I also mock at him and all my friends are equally amused by his lack of foresight and serious deficiency of EQ and basic human courtesy. That has got to be one of the most disgraceful thing ever.

11/03/2011 10:22 pm

Dear Pass and fellow humans,
We may be of different nationalities, having different preferences in lifestyle but we all have the right to our dignity. Khaw didn't show respect. I'm Singaporean and I am ashamed to hear that Bhutanese took offence. Malaysia once called us ugly Singaporeans. Now, it has shown its ugly head again. I never agreed to measure success so exclusively by GDP. And I have always said that life and happiness must be seen in its entirety. Yet, drowning in our degrees, our titles, our riches and our arrogance, we have forgotten that life is more about building good relationships and being humble. Such an unpleasant episode this has been. Bigotry, callousness and shame to us Singaporeans and what we have come to represent. No, please don't flame me. We elected this minister.

11/03/2011 11:23 pm

I salute you in defending your home. It's valiant. But may I suggest that you and your readers read his speech in whole and in which context it was made. An Opposition MP feels we shld be like Bhutan measuring our success with the Happiness Index but we're different as it shld be. People flock to your home because of its sheer beauty and tranquility. We have none of that here. In fact, we have nothing but our people to carry this island of ours towards our future. Those Singaporeans here who have commented harshly on our Minister live a modern life with modern conveniences and excesses. Will they give all that up for a more slower pace of life with little pay and little material things? These are probably the same people who clamor for a flat in the heart of the city, a car to own and all at a cheap price to boot. They complain about foreigners in our land taking away their jobs and yet they don't want to do these work as they deem too low for themselves, work that Bhutanese in your own homeland do with pride. So pls, we're not your enemies. Mr Khaw has high respect for Bhutan and its people. So do we, his fellow Singaporeans. Be at peace Bhutanese. I'm happy that you're living a happy life in your beautiful home. Beside some of those who have commented here and their likes, most Singaporeans are happy with our lives too. Be at peace.

11/03/2011 11:51 pm

Dear Passu and fellow Singaporeans,

We have many things to learn about happiness. It does not mean that a Singaporean can live a Bhutanese life and vice versa and be truly happy. The reasons why we are unhappy as Singaporeans is that our current government may have lost its focus on its people and overly depended on GDPs and KPIs as the main guide to absolute success, and we need our ministers to rethink and act. The definition of success cannot be without happiness and our government should relook at this definition by studying Bhutan and other countries with happy people with an open heart and mind as a human being, not as a government official. We are not yet a nation because the definition of happiness is different between the 'rich, powerful and elite' and the majority of Singaporeans. Our country is being run like a big company and our economically driven policies are insufficient to build a truly great nation. We are a country but we are not even a nation. We have been drilled into our minds that having an iphone, car, condominium and what our peers have are indicators of happiness. But this is a misunderstood indicator of happiness and slowly more and more of us are are coming to learn about it. Singapore has one of the lowest birthrates in the world and our failed government policy of encouraging birthrate is not enough to alert our ministers that maybe something serious is not right, simply and maybe they could not see what is on the ground. They may have already known many things but could have simply sacrificed the current and future generations for the survival of what they deem as continual success for Singapore. I certainly do not hope to see my fellow generation of Singaporeans who have worked hard their whole life and still have to find completely new jobs and start from zero again when they grow old simply to sustain themselves and their family expenses because basic costs have gotten too expensive and our next generation find it hard to save enough money or build their own family. I would hope that hard working Singaporeans retire with dignity ans proud to call themselves citizens of Singapore. I may be proud of the gleaming new buildings and clean streets, but I think our citizens and government have a big gap to catch up on knowing what is happiness, true grace and humility. And when we have done so, Singapore shall become a true nation of success that all are proud to call HOME.

11/03/2011 11:56 pm

Jewsinpower said...

I think Singapore's government is ok or good by international standards. Just sometimes they allow for moments of Freudian slips.

What Minister Khaw meant to say is his happiness resides in his deep pockets as a civil servant and Singapore happens to have the world's most well-paid public servants in politics.

11/04/2011 1:09 am

am a singaporean born and raised.
family has been here since singapore began.

while the PAP supporting contingent made up of the older more gullible generation will not take lightly what u said about their "dear leaders" im sure the younger generation thats bearing the brunt of the harsher realities of life in singapore will most definitely support you and your beautiful country.

i apologise on behalf of those silly comments made by (regrettably) one of our leaders.

11/04/2011 2:01 am

Hi PaSsu,

On happiness, each person has his or her own definition of happiness. As such, there will be differences in perceptions, like how our minister couldn't see beyond the "toiling" of the Bhutanese, which they're happy to do for the family they love. Perhaps they don't see their work as toiling at all. By many accounts, your people are a happy lot, contented with what they have.

Similar, when you call us a "wonderful country", you have also not seen how unhappy Singaporeans can be. From the comments I read here, many Singaporeans don't think Singapore is all that wonderful. And I'm sad at how bad they think Singapore is.

As a Singaporean, I see both the beauty and the flaws of my country. Having been away for a year, I'm more appreciative of Singapore and the many things we take for granted, like supper outside at 2am and a neighbourhood doctor that doesn't cost $200. I simply want to be with my friends and family in a good environment. In that sense, perhaps the pursuit of happiness isn't too different or difficult?

:) mf, who is hoping she can go home!

11/04/2011 4:48 am

Khaw BW is Khaw BW. A typical one. All the MIW got no happiness I can tell you. They are living in the shadow of the past.

11/04/2011 5:39 am

Singaporean see things differently- as you see things differently as well. When we travel - we tend to look not at mountains and valleys... these are nice and OK - but to us - there are no shopping etc.
You are right to say that at the end of the day - there are happiness after the work at the field... just like happiness after a long day in the office.

All said - you wrote a very good article in defending what Butan represents.. but I trust my Minister - and here is the full speech

http://app.mnd.gov.sg/Newsroom/NewsPage.aspx?ID=3024&category=Parliamentary%20Speech&year=2011&RA1=&RA2=&RA3

11/04/2011 5:51 am

in singapore society money does indeed buy happiness. most of the codes and policies singaporeans live by adhere to this principle.

11/04/2011 7:21 am

The opposition in Singapore did not bring up the comparison with Bhutan. PAP members did. The exact text of Sylvia Lim's speech can be found on the parliament website. Here's an extract:

"Sir, the Bhutan’s royal wedding hogged headlines over the weekend. As many of us know, the Kingdom of Bhutan has an unusual way of measuring the country’s development. It is called GNH or Gross National Happiness. This indicator is garnering international attention even among developed countries. In July this year, Bhutan initiated a resolution at the UN General Assembly titled “Happiness towards a holistic approach to development”. There were a total of 66 co-sponsors of the resolution and the General Assembly adopted it without a vote. The resolution’s preamble states that and I quote, “The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”, and that “the gross domestic product indicator, by nature, was not designed to and does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people in a country.” Member states have been invited to “pursue the elaborations of additional measures that better capture the importance of the pursuit of happiness and well-being in development with a view to guiding their public policies”.

