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Issued : Friday, April 6, 2012 07:35 AM
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UN: PR is ‘happiest’ place in Caribbean

By CB Online Staff

Puerto Rico is among the world’s top 30 happiest countries and ranks higher than all other Caribbean islands, according to a new United Nations report.

The World Happiness Report, released at a UN conference this week, places Puerto Rico in the 27th spot, ahead of Trinidad & Tobago (38), Jamaica (40), Cuba (69) and the Dominican Republic (93).

The report says Puerto Rico is the sixth happiest place in all of Latin America behind Costa Rica (12), Venezuela (19), Panama (20), Mexico (23), and Brazil (25).

Denmark tops the list, followed by Finland, Norway, The Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and the United States.

The 10 least happy countries were listed as Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Comoros, Haiti, Tanzania, Congo (Brazzaville) and Bulgaria.

The UN conference titled “Happiness and Well-being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm” brought together in New York hundreds of representatives of governments - including Costa Rican President Laura Chincilla - academics and other civic leaders to discuss the issue.

Although wealthy nations like Denmark, Norway, Finland and The Netherlands lead the rankings of happiest countries and poor nations like Togo, Benin, Central African Republic and Sierra Leone rank among the least happy, the report noted that social factors such as the strength of social support, the absence of corruption and the degree of personal freedom were more important than wealth.

Jeffery Sachs, a prominent development economist at Columbia University in New York who edited the World Happiness Report along with John Helliwell and Richard Layard, said happiness could be achieved independent of economic well-being as measured by a country's gross national product.

“GNP (gross national product) by itself does not promote happiness,” Sachs told the conference.

“The US has had a three-time increase of GNP per capita since 1960 but the happiness needle hasn’t budged. Other countries have pursued other policies and achieved much greater gains of happiness, even at much lower levels of per capita income.”

Japan’s vice-minister for foreign affairs, Joe Nakano, told the conference this was certainly true in his own country.

“A number of recent studies have shown that, in many developed countries, including Japan, happiness is not proportional to economic wealth,” Nakano said.

“This finding, often called the Paradox of Happiness, has given rise to international discussion on how to enhance individual well-being through government policies.”

The conference was convened by Bhutan, which tops Asia in the first World Happiness Report. The tiny Himalayan nation convened the meeting seeking to develop a new economic model based on principles of happiness and wellbeing.

The report also listed a number of practical suggestions for governments to promote happiness among their citizens, including helping people meet their basic needs, reinforcing social systems, implementing active labor policies, improving mental health services, promoting compassion, altruism and honesty, and helping the public resist hyper-commercialism.

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