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Are Saudis a happy people?
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 05 - 04 - 2014

Lubna Al-Khumais
If it is not normally easy to measure the happiness of an individual in any human society, how can we measure the happiness of more than 20 million Saudis? A number of non-governmental organizations have started to think about how to measure the happiness of people. Are there some people who are happier than others? Why are certain nations at the top or the bottom of the list of happy countries?
In an attempt to come up with some reasons for happiness, NGOs measure wealth, freedom of expression, development of the service sector, lack of corruption and many other factors.
The United Arab Emirates is the happiest country in the Arab world according to a UN report. It was ranked the 14th happiest country in the world which was a big improvement on its ranking for the previous year.
This does not seem at all surprising. The moment you set foot in the UAE, you see the immense development in construction, transport and public services. You also notice that UAE citizens seem to be satisfied with their relationship with their leadership.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, ruler of Dubai, once said: “It is commonly said that the satisfaction of people is a thing that cannot be achieved. I say to them that this satisfaction can easily be attained through hard and industrious labor.”
But what about Saudi Arabia, which was only 58th in the world happiness rankings despite its huge financial, human and geographical wealth? This low ranking is due to many reasons including the low standard of education, health and accommodation in addition to the crisis of rented school buildings and the scarcity of hospital beds.
A large number of Saudis dream of owning a house that will free them from rising rents and the greed of landlords. There are about 82 divorces per day in the Kingdom at the rate of 3.2 divorces per hour. This is in addition to the traffic congestion which results in a large number of accidents. The number of diabetic and obese Saudis is on a steady rise. The country also lacks a culture of joy and the means of entertainment, such as movie theaters, museums and artistic shows. When Saudis look for a better university education, medical treatment or job opportunities or when they merely want to find a place to enjoy a vacation, they pack their bags and leave the Kingdom. What is left for these citizens at home? How can we be ranked among the happiest people in the world?
The thousands of cars of Saudi citizens traveling to Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar at the beginning of each school holiday and the thousands of Saudi passengers sitting in the departure lounges of the Kingdom's airports are proof that we are not a happy people. Rather, we search for happiness and joy outside our home country. Our strong belief that we are a special people condemns us to live an unhappy life. We will never occupy a leading place in the list of the happiest people in the world until each and every citizen has his own house, has a bed in a hospital and a seat in a school with high-quality education.
We will not be among the happiest people until our officials are rewarded when they do the right thing and penalized when they make mistakes. We will not be happy until wasta (nepotism) is entirely eradicated and women are given their full rights as equal human beings. Only then, will we be an advanced country with a productive and happy population.

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