With such international interest, is it now time for Singapore’s Government to conspicuously focus on happiness as a national goal? Should policies be articulated to show how they will ultimately achieve happiness for Singaporeans as a whole? This may sound too warm and fuzzy for some but, in fact, our Government supported the resolution at the UN. Indeed, Singapore was one of the 66 countries that co-sponsored the draft resolution. Since Singapore was a co-sponsor, may I ask the Government to specify what the practical effect of the resolution is for Singapore? What indicators does it intend to put in place to measure whether Singaporeans, as a whole, are achieving happiness and well-being? Might the Government also tell us how its policies over the next five years will be guided by such indicators?"

The question was that Bhutan proposed a resolution, Singapore co-sponsored it. So is the government going to have indicators of happiness as stated in the proposal?

Unfortunately, various govt MPs jumped in and opposed just because it was brought up by an opposition MP. It was never to compare Singapore with Bhutan, but what Singapore plans to do after co-sponsoring the resolution. The resolution had invited member states to find their own measurements of happiness, not use everything that is in Bhutan's.

11/04/2011 7:43 am

It is right that Singaporean does not need to worry about the next harvest in term of agriculture but there are more things for Singaporean to worry about.

First, we need to worry about job employment opportunities. Jobs in Singapore are competes by the so called foreign talents whereby the skill sets of the majority foreign talents are equally on par or worse than us.

Secondly, Singaporean needs to worry about falling sick. There is one saying “One can die but cannot fall sick”. This is due to the high hospitalization cost.

Thirdly, when you get old in Singapore, you can’t expect your children to take care of you. Your children have more difficulty times ahead for them to deal with. They need to pay for their high housing loan due to high property prices in Singapore. They need to pay for their own children high education cost. An example, let's say if the housing loan is 400,000 SGD and education loan of your children university is 50,000 SGD. And with all other miscellaneous, you probably ridden with 600,000 SGD debts. You probably left with only 20 years to work and repay. This provided that you are able to work for 20 years without having any major illness and your job is not taken away by foreign talent or taken away by your old age.

Something make me very puzzle. Does all these above make a Singaporean happy?

11/04/2011 8:19 am

6 The Bhutan Ministers know a lot about Singapore. They have studied us very closely. They are keen to port over some of our public policy solutions to Bhutan. The Health Minister himself had spent months training in the Singapore General Hospital and remembered his stint in Singapore most fondly and could rattle off our 3Ms financing framework.
. In the Bhutan villages, I saw well-to-do tourists crossing beautiful mountain streams, with expensive Nike shoes in their hands. They were happy. I saw Bhutan children enjoying the river like all children do. They had no sandals in their hands for they could not afford any. But they seemed happy, with angelic innocence, without any worry. I met and heard about foreigners who volunteered in Bhutan: many Singaporean retired teachers bringing IT to the schools, doctors providing immunisation and eye care for the villagers. They were happy as they found meaning in what they were doing, helping others.

15 But most of time, I saw unhappy people, toiling in the field, worried about the next harvest and whether there would be buyers for their products. The Health Minister asked me to help get ambulances and medicine for their villagers.

11/04/2011 8:20 am

Dear your excellency minister Mr. Khaw, while you hold the post as a health minister, you used your heart of Buddhism practice to serve the people of Singapore. Now as a new minister of national development, given a chance and opportunity to step on the Buddhism ground but your commendatory may have hurt the nation of Bhutanese and the high excellency of Bhutan King. Bhutan can covert to Singapore city but there is no way to convert Singapore city to Bhutan. You may feel the difference when you take your shoes OFF before your first step on Bhutan ground. Believe the happiness there, Bhutan is the Shangri-la on Earth. Bhutan is the focus of the universal energy on Earth...amitabha

11/04/2011 9:40 am

Dear Mr PaSsu,

Once again, I another Singaporean, would like to apologise for the silly remarks that our NDM minister made. Please do not take his comments seriously; most of us Singaporeans dont. Academically this Khaw is not too bad, but EQ and HQ (happiness Quotient) wise.......it is so obvious where he lies, I do not need to say,

Thank you (Bhutan) for being a beacon of happiness for you. Bless you

11/04/2011 10:19 am

Classic case of "little red dot superiority complex". Dear bureaucrats, stop patting one another on the back.

Apparently, this blatant self- congratulatory stance is felt only in the parliament. Outside, we call it complacency.

11/04/2011 11:02 am

It appears to me that some Singaporeans suffer from a form of cultural cringe. They are so unhappy with their miserable lives that they assume other Singaporeans feel the same, and condemn all things Singaporeans.

They profess that a country like Bhutan, while much has been made about its happiness, has much to teach Singapore, and Singaporeans are a soulless bunch of materialistic people.

How many of these people actually put their money where their mouth is by buying a home in Bhutan and migrating there?

These same people benefit from the comforts of this so-called materialistic society and choose to criticize their own society from their armchairs. Is this not hypocritical?

Given a choice between feeling some dissatisfaction of living in modern material society, and living an impoverished but happier life, I am not certain I would choose the latter.

I appreciate the opportunities afforded me, my family and children and their futures, and gladly accept any trade-off. At least I am honest and appreciative of my fellow Singaporeans who have made modern Singapore prosper.

Hypocrisy and self-fleggellation does not strike me as a plausible way to live my life.

11/04/2011 11:13 am

thanks for great post sir. this is a brilliant example of why money is not everything and why money cant buy happiness. i would definitely want to experience life in bhutan one day. keep it up and stay happy!

from a singaporean who's trying very hard to be happy.

11/04/2011 11:15 am

What a wonderful writing you have.

I am glad that i found your blog from one of our (Singapore) newspapers. I've moved out of Singapore because I wasnt too happy there.

Therefore I agree with your comment about "He doesn't seem to want happiness for his people."

11/04/2011 12:53 pm

Thank you, really.
Better days ahead for us, hopefully
(:

11/04/2011 1:29 pm

This is an excellent rebuttal letter. I am really sad this is the kind of quality our million-dollar minister has when many of us not-so-highly-paid ordinary Singaporean do even better than him.

To Mr. Khaw, don't think you are a PAP minister and can start trashing other people's beautiful country and culture, it look doubly bad that you are an elder figure, what kind of stupid mindset you have there or does your narrow mind only contains dollars and cents?

One thing that makes me happy is that I did not vote for you in GE2011, and it will be the same when the next General Elections come!

11/04/2011 1:52 pm

Hi Passau

Don't worry about your blog going viral. I'm pretty sure it's mostly a good thing that it has gone viral.

As with many other Singaporeans before me, I'm here to show support to the Bhutanese and express my apologies for the words of our minister Mr Khaw. I do hope that the majority of the Bhutanese are not overly offended by his words. Take his words to be something said by a politician trying to safeguard his interests against political opponents, instead of being words from a minister.

Have a good life ahead.

11/04/2011 2:11 pm

Hi Passu,

I am a Singaporean and I would like to say that what I like about your article is you expression of happiness and joy. Coming back to family is indeed great happiness, and I like your definition of happiness and how people can observe that when they go to Bhutan (if possible on the guided tours - Bhutan does not allow independent travel).

