EDITORIAL: THE MEASURE OF OUR SUCCESS

anguillian
By anguillian January 29, 2018 10:20 Updated

 

 

As I drive around Anguilla I am becoming increasingly aware that despite the façade of bravado, the fact is that we are a country struggling to get pass a crisis. The devastation caused by Hurricane Irma has set us back several years but our pride and strength do not allow us to stay down. As Anguillians, we will persevere: we will rise. While we plan for our comeback, and even while we are in the midst of developing a national development plan, we must be concerned about what will be our priorities for development. How and to what level will we rise? In other words, what will be our measure of success?
Traditionally, two measures have been used to determine a country’s success: gross domestic product (GDP) and unemployment rate. Undoubtedly these are important. In fact, a lot of emphasis is normally placed on the concept of sustainable economic growth to get a sense of how well a country is doing. These international benchmarks are widely accepted as being indicative of the state of a country’s progress. However, recent research suggests that if we focus solely on these issues, we may be missing the mark.

In the journal Planning Democracy of 19th May 2014 an article, entitled What Makes a Successful Country? The Madness of Sustainable Economic Growth, advanced the view that:
“Two vital components of any successful country are the health, and happiness of its citizens. A country may be wealthy, and powerful, but if its citizens live short or unhappy lives, is it really successful? Wealth is important only in so far as it encourages greater well-being.
Furthermore, as we grow more aware of issues around environmental sustainability, it is clearly important to live sustainably. Countries must provide well-being within environmental limits: sustainable well-being.”

In other words, in order for a country to be successful, its citizens must be healthy and happy without unduly impacting the environment. This is not far-fetched. While not undervaluing the importance of wealth, there is an increasing recognition that wealth is not the only determinant of success. Citizens’ overall well-being, in fact social progress, must be given equal consideration. When we look at development through these lens, we may find that we will change our focus, our priorities and policies in keeping with a more holistic view of success.

In a BBC Article on How Can you Measure What Makes a Country Great? – written by Amanda Ruggeri and published on 12 January 2018 – the author indicates:
“On estimates of social progress, for example – which measures aspects like access to education, food and affordable housing – poorer countries often outdo their wealthier counterparts. “Broadly, richer countries have higher social progress, so getting more economic growth is not a bad idea,” says Michael Green, CEO of the Social Progress Index. “But what we also find, very clearly, is that social progress is not completely explained by economic variables. GDP is not destiny.”
Interestingly, the EU data also showed no relationship between social progress and the unemployment rate. You’d expect that getting a job improves people’s lives. But while the UK’s unemployment rate is at historically low levels, for example, its social progress has flat-lined.
“On the other hand, there’s Costa Rica. “Costa Rica is a country that is no different to the rest of Latin America. It’s a relatively modest income country,” says Juan Botero, executive director of the World Justice Project. “And yet it has had, for the last 40 or 50 years, very strong institutions. And you see all of the social outcomes in Costa Rica tend to outperform their neighbours: it is a more peaceful, more prosperous society.”

Interestingly, the example of Costa Rica demonstrates in practical terms that wealth alone is not sufficient in accounting for how well a country serves its people or provides them with a good quality of life.
Achieving citizen well-being is not an easy feat. However, the research suggests that there are two main factors that contribute to how well a country does in this area. The first is good governance. Believe it or not! We have heard this phrase (good governance) used in several forums over the years and we often view it as a “big stick” wielded by the British Government to keep the overseas territories in line. But, actually, it is one of the key underpinnings of a country’s success. In fact in a special report entitled The Secret of Their Success, published by The Economist in February 2013, the success of the Nordic countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Finland is attributed to them being “probably the best governed in the world”. According to the report:
The Nordic countries pride themselves on the honesty and transparency of their governments. Nordic governments are subject to rigorous scrutiny: for example, in Sweden everyone has access to all official records.

Good governance is a must. The result of a breakdown in governance can be readily seen in countries such as Venezuela which has descended into poverty and total chaos.

The second factor is the longevity of, and commitment to, institutions that promote social progress. This really points to the level of commitment to the advancement and wellbeing of citizens. I call it “stickitivity”. We have to put in place good, well governed systems and institutions; and we have to consistently commit, over the long term, the time, effort and resources needed to make them work. There is no other way.

I believe this is where we, and many other countries in our region, fall short. While we strive for and in some cases have attained self-governance, we are still working on good governance and have not insisted, through the power of our vote and the exercise of our collective voice as citizens, on the standards required to propel our countries forward. Additionally, we have not built sufficiently robust institutions to support the advancement of our citizens. Surely we have tried, but sadly our region is filled with examples of failed or defunct institutions many of which came to their demise as a result of a lack of proper governance and accountability mechanisms – as well resource gaps.

We must do better. Anguilla must rise. But while we focus on our economic growth, we must recognize that our overall wellbeing will only be sustained if we also raise our level of governance and our commitment to social progress.

anguillian
By anguillian January 29, 2018 10:20 Updated

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