13 Jul 2006

Singaporeans the least happy people in Asia

Smile everyone, for the IMF even though your heart may be breaking. Smile...

Jul 13, 2006
The Straits Times

Happy Planet Index
LONDON - OF ALL the countries in the Asean region, Vietnam has the most to smile about and Singapore the least, according to a list of the happiest countries on the planet.

A new study published yesterday ranked the small South-east Asian country as 12th on a list of 178 nations, beating big-economy behemoths such as Britain and the United States in a survey that measured people's well-being and their impact on the environment.

Singapore, on the other hand, fared the worst of all the Asean and Asian nations ranked, coming in at 131st.

Compiled by the British think-tank New Economics Foundation (NEF), the Happy Planet Index painted a different order of world wealth.

Abandoning what it termed 'crude ratings' of countries according to economic indicators like gross domestic product, the NEF intended the new index to strip life back to the basics - measuring life satisfaction, life expectancy and environmental impact.

Island nations did well in the rankings, with the tiny South Pacific nation of Vanuatu topping the list. 'People are generally happy here because they are very satisfied with very little,' said Mr Marke Lowen of Vanuatu Online, the republic's online newspaper.

Industrial countries, perhaps unsurprisingly, fared badly on the index - Britain came in at 108th while the US ranked 150th. Most of the bottom 10 countries were African nations, with Zimbabwe coming in last.

'The order of nations that emerges may seem counter-intuitive. But this is because policymakers have been led astray by abstract mathematical models of the economy that bear little relation to the real world,' said NEF's policy director Andrew Simms. -- AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


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Capt_Canuck said...

Anyone know where I can find this actual listed study? Kind of curious as to how Canada came out in the pile of countries. Thinking with the chaos and turmoil that we have been experiencing here over our mass ethnic mosaic, we shouldn't be too happy a bunch.

Though, not sure if anyone can put much weight into this study. After all, it is a British study. English ideals and values are different than Asian ideals and values. Also, this would be like taking a study conducted by Cadbury (major chocolate manufacturer) that says "Study shows that chocolate, not vegetables, is good for your health".

soci said...

I can't even find their website. I have an address but the site is empty.

As for it being 'British' and therefore biased is a strange assertion to make considering the fact that Britain came in at 108th.

You seem to think that no researcher has ever taken 'cultural' factors into consideration during research.

I have no idea whether you are pro or anti pap but your immediate reaction to any study in which Singapore is not top or the hub is hilarious. Its like a pre-programmed response.

"Its not a Singaporean study so its biased" has a slight hint of xenophobia to it.

Matilah_Singapura said...

From happyplanetinex.org:

4. Shift values. Value systems that emphasise individualism and material consumption are detrimental to well-being

You have to be joking. This is nonsense on stilts.

Singapore is an insanely socially engineered collectivist society. If people are "unhappy" in Singapore it is because of collectivism which, by the standards of 'Asian Values" and "Confucianism" the individual is subordinate to the state and its unquestionable rulers.

"The Individual is the smallest minority in the universe."

Individuals are happiest when they are free to choose their associations, engage in personal action because of "choice", not because of "duty" to cultural, traditional or some vacuous "social order".

What this website seems to be proposing a different kind of collectivism... that the needs of "society" itself, or the group, or the mob is somehow above the right to life, liberty and happiness of the (rationally self-inetersted) individual.

I, for one, reject this entirely.

I've mentioned this before: it is not impossible to be happy in Singapore, but one does have to make the effort.

Anonymous said...

the ultimate power control of the ruling party is widespread and insidious. The inculcation of fear into our society over the decades has bred a nation of kiasu and kiasi. how can we be truly happy when we can't be free to express our heartfelt feelings. how can we not be cynical when we see our leaders and ministers practise hypocrisy and put our naiton to shame worldwide. Nation above self they say and yet what values do they teach our young when they deny upgrading to opposition estates with old and disabled people who need it more than those PAP wards?? Ultimate power corrupts and blinds those in power.

How can we or they be truly happy and slepp well at night when we are a troubled nation?

find our souls and we can try to be happy again. If THEY let us...and if they even understand that true happiness is not all about economics and money and upgraded estates and presevation of power politics.

Anonymous said...

"... so as to achieve happiness, prosperity, and progress for our nation" ???

