Norway the world's happiest country, Singapore ranked 26th: Report

PHOTO: The Straits Times

NEW YORK - Singapore has been ranked the 26th happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report 2017 produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a global initiative launched by the United Nations in 2012.

The Republic fell four notches from 22nd in 2016, but was still the top-ranked country in Southeast Asia, and second in Asia after Israel (15th).

The Nordic nations are the most content, with Norway displacing Denmark as the world's happiest country, according to the report that called on nations to build social trust and equality to improve the wellbeing of their citizens.

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa, along with Syria and Yemen, are the least happy of the 155 countries ranked in the fifth annual report released at the United Nations.

"Happy countries are the ones that have a healthy balance of prosperity, as conventionally measured, and social capital, meaning a high degree of trust in a society, low inequality and confidence in government," Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the SDSN and a special advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General, said in an interview.

The aim of the report, he added, is to provide another tool for governments, business and civil society to help their countries find a better way to wellbeing.

Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden rounded out the top ten countries.

South Sudan, Liberia, Guinea, Togo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Central African Republic were at the bottom.

Germany was ranked 16, followed by the United Kingdom (19) and France (31). The United States dropped one spot to 14.

Sachs said the United States is falling in the ranking due to inequality, distrust and corruption. Economic measures that the administration of President Donald Trump is trying to pursue, he added, will make things worse. "They are all aimed at increasing inequality - tax cuts at the top, throwing people off the healthcare rolls, cutting Meals on Wheels in order to raise military spending. I think everything that has been proposed goes in the wrong direction,"he explained.

The rankings are based on six factors - per capita gross domestic product, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, social support and absence of corruption in government or business.

"The lowest countries are typically marked by low values in all six variables," said the report, produced with the support of the Ernesto Illy Foundation.

Sachs would like nations to follow United Arab Emirates and other countries that have appointed Ministers of Happiness. "I want governments to measure this, discuss it, analyze it and understand when they have been off on the wrong direction,"he said.