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The Independent Travel World Happiness Report is an annual publication of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. It contains articles, and rankings of national happiness based on respondent ratings of their own lives, which the report also correlates with various life factors such as GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, trust or absence of corruption in government and business.
As of March 2019, Finland has been ranked the happiest country in the world for the second time in a row.
The Nordic nations topped the 2019 World Happiness Report, which ranked 156 countries around the world.
Finland's Nordic neighbours Denmark, Norway and Iceland weren't far behind, taking second, third and fourth places respectively. The Nordic countries have dominated the index since its inception in 2012, while Central African states still ranked at the bottom.
In South East Asia, India's ranking dropped to 133 versus 122 last year & at an average of 118 in the period 2013 to 2015.
Bangladesh ranked 115 against 110 last year. Iran ranked 106 versus 108 last year. Bhutan remained steady at 97 and Nepal at 101 vs 96 last year, Sri Lanka ranked 116 vs 120 last year, Afghanistan at 145 vs 141 last year & at an average 154 during 2013-15.
Turkey's rating dropped to 74 from 69 of last year. China's ranking is 86.
Pakistan for 2019 is ranked at 75. For the last couple of years, it is being ranked as the happiest nation in South East Asia. Its ranking was 80 last year. On an average, it has ranked 92 in the 2013-15 period. The top ranking of Nordic nations is understandable. Their governance system of blending democracy, socialism and capitalism and its strict compliance has proved to be best state governance system which has firmly with-stood the test of time.
The Nordic governance system is based on a workable undertaking between the state and its citizens. The citizens must diligently pay taxes, whereas the state guarantees to meet the needs of all its citizens from birth to death which includes education, housing, food security, healthcare, liberal retirement benefits and all the what is required for a decent living.
Freedom to live as one likes and equality for all citizens is the high point of these Nordic nations where a Prime Minister often travels to his office on a cycle and shops his groceries in supermarkets as a normal citizen.
The upper limit of tax bracket is 60 percent, the highest in the world, which maintains the wealth equilibrium among all segments of Society.
Central African citizens continue to endlessly suffer from extreme poverty, hunger and life security. African states are rich in natural resources and beauty, but, by and large do not have a workable governance system.
India's ranking in happiness is on a declining trend despite its remarkable GDP growth. This growth has not translated into people's happiness.
The current governance system gaining ground in India alienates from mainstream a good 30 percent of its population on the basis of religious and ethnicity. Freedom to make life choices and freedom to speak one's mind is under threat. All of this will have its economic, political and social consequences - the compounding of which will turn India into a very very unhappy nation.
Pakistan's impressive ranking brings to light the strong philanthropy culture prevailing in Pakistan which is perceived as one of the best, if not the best.
Edhi Foundation is one great examples of philanthropy culture in Pakistan. It is one of the most well-organised social welfare service providers across the world running on non-commercial, non-political, and non-communal basis, serving round-the-clock without any discrimination of color, class, and creed. The work of its founder the late Abdul Sattar Edhi was lauded all over the world. Its ambulance service with a fleet of over 1500 ambulances is recognised as world's largest voluntary ambulance service.
It is said that 'No one sleeps with an empty stomach in Pakistan'. This could be understandable considering the fact that country's over 60 percent population is rural and a large number of those in urban areas have strong links to their rural brethren. Food security in rural areas is still promising.
In large cities like Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, many philanthropists are running 'Awami Dastar-Khwan' open to all.
What needs to be fixed up in Pakistan is state governance, corruption, responsiveness of the elected legislators to citizens' plight and above all citizens must pay taxes for an equitable wealth distribution.
The private sector has done well in social sectors where the government and the elected legislators, time again & again, have failed to deliver.
Pakistan has a good chance to be within the first 50 happy nations of the world if the government and the elected legislators also start to deliver on ground
At the end of the day nationhood is all about its citizens' happiness.
(The writer is former President of Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019