Business Matters

Inclusive happiness



Without a doubt, the most effective national tagline we have crafted to date is “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” which, as Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez puts it, captures the essence of the Filipino character.

“Malaysia truly Asia,” “Incredible India” and “Remarkable Indonesia” are taglines mostly designed to attract foreign investments and conjure images consisting of the comparative drudgery of tall office buildings and factories where citizens can aspire to live the rest of their lives in office cubicles or assembly lines. Our tagline conjures images of beach frolic, music, dance, sport and the bounties of nature. Fun, in short. We are into the pursuit of happiness, not the happiness of pursuit—of the material things in life. Our competitive edge lies not in the products we manufacture but in the people we happily reproduce and export to the world.

Only Filipinos have the unique ability to turn a revolution or a protest march into a massive extended family bonding picnic extravaganza—with the exception of ultranationalistic leftists who ironically promote their brand of nationalism by aping the antics of all non-Filipino leftists worldwide. (Lighten up, dudes!)

So why do we insist on measuring our aspirations with such mundane benchmarks as GDP growth (presently still noninclusive) or the stock market index (which is just about as exclusive as it gets)? To be sure, there is much to be proud about the recent trends on both these fronts. Other measures such as the World Competitiveness Report similarly bring tidings of some joy as the Philippines appears to be inching back to respectability after an extended hiatus. But do these measures capture the so-called essence of the Filipino character?

Maybe not. Fortunately, as it turns out, there is such a thing as the World Happiness Report which, given our penchant toward the emotional rather than the cerebral, may be more apropos. This Happiness Index began with a historic resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly in July 2011 during which UN member-countries were invited to measure the happiness of their people and use this to help guide their public policies. This was followed in April 2012 by the first UN high-level meeting on happiness and well-being chaired by the prime minister of Bhutan. Simultaneously, the first World Happiness Report was published, soon followed by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) guidelines setting an international standard for the measurement of well-being. The report indicated that the key to living a happy life includes: living in a country with a high real GDP per capita, good life expectancy, having someone to depend on, freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity.

The UN’s 2013 World Happiness Report ranks the Philippines at 92nd out of 156 countries surveyed. That puts us in the lower 40 percent of the group. However that’s a happier rank by 10 notches than the previous year. Still, it didn’t seem quite as happy as I had thought since I remembered seeing local news articles (circa 2009) trumpeting our position at the top ranks of the world’s happiest people. And that was at a time when corruption was rife and political unrest was in the air. Could it be that we’re happier in miserable times than in better ones? Are we a happy people or just masochists? Recently seeing our people instantly waving to CNN cameras and flashing their broadest smiles while wading waist-deep in flood waters made me begin to fear the latter possibility.

It turns out, however, that there is another happiness index: the Happy Planet Index (HPI) published by the New Economics Foundation, an independent think tank. In 2009, HPI ranked the Philippines the 14th happiest place in the world out of 143 countries surveyed. We even scored better than our neighboring countries like Indonesia (16th) and Malaysia (33rd), and were the only Asian country that ranked in the survey’s top 15 happiest countries. Not so in the UN World Happiness Report where we are ranked below Singapore (30th), Thailand (36th), Malaysia (50th), Vietnam (63rd), and Indonesia (76th). I grudgingly tolerated this survey’s results while thinking: What? Singapore happier? You can’t even chew gum there!

Even with the happier HPI results, though, the Philippines scored poorly on life satisfaction mainly because of lack of inclusive growth. No inclusive growth, no inclusive happiness! The main unhappiness factors are: inadequate infrastructure, corruption, inefficient bureaucracy, tax regulations, and restrictive labor regulation. Corruption, down a notch from being the top concern, will hopefully descend further should the Priority Development Assistance Fund be abolished since it is a social cancer that perpetuates the vicious cycle of feudal dependency or  padrino  relationships in our society. It is sad to see infrastructure move up to No. 1 and even sadder to contemplate the looming reality that the promising public-private partnership program may be just promise. Tax regulations moved up for the first time ever as a top concern as there are indeed rumblings about the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s perceived overzealousness that sometimes reveals itself in the reinterpretation of revenue regulations toward virtual legislation more restrictive than the law’s intent.

It is hoped that these concerns would be addressed so that the Philippines can move toward inclusive happiness. In this quest, perhaps the government can borrow, however reluctantly, the effective campaign slogan of a now embattled politician, “Gusto ko, happy ka!”

Roberto F. de Ocampo, OBE, is a former finance secretary and was Finance Minister of the Year in 1995, 1996 and 1997.

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  • ConnieLee90

    “It;s more fun in the Philippines” is mere propaganda and has nothing to do with the current state of well-being of the Filipino people. If anything, the Phils. is hellish, and given the opportunity of escape, people would try to get out en masse and head out for the exit as quickly as possible. The Middle East is hot and forbidding and as near as one can get to hell. But be that as it may, there is no stopping the stampede in this direction; heaven is anywhere but the Pearl of the Orient. This is sad, for people who truly are happy won’t have the desire to leave home.

    • Ceazar

      Ewan ko sa iyo. Bakit ang laki ng galit mo sa Pilipinas? Ano ang naging bad experience mo dito sa bansa namin na ganyan na lang kadilim ang pagtingin mo sa aming bayan? O talagang ganyan lang kamiserable ang ugali mo buhat nang pagkapanganak mo pa lang?

      • ConnieLee90

        Ako’y nagpapaumanhin kung nasaktan ko ang iyong damdamin. Alam mo matagal na tayong winawalanghiya at niloloko ng ating gobyerno. Dapat ka bang hindi magalit? Dalawang aklat na ang aking nabasa hinggil sa historia ng Pilipinas kasama na ang martial law. The Marcos Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave at America’s Boy by James Hamilton Patterson. Kung maiintindihan mo ang tindi ng kawalangyaan at pagnanakaw eh hindi ka matutuwa. Kaya ganyan and tindi ng galit ko sa mga namuno at namumuno.

