Only genuine benevolence can bequeath happiness

Scale of justice

In Kenya, good public services are scarce because money meant for those services is been taken to build private enterprises.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Happiness Index Report for 2024 is out. The Happiness Index is intriguing because it goes further than the Human Development Index (HDI) by using other parameters that go against the capitalist mindset of private accumulation and self-interest. These parameters that are measured by the Happiness Index are social support and benevolence or generosity.

Countries that have dominated the Happiness Index since it was introduced are those that have socialist economic policies and have a culture of generosity. In fact some of these countries provide a much higher percentage towards Aid in relation to their GDP, than countries that are much wealthier. They have infused generosity in their economic policy by taxing the wealthiest 10%, money that goes towards the social welfare support of the poor.

Among those that have repeatedly dominated this list include: Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Australia and New Zealand.

Why social support and benevolence matter for a country’s economic well-being as well as its citizens’ happiness lie in a fundamental philosophy taught by all religions — the value of generosity.

Kenyans are very religious with over 80 per cent claiming to be either Christian or Muslim or other major religion. However, it does not seem that the value of benevolence is infused in the country’s culture or economic policy. For example, volunteerism by the young or philanthropy by the rich is rarely practiced.

For a country that professes to be over 60 per cent Christian, their authoritative book — The Bible is instructive. When Jesus started his ministry, he stated one of his mission statements as: “to bring good news to the poor”. This he did, not by talking matters economics, but by changing people’s attitudes so that they have a concern for the poor. The early Christians did exactly that.

The national values enshrined in Article 10 of Kenya’s Constitution subsume generosity in the values stated such as patriotism, social justice, inclusiveness and equality.

It is ironical when our African leaders lecture the West about economic justice while they are enriching themselves through corruption that compromises service delivery and a country’s economy.

Increasingly, in Kenya, good public services are scarce because money meant for those services is been taken to build private enterprises.

This is what has increased the inequalities as the rich continue taking from the poor. Yet, key to eradicating poverty and actualising the bottom-up transformation will require a benevolent government and leaders who are committed to service; not this constant cunning and calculated takeovers or mergers that leaders feel entitled to.

- Betty Gachire, a Policy Trainer