Is Jamaica Happy Or Miserable?

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According to Measuring Misery Around the World, a recently published report from the US-based public policy research organisation the Cato Institute, Jamaica is the fifth most miserable country on the planet, behind Venezuela, Iran, Serbia and Argentina at first through fourth, respectively. Jamaica’s score on the misery index is 42.3, and high interest rates are given as the main source of our discontent. Wasn’t it just last year that we were ranked among the happiest countries on Earth, according to the World Happiness Report? In fact, we were higher on the list in 2012.

Let us zoom out and look at the bigger picture. We were at 75 on the happiness list last year, a steep drop from 40 in 2012. According to the 2013 findings, Jamaica is less happy now when compared to previous studies carried out in 2005-2007 (40th).

Jamaicans have certainly perfected the art of using ‘kin teet’ to ‘kibba heart bun,’ so we are quite adept at tricking others into thinking everything is ‘irie.’ However, it is no international secret that we’re dealing with several troubling issues, despite our ‘no problem’ tagline. Besides high interest rates, here are five other reasons Jamaicans are miserable:

  1. Corruption is a plague – If you ask Jamaicans to name the one thing preventing the country from actualising its potential, the answer you are most likely to receive is ‘corruption.’ It is rampant at just about every level and in every sphere of society, from the politicians to the police to those in business. Transparency International’s 2012 Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) has ranked Jamaica 83 out of 176 countries. In 10 years, Jamaica has never scored higher than 4.0 on the CPI, which ranks countries according to their perceived levels of public sector corruption.
  2. High Unemployment rate – Unemployment is a critical indicator of the status of the economy.  A high or rising unemployment rate can be seen as an indicator of trouble in the economy.  Jamaica’s unemployment rate continues to show signs of economic distress. The October 2013 Labour Force Survey from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) shows that the number of unemployed Jamaicans increased by 14,100 (or 7.8 per cent) when compared to the corresponding period in 2012, when it stood at 179,900.
  3. Increasing poverty – With so many people unemployed and many more underemployed, it is little wonder that Jamaica is among the poorest countries in the region. Currently, 1.1 million Jamaicans are living below the poverty line. That’s more than 40 per cent of the population! The 2013 Human Development Index, a report used to measure development through various means, ranked Jamaica 85th out of 187 countries. With this ranking, Jamaica is still considered to be in the high human development category, even though it represents a fall from 79th place in 2011.
  4. Huge international debt burden – Last June, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Assistant Secretary General Heraldo Muñoz, charged that Jamaica’s high debt burden, combined with low economic growth and high unemployment, continues to pose a threat to human development. In addition to the current extended fund facility (EFF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Jamaica also owes the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and private creditors. We have US$91.1million to repay in 2014, which represents a measly 1.1 per cent of the total debt. That’s certainly no comfort to the overtaxed members of the population who are already footing these bills.
  5. High crime rate - According to the National Security Minister’s Statement on Crime in 2013, last year ended with 1,197 murders, compared to the 1,099 recorded in 2012 – an increase of nine per cent. According to the Jamaica 2013 Crime and Safety Report from the US-based Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), there were also 1,218 shootings, 763 carnal abuse, 833 rape, 2,679 robberies, 3,094 break-ins and 691 larceny cases recorded in 2012.  Jamaica definitely has a crime problem, one that will require divine intervention and concrete strategies to overcome. A high crime rate is not only hard on the psyche of the population, but it is also bad for business, as potential investors – both local and international, will think twice before setting up shop in the country.
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