4th Happiest Place On Earth

The soil of the volcanic islands of Vanuatu is so rich in nutrients that fruits and vegetables are naturally occurring and easy to grow to sustain lives of people in rural areas. Here a boy from Tanna shows two wild rice seedlings he had found; accidentally dropped, that had sprouted on their own. Photo: mentalfloss.com/strange geographies

Vanuatu has done very well to get back into the Happy Planet Index (the HPI).

The country is now fourth in the world but this is not the first time to be included in the happiest country league as Vanuatu was previously listed as the happiest country in the world.

The information of the HPI is collected by National Statistics Office (VNSO) personnel in partnership with the Vanuatu Cultural Centre and Malvatumauri following various pilot studies.

Jamie Tanguay, of the VNSO, says several countries objected to Vanuatu’s first time big success and complained about the “estimators” used and the “subjective well-being” indicators used, even though these are standard polling procedures for data collection used by the Gallup World Poll and the OECD.

The HPI is significant in that it is one of the only the global indices that purposely does not consider GDP or income as a factor of happiness.

Jamie Tanguay explained the ranking considers measures of life expectancy, subjective well-being, inequality of incomes and ecological footprint in order to show how efficiently residents of different countries are using environmental resources to lead long, happy lives.

Tanguay added that the methodology goes along with what the New Economics Foundation, or NEF (those who introduced the Happy Planet Index) state as the “stubborn prioritisation of economic growth as the central objective of government, trumping all other objectives.”

Illustrating the point further the NEF writes of Vanuatu, in the newly published 2016 ranking, why Vanuatu fares well in an index that places no priority on monetary resources:

“This tropical chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean has no military, and a GDP per capita that’s more than twenty times smaller than neighbouring Australia.

“Vanuatu has been consistently democratic and peaceful despite its immense cultural diversity (over 100 languages are spoken).

“Vanuatu has the highest Happy Planet Index Score outside of the Americas. People living in Vanuatu have higher well-being than those living in Japan, while Vanuatu’s Ecological Footprint is just a quarter of the size of Japan’s.”

Jamie Tanguay says: “The HPI 2006 Index bolstered international recognition of Vanuatu and was a boon to the tourism industry.

“Happiness has become a part of the national brand.

“The benefits of being listed once again will bring further opportunities for the country to develop in accordance to its natural strengths.”

The country is back in the rankings which have been around since 2006 when the guide was first published.

And back then Vanuatu was top.

Maybe it demonstrates the country and its people’s much vaunted resilience that the people are so happy again a year after a devastating cyclone and an El Nino hot on its heels.

Vanuatu was out of the list for some 10 years. But now the country is back and fourth in the world!

The HPI interactive map and downloadable dataset is available at www.happyplanetindex.org

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