Maybe: "... so as to achieve prosperity, and progress (for our country), and (perhaps later) happiness (for our nation)"

Happy Not read Local Papers said...

One way I found happiness is not to read the LOCAL papers with deliberate sensationalising of news with big pictures of criminals, etc... All these put many of us off and despondent. Nothing else in the papers that are substantive. Spoilts my day, definitely !

Just look at our Chinese papers too. And see how they cover the murder cases (Huang Na, etc....) just to get more sales!

Soooooory not at my expense (and that of the poor victims and their families).

Just be Happy and ignore the contrite news that insults our intelligence...and invades our sense of happiness.

My suggestion: perhaps borrow a book from the library or buy a book from a bookshop and it is less stressful.
Bet you will be feel great, if not happier. I have tried it to prove this myself.

Maybe we should start a 'READ more books and LESS newspapers' capmpaign.

sporescores said...

Soci, please at least do a little bit of homework before posting. HPI has 3 components: ecological footprint, life-satisfaction and life expectancy. Singapore scores poorly on ecological footprint.

soci said...

Singapore came 131st. Yes or No? The title from the the STRAITS TIMES article reads, "Singaporeans the least happy people in Asia".

So sporescores your point to soci is what exactly?

sporescores said...

Soci, don't believe everything the Straits Times says. The ST didn't bother checking out what the JPI means. From the HPI website: "The Index doesn’t reveal the ‘happiest’ country in the world. It shows the relative efficiency with which nations convert the planet’s natural resources into long and happy lives for their citizens." Singaporeans scored 6.9 on life satisfaction, higher than countries like Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, and China. Singapore's HPI is lower because it fared poorly on ecological footprint.

sporescores said...

HPI not JPI. Soci, looked at the website liao? Understand how the countries are ranked liao?

soci said...

Yes I have looked at the website and I am able to understand that the ranking system regarding the three measuring scales can be broken down into three sub-scales.

So maybe we should ask them to re-issue their findings only this time they remove one of their indicators from the list so that Singapore can move up the scale. Then they can do that for every country to.

"How it is calculated
The HPI incorporates three separate indicators: ecological footprint, life-satisfaction and life expectancy. The statistical calculations that underlie the HPI are quite complex. However conceptually, it is straight forward and intuitive:

HPI = Life satisfaction x Life expectancy
divided by
Ecological Footprint

The HPI reflects the average years of happy life produced by a given society, nation or group of nations, per unit of planetary resources consumed. Put another way, it represents the efficiency with which countries convert the earth’s finite resources into well-being experienced by their citizens. "

Your argument is that the 'ecological footprint' has nothing to do with 'happiness'. Is that a correct interpretation of your position?

sporescores said...

You've already quoted the HPI's definition. Is it not clear that the index does not measure happiness per se?

Not sure about you but ecological footprint certainly isn't one of the first things that come to mind when I think of what makes me happy.

soci said...

so how would you measure happiness in a statistical manner. The HPI obviously equates it with 'well-being' with the three criteria in contributing to the overall 'happiness' of the nation, not every individual in the nation. To cover every individuals 'happiness' in Singapore they would need four million different indexes, and that is just for Singapore.

The study is a macro level study that enables cross country comparisions. It is not saying that every Singaporean is 'unhappy' or should be unhappy.

It is saying that Singapore is not efficiently converting the earth’s finite resources into well-being experienced by their citizens. Well-being is not exactly the same as 'happiness' but the term is easier to connect with for readers.

Have you taken the individual test yet. It will calculate 'your' level of efficiency to well being and compare it with the Singapore figure.

sporescores said...

So you admit do efficiency isn't the same as happiness. The Straits Times may have used the term 'happiness' to sensationalise the findings or as you say, 'connect with readers', but we shouldn't stoop to that level. I'm more concerned with how happy I am rather than how efficient I am.

soci said...

I am saying that they have a valid point arguing that 'singapore is not efficiently converting the earth’s finite resources into well-being experienced by their citizens.'

Well-Being and Happiness is a connection to make as far as I am concerned at a macro level.

To include the countries ecological footprint as part of efficient use of resources with a countries well-being is fine by me.
To equate 'well-being with happiness' at a macro level is fine.

