THE United Nations released the World Happiness Index 2017 on March 20, coinciding with the cel-ebration of the International Happiness Day. Norway tops the list as the “happiest” nation in the world, while the Philippines is 72nd on the list, among 155 ranked countries.
The first World Happiness Report was published in 2012 by a United Nations high-level meeting on “Happiness and Well-Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm.” Thereafter, rankings of the hap-piness index of over 150 countries were published annually.
Most people would think that the happiness index shows the population’s life experience through laughing and smiling. Think again. If this is your perception, then you have to look for the Global Emotions Report and not the World Happiness Index.
“Life satisfaction” index
The World Happiness Index is in fact a “life satisfaction” index, but was eventually used to measure happiness.
For this year, the World Happiness Index was based on six variables—real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and trust. The weighted average is then compared against a benchmark called Dystopia to get the final score used in the world rankings.
Following the Cantril Scale, the respondents were asked the following question:
“Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. Suppose we say that the top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time, assuming that the higher the step the better you feel about your life, and the lower the step the worse you feel about it? Which step comes closest to the way you feel?”
Index of 5.43 for the Philippines
The Philippines’ happiness index for 2017 was based on the consolidated polls from the last three years (2014 to 2016) and was computed at 5.430, just a few points up from the 2016 happiness in-dex of 5.279.
Statistically, this can be interpreted as approximately only half of the Filipino population is satisfied with their lives. The other half is totally dissatisfied.
Let us simplify this using plain mathematics. For easier computation, let us assume that we have a population base of 100 million. If 54.3 million rated themselves as having a satisfaction rating of 10, and the rest (about 45.7 million) rated itself a satisfaction rating of 0, then the average score will be 5.43. Of course, in the real world, it will not be a plain dichotomy between 0 and 10, but the distri-bution will follow the normal curve. Still, the result will be the same.
On the other hand, if we are using the Cantril Scale, then we can infer that the Filipinos are exactly halfway up the ladder. We are on the sixth rung of an eleven-step ladder.
Is this the life that we want? To be half-happy only?
Government can do more
The government should not simply brush aside The World Happiness Index as just one of those reports. It can be used to improve the lot of the Filipino people.
Take note that the GDP is one of the six variables factored in the computation. GDP is the econom-ic side of life. If you increase the flow of goods and services, then you increase the GDP. If you in-crease the GDP, then you increase the happiness index.
Another factor is social support. This is measured by having someone, or something, to count on in times of trouble. Can the Filipino people count on the government (or its government officials) in times of trouble?
Another important factor is trust, which is measured by a perceived absence of corruption in gov-ernment and business. Increase this trust and you effectively increase the happiness index.
But, is the government doing something to improve this perception?
Can we trust the system?
Our everyday life experiences can shape the happiness index of the Philippines as a nation. I will cite a few real-life incidents and you tell me if we can be more than half-happy with these.
Incident No. 1. I left Alabang, Muntinlupa on Wednesday and drove northbound through the South Luzon Expressway. I exited the Nichols toll gate at exactly 1:18 p.m.. The traffic was at a standstill. Vehicles were literally moving inch by inch. No traffic enforcers, no policemen, no SLEX security personnel, just a horde of sun-baked vehicles on that godforsaken stretch of highway. I reached the Magallanes-EDSA ramp at 2:20p.m., after more than an hour.
If you were among those caught in that traffic jam, would you be happy?
Incident No. 2. A partner of mine complained that some personnel from the Las Piñas City Hall went to her coffee shop and demanded that they pay additional fees, on top of the already paid business permit that they had paid for the year 2017. The Bureau of Internal Revenue classified their line of business/industry as 5522 – refreshment stands, kiosks, and counters. When they reg-istered with the Business Permit and Licensing Office, the same office classified them as a restau-rant and of course was imposed higher fees. As a restaurant, it goes without saying that they are allowed to serve beer. Now, these “inspectors” are claiming that since the shop was serving beer, then they should be paying additional license fees. Otherwise, they will close the shop. However, unregistered shops were not visited (and threatened) at all.
If you were managing this micro business, would you be happy?
Incident No. 3. A new case was turned over to me by a fellow lawyer since he thinks that the court proceedings had already been compromised. It involves a parcel of land in Oriental Mindoro, which was allegedly mortgaged, way back in 2002, by one Salamia Salcedo to the Rural Bank of Gloria, Inc. When Salamia Salcedo died, the bank foreclosed the property in 2008 without informing all the heirs of Salcedo. As expected, one of the heirs of Salcedo, filed a civil case in court demanding that the foreclosure of the property be annulled. In its last hearing on March 14, 2017, one of the par-ties informed the court that the Rural Bank of Gloria, Inc. had sold the property to him in Septem-ber 2016 – while the case is pending before the court. A new Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) was issued by the Registry Deeds of Oriental Mindoro in spite of the encumbrances annotated on the title and the pending court case. This is a travesty of the judicial processes.
What emboldened the Rural Bank of Gloria, Inc. to sell the property, which is still the subject of a pending litigation? Why did the Registry of Deeds of Oriental Mindoro transfer the ownership of the property and issued a new TCT, without regard to the action pending in court?
If you were the party litigant in this case, would you be happy?
The above incidents show that business and government systems can no longer be trusted. This will in effect lower the trust variable rating and bring down the happiness index in the end.
Now, are you still wondering why the Philippines’ happiness index is a mere 5.43?