What i disagree on is the rest. I suggest you read the entire transcript here: http://app.mnd.gov.sg/Newsroom/NewsPage.aspx?ID=3024&category=Parliamentary%20Speech&year=2011&RA1=&RA2=&RA3

You would have noticed that he was led through Bhutan by your government. They were probably his interpreters. They probably showed him the areas (maybe even on purpose) that are poor - if you look at point 15 you would notice that the comment just came before asking for medical help. Obviously your government also knows the value of Health Insurance - it is true you don't need it to survive, but imagine the happiness when you know a kin can be saved.

Thus if he was deliberately shown the areas - can you fault him for expressing his observations? Surely to go there on an official trip he has to report his observations? Here I don't understand the Singaporeans who say he should say that in a public forum.

I think the most you can fault him for is being misguided and ignorant, and if you do so your ministers also play a part in that. What is arrogance and ignorance surely is your comment that Bhutan can be Singapore in one year.

To the Singaporeans who apologised - those of you who just read the articles and made your judgement based on that - shame on you. There are many problems with Singapore as later posters have pointed out but this observation is not one of them. I would implore you to read through the evidence before 'apologising' for Singapore. If we are in the wrong I would not hesitate to feel shame. But when we are interpreted wrongly - i think we should stand up for Singapore.

11/04/2011 3:49 pm

Very well said, Mr Passu :) Congratulations. You have put Mr Khaw to shame - but then again, he and his PAP colleagues are shameless.

11/04/2011 4:59 pm

I felt embarrassed by the comments made by Khaw. He made a very poor judgement to criticize Bhutan without any understanding of its culture. I hope people of Bhutan will not be offended because these are his comments and do not reflect the views of the common people.

In fact, he is only an administrator turn politician and therefore has limited empathy for culture nor diversity.

11/04/2011 5:53 pm

@thecurioiusxwanderer

I have read, and re-read Khaw's speech, and I do not agree with you that PasSu's blog posting was unwarranted. In fact, PasSu is not the only person in Bhutan who took offence at Khaw's speech and wrote about it. A quick google search will throw up many hits. KBW should have considered the consequences of his actions before speaking out in Parliament. He has caused Singapore to lose hard-earned goodwill through his injudicious and unnecessary speech.

Some random points about KBW's speech:

KBW did not say that he spoke with any of the ordinary Bhutanese. Whilst his short visit was a private visit, he seemed to have spent most of his time in the company of the Chief Monk, the Prime Minister, other ministers, and the rest of the time, he probably would probably have been treated like a rock star or royalty. Since he did not speak with the locals, PasSu's retort to KBW stating as though it was a fact ("But most of the time I saw unhappy people, toiling in the field, worried about the next harvest and whether there will be buyers for their products") was very apt:

"I am only surprised that you have spend "Most of your time" in Bhutan looking in the fields. I am amazed at your ability to figure out whether the people are happy or unhappy just by looking at them- O' you even knew they were "worried about the next harvest". No wonder you country exports human resources."

Ouch, and Touche.

KBW spoke of the problems faced by small countries who are hemmed in by large powerful neighbours.
"Second, the hard reality of living next to giant neighbours. I spoke to the Cabinet Secretary to understand their economic structure: what were their revenue sources, how did they make a living? Most of the government income was aid and handouts from a giant neighbour next door. The second largest income item was sale of hydroelectric power to the neighbour. I asked if they were paid international market rate. From his body language, I gathered that altruism or even fairness did not feature much in government-to-government relations."

Two observations on this: Just like KBW's amazing ability to be able to see if farmers are happy or unhappy by peering at them from a distance, he assumes that body language is the same the world over, and he did not even hear the Cabinet Secretary say the things that he had brazenly assumed. Besides, if one were to talk about not paying for things at an international market rate, how about Singapore having been able to and still being able to buy - courtesy of the British Government - from Malaysia water for 100 year (or more) at well below international market rate, and then selling the processed water back to Malaysia at the international market rate?

What about the Governement compulsorily acquiring land and properties from Singaopreans for a song, and then selling it at auction for several hundred times the price that the Government had robbed the original owners of? Not only is the Government not paying international market rate to its people, the Government is frankly committing theft against its people

11/04/2011 5:57 pm

Based on Emeritus Goh Joke Tong's classification Khaw Boon Wan is a quitter from Malaysia, and one shouldn't take quitters too seriously. So I would suggest that his views and comments about anything should be treated like a load of shit and given the consideration it richly deserves. Just junk it.

11/04/2011 7:02 pm

I've been living in Singapore for over a month now and from my standpoint on "local" singaporeans, they tend to be very blunt and just say things without mulling it in their heads first. Some find it good because it's very straightfoward while others wonder why they don't decorate their words, it's all subjective I suppose...and they like to think they're right or keep justifying until they can support their orginal statment that indeed they're right...but in general, I believe all SIngaporeans only have good intentions, but they just don't think before they talk at times

From: http://www.singaporepoliticsresearch.blogspot.com/#!/2011/10/khaw-boon-wan-falsely-presumes-that.html

Khaw Boon Wan is wrong.
This is false reasoning.


It is false on 3 points:
1) Bhutan studies Singapore but that does not make Singapore a Shangri-La


2) Studies are not necessarily positive. If A studies B, it could very well be that A does not want to ever be in the same state as B. Example: USA conducts studies on certain African countries such as Somalia. Does USA want to be like Somalia?


3) Khaw Boon Wan was himself studying Bhutan.
He was walking around Bhutan conducting studies on farmers' moods.
By Khaw Boon Wan's reasoning that studying a country means wanting to be like it, this therefore means that Singapore is wanting to be a Bhutan.
This article's argument is that just because a country studies another country does not mean that it wants to totally be like another country.
Singapore has conducted numerous studies on other countries,
Example: Singapore studies Japan for its transport.


Bhutan is said to be a Shangri-la because of its resplendent landscape, misty mountains and charm, together with a government that adopts a Gross National Happiness as a measure of success [Source: many news articles, including Readers Digest].

Khaw Boon Wan says that because of his view that he saw unhappy farmers on his random encounters in Bhutan, Bhutan is on the whole not a Shangri-La.

Khaw Boon Wan is wrong to think that Bhutan's people think Singapore is a Shangri-La.

This article's point is that Khaw Boon Wan is wrong.

11/04/2011 9:30 pm

Dear PaSsu,
I shall not comment on Mr Khaw's statement yet but go to your open letter. I think that it is the simple and yet elegant letter that confirms my view of Bhutan as the happiest place on Earth.

Yes, Singapore has masses of wealth. But Bhutan has masses of happiness. Philosophers throughout history all agree that "happiness" is the ultimate good. That is indisputable. The difference between Bhutan and Singapore is that we chose to pursue happiness via very different routes. However, when we speak about whether people are "happy", it is the consequence and not the cause that we should be concerned with. And therefore, I agree completely with what you have said about the people of Bhutan being happy because of the unique culture of the people.

