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Monday June 05, 2023

Surprising relative happiness

March 22, 2023

LAHORE: Affluence, technology, per capita income has got nothing to do with happiness as the World Happiness Report 2023 reveals, placing people of Pakistan above all its neighbors, and ranking India at 126 out of 131 nations surveyed.

The criteria fixed by the WHR 2023 apart, it indeed reflects some traits that keep Pakistanis relatively happier than its closest neighbours. The report ranks Pakistan at 108, which otherwise is not a commendable rank among the 131 countries surveyed. It is followed by Sri Lanka at 112, Bangladesh at 118, India at 126 and Afghanistan at 131 or the least happy state.

Except for Afghanistan, Pakistan lags behind all its neighbours in literacy, per capita income, GDP growth, health including infant mortality rate and average life. The law and order situation in Pakistan is worse than India or Bangladesh and probably equivalent or slightly better to Sri Lanka.

Pakistanis are relatively happier because the philanthropic activities in Pakistan are much higher, where even the poorest try to console and help people living below their status. Family cohesion is perhaps another big factor where resources are shared almost equally among families during periods of stress. This is the reason that we do not see hunger so blatantly on the streets as seen in India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in their poor localities.

When the chips are down and workers are unemployed in large numbers, the bread earner dispatches the immediate family to the native village where his clan and elders live. They look after the bread and butter of them.

If the unemployment period prolongs the bread earner also shifts to native village where he is welcomed with open arms. The dislodged families go back to the cities when things improve. Those living in cities welcome their family and clan members in the city and help them in finding a job. In fact, the city dwellers first find jobs for their brothers and cousins living in villages and then invite them to the city. We can see clusters of the same clan in the low income localities in many cities.

This comradeship is not visible in India where the society is divided on the basis of caste and religion. We also observe ethnic and sectarian divides in Pakistan, but those belonging to the same sect or speaking the same language stay glued together. Moreover, when someone is in distress all play their part in reducing the difficulties irrespective of race or religion.

We must preserve this spirit as lately we have gone too far to help the poor. The regular free meat spots operating in all parts of Pakistan are reducing the urge to look for work.

Positive philanthropy is to help the human beings in attaining self-sufficiency. The philanthropist should create jobs for the poor so that instead of becoming parasites on society they earn bread for their family with dignity.

We should restore their self-respect. The state is also undermining their dignity by doling out petty amounts on a monthly basis.

Hundreds of billion if invested properly and transparently could have created thousands of jobs. The state has developed a near transparent mechanism in distribution of Benazir Income Support Programme. The award of contracts and execution of projects if undertaken as transparently as the BISP, Pakistan would be an even happier place to live within five years.