After all the organisation refers to economics as if people and the environment matter. I agree with their idea.

As for arguing that 'efficiency = well-being', you have narrowed the sentence and concepts too much, they never said that. They argue that 'well-being is connected to happiness.'

sporescores said...

The HPI's owners themselves say that "The Index doesn’t reveal the ‘happiest’ country in the world." 'singapore is not efficiently converting the earth’s finite resources into well-being experienced by their citizens' is not the same as 'Singaporeans the least happy people in Asia'. Not sure how highly you regard the Straits Times but do check out the facts before copying and pasting.

sporescores said...

I am not saying efficiency = well-being. On the contrary, I think they are different. If you agree that they are different, surely you agree that your jumping from 'effiency of converting resources into well-being' to 'well-being' itself to 'happiness' is really a distortion of the HPI's concept that the owners themselves did not intend.

soci said...

some how I think they can use the word 'happy' after all the group called it the "Happy Planet Index".

Anonymous said...

Gentlemen, following your arguments, there is just one simple question to be answered: why are singaporeans so unhappy and discourteous to each other and outsiders?

I make frequent business trips to the Island, and notice the absolute hate on all faces especially towards caucasians.

is the possible route cause, dog eats dog and increasing festering jealousy.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Singapore is a cacooned social experiment launched by founding father LKWafter Malaysia gave the Island the early bath during the 1960's.

Lee must have studied the nasty political ways of the West for years before launching his social which today has grown into a population designed to make money, never question, and follow to the letter of the law commands from the ruling PAP.

Unfortunately singaporeans have evolved into a unique society, devoid of character, happy to brag, and lacking in any basic forms of normal courtsey. They hold no interest whatsoever in the outside world as long as it does not hit their back pockets.

The government pleads for recognition within the sporting and world of art, instituting the usual quick fix treatment. Many years ago government leaders announced there was no place for sports or art, those skills would be built later.

Take soccer, very popular on the Island,some years ago the singapore sports council said the national soccer team would reach the world cup by 2010. What has happened this month, the team has been withdrawn from the Asian games because it is just not good enough.

Poor old Jos Yeo, a god swimmer in a limited market, her level has always been SEA games.

Although the country is extremely rich with an amazing level of reserves, company accounts holding these riches, although they come from the pockets of working Singaporeans are never revealed.

Politically, the PAP will never be toppled. With conttrol over all media, and strict laws governing opposition parties, the PAP is set to rule until the Lede dynasty dies out because rule will always be passed onto from father to son.

Anonymous said...

To be happy:

Some practical advice:

(i) We should not follow what the press wants us to believe, as one reader wrote in the Forum page of Today. re: properties and the pending economic fallout due to the Middle East problem add crazy North Koreans and oil prices.

(ii) Do not get into the property buying fever. It is all a waste of time and create unhappiness as we mortgage our lives to the greedy banks. Remember the years before 1996 anbd the deliberate asset inflation fever we all got caught.
We were all hookwinked to buy properties at crazy prices.

Remember the HongKees who were smart to take advantage of the PRs offered in the 90s, bought HDBs, condos, and left for better countries making a neat bundle at the expense of Singaporeans (and our happiness).

Do not listen to the developers with self-interest and their own agenda in mind.
I do not know whey so much publicity is given to developers like free advertisements.

(iii) Cut spending on credit (VISA< etc..)

(iv) Do not pay the annual fees for Credit cards. You can ask the banks to wavie this and go to other cards. A govt minister had warned last year of the huge amount of money of debts accumulated by many people in Singapore. Stop buying on credit and you will be happier.

It will help you control yr spending.

(v) Take MRT and bus.
Not even taxi, unless necessary to tpt the sick, aged, and families.

Do not buy cars, if you can.
If you can afford, do not take a loan for cars.
ie. live within yr means.

(vi) Stop watching TV and spend time with yr family or do some reading or walking.

(vii) Use internet telephony to save on phone bills.
There are so many such phones in the market. VoIP phones, etc., SKYPE via the PCs, etc..

Simple advice. I am doing most of them, I do not drive as often as before, too. Paid my old car in cash. why pay a new car and take a loan and get beholden to finance company or bank.

Some food for thought.

Any further ideas from any of you.

TreeLover said...

Good Ideas.

