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Jamaica is No. 9 on Misery Index 2014

Published:Monday | January 26, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Alessandro Boyd, Gleaner Writer

Jamaica has been ranked as the ninth most miserable country in the world on Cato's Misery Index 2014.

But for sociologist Dr Orville Taylor, the method of measurement that is used for ranking is inadequate.

The index ranks 108 countries based on data from the Economist Intelligence Unit and calculations from Steve Hanke, a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University. Hanke factors in inflation, lending rates, unemployment, and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita when making calculations to determine 'misery'.

However, because of the methods of calculation, Taylor argues that it is a flawed measure of development that shows how inadequate economics is as a science in explaining social phenomena.

"They don't have any other measurements such as freedom of movement, freedom of expression, and those types of sociological variables. It shows the bankruptcy of economic theory in explaining social life," he told The Gleaner yesterday.

"Some of these elements such as unemployment are things that have to be understood more deeply. For example, unemployment may be unreliable because of how it is measured and reported," Taylor added.

social and cultural intangibles

He further said that the social and cultural intangibles have to be taken into account when measuring the misery of a country.

"When I speak to some of my academics and colleagues in other countries, they think I'm on constant vacation simply because I live in a country like Jamaica, where I am able to jump in my car with a little bit of gas and go to the beach, or that I have the freedom to speak up against my Opposition or Government," Taylor said.

"The fact that we live in a country where despite what we say about our police force and our politicians, there is always a way for any kind of justice; we can appeal unfair judgment by our judges; report our police and our soldiers to INDECOM (Independent Commission of Investigations); and we also have an OCG (Office of the Contractor General) and a public defender," he added.

The main factor that attributed to Jamaica's ranking on the index was high interest rates. Domestic interest rates are single digit.

Dennis Chung, CEO of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, agrees that interest rates are relatively high compared to other countries but also stated that they are trending in the right direction.

"At the start of last year, Jamaican-dollar liquidity was tight. There was a lot of demand for loans in Jamaica dollars, particularly businesses were demanding Jamaican dollars because at the time, the Jamaican dollar was under pressure, but the Bank of Jamaica deliberately kept it tight in terms of liquidity. It eventually has freed up some longer-term liquidity. This is why I think we saw interest rates starting to trend down slightly," he told The Gleaner.

"It was just at the end of last year we were seeing that confidence numbers were the highest they have ever been for a while. We were really going through an adjustment period for 2014, so there should be some improvement for Jamaica on that index the next time it is done," he continued.

Jamaica has seen a slight improvement on the index as in 2013, the country was ranked at number six.