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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Well-being index, what? - Tan Poh Kheng

DECEMBER 04, 2013

Higher fuel prices and the removal of white sugar subsidies have sparked a new round of fears for escalating transportation costs and spiraling inflationary pressure. With electricity tariff now confirmed to rise by 15% come January and the 6% GST thereafter, prices of many things will move up, adding to the already heavy financial burden of many.

Just as many sigh over the rising prices, government officials have tossed a report that claims that the well-being index of Malaysians has improved by 2.5%.

According to the so-called Malaysian Well-Being Report 2013, the well-being index of Malaysians has improved by 25.4 points from 2000 to 2012, or an annual increase of 1.9%.

Ironically, the UN's Global Report on Happiness 2013 indicates that Malaysia's ranking has dropped from 51st last year to 56th this year. So, do we really improve on our happiness index after all?

According to our report, among the various parameters that make up the well-being index, we have performed best in transportation and housing, up 136.9 and 36.9 points respectively.

Are you serious? Do we feel that sense of well-being with our transportation system and housing? If improved well-being means more people can now afford cars and motorcycles, how about the perennial traffic snarls that we have to bear with each day? How about parking problems, omnipresent tolls and fuel price hike? Are they making us any happier?

Other than rising goods prices and skyrocketing property prices, those living in urban areas particularly have to experience heavier work pressure and financial burden. With many people living under tremendous stress, where is our sense of well-being?

Perhaps an official "stressful life index" could be more convincing.

Family relationships and health are two key factors that will determine the level of happiness of an individual. With these two parameters on the low side, we can only say that the happiness level of Malaysians is not as great as claimed.

Only a harmonious family relationship can alleviate the work and life pressures of an individual. A blessed family is the source of all happiness, but unfortunately domestic tragedies are taking place every other day across the country, with an array of ensuing social issues.

As for health, the percentage of Malaysians suffering from diabetes tops the region while at least 40,000 others suffer from a variety of cancers.

There are almost 40,000 new cases of heart diseases each year, equivalent to 4.52 new cases each hour, making heart diseases the number one killer in this country. Plagued by all these problems, do we feel any happier now than ever?

While the government's figures have attempted to make Malaysians feel good about themselves, the actual perception of most people is very much different.

I really can't understand why the government keeps painting a rosy picture of the country while many in the street are struggling to make ends meet. -, December 4, 2013.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

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