In contrast, in Singapore, the country has no doubt a high GDP per capita level. But, do we say that it is a symbol of happiness? I contend that we are not. Many Singaporeans perhaps are happy, but (1) nowhere near as happy as the people of Bhutan and (2) not everyone is happy. With the country with one of the highest Gini coefficients in the world, I think that this "pursuit of happiness" has been misconstrued into the pursuit of wealth. In modern times, it is not uncommon for people living in some countries to equate wealth to happiness. Even if we were to accept that premise, which we don't, the large numbers of the relatively poor and the absolute poor (what I mean here is referring to the concepts of "absolute" and "relative" poverty), they are unhappy. Now, if we don't accept that premise, sure, some poor people might be happy, but the wealthiest might not be happy because Maslow's hierarchy of needs ranks wealth near the bottom.

Thus, it is, in my opinion, unhappy to say that since Bhutan's people is unhappy, which is not true at all, then "happiness" should not be pursued or should not be an important indicator of development. Far from being the case, wealth is more often than not the least of priorities of most people. It is a means to an end and not an end in itself. Therefore, I would like to thank you for your wonderful letter that has clarified one of the misconceptions people often have about Bhutan.

11/04/2011 10:19 pm

SHALLOW is the word. Singaporeans think they're on top of the world because we have a government that breeds such people. Singapore boasts of an elite education system; yet the minds of the citizens are but primitive and shallow in the most bizarre ways. Because they are exposed only to the monotomy of a metropolitan environment and are driven only by the elements of competition in a totalitarian conglomeration of trite, they are quick to jump to conclusions when presented with a scenario and ignorance is blatantly displayed. This is because Singaporeans expect others to abide by their modus operandi and have no wish to understand cultures beyond their '1ST-of-all-1st-world-countries' nation.

Those who travel are usually quick to make comparisons and look for attributes that make other countries inferior to Singapore and hence do not learn anything. We are governed by a body of people whose views and mode of handling issues are obscured by selfishness, individualism, ignorance, arrogance, pretentiousness, shallowness and a contempt for things they don't understand. When we have stupid ministers such as the one below, the apples can't fall far from the tree. Comments like these made by shallow and shortsighted ministers only justify a furor of despise from people of other countries.

11/04/2011 10:30 pm

LIKE A BOSS SIR

I am a Singaporean and I approve of your post.

11/04/2011 10:36 pm

Dear PaSsu,

Thanks for your article. As a Singaporean, I do lead a materially comfortable life and enjoy a reasonably high "standard of living". However, it is a society in which many people are not truly happy. From personal observation, many of my fellow countrymen do not find much of a worthy purpose in life. Students study hard for an elusive promise of future happiness, an average salaried worker slaves away to maintain this "high standard of living", and many continue to work to an old age just to upkeep this "standard of living" for themselves and their children/grandchildren.

But living in an environment like this, it is easy to start wondering whether there is any greater purpose in life when there is so much pressure to maintain this pristine concept of what life should be. We thus submit our entire lives to believing that this is what we ought to do and that this is the right sort of life to pursue. Any deviation from this ideal finds little space, simply due to the stifling limits of what is considered a "model of success" in Singapore, which is often measured by what house you live in, what car you drive, what job you have, your salary, whether you have the newest iphone 4s...

I do not intend for this to turn to a rant on Singaporean society. However, I do think it is worthwhile for us Singaporeans to rethink our gauges of success, happiness and worth.

A part of me cherishes the hope of being able to spend the later part of my life in Bhutan one day...

11/04/2011 10:57 pm

To be honest, all this indignation from Bhutanese regarding Khaw Boon Wan's speech seems a little defensive.

Sure, Bhutanese appear to score highly in happiness. But it ranks 125th out of 183 countries in per capita GDP in 2010, according to IMF. Their per capita GDP is $2,069, compared to $43,117 for Singapore.

Do you prefer to be a happy guy with $2,069 per capita GDP over a less happy guy with $43,117? Really? Either you are delusional or trying very hard to convince yourself.

I don't blame Bhutanese for getting angry. After all, who wants attention cast on their being so poor? And having had this attention, who wouldn't want to protest loudly "But I am HAPPY!!"?

For those self-flagellating Singaporeans, I wonder what sort of hypocrites you are. Are you really that miserable? Do you not benefit from material comforts in Singapore, while flinging mud at your own society and government? Do you not have a TV, an air conditioner at home, a vacuum cleaner, and water heater etc? Do you not enjoy a materially comfortable car ride to work, or an air-conditioned bus or train ride?

What gives you the moral authority to condemn your very own society from which you continue to enjoy comforts and advantages? Who appointed you the moral police?

If you really want to sit on that high horse, sell off your assets in Singapore and go buy a house in Bhutan and live as the Bhutanese. So long as you are unwilling or unable to, please shut your mouth.

11/04/2011 11:07 pm

Happiness is found within everyone regardless of the material wealth we have. No one is to judge whether another leads a happier or less life or not. Afterall, the various ways in pursuit of happiness is merely reflecting the diversity and most importantly the beauty of life.

11/04/2011 11:37 pm

Dear PaSsu,

Thank you for your open letter to Mr Khaw Boon Wan. I am a Singaporean. I have not had the opportunity to visit Bhutan. But I have had the opportunity of meeting Bhutanese friends during my student days. One of whom, is Mr Nandalal Rai, Honorable Minister, Ministry of Infomation and Communications.

There isn't a political system that is perfect. Each nation pursues it's vision through its leadership. And in a democracy, that leadership is elected by the people.

It appears that Mr Khaw's comments on Bhutan, based on observing some farmers, is neither fair nor accurate. We have much to learn about the pursuit of happiness. We seem to have achieved much in GDP, but our income gap between the rich and poor, ranked amongst developed countries, is rather poor.

There are many amongst us who feel that our political leadership has lost its moral compass in the fervent pursuit of GDP growth. We need to do more soul searching rather than criticize a nation that has placed Happiness Index as its most important measure.

With best wishes.

11/05/2011 12:37 am

Y don't you Singaporean tells the world what actually constitute your happiness ?

11/05/2011 1:07 am

StephenT.

Your quotes on numbers and figures have shown you read the reply, but have not understood it. The same goes to your perception between the co-relation of happiness and wealth.
And Yes. I'm one of those who have left Your country thus I'm qualified to reply you here

11/05/2011 5:57 am

StephenT - interesting observation from a fellow blogger... Your profile has only been set up in Oct 2011... And seem to be the rare few defending Khaw.

Just because the rest of the Singaporeans here are supportive of this blog, is classified by you as sitting on their high horse, and the typical PAP type of response - just because the are unable to move, that they have to shut up?

Many have moved from Singapore for this reason... as lcan be seen from some of the response.

You can support all you want for Khaw. No one is stopping you, likewise, others have their freedom of speech and thoughts.

11/05/2011 6:53 am

If the author and the ppl here think that to be as successful as SG takes only selling of lumber, please think deeper. If it's so straightforward, there will not be poo.r nation

11/05/2011 7:12 am

Happiness starts from one's calmness. Wherever you are, whoever you are, as long as you are unhappy with someone, you are also unhappy with yourself.
I think we shall all do our part, be happy with ourselves and be happy with all others. This would make the world happy to live in. I believe this is what every Bhutanese or also Buddhist hope to see.
:)

11/05/2011 7:16 am

Dear PasSu, thank you for your letter. I am a Singaporean who has been to Bhutan. I saw more truly happy people there in a day than in a week in Singapore. I look forward to spending more time in Bhutan, as there's no place on earth as progressive and balanced.

