Vanuatu Scores High in Happy Planet Index for 2021

Let’s kick-off the new year with some good news for Vanuatu from last year…

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported that The Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO) has applauded the results of the 2020 Happy Planet Index (HPI) which was launched on October 26, 2021, ranking Vanuatu second out of over 150 countries in the world behind Costa Rica.

This is the third time Vanuatu has ranked in the top 5 countries in the HPI since it was first published in 2006. Vanuatu is the only Pacific Island Country listed in the current HPI—a result of a lack of well-being data availability in the region.

The 2020 HPI uses data from the 2019-2020 NSDP Baseline Survey to inform self-reported life satisfaction.

The Melanesian Well-being Indicators, collected as part of an expanded Household Income and Expenditure Survey such as the NSDP Baseline, have opened doors for collection of standardized international metrics of well-being as well as localized indicators that consider the Vanuatu context. The indicator series, prominently featured throughout the NSDP M&E Framework, is now a part of normal statistical data collection and the responsibility of VNSO for ongoing collection and analysis.

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A cruise ship docking in Port Vila Bay, Vanuatu. Photo from ICAS.

The Director of VNSO, Mr. Benuel Lenge and the Project Advisor to VNSO Mr. Jamie Tanguay shared how Vanuatu maintained its status within the 15 years on BuzzFM 96.3. Mr. Lenge conveyed his appreciation to the VNSO team for the data collected. “Any institution that uses information regarding Vanuatu must go through the VNSO. Indicators regarding wellbeing is something that is new but overall, we have been providing statistics for a while now since 1970s,” he said.

Lenge continued, “Apart from the HPI, we also have very good record of economic and social statistics. We have different ways of gathering data with one, census. In 2010, we started creating statistics that relate to the HPI. Previously, the assessment has been done based on certain estimates. At one time, Vanuatu was the happiest place on earth, as they were using estimates. However, from 2006-2010, we have been able to collect some relevant data to put on Vanuatu on the spotlight. In 2006, we were ranked fourth but the first in the Pacific region.”

Mr. Lenge further relate that such ranking reminds shows that the wellbeing of people does not depend on Gross Domestic Products (GPD), but on land accessibility and resource management.

Mr. Tanguay said that with Vanuatu labelled under the UN as in the category of poor countries, a lot of people paused to observe the rankings. He added the HPI is trying to look at how countries can adapt to long and happy lives instead of destroying the environment.

“They used three indicators for this,” he explained. “Life satisfaction, is a factor used as an estimator. We have been reporting since 2010, and collecting in the field. “We are the only Pacific country doing that. And then the life expectancy and the ecological footprint, which refers to the amount of carbon emission that the country produces as well as trades, exports, imports and resources used to make economic outcomes,” he said.

“The calculus is pretty simple. We take life satisfaction, multiply the life expectancy and divide it by the ecological footprint. HPI does this with every country that has data they need.

“The office is proud of such achievements. HPI looks efficiency on how a country manages its resources, to produce long and happy lives. The things that keep us going is the low ecological footprint and relatively life expectancy. Changes in this dimension can impact our position in the future.”

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