      • Ceazar

        Okey, sorry, ha? Akala ko isa kang Singaporean na may sama ng loob sa mga Pilipino. Sensiya na.

        Ako rin galit sa ating mga mambabatas. Kung meron akong klase ng mga tao na ayaw ko, ito ang mga politiko. Kaya nagkakawindang-windang ang bansa ay dahil sa talamak na kurapsyon. Imbes na mag lingkod sa bayan, pagnanakaw ang inaatupag. Kaya eto, kaya-kayanin lang tayo at nangungulelat sa mga ibang Asian countries.

  • WalterPaulKomarnicki

    if ever the nation becomes inclusive, it won’t be by privatizing all the hospitals and driving out all the squatters and plying travelers with additional taxes and rustbuckety ferries.

  • Fulpol

    Our competitive edge lies not in the products we manufacture but in the people we happily reproduce and export to the world.


    stupid Ocampo… happily reproduce??? bobong Ocampo.. stupid, moron.. idiot…

  • buninay1

    Although it is partly true that we are human resource producer and exporter, but for this to come from a former finance secretary of this country, something with him has gone terribly wrong and warped. The first question he should have asked himself before going into his technocratic mumbo-jumbo is what did he do in his power as finance secretary to make a lasting difference in the lives of the Filipinos? The second question is in the face of patronage politics thriving during Ramos administration, what could he possibly have done to prevent the wrongdoings that were perpetuated then and have culminated in the PDAF scam now? To be sure, as someone from the inner circle, he should at least have an inkling of the shenanigans that were resorted to by govt officials during his stint as finance secretary. Did he even give a hoot, or he just held back his tongue from wagging the better to do his job while left and right discreet looting took place and win titles for himself?

    The problem with our do-gooder leaders is once they are inside the govt, they tend to lose sight of the ultimate goal of achieving inclusive growth for all and begin wearing blinders to the predatory and backward practices of their colleagues within, unmindful of the deleterious and inimical effects of these practices to the general economy as a whole. The likes of de Ocampo and other do-gooders who have been given a chance but did not leave any legacy that could not be undone by the the mountains upon hills of systemic corruption cases in the govt, should be at least persuaded to stop adding insult to the injury they helped to be inflicted against the country by masking with their technocratic diligence the monstrosity perpetrated par excellence by their unscrupulous colleagues in power.

    There are at least three kinds of critics in our country. First is the Authentic Critic where principled, objective, constructive and patriotic critics like Randy David and the Hyatt 11 people who protested GMAs excesses, belong. Second is the Bogus Critic whereby the critics criticize the present dispensation out of their limitless desire to be in power themselves and resume their halycon days again over and above the national interest. To this group belong Nur Misuari, the Marcoses, Alex Magno, Rigoberto Tiglao and Kit Tatad. Lastly, there is the Selfie Critic which is exemplified by the likes of Ocampo and Cielito Habito whose adaptive skills are matched only by their excellent analytic theorizing that absent a strong conviction to attain good governance sounds and remains eerily hollow. The Selfie critics can not go beyond their personal confines or crystal ivory towers to be at least sensitive to the true sentiments of the public, unaided by survey results.

  • TruthLiberates

    “Only Filipinos have the unique ability to turn a revolution or a protest
    march into a massive extended family bonding picnic extravaganza”

    And I’m proud of that.

    We are, at least, able to see things from a much higher perspective and know that the current situation does not really mean that we could not surpass the same eventually. While there is Life, there is Hope.

    For ALL things shall eventually come to pass. The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change. And that truth applies to both the good and the bad. That makes difficult things, bearable; that things are not as bad as it seems when stretched across the river of time.

    “It is hoped that these concerns would be addressed so that the Philippines can move toward inclusive happiness. In this quest, perhaps the government can borrow, however reluctantly, the effective campaign slogan of a now embattled politician, “Gusto ko, happy ka!”

    Sana nga!


    THE happiest is Napoles!

  • Wela Kalhoefer

    I agree with you. Filipinos have a way of turning a protest march into a massive extended family bonding picnic. It’s “more fun in the Philippines” not only because of the warmth and hospitality of the people but also this sense of easy camaraderie that can make a visiting foreigner easily feel at ease.

    Inclusive happiness means taking the entire scope into consideration because everything is interconnected. We’ve become so interdependent that we can no longer solve one problem without solving the rest.

    Experts use tangible means such as GDP to measure happiness but that’s their point of view. Happiness depends upon the quality of relationships between people whether in business, personal or politics. Studies say that we are like parts of one body and that its general functioning depends on everyone, and each one of its parts is responsible not only for itself, but also for the harm it causes to the entire body if it doesn’t function properly. It’s like a cancer cell that eats up other healthy cells. Therefore, we need to understand how the structure of mutual connection works by means of integral education. An education that teaches the right connection between people, that we cannot just do as we please because when we harm others, we harm ourselves. When a person’s nature changes as a result of the right educational method, he already begins to look at life differently and begins to live with concern for everyone as if he finally attained inclusive happiness.

  • Ryan Weston

    Happiness in society is going to be dependent on the quality of the relationships that the people within that society have with each other. Where are people the most miserable ? Where there is the greatest disparity between them in social standing and this is of course a natural bye product of the capitalist system. Where there is equilibrium in society people are the happiest. What we currently have in this world is a situation where the vast majority of countries are being run in the interests of a very small amount people and the vast majority are simply not being looked after.

    Governments need to work towards creating greater social cohesion among there people. This is the best way that you can increase the happiness of people. The following links are to an app that help people create a better attitude towards each other:

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