Naresh

11/05/2011 7:18 am

SooJen,

I did not set this blog for the purpose of defending Khaw Boon Wan. I am not even pro-PAP per se.

I just find it hypocritical for Singaporeans who benefitted from this so-called material society and then start pointing fingers when they were incapable or unable to make it in our "materialistic society".

I subscribe to "equal opportunity but cannot expect equal outcome", and "no free lunch".

Just as a pair of twins given the same DNA will not have the same outcome in life, so too not everyone given the same opportunities will make it in life.

Just because these failures choose to leave Singapore does not mean the Singapore system does not work.

Even Samo W, who has chosen to pack up and leave. Has he necessarily chosen to go to Bhutan? If he succeeded here, would he have left?

11/05/2011 8:55 am

Dear Passang,

Kudos for your post. It is unfortunate that Mr. KBW a Member of Parliament made such a comment, which I am sure is not the viewpoint shared by all Singaporeans. May be his level of enlightenment is not able to comprehend between "materialism" and "simplicity" i.e. happiness is not just about having things but also about not having things.

"Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you". - Lao Tzu

T. C. Dorji

11/05/2011 9:40 am

Dear Passu,
Thank you for the wonderful reply.
I hope the Minister had read yr post.

11/05/2011 11:18 am

To StephenT,

Personally, I agree with you that we should not bite the hand that has fed us. You're right unequivocally on that point. However, that premise is only true if one has truly benefitted from all the benefits. There are people in Singapore who fall through the cracks of the vast benefits offered. Would you not agree that these people have at least the right to be unhappy? You've asked who gave the critics the right to be the moral police. Even if the don't, I am certain that they at least have the right to express their emotions.

The level of material wealth cannot be used as an absolute measure of happiness. If so, then the tycoons like Bill Gates would be the happiest people today. However, we see Bill Gates set up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to aid those who are less fortunate and this is arguably at least one other reason than material wealth, that makes him happy.

Now, before you argue that material wealth is a prerequisite of being charitable, look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Even simple things that we cherish like friendship and family relations are placed above wealth and property. Self-esteem and respect is also placed above material well-being. Even if one says that material wealth is something that we need to move up this hierarchy, that does not mean that material wealth is the only thing that constitutes happiness.

Finally, you've mentioned that "Just because these failures choose to leave Singapore does not mean the Singapore system does not work." This is a contradiction. If you were to say that the Singapore system does work, how can there be failures? If it works it works, if it doesn't, then it doesn't.

11/05/2011 11:43 am

Someone voices his opinion and tells others to shut their mouths. I am sad that he is so unhappy.

11/05/2011 12:00 pm

Mr Khaw being a Buddhist should know that life is suffering.Money cannot buy happiness,health,and love.Happiness being subjective and non-conceptual cannot be understood by the mind. It can only be experienced. Mr Khaw probably doesnt understand Buddha's teaching.Wealth cannot cause a person to be happy permanently. Only upon enlightenment can one attain Nirvana which offers eternal bliss.Bhutan people have be documented to be the happiest people on earth.When one grows old, he experienced sickness and death. No amount ot money can prevent death. Hope Mr Khaw will truly learn more about Buddha's teachings, and apply these teachings to his life.Only upon attaining enlightenment can one become aware the indescribable bliss of Nirvana.

11/05/2011 12:23 pm

Be thankful n count yr blessing instead of complaining n critising. Please do not compare as geopgraphical location n other factors present different challenges.
Don't blame others 4 one's predicament/problems in life. Live within one's means n avoid jealousy. One can be contented n happy whether u are Brutanese, Singaporean or other citizens. Contentment=Happiness :D (Singaporean)

11/05/2011 2:29 pm

i had the privilege of staying in Thimphu for 10 days as I was invited to document His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Her Majesty Queen Ashi Jetsun Pema Wangchuck's royal wedding. I was shooting for Getty Images.

Though I dare not say i know a lot of Bhutan but I can say that I really enjoy my stay in Bhutan. What is happiness to everyone? Happiness to a lot of Singapore means social status and wealth and economic stability ... but is this happiness ... maybe not for everyone ... I have come to appreciate the happiness is in Bhutan .. happiness is a relative term ... can we singaporeans live as simply as the Bhutanese and yet have rich cultural values and speaks perfect English ... no .. no way for us ...

but can the Bhutanese advance in economic growth and trade like singapore .. why not? if that is the path that the current leaders and youths chose to take, it is definitely possible ...

so my conclusion is that Singapore can never be like Bhutan but Bhutan can be like Singapoe ... but hmmmm i dun think Bhutan will want to be like Singapore ... Bhutan is unique and should remain unique ..

Besides shooting the wedding, I have been doing a story on youths ... and I guess some of the youths are also looking at happiness from a different angle too as they are influenced by internet, cable TV and pop culture. What happens in the future is yet to be seen ...

my only wish is that in the midst of growth and development, Bhutan will not become too commercialised like some of the countries we know ... i love to walk on the streets freely and enjoy the warmness of the people and not be asked to buy things ...

so far my experience in Bhutan is really one of the best in the many places i have travelled to and i look forward to be back to cover more stories soon ...

11/05/2011 6:39 pm

I didn’t follow the debate as I was away in another “Shangri-la” – Norway. So, I watch YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXEm8OWA5l0) to hear for myself, just to be sure!

It is a pity that all Khaw BW saw in Bhutan in the few days as a tourist was “most of the time” unhappy faces, of Bhutanese toiling in the fields and worrying about the next harvest. In his quest for the proverbial paradise, Khaw missed the beauty of the mountains and valleys, the natural heritage, the fresh air, and the simple sincere folks. And that truly is the real Shangri-la.

That he was so observant and saw only unhappy faces and missing all the beauty is like looking at a gorgeous woman and thinking of how to scorn her! Khaw should know better that Shangri-la is a mythical place and Bhutanese have never profess their country is a paradise on earth. It is outsiders who appreciate the country and liken it to the mythical Shangri-la.

As a seasoned traveller, I do not join packaged tour with a guide. I like to wander where few tourists venture, mingle with the locals, walk the back lanes and eat where the locals do. I didn’t find the people where I visited any less happy than the average Singaporeans despite their meagre means.

To compare Singapore with Bhutan is like comparing durian with rambutan. One is King of fruit, much sought after, a haven for investors, foreign talents, shoppers, and gamblers. Rambutan on the other hand is seldom heard of, does not have a pungent or some say obnoxious odour. Singapore has conscientiously sought economic growth since day one of independence. Bhutan is contended being a lofty kingdom rather than high-rise condominiums.

Aren’t Singaporeans toiling “most of the time” from morning till late at night and worrying much more than just the next pay cheque? It is not just education for their kids, it is which elite school to enrol them. Are Singaporeans happy living in HDB flats? Are voters of Aljunied and proxy of 40% of Singaporeans happy with PAP policies?

