Governments must create better ways to measure well-being of citizens

DUBAI, 11th February, 2015 (WAM)–With the rapid growth of emerging markets worldwide, governments must create better ways to track the well-being of their citizens. This was the message on the final day of The Government Summit, in a workshop session titled ‘Measuring What Really Matters for Governments: Towards Global Indices for Government Services.’ The panel discussion featured Dr. Shantayanan Devarajan, Chief Economist of the MENA region for the World Bank Thierry Geiger, Associate Director, Global Benchmarking Network, for the Global Competitiveness and Risk division of the World Economic Forum and Dr. Zsuzsanna Lonti, the head of the statistics and indicators unit in the Budgeting and Public Expenditures Division in the OECD.

As developing economies across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa have expanded by as much as eight per cent annually over the past decade, there has become an “obsession” with climbing higher in global rankings and indices, according to Dr. Devarajan.

“Governments in countries across the emerging world are rightly motivated to place highly on global rankings that track things such as GDP growth,” he said, “but it is vital to track certain intangibles, such as trust in government, happiness, and overall satisfaction with the quality of life.” Rapid economic expansion, while creating greater wealth and growth opportunities, often has also generated negative side effects. In India, for example, educational outcomes have not kept pace with economic development, Dr. Devarajan explained, and the quality of healthcare high-growth African markets has seen a gradual decline in recent years.

Adding to the discussion, Dr. Zsuzsanna Lonti noted that stakeholders must realign their objectives when developing rankings and indices, and begin tracking the quality of governance. “We must create a better framework to rank government services,” she noted.

Thierry Geiger explained that while it is easier to track the sentiments that people have toward their governments, it much more difficult to track the often complex motivation behind their feelings. “While we can determine what percentage of people trust their government, for example,” he explained, “it is more important to identify why people feel the way that they do.” “Collectively, less than 40 per cent of people across the OECD states are happy with their government,” Dr. Devarajan continued. “This is a symptom of much wider issues. Do people feel overtaxed? Do people feel that the level of service output by their government does not match their own contributions?” It is vital to understand what people expect from their governments, he concluded, and determine if people feel that their government is delivering sufficient services. Only then can we determine the sustainability of economic growth, and resolve issues that affect a country’s quality of life.

The Government Summit, held under the theme ‘Shaping Future Governments,’ featured over 50 insightful sessions by over 100 speakers who discussed the future of education, health services and smart cities, among others.