20 MARCH 2013 THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF HAPPINESS : MALAYSIA’S INITIATIVE TO ENHANCE HAPPINESS OF THE PEOPLE IN THE CITY

Malaysia is committed to ensure a high quality of life (QoL) and well-being in its urban and rural areas. The Federal Department of Town and Country Planning (FDTCP) being the focal point for developing and coordinating the overall framework on Sustainable Development Indicators for local authorities through MURNInets (Malaysian Urban-Rural National Indicators Network for Sustainable Development) has now incorporated Happiness Index into the framework. Conceived in late 2010, the Happiness Index was based on international trends which gave special focus on happiness in the context of the Government’s effort in improving the well-being of communities. This is in line with the Department’s vision to be a “Leader in Town and Country Planning towards achieving a Quality and Sustainable Living Environment by 2020”, FDTCP’s Universal Planning and Development Doctrine produced in 1998 and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government’s commitment in promoting Sustainable Communities.

World Happiness Report 2012 Malaysia was in a commendable 51st position among 156 countries by virtue of our country’s economic performance where the happiness factor was measured in terms of gross national product or gross domestic product. Malaysia will be eyeing to chalk up its ranking in the world and Asia Happiness Index besides aiming for higher economic growth by the year 2020.  This is in line with the national transformation agenda which aims to turn Malaysia into a high-income economy that considers happiness ranking.

Our Prime Minister is very serious in providing infrastructure and financial aids to raise Malaysia’s ranking in the happiness index under the Economic Transformation Programme . Happiness Index has been incorporated in MURNInets sustainable community’s dimension that include community vitality, cultural diversity and resilience, health, education, ecological diversity, quality of life and efficiency of governance. Happiness Index Study (HIS) in MURNInets contains findings from primary data collection jointly administered between local authorities and residents. This study  highlights the state of happiness in the context of community and governance. A good physical and happy environment provides the foundation for successful sustainable communities.

In 2012, the United Nations (UN) declared March 20 to be observed as the International Day of Happiness. The  day recognises that happiness is a fundamental human goal, and calls upon countries to approach public policies in ways that improve the well-being of all people. By designating a special day for happiness, the UN aims to focus world attention on the idea that economic growth must be inclusive, equitable, and balanced, such that it promotes sustainable development and alleviates poverty. Additionally the UN acknowledges that in order to attain global happiness, economic development must be accompanied by social and environmental well-being.The initiative to declare a day of happiness came from Bhutan – a country whose citizens are considered to be some of the happiest people in the world. The Himalayan Kingdom has championed an alternative measure of national and societal prosperity, called the Gross National Happiness Index (GNH). The GNH rejects the sole use of economic and material wealth as an indicator of development, and instead adopts a more holistic outlook, where spiritual well-being of citizens and communities is given as much importance as their material well-being.

A good physical environment provides the foundation for a well-ordered city that can cater to the material and post-material needs of its citizens—the necessary conditions, in other words, for physical and economic vibrancy.  Most people tend to associate happiness with feeling good, that is, with a life that offers a variety of pleasure and comfort.  Happiness index of the people is a framework for decision-making and policy development. It provides guidance to local authorities interested in improving the level of well-being of its communities. The challenge for us now is to overcome our constraints and expand the mental and cultural space that we have. So anyone who wishes to  keep themselves engaged and energetic in their work and their community, could contribute better towards creating a livable and  vibrant city.

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