Norway tops new prosperity index

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Norway has become the subject of superlatives in recent years, as its oil wealth trickles through society and government guardians work to ensure egalitarian distribution. Long known for being the best place in the world to live, Norway now tops an international prosperity index as well.

Norwegians love to wave their flag, another indication, perhaps, of the nation's happiness as ranked by the Legatum Institute's Prosperity Index. PHOTO: NRK

Norway moved up from fifth place last year to first place this year on the index compiled by the London-based Legatum Institute, which claims that it seeks to “illuminate the principles of prosperity.” The institute bills itself as an “independent, non-partisan organisation that researches and advocates for an expansive understanding of global prosperity.”

Its annual Legatum Prosperity Index is a “leading advocate of holistic understanding of prosperity, one that combines wealth and well-being as measures of individual and national prosperity.”

The index analyzes 110 nations covering more than 90 percent of the world’s population, assessing material wealth and quality of life. Norway scored highest this year, (external link) taking over the spot held last year by Finland, which fell to third-place. Ranking second is Denmark, with Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the US rounding off the Top 10.

Countries at the bottom of the list included Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

Norway’s top spot stemmed from surveys showing that 84.5 percent of the Norwegian population “feel personal safety” and 74.2 percent “find others trustworthy.” Other factors included life expectancy of 81 years, a 100 percent literacy rate in 2008, business start-up costs that amounted to just 1.9 percent of GNP and that 76 percent of the population reported being satisfied with life.

Peter Mandelson of Legatum, the former EU trade commissioner and trade minister for the UK, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “prosperity is more than just money,” adding that democracy, freedom and entrepreneurial opportunity are at least as important.

“Today I am launching the 2010 Legatum Prosperity Index because it is my firm belief, and history has shown it to be true, that wealth alone does not make for a happy and successful society,” Mandelson wrote. “Happy citizens are produced as much by democracy, freedom and entrepreneurial activity as much as they are by a growing economy.”

Even though Norwegians continue to complain at home and suddenly seem dissatisfied with the government they re-elected last year, most are proud of their homeland and admit that “vi har det godt i Norge” (we have a good life in Norway.) That’s propelled them to the top of Mandelson’s index, but the honor comes after earlier surveys have ranked Norwegian as the world’s happiest and the UN Development Program has ranked Norway as the best place in the world to live several times.

That may explain why news of the prosperity index ranking on Tuesday didn’t get an undue amount of attention in Norway. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported the ranking on newscasts, and websites ran wire reports, but then the stories were replaced by other news.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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