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unhappy $ingaporeans
July 3, 2007, 7:31 am
Filed under: diary

 S’pore leads Asia in new prosperity index 
Norway, Sweden and US tied at No.1 in ratings of wealth and life satisfaction
By Neo Hui Min, Straits Times Europe Bureau

Article comes first, my comments is just after the article 

BERN (SWITZERLAND) – SINGAPORE leads the list of Asian countries in a new prosperity index, which has Norway, Sweden and the United States tied for first place.
The city-state was ranked 12th in the index of 50 countries, ahead of other Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan.

The index was launched and developed by the London-based Legatum Institute for global development with the aid of leading global strategic analysis and research consultancy Oxford Analytica.

In developing the index, data from sources such as the World Bank, Euromonitor and the OECD, as well as academic sources such as the world values survey, were used. Although surveys were not done in the specific countries, the data used included the needed information about the countries.

The index is split into the material wealth and life satisfaction categories.

Under the material wealth category, factors such as levels of capital investment in offices, technology, factories and machinery; dependence on foreign aid; levels of education; dependence on commodity exports; costs of bureaucracy and economic openness were examined.
For the life satisfaction section, indicators such as having freedom of choice and control over one’s life; health; distribution of opportunities; strength of religious faith; income level; climate; political freedom; unemployment rates and divorce rates were considered.

Norway, Sweden and the US appeared to have the most well-rounded balance between wealth and satisfaction levels, while Egypt, Pakistan and Zimbabwe fared the worst.

Singapore topped the material wealth category, but its people did not appear to be as satisfied with life – the Republic was ranked No.24 in the life satisfaction category.

Singapore outperformed all the other countries in material wealth, ‘driven by the city-state’s enlightened approach to the commercialisation of innovation, its commitment to encouraging foreign investment and high levels of domestic capital investment’, said the report.

But it figured much lower in the life satisfaction section as ‘a strong level of personal freedom of choice is offset by a perceived lack of leisure time’. Singaporeans also appeared to lack social interactions via community groups compared with other countries.

Oxford Analytica’s Sam Wilkin told The Straits Times: ‘Singapore has done tremendously well in terms of generating a high level of wealth in a short period of time, but the question now is, ‘What do the people want to focus on now?”

The pattern, however, is not unique to Singapore. Other wealthy Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan also fared badly in the life satisfaction ranking.

South Koreans, like Singaporeans, reportedly have little time for leisure. They also lack support through strong marriages and religious faith.

The Japanese appeared to have less equality in opportunities and less freedom over their choices.

Legatum Institute managing director Alan McCormick said the survey suggested that overall prosperity could be raised for poorer countries through ‘fostering an environment which encourages domestic productivity through invested capital, combined with openness to the global exchange of ideas and trade, and a rejection of dependence upon foreign aid’.

‘At the other end of the spectrum, wealthy countries face different challenges. What is clear is that governments cannot legislate for happiness. The pursuit of happiness is an active endeavour that requires individuals to grapple with the challenges and opportunities that accompany increased freedom and privilege,’ he said.

‘And wealthier countries can also learn from the poorer ones, whose often-surprising life satisfaction scores reflect their strength of community life, spirituality and strong family bonds.’

Which is more important news? The fact that Singapore is ranked 1st in Asia and in terms of material wealth or that Singapore is 24th in terms of life satisfaction? I think the title of the article is rather misleading as it paints a picture that is too rosy. Who gives a heck about material wealth when one is not satisfied with life? I think a lack of leisure is a general worldwide phenomenon that is not just confined to Singapore; it’s about time we start to rethink what is important in life and restructure work to be more flexible and accomodating of personal needs. The most important work needs to be done on the part of employers to strike a balance between economic efficiency and care for workers.


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