Suffering economic slowdown over the past few years, Egypt has started its three-year strict economic reform program including austerity measures, energy subsidy cuts and local currency floatation. (Reuters photo)
CAIRO, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Egypt has moved to a higher place in the index of the United Nations' World Happiness Report to rank 104 out of 155 countries topped by Norway in 2017 compared to 120 out 157 in the previous report.
Egyptians are mostly happy with the stability and the improving security conditions their country has achieved after six years of political turmoil and relevant security issues, yet a lot of them voice unhappiness with the recent price hikes included in the country's strict economic reform program based on austerity measures.
"Perhaps happiness increased because Egyptians pin hope on stability for a better future. Egypt managed to maintain stability in a region hit by chaos. In addition, Egyptians are religious and good people who can easily be made happy," Mohamed Shabaan, a businessman in his 40s, said while getting ready to drive his car on one of Cairo streets.
Suffering economic slowdown over the past few years, Egypt started its three-year strict economic reform program including austerity measures, energy subsidy cuts and local currency floatation encouraged by a 12 billion U.S. dollars loan from the IMF, whose first batch of 2.75 billion dollars was handed to Egypt earlier in November 2016.
Sayyid, a 60-year-old doorman who refused to talk in the beginning, expressed his belief that "things are not getting much better financially. I am unhappy with a lot of things including price hikes."
Near crowded Giza square, Ebaid, a microbus driver in his late 30s, was waiting for passengers to start the ride towards Nile Corniche Street when he complained of recent financial conditions and "skyrocketing prices."
"Commodities are getting crazily expensive. Money flies in no time!" the driver said, attributing Egypt's improving happiness rank to the country's stability compared to nearby Arab states. He added that in order to feel content, the people should always look at those whose conditions are worse.
Egypt's happiness rank comes in the 13th place in the Arab world, after the United Arab Emirates whose world happiness rank is 22, Qatar 35, Saudi Arabia 37, Kuwait 39, Bahrain 41, Algeria 53, Libya 68, Jordan 74, Morocco 84, Lebanon 88, Somalia 93 and Tunisia 102.
It's been surprising for many Egyptians that turmoil-stricken Libya and Somalia are way higher in rank than Egypt in the UN World Happiness Report.
"I agree that stability is important, but finance is a major factor. We will be really happy when our incomes improve to contain soaring prices," said Mohamed Abdel-Aal, 34, a gas station worker, arguing that Egypt's progress in the happiness report could be related to the cheerfulness of people despite difficult conditions.
While Norway topped the list as the happiest nation in the world, most Scandinavian states are among the top 10 in this year's report. Regional key states like Turkey and Iran have secured the 69th and the 108th places respectively in the rating. Central African Republic has come last.
According to the 2017 World Happiness Report, rankings are mostly based on six key variables, including the GDP per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble, trust measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business, freedom to make life decisions and generosity measured by recent donations.
"These six criteria explain how a country may be politically unstable, but with better incomes and financial conditions for the people, can surpass stable countries in the ranking," said Saeed Sadeq, professor of political sociology at the American University in Cairo.
He explained that the Libyan refugees for instance are financially much better than the Syrian ones, because the Libyans get financial benefits from their government, unlike the Syrians.
"Egypt's stability compared to some surrounding regional states is a plus in the ranking of course, yet high corruption rate is one of the reasons for Egypt's general poor ranking in the report," the professor said.