The World Happiness Report (worldhappiness.report) which has been publishing its report since 2012 has ranked Somaliland (listed as “Somaliland Region” to be politically correct) as 91th out of 158 countries. According to the report, “increasingly happiness is considered a proper measure of social progress and goal of public policy,” and that governments are using subjective well-being as a guide in the delivery of services. This ranking is encouraging on one hand but telling of the shortcomings on the other. It can be inferred from this report that social progress and sustainable development hinges on complex factors that should be considered by governments and policy makers.
On one hand, Somaliland is ranked higher than 67 established and recognized countries around the world. This should be an encouragement that things are not as bad, however, patting ourselves on the back must be kept to a minimum considering that Somaliland though it rose in the ranking from 112 in 2012, just above China (113), ranked way below China (84) in 2015. Additionally, Somaliland does not fare well in some of the factors used to explain the ranking. The Happiness Index is explained by seven factors: gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, perceptions of corruption, and dystopia. Dystopia is an imagined baseline country that no country can underperform. Somaliland does relatively well in some factors such as social support and generosity.
On the other hand, there is not much to celebrate about except for the fact that Somaliland is listed on the World Happiness Index and is a beacon of hope for all Somalis. Obviously, GDP per capita pulls Somaliland down as it is almost a blip on the chart, but not as miniscule as that of Mozambique. Nonetheless, the old concept that economic prowess translates to happiness has been refuted time and again. The United States, the biggest economic power with a huge GDP has a populace that is angry, disgruntled and unhappy, and that explains why the U.S. locus on the index is 15, just below Mexico.
Lastly, what can one learn from this voluminous report, and would Somaliland elites and politicians benefit from reading such a report and other works, such as Dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid: why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa” or Paul Collier’s “The Bottom Billion: why the poorest countries are failing and what can be about it?” Suffices to say, a lot. With inherent imperfections, these resources suggest recipes out of the current quagmire. Somaliland can improve the happiness of its people not by appointing a minister of happiness as the UAE d id, but by stressing that each government official is in charge of making his/her constituents happy, i.e., reject politics of the belly. This would require ending the in-fighting, corruption, and espousing freedom and justice for all.