Gross Domestic Happiness- GDH

We celebrated the UN World Happiness Day on March 20th. On the occasion, World Happiness Report 2016 was published by ranking 157 countries and their happiness levels. This is third report since it first published in 2012. Happiness is a feeling of contentment. Perfect happiness comes when all needs of the person are satisfied and fulfilled. Happiness is a combination of how satisfied you are and how good you feel on a day-to-day basis. Happiness, often, sounds mythological and spiritual word but it is more than that.

The report review the state of happiness in the world and show how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations in developing the society. Denmark has been announced the happiest country with score 7.526, United States has been ranked (13) and United kingdom (23). Similarly Switzerland (2), Iceland (3), Norway (4) and Finland (5) are on the top. In the SAARC region India (118) is less happier than Bhutan (84), Pakistan (92), Nepal (107) and Bangladesh (110). Factors such as equality, GDP per capita, social support, life expectancy, corruption and freedom of life etc are the indicators of measuring happiness while taking score. It is clear that to be a rich does not mean they are happy.

While observing the report of happiness, a question coincidently came into my mind; whether development institutions care about the happiness of all living creatures so far or not. Is profit the sole objective of development that bring happiness? Has the humanity been served since the evolution of development? I think, we did not explore much about the alternatives way of of development that care humanity, harmony and peace. Instead, greed, materialism, ill competition were promoted and as a result, there is now intolerable inequality on our hand. Economy, humanity and environment as a whole are at risk is an achievement of development so far.

It is clear that to be a rich does not mean they are happy. Happiness is not feeling of goodness all the time, nor being a rich and afford everything neither it is a final destinations. 

We just consider the technological advancement in the production. While talking about cheap and efficient products through capital intensive technology, we intentionally left human related problems like increasing population, unemployment and purchasing power, family life far behind. More than half of the world population is still below the absolute poverty line. Infants, pregnant and octogenarians are forced to flee from their home, from their family and many more are suffering from hunger, disease and illiteracy. And there is blame game. The parties who are creating such intolerable  pain doesn’t take and responsibility of lost. It is created problems.

We have been seeking happiness on the pain of others. Militarization, materialization and robotisation of human beings are the pain which is the routine job of so-called modern society. This is not the way of sustainability as well but we are talking so much about sustainability. Definitely wisdom is better than knowledge. Liberalism is better than realism. We are mitigating or ignoring the role of wisdom, liberalism and sustainability while targeting the achievement. We are happy in our business but we are loosing much more; for example global warming.

How we can measure the happiness then? To be honest, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is ‘poor’ measurement of prosperity and inequality. The economists in Davos meeting, World Economic Forum, seriously raised the issue. The concept GDP is a poor measurement of progress of individuals. It just shows the country’s economic condition in average. The GDP does not represent person’s day to day need and plight. It is an incomplete solution of measuring the progress. ‘‘By focusing exclusively on economic growth, GDP misses – or worse still, externalizes – the costs and value of a number of critical elements of well-being: basic human needs like nutrition, medical care, and shelter; access to education and information; and environmental sustainability – not to mention things harder to measure like rights and freedoms, tolerance, and inclusion.’’** So some suggest Social Progress Index (SPI) also need to be included in here.

There must be urgent need of accurate measurement of progress so that fair share and equality and sustainability is possible.

Well-being necessitates an immediate, aggressive, and ongoing campaign to change the indicators that decision makers are using to guide policies and evaluate progress. We need indicators that promote truly sustainable development and the development that improves the quality of human life while living within  and supporting ecosystems.**

Three leading economists and academia at Davos agree: “GDP is a poor way of assessing the health of our economies and we urgently need to find a new measure.” They are IMF head Christine Lagarde, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, and MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson. They stressed that ‘‘as the world changes, so too should the way we measure progress.’**

We may be happy in our business and profit but, of course, we are losing much more. GDP cannot measure the welbeings. It is a poor tool of measuring progress.

A country’s GDP is an estimate of the total value of goods and services they produce. But even when the concept was first developed back in the late 1930s, the man behind it, Simon Kuznets, warned it was not a suitable measure of a country’s economic development: “He understood that GDP is not a welfare measure, it is not a measure of how well we are all doing. It counts the things that we’re buying and selling, but it’s quite possible for GDP to go in the opposite direction of welfare” So it is already late to think about the measurement of wellbeing or welfare.

Today, with the changes brought on by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the measure is even less of a reflection of the things that really matter: “We need a new model for growth. Just as we’re reinventing business, we need to reinvent the way we measure the economy,” the MIT professor added.** Robert Kennedy says “GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile”.

Finally,

So ‘‘GDP measures income, but not equality, it measures growth, but not destruction, and it ignores values like social cohesion and the environment. Yet, governments, businesses and probably most people swear by it. According to François Lequiller part of the problem is that perhaps we expect too much. Though it is fair to say that GDP only captures the wellbeing that results from the production of goods and services.”**

We may be happy in our business and profit but, of course, we are losing much more. GDP cannot measure the welbeings. It is a poor tool of measuring progress. Using wrong measurement of progress we just achieve wrong result. So There must be urgent need of accurate measurement of progress so that fair share and equality and sustainability is possible.

By -Jesi, 2016

Feature Image: World Economic Forum

#ProfessorJosephStiglitz

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