Is #Happiness a Goal of Government?
January 12, 2012
— government, Happiness
England and the Philippines think so! Read on…
The Independent, By Andrew Grice, January 11, 2012
PM’s ‘happiness plan’ could lift Ed’s spirits, says Campbell
Alastair Campbell has praised David Cameron for adopting “happiness” as a goal of government policy and urged Labour to embrace rather than deride it.
Tony Blair’s former director of communications said Mr Cameron had shown “courage” in pursuing the politics of happiness. In opposition, the Tory leader said the country should focus on GWB – “general well-being” – as well as GDP – gross domestic product. Since Mr Cameron became Prime Minister, the Office for National Statistics has launched a “well-being index” to measure people’s happiness.
But Mr Campbell remains to be convinced that Mr Cameron is serious about the issue. He wants Ed Miliband to seize the initiative by including it in his campaign for “responsible capitalism”.
The former spin doctor, who suffered a breakdown as a journalist before working for Mr Blair and still has bouts of depression, makes his comments in an e-book published tomorrow, The Happy Depressive. He writes: “There is much I disagree with David Cameron about. I think some of his policies will directly cause unhappiness among some of his electorate. But the idea that happiness should at least be considered when putting forward a policy proposal is a good one.”
Mr Campbell reveals that Mr Blair rejected a plea by his Downing Street policy advisers to embrace this agenda.
“It is Cameron who is taking up some of the ideas presented to the predecessor on whom he sometimes models himself. There is a certain amount of courage required to adopt this approach right now, against the current political backdrop of economic turmoil, austerity, cuts and riots,” Mr Campbell says.
According to Mr Campbell, there is “something profoundly non-Conservative at the heart of what Cameron is proposing”.
Most traditional Conservatives think such issues are more for families and individuals than the state, while Labour is more open to state intervention.
“There will be scepticism about his commitment to see this through, but I hope he is serious about delivering on the well-being agenda,” Mr Campbell says.
“What would be unfortunate is if in fact Cameron’s commitment to happiness as a key factor in policymaking was something he just said at the time he was ‘decontaminating’ the Conservative brand… rather than a change of culture he is determined to implement.
“Because I do think if we genuinely applied this new approach it could lead to a lot of positive change.”
TO help measure the general well-being of Filipinos, Sen. Loren Legarda filed Senate Resolution 672, urging the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) to develop new indicators that will reflect the happiness and well-being of Filipinos.
Senator Legarda, an advocate of climate change, said this resolution also aims to help the holistic development of the country amid threats of climate change. The resolution hopes to accomplish this by adopting the gross national happiness (GNH) concept of the Royal Government of Bhutan.
“Statistics such as gross domestic product [GDP] and gross national product [GNP], which only indicate the value of goods and services turned out by our market economy, are not designed to measure the quality of life of Filipinos,” she said in a statement.
“Our extractive and consumptive model for progress, which conveniently factors out the impact of economic activities on the natural environment and on the well-being of people, increasingly reveals our vulnerability to disasters and climate change and puts our sustainable development goals in peril,” she added.
It can be noted that the GDP is only a measure of production in a particular time within the bounds of a country. This means that any event, including calamities, could benefit GDP through increased production of household items, apparel, construction materials, and other similar items that are needed to replace damaged or lost items as a result of the calamities.
In 2009 the Neda explained that among the “perverse” benefits of typhoons are household repairs, private and public construction, manufacturing production increase due to retail demand, and increased overseas Filipino worker remittances.
This is one of the reasons the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) created the Philippine Happiness Index (PHI). The index measures Filipino’s happiness according to 20 indicators that includes but not limited to their work, the economy, their friends, sex life, religion, and community participation and volunteer work.
NSCB Secretary-General Romulo A. Virola explained that releasing a GNH was the initial intention of the NSCB but the results were not as robust as they expected so they settled for the creation of the PHI to help measure the welfare of Filipinos.
“We had tried that in our initial work on happiness but we did not think the results were robust. So we decided to focus first on [gross national] happiness index,” Virola said. “Senator Legarda’s chief legislative officer has asked to meet with us on this on Friday. We will tell them about our work and we hope to know what they have in mind.”
Creating a GNH, Virola explained, would require more manpower and resources for the NSCB. This has been the battlecry of the agency, not only for the creation of the GNH but also in coming up with other statistical indicators such as the National Income Accounts, since many of their experts have been pirated by multilateral agencies and the private sector.
The government’s freeze hiring policy has also prevented them from hiring replacements as well as the lack of budget that has been given to the NSCB. It can be noted that it was only in the past two years when the NSCB was exempted from the freeze hiring policy of the government.
“We need people in the NSCB to help in improving the framework [for the GNH]. Once we get the human resources, we will of course need additional financial resources to be able to generate the data needed,” Virola said.
Legarda explained that the GNH of the Royal Government of Bhutan measures progress by giving equal importance to non-economic aspects of well-being—sustainable and equitable socioeconomic development, environmental conservation, promotion and preservation of cultural values, and good governance.
She also said various countries have adopted the Bhutanese concept. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has launched a happiness index that seeks to complement the GDP and other indicators, while the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution encouraging member-states to implement such concept.