Happiness and Confidence on St David’s Day

Government is going to measure our happiness. Geraint Talfan Davies says it will make for an even busier St. David’s Day.

In the run up to the 1st of March Welsh organisations scramble to book St. David’s Day for their big event or the publishing of good news – so much so that some are now even avoiding the competition and going for other dates. Who said St. David’s Day was going unobserved?

It was this morning that the Welsh Government announced it was going to follow the Kingdom of Bhutan and measure our happiness and well-being – conveying the subliminal message so beloved of the cartoonist Gren that ‘happiness is knowing you are Welsh’. It was also the morning when BBC Wales, one of the arch-celebrants of our blossoming national festival, published the results of its latest opinion poll, showing that 56% of us are now in favour of law-making powers for the Assembly.

Who knows whether these things are connected? Are Welsh people now happier in their own skin and, therefore, more likely to assert their right to greater responsibility? The BBC Wales poll says that 63% of those aged between 25 and 34 are in favour of law-making powers, but only 48% of those over 65. Does this mean that our pensioners are gloomier than the young? No reason why they shouldn’t be. When I read recently that Britain’s public finances would not be properly sorted out until 2032, it did not cheer me up. I will be 89 then and probably not in the best shape to enjoy the newly recovered prosperity. I certainly won’t be contributing much at that stage to Wales’s happiness rating.

I am, of course, all for adopting progressive measures, and pretty convinced by recent statistical arguments that more equal societies are happier, but I am not clear why the Kingdom of Bhutan is so successful in the index of Gross National Happiness, or why Jamaica and Puerto Rico score so well on the Happy Planet Index.

It could just be the weather. Scores registered on a beach in Jamaica and at a bus stop in Blaenau Ffestiniog are likely to differ. Bhutan has characteristics of both, so we would need to know whether the clipboard brigade was out during its balmy spring months or during its monsoon. But beware, there are also some drawbacks to life in Bhutan. A complete ban on television was lifted only in 1999. The Dragon King thinks this has contributed to general happiness, but I think he should not jump to conclusions. His own vote may be skewed by the fact that he has four wives – not something that we will ever see in Wales, even under the raciest ‘legislative competence order’.

The population may, of course, have been cheered up by their own constitutional changes. The Dragon King is a good deal keener on reform than anyone in the Republic of Islwyn. No need for LCOs in Bhutan – they got fully a fledged written constitution on the 15th day of the fifth month of the Male Earth Rat Year – or 2008 to you and me.

This soft stuff is all very well, but we shouldn’t forget some of the hard figures. Jamaica may be smiling, but its per capita GDP is $4,100 against Wales’s $24,000. Getting down to Jamaican levels isn’t going to get anyone elected here any time soon.
Rhodri Morgan’s forecasts of a Wales basking in a new climate may make us happier without government lifting a finger, but that doesn’t fill a manifesto.

We should appoint a Minister of National Rejoicing, with a Deputy Minister in charging of developing knowledge-based, high-level carnival skills. That way St. David’s Day would get another shot in the arm, and it might even force us to declare a St. David’s Week so that we can fit everything in.

Geraint Talfan Davies is Chairman of the IWA

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