Can include one more ------

(just get the FREE ones,ie. if you need to read besides tghe Internet).


Most of us THROW away the Advertisement Pages and certain sections of the Straits Times anyway.

Only a very small percentage of people reads the advertisement pages. Do a straw poll and we will confirm this.

Why waste paper by buying them !!

NEWS from the Internet and blogs like this should be sufficient.
Ecologically speaking, we are saving the trees and reduce wastage, as the govt wants us to do so, too.

sporescores said...

Treelover, spot on, especially for the Straits Times. Hard to believe how poor the reporting and commentary in the ST is despite it having more than 100 years of history. It's easy to go through the entire paper in 15 min. Free and internet news are adequate. if you really must have something to read when you are having breakfast at home, wait for ST to conduct one of their roadshows/promotions to get a steep discount before subscribing.

Animal Farm tenant said...

Treelover and Sporescores,
Both of you are spot on.

Just to give an example of how misleading the Straits Time is (by omission or commision):

(A bit 'chim', here but still simple to understand the ulterior motives here!)

ONE of the many CAUSES of UNHAPPINESS in our country:
(and the snowball effect).

Pl read below:
Deception and misleading Reports by the papers to satisfy their big advertisers (eg developers, etc..)!

Look at recent news of property speculation. Did we not have laws (BELATEDLY)in 1996 to stop property speculation ?
(with capital gains tax applicable if property was sold within 3 years of purchase, in a graduating scale downwards - 1/3 every year).

Again, today, like before, only a few and the foreigners will gain(see how the developers try to exploit the property fever, of course for their own benefit targetting at foreigners eg Indonesians, as reported in FM 93.8 Radio this evening - 19 July) at the expense of the majority of our citizens.

In some countries, developers have to ensure a certain % of their units are sold to locals to ensure even distribution of its populace, etc...

We are not against genuine buyers.

Are some of these foreigners involved in money laundering talked about in industry circles ?

Are we encouraging corrupt (and sad) money from other countries ?

How can we have happiness if we do not have a soul and morals ?(some thoughts here).

And how the papers published interviews of certain developers recently in the local papers to deliberately fan this property fever for their own purpose without balance reports from others with alternative/opposing views.

The newpaper reports were obvious slants and not balanced. (compare this with the BBC - just one example - and you will know our low standards of news here).

YES, the Straits Times standards of reporting have gone down very much.

Is Advertising Revenue and keeping their advertisers ( a few compared to our citizenry) happy their main concern and not balanced reporting for the 'saddened' public like us??

Are our reporters' passion and reports for the truth overidden by their bosses' overriding interests for the advertisers and self-interests.

AND YET the Straits Times have NOT even mentioned or wrote anything HOW and WHY the 1996 anti-speculation measures were QUIETLY removed. There are too many with vested interests.

I remember some good writers those days who also had warned us about the ills and pitfalls of this so-called 'asset inflation' and warned us not to be fooled.

I remember writer/reporter Mr. Lee Han Shih (amongst a few other good writers), whose good and thought provoking articles appeared to be 'flashes in the pan' (brilliant), set far apart from the other lousy reporters who sang a different tune and misled the public and some of whom have retired due to age. The results of post-1996 and post 1997 financial crisis bears the truth of what I am saying here, and of others who had warned us even before 1997.

We are back to artificial asset inflation; and correspondingly further cost of living increases; subsequent pressures for wage increases by our local workers - and hence in turn more demand for cheaper foreign labour by our firms here due to lower wage for them; higher foreign worker levy to discourage employers to take in foreign workers; ultimately more revenue for the govt by higher foreign worker levy, income taxes, property stamp duties, more mortgages to benefit the banks; more debts; more social ills; suicides when dreams are not realised; more credit card debts; crimes of passion related to finance (to be seen); more bankruptcies; and others.

Giving a misleadingly 'good' picture of the economy!! till the next economic fall hits us --- which will not be too far due to the problems in the Middle East, and elsewhere.

All this money chase, is just a mirage ! and compare this with the so-called 'poorer BUT far happier' countries in the survey that did much better than our country!

AND this is the BASIS of our being the least happy people, abetted by the hopeless Straits Times with NO value to discuss issues of the community. Such paper is the scourge and real liability of our country.

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