Sunday, August 06, 2006

rethinking the Happy Planet Index

Various other commentators have talked this topic to death.

Well, I had the opportunity to examine in detail the actual mechanics of the HPI, and there are mitigating factors why SG is at the bottom of that ranking.
(mainly due to the fact that we have Jurong Island, and that we really have no land!)

Below is the comment I appended to Mr Wang's entry on this issue.


measuring environmental impact,

the question is - how much does Jurong Island contribute to that measure, and how much 'happiness' does Singapore derive from having Jurong Island and its petro-chemical crackers?

Having looked through the measures used in the HPI, Singapore would be an outlier no matter what, because we have a highly industrialized city without a countryside to balance out any ecological damage we do to the environment.

The more important data point would be the Life satisfaction level, at which SG is measured at 6.9 (No 59 according to their data).

However, even there, we lose out to Malaysia (7.4) and barely beat Indonesia (6.6).

Other notables include being more satisfied with life than
Hong Kong (6.6)
Taiwan (6.6)
(our nearest ideological/economic neighbours.)

Again, it really depends on where we want to go - do we want to be like Switzerland/Denmark (8.2), Ireland (7.6), or even Malaysia (7.4)?

And further intepreting the data, and in terms of scoring,

at 6.9 on the Life Satisfaction index, SG is ranked No.11. That means that there are 10 'ranks' to climb before we are as happy as the best in the world.

(for the quantitave-obsessed, the total number of different results are 45; for those who choose to be exacting and demand 2 decimal places, please check with the happiness ppl at
. I'm just intepreting data they gathered with my own biases).

Thus proving the quote, variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli (and nobody seems to be definite about it either!).

"There are three types of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics."
- Benjamin Disraeli

Believe whatever we want, but the fact that we felt that being ranked at the bottom of the HPI reflected our reality means that all is still not well.


Well, I guess, the question is - in a city, does it really matter if the only pursuit that matters is economic?

Paradox comes when those who seek to pursue anything else other than economic success, find their paths blocked by 'well-intentioned paternalistic do-gooders' in our approach to government.

More on that coming along soon. Think about comparing Singapore against other cities, rather than other countries, and maybe, my Parisian friend is right. Its NOT that hard to run a city.



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