As a Buddhist, Khaw should know better that happiness is not just in GDP numbers and First World status. Economic well-being in terms of income (per capita level) is only one of the many factors. So what if every Singaporean has a fat bank deposit but no luxury of time to breathe fresh air, take a hike, and talk to their kids? The Bhutanese don’t see incomes as an indicator of happiness. It just goes to show that Singaporeans and in particular the PAP cabinet members think that happiness is about growing GDP. GDP is about producing goods and services. The higher the number, the more goods and services were produced. This is interpreted in 2 ways – income and consumption. In simple term, when you produce more, you earn more and you consume more. It is like a dog chasing its tail. Why is there hardly any Singaporean working in construction, shipbuilding, estate cleaning, and hospitality services? Because they are unhappy toiling in such fields! Mr Khaw, you need to practise insight meditation so that when you go sightseeing you have better insight.

To the Bhutanese, I say it is not wise to emulate Singapore. Don’t overwork, don’t build so many factories and skyscrapers, don’t import cars, don’t allow more tourists and don’t build casinos. Preserve your tradition and lifestyle; keep your sky blue, be the Last World for I wish your beauty to last.

11/06/2011 1:22 am

After spent more than half an hour reading this blog, I cannot hold back my comment as an really unhappy Singaporean.

Before became an Buddhist, I always think by getting richer make me happier and I can bring more happiness to my family. From a poor family, my father trying very hard to put food on the table, my mother did her duties and we were happy in the 1970s.

My father developed serious health problems and died in early 1990s and with my brother and me started to work, our family are better off after paid up the huge medical bill incurred by my father.

Yes, life gets better till early 2000s, but money becoming the problem, my mother committed suicide caused by depression on my brother's way of spending money and managing the household. Before her death, we have lost the little happiness used to be around with us, I was not aware till the shock reached me.

I started to practice Buddhism after my mother's death as the impact was just too much for me, also the national policy of allowing the foreign trash to enter and steal our jobs has driven me from the top of the mountain of good income to the valley of jobless for more than 2 years.

However, with my slow but steady understanding in Buddhism and the great Buddha, I am more happy compared to those days with 'good' income.

As a born Singaporean, I am not appreciating the way our Parliament works. The ruling party has its golden rules:

1. When they say something, it is always right even it is obviously wrong.

2. When the opposition say something, it is always wrong even it is obviously right.

3. One opposition said something, all the pigs and pies will fire back no matter what.

I understand this is politic, but the ruling party obviously missed the point on doing the right things that make this little country closer to Shangri-la.

By looking through the young and the senior's holiday destinations, it is obvious to see that the young wants shopping, clubbing and spent their life to waste, the senior will choose to visit scenic places and enjoy the slower pace of life, seeing how people at these places spend their day and enjoy life.

The answer is now obvious, true happiness is to get closer to mother nature, enjoy the lovely sun, gentle river, farm land, seeing animals running around. These are things that Singapore does not have and almost impossible to have.

To those Singaporean posted here, I am not a happy Singaporean as I am poor in term of financial status, but I am happy as life becoming simpler after became an Buddhist. I understand my current tour in this body is just transitional, the next time when I open my eyes, I may be in other form and for the good, having true eternity. I strongly believe in Karma and I do not want to go the hell.

At least, I have found my 'Shangri-la' in this small dot that missed the smell of flash grass and flowers, but only the exhaust gas from the cars and CO2 from packed commuters in public transport system.

Advancement in telecommunication damaged my health as I cannot sleep early, Internet brings me information but also toxin that dirty many minds.

How I wish Singapore can be more Bhutanise, GNH is needed, unfortunately the opposition brought up this point and now the ruling party have to denies it value despite of being a co-sponsor.

What a joke to the world.

11/06/2011 6:12 pm

hello sir
i am a regular reader of your blog.This blog is a good response to the Question put up on our country..... keep up the good work sir

11/06/2011 7:23 pm

Marcus Ng said...
Singapore back again where people had heart and care for one another.
You are so rught Marcus. We have generals, rear admirals, lawyers, doctors but nobody with a heart for Singaporeans

11/06/2011 7:43 pm

Singaporeans need not apologise to us.the recent comment on our country made by one of your ministers clearly reflects his judgmental skills.a man of ordinary prudence will never make such defamatory statements about a country that he has experienced in LESS THAN a week.it shows that Mr. Khaw's mental faculty has not yet matured.And yet, it is a sign that Mr. Khaw is well-matured in dullness.

11/06/2011 8:44 pm

It is beyond depressing that our own minister (who has been in Singapore for way too long) doesn't even know that we are unhappy and have the cheek to say that people from another country are unhappy (based on his acute observation from his 7 days visit) people.

Hopefully he comes online to find that his own people (Singaporeans) are not agreeing with him and are inclining our thoughts and feelings with the people of Bhutan; people that he claimed are unhappy.

Our ministers obviously need to wake up.

11/07/2011 4:58 am

Congratulations on your success, PaSsu. There are many perspectives to every issue and I'm glad you were able to present the other side to such a large audience.

11/07/2011 11:47 am

Passu comments are excellent
keep it up. Bhutanese should react in this way

11/07/2011 2:53 pm

"It's all about perspective. The sinking Titanic was like a miracle to the lobsters in the kitchen." doesn't matter what people from some alien place think when they don't find KFC in Bhutan, we are "this way" only because we want it "this way" not because we cant manage to be "that way." Yes Bhutanese people may say "we are under developed", yet deep within we hold the pride to be a example to so many countries and individuals. "I AM PROUD, I WAS BORN IN THE ARMS OF MOTHER BHUTAN" and your perspective wont merely change it. and mr. Passu awesome job, hats off! :)

11/08/2011 3:28 am

I bet Mr. Khaw will surely be ashamed of himself and hopefully apologetic too if he reads this response, a really good work Mr. Passu.

His comment is a totally uncalled one and is evident that it was solely motivated for defending his failed policies in the parliament and do not at all represent the view of common Singaporeans. Reading the Singaporean responders to this response post, I see he has brought shame to our brothers and sisters of Singapore.

Singapore is a great nation with her own merits and I hope she finds her citizen’s happiness too, now that most economic achievements have almost already been achieved.

I don’t claim to be the happiest but I am happy.

11/08/2011 9:20 am

Dear Mr Passu

This is a humble apology from a Singaporean. Mr Khaw has been insensitive in past when he said the elderly should look for nursing homes in a neighbouring country because it’s cheaper! And I am not surprised that he said the same this time around as well to displease you and the rest in Bhutan. But for many in Bhutan, Singapore is not grained in their hearts and minds. But for many in Singapore we long for a country that offers peace and serenity. So you are one up. And you told it so beautifully “try as we may, we can never be Bhutan”. And I my only wish for you is that Bhutan remains the way it is for centuries to come even with the onslaught of all things material world over. And you know what, just reading your blog creates a sense of peacefulness in me as if being in a meditative state.
Your Karma in your last life is one up against mine.

