Sunday, November 01, 2009

Put on Your Happy Face, Kuwait! ... Or not....

Kuwait 'unhappiest' in Middle East region
01 November 2009, By Ahmad Saeid, © Kuwait Times 2009

KUWAIT: In recently released international report that lists countries worldwide according to the happiness levels, Kuwait was placed at the bottom in the Middle East region. It was also ranked the least among all other Arab countries. On a global scale, Kuwait ranked 128th just 15 places above Zimbabwe, the unhappiest country in the world. The report called 'Happy Planet Index' (HPI) was compiled by the New Economic Foundation (NEF), a UK based organization, that aims to "challenge the mainstream thinking on economic, environment and social issues," the organization's website information page states.

The report, however, measures HPI according to indicators such as life expectancy, life satisfaction, and ecological footprint. The latter serves as a defining factor that gauges the advancement societies make towards achieving the balance between lower carbon emissions and a well-rounded lifestyle.

The NEF does challenges the common notion that the GDP is a good enough indicator to measure countries' development. Arguing that "a government that took GDP too seriously would be pleased to see people paying for things that are normally done for free, such as domestic labor - as this would increase GDP growth. It would measure, as a positive, wars that are required the manufacture and sale of military equipment, the building and maintenance of prisons, or the increased rate of divorces requiring expensive legal services," the report adds.

Some of the results indeed challenge the notion that GDP is a satisfactory indicator of a nation's well-being. Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, the leading country in the overall index results, with a life expectancy of 78.5 years, has a GDP per capita of $10,180 when compared to Kuwait's life-expectancy of 77.3 years with a GDP per capita of $26,321 that places it in 34th place with a GDP per capita that occupies the 22nd position.

In the area of life satisfaction , Kuwait is placed in 50th position. Scoring 6.7 out on a scale of 10 points, Kuwait is placed fourth in the Arab world behind KSA, UAE and Egypt, and occupies the fifth spot in the Middle East. Interestingly, Israel has been placed ahead of Egypt in the ranking.

The third area, ecological footprint, is where Kuwait takes a nose-dive. "To achieve one-planet living, a country must keep its ecological footprint below the level that corresponds to its fair share given the world's current bio-capacity and population - 2.1 global hectares (gha) as set in the year 2005.

In this segment, Kuwait fares the poorest among four countries in the world behind Luxemburg, UAE, and USA, with an ecological footprint of 8.9 global hectares, compared to only 1.7 gha in Egypt, the happiest Arab country, according to the report.

A happy planet? Perhaps not. Looking at the world's population as a whole, the mean life expectancy is just 68.3 years. Life satisfaction is only 6.1 and we are overshooting our ecological limits with a mean footprint of 2.4 gha. The planet's overall HPI score of 49 out of 100 reflects the fact that humanity as a whole has much to change if we are to live long, happy lives that do not cost the Earth," the report concludes.

Thanks for sending that to me, Amer. Now I have something (else) to blame!

1 comment:

Jewaira said...

Happy or not, I wouldn't live anywhere else at the moment.

However, in order to reduce the ecological footprint, I suggest raising the price of gasoline and imposing taxes on a variety of services in Kuwait (notably road use and household waste disposal)