Being a proclamation that reflects despair and unhappiness, “I am finished” is probably something a person from Finland never says, despite being, by identity, Finnish.
Today is World Happiness Day (formally the International Day of Happiness) and the people of Finland have been declared the happiest on earth. Out of 156 countries ranked in the 2018 World Happiness Report, they turned out the best results based on six variables: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity.
The Nordic country is among (if not) the best governed in the world. It has become a prime destination for the comfortable life, as can be seen in a Reuters video commemorating the new report in which some Americans are sure they “living the American dream in Finland”. The happy feat represents the fourth time in four reports a country from the region will be ranked atop the happiness list after Denmark, Switzerland and Norway were named in the past three years as the world’s happiest countries.
So why are Finns so happy?
Universal healthcare: check. Universal education: check. They are the best performers in the world on the Global Gender Gap index, meaning that there is a better mix and balance of men and women at workplaces and in the public service than in any other country in the world. Also important are the ratings of Finnish institutions; citizens express confidence in their banks and Police more than in any other country. The institutional support in education and healthcare have placed Finns near the top spots on Human Capital indices in the past years, implying their citizens have the greatest disposition and capacity for optimum productivity.
Nigeria occupies the 91st place on the rankings. Finland’s population of 5.5 million people is about a quarter of Lagos state which boasts 22 million people crammed into 1,171 square kilometers. The population density in Finland is 17 inhabitants per sq km, in comparison to 18,787 per sq km in Lagos and 212 per sq km for Nigeria as a whole.
But the distinguishing factor in the success of the Nordic countries of which Finland is a shimmering exhibit is not in the management of the constraints of space and number as in the astute combination of free market and free trade, welfare planning and interest-free collective bargaining. The Finnish have one of the highest tax rates in the world that provides a robust base for the provision and maintenance of public infrastructure such as transportation and healthcare. However, the administrative mechanism is guided by the principle of transparency and public accountability that ensures taxes are directed for the appropriate purposes in favor of the common good. It is, therefore, not surprising to see the Nordic nations also ranked by Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index as the least corrupt nations in the world. Denmark and Finland are 2nd and 3rd respectively on the 2017 CPI rankings.
So that in the conversations around the increment (and subsequent discount – haha) of Land Use Charge in Lagos state, the crux is not so much the increases in percentages but in the transparency and accountability mechanisms that will give the taxpayers a say on the utility and efficiency of the collected revenue. Will Lagosians really complain about a proposal to expand the tax base if quality education and healthcare were to become guaranteed in six months time? But how can this be when the state’s budget is unknown to the public?
When you spend money and can enjoy the fruits of your investment, you cannot but be happy. In simple terms, that’s what happens in Finland.
(Trivia: Finland is the land of Nokia, there are no words for “please” or “excuse me” in Finnish, and you don’t interrupt a Finn until they have finished speaking!)
Reporting by Alexander O. Onukwue | Featured image: http://finishadventures.blogspot.com.ng/2015/05/vappu.html