Cheers

Well written lah! Thank you for your rebuttal to our minister Khaw. What you had highlighted is all so very true in Singapore.

Singapore had lost its soul during our pursuit of economic wealth and financial gains. We are very much like the Japanese - Rich Japan, Poor Japanese!

Back in the days of attap-housing and kampongs, Singaporeans were more caring and helpful, then we moved into flats but we still maintained our "village" spirit; but when we gotten into seriously making more money, we started to turn against each other. No longer do we trust our neighbors nor our friends - now we are also starting to be wary of our family too.

Our young now takes pride in showing off online their exploits to gain attentions - beating parents, threatening teachers, bullying others, indulging in hooliganism, cheating others, materialism, being disrespectful to elders, etc...

I sincerely hope that your comments will be a "wake up call" to my leaders and fellow countrymen; even though I seriously doubt they will listen or even notice what you had commented - sigh - sad isn't it?

In any case, I thank you and all Bhutanese that I had the fortune, pleasure, and honor to had had crossed paths with; truly, you and those in Asia and outside of Singapore really did change our (my family and I) perspectives in life.

Peace be you lah.

11/08/2011 4:04 pm

Much has been said about happiness in recent months. For me happiness is just a state of the mind. The measure for happiness varies from person to person and from country to country. A person is happy when his heart feels the happiness. Happiness can never be created. If one is happy, no one can take away the feeling of happiness. Let just say that in Bhutan and in Singapore, there are people who truly happy and some who have not found happiness. There is no such thing as a 100% happy population or a 100% unhappy population.

11/08/2011 8:01 pm

I take positives out of that comment.if singaporean minister envy's Bhutan's happiness and makes such comments to sell his country's image, definitely, Singapore and Bhutan are poles apart.

11/08/2011 10:11 pm

i totally agree with you sir and what you have done to defend our country is what every Bhutanese should have done and we are proud of you. thank you for showing the true image of Bhutan which everyone is not aware of.....

11/09/2011 5:50 am

Just to support my poor farmers and say to you all singaporeans & the world that farmers in Bhutan are the happiest on this world.
I'm Bhutanese and i'm just now pursuing my degree in India but till 12th standard i have stayed with my uneducated, self sufficient & Happy farmer parents. I have also help my aged parents in farming during my breaks. It's not that i don't have my part time job, we bhutanese youth's don't do and it is still not that existent, we just help our parents. My parents were not worried about the annual harvest, they just grow the crops that is enough to support my family for a year. And if there is a surplus,they just keep to send for their away relatives or export it. While they work in the field, they are not using modern technologies but they use human labor who are all their village mates, who tends their help. selling is not a problem if the product is ready. They are happy for their products whether it is a boom or poor.But poor harvest may hurt them. They just need to survive and shares.

11/09/2011 11:55 am

Hi Passu...

Your post is so true and you speak from the heart of every bhutanese.

I wanted to congratulate you for bringing up this post as we know now that it is just the SAD AND UNHAPPY POLITICIAN(Mr.Wan)who do not understand what happiness is while the rest of Singaporean does(following encouraging posts from hundreds of Singaporeans)

Lets not blame him for i presume he has been living his entire life automated and rules...rules...and rules and i guess nobody taught him manners like our parents do here in Bhutan...LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR!!!

FEW LINES FROM ME:-

Being in tourism and hospitality business for the last 15 years and still is, have conversed with guests from every nook and corner of the world, bottom line...an eye opener and now I respect and love more for who we are , what we are and what we have... a wise and protective King , a country full of loving people, clean air and a religion which teaches us word like compassion, Bad and Good Karma.

TRASHI DELEK!!!

11/09/2011 7:21 pm

Mr. Khaw, comments are not entirely wrong judging by the fact from UNDP HDI -2011 report in the Kuensel article : BHUTAN RANKS LOW IN SOCIAL EQUALITY - Thursday November 3, 2011,P5 & MAKING SENSE OF BHUTAN'S LOW STANDING - Saturday November 5,2011, P3.

The influence in a small society where everybody knows everyone, the negative influence is a wild fire. The main social gap evolved from the ability of a person to educate.

In the recent past, there has been a new definition of formal university education degree which means university degrees obtained from the four walls will only be considered a university degree.

The definition of formal education degree has crept in many organisations and institutions. This is evident in many Vacancy Announcement in the media and internal recruitment announcements where one of the qualification required is A UNIVERSITY DEGREE OBTAINED THROUGH formal MEANS.

This is alarming where over 70 percent of the pupils after secondary and Senior secondary couldn't go for higher studies and are not given the alternative mode of education.

Why the organisations and institution give open selection exam irrespective of mode of education? Are the 20% who obtained regular university degree protected or scared that their share in the society will be eaten away by those from not regular university degrees.

Those not having a formal university degree have to be in constant fear of being thrown away from the fray or job. This is certainly not a GNH and Shangri-la

11/10/2011 10:04 am

Hi Im a Singapoream and adore PaSsu's comments. For me, I long for such peace of tranquility which Bhutan will continue to enjoy, while we are just in an location where things are going thru all the time and everytime...a race that never ends. Is it good, or is it bad...it will be up to the individual. I will use this platform to visit the wonderful country "Bhutan".

SB

11/10/2011 3:07 pm

I treasure the remarks made by the Minister as we can learn that we are all humans whatever post we may hold and we are all prone to making mistakes. A person who resides within the domain of materialism fails to look beyond and thus dies only with the thoughts of materials without wider perspectives of what life is all about!
UT

11/10/2011 3:32 pm

It is a shame for KBW to speak about another country when he is threatened in his political arena. He should apologise for the uncalled-for remarks.

HIS VIEWS DO NOT REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF ANY OTHER SINGAPORE CITIZENS, just his own personal limited views and he is entitled to whatever personal opinions as long as he keeps his views to himself.

Hope Bhutanese can take his non-sense political talk with a pinch of salt and pepper. His whole speech was quoted here. As usual the newspaper quoted whatever that was sensational.

http://www.pap.org.sg/articleview.php?id=8240&cid=23

11/10/2011 4:33 pm

I suspect that Passu's interpretation of the romantic version of happiness in Bhutan is purely based on his imagination conjured up from the words we are used to hearing from our so called GNH scholars who are more of "hypocritical empty talkers" than genuinely caring and practice-what-you-preach Bhutanese. I totally agree with what Mr. Wan has said, at least for the time being.

11/12/2011 11:18 pm

Thank you all for visiting my blog and leaving your comments. I have read each one of them, and also had to delete a few of them (which were not in line with the discussion). I wish to reply them one by one but I think I can never finish writing. It will go on to become a novel, lol. I will always remember your comments...

11/13/2011 5:17 pm

It was a lovely rebuttal article, i loved it. The soul of your atricle was "Happiness" you found within you and your fellow mates. Mr.Khaw probably underratted it cause he spent only few days in Bhutan, had he stayed longer.......i ma sure he could feel the love and happiness ( our means of development)

11/14/2011 2:56 pm

Dear Passu,
I'm a Singaporean by birth and was really ashamed of what stupid Khaw had commented negatively on your beautiful,happy and peaceful country.

