Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Gambia is 120th Happiest Country Globally - Report

Rights groups protest against impunity, perceived corruption in government and  environmental damage in Gambia in June 2018 (Photo taken from Freedom Newspaper)
Of 156 countries, The Gambia is 120th happiest country in the world, according to a report on world happiness released on Wednesday.

The results reveal people in the ‘Smiling Coast’ of Africa are less happy compared to conflict-affected countries with less stable governments like Libya and Somalia.

The West African country is among the world poorest countries and is recovering from a 22-year dictatorship described by rights groups as "brutal".

Gambia’s neighbour Senegal, which has seen peaceful and smooth democratic transfer of power since independence, is 10 places above - her people, happier than Gambians.

Released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations on March 20, the World Happiness Report ranks countries on six variables - income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity – issues that supports people’s well-being.

Income and freedoms

Fundamental freedoms, though improving, have been affected by laws restricting freedom of expression, press freedom, freedom of assembly, and active political participation.

In May 2018, the country’s Supreme Court decided that the laws, which activists say are draconian, be maintained following a challenge by The Gambia Press Union.

Government officials including the president and his ministers have constantly threatened to implement restrictive laws like sedition and false publication in the wake of increasing criticisms.

The police have also on several occasions restricted peaceful protests by refusing to issue permits and occupying protests grounds.

Globally, Finland (in 1st position) is the happiest country in the world for the second year in a row, and in Africa, Mauritius is the happiest at 57th position. In West Africa, Nigerians are happiest at 85th, thirteen places above Ghana at 98th.

South Sudan, at 156th, is the least happy country in the world and in Africa, with the Central African Republic (155th) and Tanzania at 153rd at the bottom of the ranking.

“The world is a rapidly changing place,” Professor John Helliwell, co-editor of the report, said. “How communities interact with each other whether in schools, workplaces, neighborhoods or on social media has profound effects on world happiness.”

Despite Gambia’s 120th position in global happiness, the West African country is ranked ahead of Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mauritania, Tunisia, and Ukraine.

The Gambia did not feature in the 2018 report. The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness that ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.

The authors of the report said this year’s survey focused on happiness and the community.

It explored “how happiness has evolved over the past dozen years, with a focus on the technologies, social norms, conflicts and government policies that have driven those changes.”

Produced in partnership with The Ernesto Illy Foundation, this year’s report ranks countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be, according to their evaluations of their own lives.

“Social happiness is... even more relevant, in order to give a positive perspective and outlook for the present and for the future,” Andrea Illy, a Board member of The Ernesto Illy Foundation, said.

Probably die

According to the latest WHO data published in 2018, life expectancy in Gambia is 61 years, and the country is placed at 161st position in the World Life Expectancy rankings.

As of 2016, of every one thousand people, between 235 and 290 people will probably die before their 60th birthday.

Meanwhile, certain sections of society have been unhappy about some government policies, which is key in determining the state of happiness of citizens.  

In September 2018, President Adama Barrow threatened to take action against growing public dissent against his government.

“Enough is enough,” he said upon his return from the UN General Assembly in New York, according to the blog, She Is The People.

His comments came amid rising civil actions among civil servants demanding better wages and working conditions, allegations of corruption in government, environmental damage, land problems, and anger at poor electricity and water supply.

Gambians are however happier than their peers in 36 countries around the world, according to the world happiness report launched at the United Nations on Wednesday.

Written by Modou S. Joof

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