Illness to Wellness

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Sep 17 2020

Sri Lanka with a score of 69.29 points out of 100 is placed 52nd out of 153 countries and second out of eight South Asian countries in the ‘Global Wellness Index 2020’, data on the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB’s) update of their ‘Asian Development Outlook 2020’ report released on Tuesday showed.

Ahead of Sri Lanka in the South Asian region was the Maldives with a score of 74.72 points. Maldives was also ranked sixth in the Asian region vis-à-vis ‘Global Wellness Index 2020.’

Trailing behind Sri Lanka in descending order in the South Asian region were Bhutan (67.03 points), Nepal (44.93 points), Bangladesh (43.06 points), India (38.96 points), Pakistan (27.24 points) and Afghanistan (23.56 points).

Meanwhile, the top five countries globally in descending order were Finland (96.24), Luxembourg (95.71), Sweden (94.49), Norway (94.41) and Denmark (94.23).

Further, the top five countries in the Asian region in descending order were New Zealand (93.67), Australia (90.19), Japan (85.77), Singapore (78.96) and South Korea (75.93).

The ‘wellness index’ is founded on four pillars, the ADB said. They are physical, intellectual (mental), environmental and social. Physical wellness captures a nation’s ability to meet the health needs of its populace, intellectual wellness measures access to education and its quality, social wellness considers the social environment and environmental wellness addresses environmental health, it said.

While Sri Lanka may be one of two top dogs in the South Asian region, can it be satisfied with this position? This is in the backdrop that when it gained Independence 72 years ago in 1948, it was at least well ahead of Singapore and Korea: currently Asia’s fourth and fifth largest wellness economies. 

In the Wellness rankings, which the ADB borrowed from the USA-based Global Wellness Institute which plots such charts, Sri Lanka occupies eleventh place out of 34 Asian countries this year. 

The 10 Asian countries ahead of Sri Lanka in descending order were New Zealand (93.67), Australia (90.19), Japan (85.77), Singapore (78.96) Korea (75.93), Maldives (74.72), Armenia (73.02), Kazakhstan (72.50), Fiji (72.0) and Georgia (71.94).

Excluding the top five Asian countries, two of which have been briefly touched upon in this editorial earlier, where were the balance five countries ahead of Sri Lanka, namely the Maldives, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Fiji and Georgia, at the time of Sri Lanka’s Independence in 1948?

Maldivians even now come for their education to Sri Lanka, though the numbers may be less, compared to what they were in the pre-1983 era, with 1983 being a watershed, in which year Sri Lanka’s Tamil-Sinhala armed conflict exploded and which went on to occupy the island’s political and economic landscape for 26 years before Tamil terrorism was finally defeated 11 years ago in 2009. 

Meanwhile, in 1948, Fiji was hardly heard of and if heard, it was unfairly classified as another cannibal country like its Pacific neighbour Papua New Guinea (PNG), where the latter country banned cannibalism as late as in the 1970s. Incidentally, PNG, with a score of 49.98 points, is well down in the Wellness ranking list.

And, as far as the balance three Asian countries ahead of Sri Lanka were concerned, namely Armenia, Kazakhstan and Georgia, at the time of Sri Lanka’s Independence in 1948 they were Soviet satellite States, coming under the umbrella of the Marxist-Communist Soviet Union, also known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). 

These three former Soviet States gained their independence only 31 years ago in 1989 with the collapse of the USSR. Incidentally, Russia, the founder of the now collapsed USSR, is ranked 49th (71.40 points) in the Wellness Index, just three notches ahead of Sri Lanka.

If it’s presumed that as Sri Lanka’s 26-year terrorist war was the cause (though this cause was in actual fact the symptoms of the disease) for Sri Lanka’s fall from ‘wellness’ to ‘illness,’ post-1948, now that the war is long past, it would do well for the incumbent Government to put in place policies (the bus which the island missed in 1948) which will not only avoid the repetition of such tragedies, but which will also aid to steer the economy full steam ahead.

 Meanwhile, the reason why Fiji was taken into account in this editorial is though Maldives geographically is a South Asian country, the Wellness Institute in their rankings has classified Maldives together with Fiji as Pacific countries.  Therefore, to make it ‘fair,’ Fiji, together with Vanuatu and PNG are also considered as Asian countries in the context of this editorial. 

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Sep 17 2020

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