The Cato Institute recently released a list, ranking countries according to their “level of misery”. The misery index is an economic indicator, defined as “the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates.” For the 2014 ranking, Venezuela was ranked Number 1. Jamaica was ranked Number 5, thanks to “interest rates”. The ranking has spurred discussion on social media: many netizens were not surprised, while others – even while acknowledging that Jamaica has many problems – expressed scepticism.
diGJamaica.com tried to placed the ranking in context, even listing reasons for Jamaica being miserable:
Let us zoom out and look at the bigger picture. We were at 75 on the happiness list last year, a steep drop from 40 in 2012. According to the 2013 findings, Jamaica is less happy now when compared to previous studies carried out in 2005-2007 (40th).
Jamaicans have certainly perfected the art of using ‘kin teet’ to ‘kibba heart bun,’ so we are quite adept at tricking others into thinking everything is ‘irie.’ However, it is no international secret that we’re dealing with several troubling issues, despite our ‘no problem’ tagline.
At Jamaica Journal, Kate Chappell argued that the measurement of “misery” is more complex than the study implied:
It seems, not surprisingly considering the ideological bent of the Cato Institute, that economic factors are given the most weight. Of course, these are relevant. There is no doubt that Jamaicans are experiencing financial difficulties, which spill over every aspect of one’s life and affect its quality. However, there are intangibles that I assume the researchers did not take into account, such as how much family and community factor into daily lives here, as well as Jamaicans’ ability to have a good time, no matter what. There are many other intangibles that are part of the culture here that contribute to quality of life.
This is obviously a complex issue with as many factors as there are ideologies that are employed to assess big concepts such as a ‘misery index'. Here again, to me, is an instance of over-simplifying and overlooking the millions of stories to be told and accounted for.
Warren was not surprised by the ranking:
We seem to be creating records in all the wrong places. Today the Jamaica Gleaner reported that Jamaica is rank[ed] the 5th most miserable country on earth and who could be surprised. Just speaking to people around you on a daily basis, its desperation, hard luck stories and a sense of nothing seems to be moving forward in this country. What is interesting about this report is it comes one day after a poll was released suggesting that business and consumer confidence has rebounded.
The issue was discussed in the Facebook group Real Change For Jamaica. Gyntag Gsg, who started the thread, felt the ranking was actually too low:
ONLY NUMBER 5???? we [deserve] to be # 1.. after all it's not just interest rates!!
Pete Edwards thought people should stop complaining:
Some of you need to go and find a job and get off the internet and stop blaming these politicians…they are all trying their best for us all…some of you want too much out of nothing. Gov can hardly get you to pay your taxes and [then you] want to live big life out of nothing. Gov not collecting enough taxes to cover the nation's expenses and if they [borrow] you complain and if they don't you cry bout yu ah dead fi hungry, too much of you looking [to] politicians for hand out[s].
Earl Smith considered what Jamaica's past leaders would have done:
Just wondering what our heroes would be doing now .Seeing the country in the state that it is in. Bustamante and Norman Manley [persuaded] the nation to vote for independents,that we would be better off .In 1962 Jamaica was spending the pound and now our money is worthless.Our prime minister is talking about achievement to brukdown a country is that an achievement or should it be an [embarrassment].
Stafford Jenkins felt the rationale did not make sense:
If Jamaica is #5 for interest rate then the USA should be #1…
Thelma Fairweather-Siegel thought partisan politics are to blame:
We deserve this, because we are not citizens of Jamaica, but PNP and JLP, these politicians don't have to write new [scripts], they just take from the archive.
There was also quite a bit of commentary on Twitter:
— Kareem Davies (@krems04) April 25, 2014
@ThePhillipMyers because they equate misery to wealth and dem doh know who we be and never see where we live.
— SteenyJWeeny (@ItsStiney) April 29, 2014
This Twitter user felt that the reason for the ranking was euphemistic:
Reading the paper. Jamaica ranked fifth most miserable country because a Portia basically but them say interest rates.
— Dellano Blake (@Aggressive_Soap) April 30, 2014
One visitor didn't pick up on an overriding tone of misery during her trip:
Just seen that Jamaica is the fifth most miserable country. Really? I didn't sense that when I went there.
— Ask about me….. (@Niasmom_) April 30, 2014
Finally, one Twitter user summed up the whole affair by saying:
Last year Jamaica was ranked top 5 in happiness, now we are the 5th most miserable yet we not rioting? Lesson: the stats justify the means.
— Proof Of Evolution (@_JohnDoh) April 25, 2014