Is happiness a state of mind?

In April, I had written to the press and posed the question – “Can Malaysia take up the Challenge to adopt the UN Happiness Index? Yes we can and we should!”

Thus, like all or most Malaysians, I am very encouraged that our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak officially announced a Malaysian Happiness Index last on Nov 3, and also rated Malaysia’s Happiness Index at 7.55 on a scale of 10 and graded it a B Plus!

This announcement is a major step forward in our socio-economic and even political policy and planning. It transforms the traditional emphasis on economic measurement of national and the individual well being and progress to a much more meaningful and holistic measurement of our national progress.

No more then should we give almost exclusive attention to the Gross National Product (GNP) as the almost only measurement of our progress, but move more purposefully towards quantifying our quality of life and our advancement in more THE PPSMI fight is not over yet. Here are some news: Concerned parents of various groups met on Sunday to discuss the actions they would take in their fight for the reinstatement of the teaching of Maths and Science in English (PPSMI). “First, we will hold a gathering to display our anger and anguish to present pleas to Sultan in respective states, with final plea to the King.” “Candidates for elections in Klang Valley should speak up and we will give them our votes.” I think the PPSMI folk are going about this in a civilised manner. Unfortunately this may not yield the desired results. The urbanised West Coast residents — whether Malay, Chinese or Indian — realise human terms, that relate more directly to our human welfare.

However while we warmly welcome this new policy transformation, we must raise questions of how this new Malaysian Happiness Index and its Rating have been devised and rated so specifically at B plus?

Malaysians would want to know what constitutes the Malaysian Happiness Index and how has it been assessed? Have the Malaysian public, professionals academicians and all interested parties, been consulted about the methodology, and quality of this important Malaysian Happiness Index.

In short, has there been adequate transparency, accountability and integrity shown to ensure the credibility and public acceptability of this vital Index.

After all this index could well determine the future direction of our economy and our national well being and future?

Thankfully we are told that multi-components of the Malaysian Happiness Index, such as the crime rate, pollution, traffic woes, maternity leave and possibly even family happiness, have been taken into account.

But the question arises as to whether some other very significant and even overriding issues have been seriously considered in compiling this Malaysian Happiness Index.

For instance, have we included National Unity, Poverty of the bottom 40 per cent, the widening Income Disparities, Human Rights, Racial and Religious Pollarisation and Understanding and a whole host of components that would normally be covered in any sound Happiness Index .

Here I would like to emphasise, that unless and until we include major structural and policy transformations for the fair implementation of current Affirmative Action policies, that should be based on Income and Basic Needs that benefit all Malaysians, the Malaysian Happiness Index will become unacceptable, disuniting and even destabilizing !

Hence we must take the bull by the horns otherwise national, societal and individual happiness and real national unity will continue to evade us all.

As we must all be aware, the United Nations has its own professionally and universally accredited and acceptable Happiness Index. In that well recognised index, Malaysia was ranked 51 out of 156 countries just last year. Hence Malaysians will want to know how our own internal Malaysian Happiness Index compares in methodology, quality and professional integrity, with the UN Happiness Index, please?

This kind of cross reference is essential to improve the credibility, acceptability and respect for our own Malaysian made Happiness Index.

In conclusion I would:

1. Welcome the introduction of the concept and adoption of the Happiness Index in Malaysia,

2. Request that the Malaysian Happiness Index be published together with the UN Index of Happiness and in conjunction with the Malaysian Annual Budgets.

3. Urge the relevant Government Agencies to consult with the public, the professionals and academia, to make the Malaysian Happiness Index much more inclusive of the essential structural transformations, that are necessary, for achieving greater National Unity.

4. Suggest that the Malaysian Happiness Index be improved through the use of Pemandu’s Laboratories, which could transform the Education, Economic, and Affirmative Action policies that should be Fair to all Malaysians , regardless of Race and Religion.

5. Introduce policies and practices that would be more Meritocratic and Competitive and related to Basic Needs and Income levels and not based on race and religion, please.

Finally, when we address the issues mentioned above, the Malaysian Happiness Index will become more credible and acceptable to the whole Malaysian society, which will then be able to celebrate its adoption with greater Happiness!

Article published in The Malay Mail.

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