Economics of Happiness

By Faizan Usmani | December 2020


The path to happiness varies from person to person. In economic terms, it is the collective and sustainable socio-economic growth of a country, coupled with its enviable GDP per capita, that helps determine its development and prosperity indices.

In a country like Pakistan, however, the pursuit of happiness is often referred to as a fond hope at the national level and the people, en masse, seem to be losing their faith in the hope of better times. The book ‘Development of an Equitable Society’ by Jamil Nasir blows a fresh waft of wind in the midst of prevailing pessimism that currently frames the collective perception of sustainable development and tangible progress.

The author Jamil Nasir is a civil servant working for the Pakistan Customs. He is also an academic as well as a development practitioner both by passion and profession and has had exposure at the World Bank. His book, in essence, is a compendium of a series of articles that he wrote from 2007 to 2014 for Dawn, Business Recorder, The News and Daily Times. Chalking out a meticulous roadmap to economic growth and sustainable development, the book is divided into four parts, each focusing on different stages, namely Growth, Inequality, Poverty and Economic Development.

Zeroing in on the theme of ‘Growth,’ the first part of the book, a collection of 21 articles, covers in detail different aspects of economic growth and suggests numerous ways to improve the ailing areas of the economy. The author’s observations and recommendations are duly backed by a plethora of research studies and successful global examples that he quotes throughout the book, chiefly on how to spur national growth and advance social progress.

For instance, Pakistan’s growth diagnostics have thoroughly been employed based on a theoretical and practical framework that was devised by well-known economists at the Harvard University in order to determine interconnected impediments as well as missing links that hamper economic growth by and large.

The second part of the book consists of 10 articles which discuss inequality as one of the primary stumbling blocks to economic development and social uplift. Tracking down the link between inequality and economic deprivation, the author presses a case for uprooting inequality for paving the way to smooth development and rapid advancement. He is of the firm belief that inequality is a multifaceted bane but it is not inevitable; it is a choice of a society and emerges as a result of interplay of political economy factors and can be overcome by sound policy-making, adequate reforms and long-term planning. According to the author, when the menace of inequality is seen through the economic prism, it always appears to be detrimental as well as utterly adverse to the course of development processes of a country.

The third part of the book features 11 in-depth articles that examine poverty as an overarching theme behind economic collapse. Doing so, this section yields some interesting findings for economic policymakers, development practitioners and social scientists. The author re-emphasizes the fact that poverty, similar to inequality, is a multidimensional phenomenon, which can only be alleviated by exploring and devising multiple but pragmatic pathways.

Comprising more than 25 well-researched and analytical pieces, the fourth section covers economic progress from different angles and perspectives offered through the lens of ‘Economics of Happiness,’ an inter-disciplinary branch of economics that focuses on the characteristics, conditions and circumstances of people’s well-being. Most importantly, the articles on happiness are based on reflections and insights gleaned from the World Happiness Reports, an annual survey of the state of global happiness that ranks the world’s countries on the basis of the measurements of the happiness quotient among their citizens.

The author comes across as a down-to-earth strategist who dreams of a prosperous society with equitable distribution of resources. To achieve the development and economic growth agenda, he desists from stoking populism aimed at toppling the entire economic system and only addresses the need for making long-term public policy and enduring economic reforms as well as flawless regulatory frameworks.

No country can alleviate poverty and grow without aiming for an equitable society. Illustrating successful case studies and international best practices, ‘Development of an Equitable Society’ offers a host of proven suggestions and insightful ideas that, if implemented with consistency and determination, could lead to sustainable development and national prosperity.