The Maldives has been ranked 22nd among the “most miserable places in the world” by the financial publication Business Insider, on the basis of the country’s unemployment rates and Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation.
Using a “crude economic measure” called the ‘misery index’, the Maldives came 22nd out of 197 nations reviewed, placing between Iran and the Gaza Strip.
The position was calculated based on on figures provided in the 2013 CIA World Factbook, the latest figures of which were published earlier this month.
Without a chance to have seen the report or verify its conclusions, the Maldives Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) dismissed the use of unemployment figures as an indication of development or misery in the Maldives.
A representative for the chamber of commerce maintained that a need for educational reform and long-term problems in addressing concerns over the nation’s work ethic were much more pressing issues dictating overall happiness in the Maldives.
According to the misery index presented by Business Insider, the Maldives was found to have a CPI inflation of 12.8 percent and an unemployment rate of 28 percent. The country was given a misery score of 40.8 based on the combined inflation and unemployment rates.
“It’s a lovely place to vacation, and a good thing, too — tourism accounts for 30 percent of Maldives’ GDP and more than 60 percent of foreign exchange receipts,” reported Business Insider. “However, recent drops in tourism and heavy government spending have taken a toll on the local economy, causing high inflation and an unemployment rate that’s nearly doubled since 2010.”
Zimbabwe was identified as the most miserable place to live, based on a score of 103.3, the publication reported.
While unaware of the report or the legitimacy of its conclusions, MNCCI Vice President Ismail Asif said that unemployment was a far less significant issue impacting the lives of Maldivians. From the perspective of the country’s business community, Asif said concerns about entrepreneurship and national attitudes were seen as greater challenges to development.
“There are jobs here, but is the work ethic in the Maldives that is the problem. There are certain types of jobs that Maldivians don’t want to do,” he said.
“The construction industry is one such example. Maldivians don’t really want to work in the industry even if the pay is good. I don’t mean labourer positions either, but working as a foreman or site manager.”
Asif said a greater focus was needed in schools to address concerns held by the business community about the nation’s work ethic, which he said reflected a wider lack of practical skills and understanding. The MNCCI vice president pointed to the prevalence of computer literate young people in the Maldives, and at the same time noted that only a small proportion of this group had been taught to swim, despite living in a country comprised of 99 percent ocean.
“Something is very wrong with education here. We need to give young people a more clear idea of work ethics and what is expected of them, and the type of jobs that are out there,” he said.
Asif accused the education system of focusing on rigid employment opportunities such as the tourism industry, that had hampered entrepreneurship in the country, particularly on islands in the country’s outer atolls where he said a greater emphasis lay on starting small and medium businesses.
Asid said a failure by authorities to broaden the vision of the next generation of students could create long-term problems for national development.
Asif was also critical of the role aid agencies presently played in the country, accusing groups such as the UN – which continue to provide aid and a number of development projects to island communities – of creating a culture of dependency among the general populace.
“Agencies like the UN formerly were used to employ family members of senior [government] people like [former autocratic ruler president Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom’s daughters. Since democracy was introduced they have talked about human rights but failed to bridge the gap between the resort industry and the private sector,” he said.
Asif alleged that rather than working with private sector to develop more local industry, aid agencies had served to encourage a form “professional begging” within island communities by encouraging them to apply for funding for projects that were often short-term in scope.
“We have begun to lose our sense of enterprise that helped us survive as a country for so long,” he added.
Asif claimed that a nature of “spoon feeding” that was instigated some 40 to 50 years previously had also gone unchallenged, leading to what he claimed was a lack of leadership skills in the local workforce and the wider population at large.
“This is why we only have [former President’s] Gayoom and Nasheed in the country,” he added.
Minivan News was awaiting a response from State Minister for Finance Abbas Adil Riza at the time of press. Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad and Economic Development Minister Ahmed Mohamed were not responding to calls from Minivan News.
The misery index used by Business Insider was devised by economist Arthur Orkum and revolves around the principle that the majority of a population will understand the pain on society of high unemployment and soaring prices for consumer goods.