Happiness

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These well-known words of Thomas Jefferson, from the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, have not, alas, found universal application in the 241 years since they were written, despite governments of all persuasions in many countries paying lip service to the happiness of the people. But is there any objective measure of happiness, is Poland happy?

According to the fifth annual World happiness Report, prepared for the United Nations by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Norway is in the first place for happiness with Poland in 46th place. This is an improvement on Poland’s 57th place last year, beating countries such as Italy (48th place), Japan (51st place), and Portugal (98th place). This is, presumably, itself a reason to be happy although, given the Poles’ apparent preference to see only the tragic, don’t bank on it. The remaining countries in the top ten are Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Holland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

The report is compiled from data on life expectancy, per capita gross domestic product (GDP), social support, generosity, freedom to make life choices, and perceptions of corruption. The report was published on Monday, which was the International Day of Happiness, another of these international days of something which seem to be invented with alarming frequency to assuage the insatiable need for virtue signaling that stand in place of real virtue.

But I digress, and while economics is not everything, there are some reasons for happiness when looking at Poland’s current economic performance. Barclay’s Bank has upgraded its forecast for Poland’s growth in GDP in 2017 to 3.2 per cent from its previous forecast of 3 per cent. For 2018 the bank’s forecast is unchanged at 3.4 per cent. Its forecast for inflation has also been revised upwards to 2.2 per cent, 0.2 percentage points up from its earlier forecast.

The bank forecasts inflation for the first quarter of 2017 to be 1.8 per cent above the same period last year, with inflation expected to be 2.6 per cent in the second quarter compared with the second quarter of 2016, compared to previous forecasts of 1.7 and 2.1 per cent respectively. Third quarter inflation is forecast at 2.5 per cent compared to the same period last year.
Looking at other figures, retail sales in Poland rose 7.3 per cent year on year in February but fell 2.7 month on month according to Poland’s central statistical office (GUS). Some analysts had forecast an 8.7 per cent increase, and 1.4 per cent fall for the same periods. Industrial production rose 1.2 per cent in February compared to February 2016, which followed growth of 9 per cent in January compared to January last year. Industrial production actually fell 0.9 per cent from month to month, compared to analysts’ forecasts of 3.5 year on year in February and 1.1 per cent month of month. Seasonally- adjusted industrial production was up 4.8 per cent year on year and 0.6 month on month.

And last, but not least, in this uncharacteristic slew of statistics, employment in the business sector was up 4.6 per cent year on year on February, according to GUS with salaries in the same sector growing 4 per cent over the same period, taking the average to over PLN 4,300 gross per month. While employment is expected to continue to grow at a steady rate, certain sectors may see some slow down, especially construction where there is a labour shortage although this could lead to higher wages.

Be that as it may, one thing which has not grown, is the Polish government’s enthusiasm for Poland to join the Euro. On Tuesday, the prime minister Beata Szydło, when asked about when Poland will join the Euro (a treaty commitment from Poland’s EU accession on 2004) told internet users that “there are no such plans”. “It is beneficial for Poland to stay with its currency, the złoty.” Her comments echo those of Mateusz Morawiecki, the finance and development minister, last week who said, “We’re not ready now. If we are ready in 10-20 years in terms of micro- and macro-economics, then of course we will be able to consider it.”

All in all, reasons to be happy and see the glass as half full rather than half empty. Of course, this being Poland, where happiness is far from the natural condition, the suspicion is that somebody is about to steal the glass.

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