He does not have the qualification to cast aspersions on your beloved country disrespectfully and we disassociate with this uncouth and ungrateful idiot from the north.

He has done a great disservice to our beloved Singapore who adopted him out of kindness and sympathy.

Actually, he abandoned his own country up north and managed to bluff his way here.

I'm still very angry with him when he boasted that he paid only $8 for his heart by-pass operation, some time back and challenged us to follow his cleverness in buying insurance. An ordinary folk will have to pay at least $10,000 for the same operation and how to buy insurance when we don't even have the money to pay the premium.

It was very clear that the tax payers paid the rest of the amount for him.
He made required health care out of the reach of the ordinary folks by increasing the services to exorbitant prices.

Old folk like me have to wait for 4 to 5 hours at the Polyclinic before being attended to by a "foreign talent" medical officer!and the same miserable situation in housing is happening now since his appointment as the minister in charge! $800,000 for a five room public housing flat!but reduced to $700,000 after public outcry. Ridiculous!

Bhutan is indeed a 'Shangri-la' with nature at its best! and her people are very contented and happy with their lives and livelihood.

Singapore will never attain that status even though we are so metropolitan.

To the stupid Khaw, "Different people, different lives.Do not even try to make another stupid comment on another country!

Remember, Singapore is not your mother land!!! Go back to your village and we Singaporeans will not even shed a tear for you!!!because you do not belong to here!!!

11/16/2011 1:00 pm

It is always wise, as a man endowed with a giant head, to think for several times before we speak something. We Bhutanese have always appreciated what Singapore is and we have been looking to you as our role model.

But just because you tried to tell us that you are more handsome than us, more happier than us; there are chances on our side to see you ugly. There is no need for one to say, "I am beautiful." This beauty, if one is blessed with, can be noticed tacitly without any announcements. And this appreciation, if comes at all, is greater than any thing for the one.

I would have well appreciated if Mr Khaw, who went on to comment unstoppably on others' country, could have stopped a while in between his lines to pull in a sip and derive happiness out of it rather.

11/19/2011 6:52 am

Dear PaSsu
Khaw Boon Wan is a member of the Singapore elite. He speaks only for himself and perhaps a select few.

He does not represent the views of ordinary Singaporeans.

Thank you to Bhutan and the Bhutanese people for offering your way of life as a sustainable alternative.

11/21/2011 7:59 am

Yo!!! PaSsu,

KBW claims to be a devout buddhist yet slime a buddhist nation well known for its total devoutness towards Buddhism.

Hypocrite he is and hypocrite he will remain and woe to him on judgement day.

Peace be with you O people of Bhutan for many seek but few will find the true HAPPINESS found only in the land of reality unlike a nation living in ILLUSION.

11/24/2011 12:41 pm

Dear All, Please go through the United Nation Development Program's Human Development Index 2011 and then only, we the Bhutanese should claim ourselves as happiest nation on earth and otherwise shouldn't. Our Politicians in particular and as citizens in generally should think for the general well-being of all and work towards narrowing the social gaps otherwise mere rhetoric won’t work to solve this menace creeping in our small society.

11/29/2011 1:45 am

Hi,

I am a Singaporean. To be fair, any country, be it Bhutan or S'pore has its own unique set of problems, or special pride to indulge in.

It is perfectly alright for S'pore Minister Mr. Khaw Boon Wan to indulge in his party politics and his own political ideology. However for him to use his 1-week observation in Bhutan as the basis of comparison, and to equate the different standards between the two nations, is simply put, too simplistic.

I have great respect for simplicity, for diversity is derived from simple origins of tiny details, yet flourished into great spectacular flowerings.

It is very crucial, to communicate at the appropriately. Some countries might be considered to be less developed but in no way are their situations to be any less desirable; to the contrary a much developed nation might not have developed its mental mindframe and culture much beyond materialistic gain.

What's desirable, once lost is difficult or even impossible to regain. Example is reputation, integrity, trust and moral standing.

12/07/2011 2:31 pm

...Ever since the posting of this well written letter to Mr Khaw, it seems many S'poreans have learned about the magic of Bhutanese simple way of living in life. What as a Bhutanese are we proud of was well touched upon by the author. Reading every piece of his article, i have just realized how i have become a big fan of this author...Keep posting Passu...You definitely have that quality of convincing the outsider of HOW,WHAT,WHY,WHEN, WHERE and WHO the Drukpas in land of Drukyul are. Great job well done!

1/08/2012 11:01 am

I had been to Singapore a few years ago and found the living standard of Singaporeans so high. But are they really happy??? They run after time and money, capitalist?
We in Bhutan, happiness is measured by contentment with whatever we have for our living.

1/09/2012 4:10 pm

Hats off to you passu. As a Bhutanese I m really proud to hear and see that you protected the image of our Tsa-wa-sum. As a bonafide citizen, i too will/cannot tolerate anybody (be it outsider or native)mocking at the way we live. I genuinely feel that the way we live is heavenly and spiritually eternal. PALDEN DRUKPA GYALLO!!!

1/14/2012 9:46 pm

PaSsu, Excellent!! I am planning to visit Bhutan in June 2012, will you be able to guide?

2/05/2012 7:09 pm

cynic
welcome with all our hearts

2/05/2012 7:41 pm

Keep in touch, I may be free in June end to assist you, though I am allowed to guide without a license I can join another guide with you.

10/07/2012 6:48 pm

A little bit too late to comment on this, but I absolutely agree with you... :)

2/03/2013 1:12 pm

As said by another reader- bit late to post on this but I fnd knee jerk reaction by the writer common in all bhutan formums and discussions (be they radio, online, in the papers or in person)
Why is no one able to take any criticism? Why this blind need to defend, whether justified or not, the country? Such attitudes lead to fear and paranoia about any comment that is made, which could instead be used constructively for the betterment of society.
OK, so this man may be trying to score political points to his own constituents, so we take what he says 'with a pinch of salt' - but that does not mean he should be vilified for expressing an opinion.
Until bhutanese individuals and media can learn to accept criticism openly and respect the views of others, even when they are contrary to our own, then progress cannot be made.
This is the kind of 'response' we hear in the media often from chinese or israeli govt representatives - any criticism is some sort of global conspiracy and everyone is out to get them - grow up!

2/03/2013 1:12 pm

As said by another reader- bit late to post on this but I fnd knee jerk reaction by the writer common in all bhutan formums and discussions (be they radio, online, in the papers or in person)
Why is no one able to take any criticism? Why this blind need to defend, whether justified or not, the country? Such attitudes lead to fear and paranoia about any comment that is made, which could instead be used constructively for the betterment of society.
OK, so this man may be trying to score political points to his own constituents, so we take what he says 'with a pinch of salt' - but that does not mean he should be vilified for expressing an opinion.
Until bhutanese individuals and media can learn to accept criticism openly and respect the views of others, even when they are contrary to our own, then progress cannot be made.
This is the kind of 'response' we hear in the media often from chinese or israeli govt representatives - any criticism is some sort of global conspiracy and everyone is out to get them - grow up!

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