Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Reasons to be cheerful

This summer’s international news agenda has been tough reading and viewing. “Wars and rumours of wars” have always been the drivers of news, particularly so in our digital existence with web pages and broadcast hours to be filled round-the-clock.

While it’s been far from the silly season of summers past, weaved in to the news agenda have been more positive things. Many of these stories feature the word ‘happy’ and have lightened the mood of the summer and should give us food for thought.

Happiness can and is being measured by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In the month in which daylight was at its longest in the northern hemisphere, the ONS analysed a raft of European data to conclude that Britain is the 11th happiest country on our continent. At 71.8 per cent, we are marginally happier than France where 71.6 per cent of adults rated their life satisfaction above or equivalent to seven out 10. This puts Brit adults just behind Germany at 72.3 per cent. Top marks went to Denmark at 91 per cent, leaving Bulgaria being the least satisfied of EU countries at just 38.3 per cent. I’m not sure what governments will do with this data but it’s interesting that they are bothering to find out.

Meanwhile in the People’s Republic of China, it’s been reported recently in the western media that quality of life has been promoted above GDP as an performance measure in a number of cities and administrative areas. Apparently, focusing solely on GDP as the key to local officials’ promotion has seen industrialisation and development rampage to the neglect of the environment, agricultural land and social welfare. So in, selected areas - although it is notable not yet in the showcase cities and areas - measures of success such as raising living standards and what President Xi Jinping calls ‘hidden achievements’ will be taken into account in judging local officials’ rise through the ranks.

Countries often look to sport when it comes to fostering a feel-good factor in their populace. Glossing over the FIFA World Cup, there was the success of the Home Nations in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the European Athletics Championships. The England women’s team finally triumphed to win the Rugby World Cup after being in the runner’s up position in three previous appearances. Then, billed as a comeback, there was the Test Match Series win over the Indian cricket team by England’s men which restored a little of the pride which had been so comprehensively dented by the Ashes tour of Australia last winter.

Many of us will have come back from holiday to burgeoning email in-boxes and that’s even if we did break pledges to partners and sneaked a look at our smart phones and tablets while on holiday. But not-so employees of Daimler, whose board members wanted staff to properly relax.

The car company instituted a ‘Mail on Holiday’ system on its email server whereby the auto reply told the emailer that the emailee was on holiday and the message would be deleted but gave a non-holidaying employee contact as an alternative. Imagine how much happier – and more productive – that first morning back at work must have been for those workers and execs? This will surely contribute to Germany scoring higher on the ONS’s analysis of life satisfaction data next year.

Finally, it looks like the Bank of England is coming round to nudging up the base interest rate – well, two members of the Monetary Policy Committee are anyway. The prevailing view is that to nudge in incremental amounts, when the Bank faces up to the inevitable and raises the rate, will be easier on the economy than full percentage point rises at a time.

This is the economy which, by the way, the Governor of the Bank of England confirmed in August was half way to recovery and, presumably, he’ll and we’ll know when we arrive.

Will Mooney MRICS

Commercial, Cambridge

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