The Human Development Index (HDI) originated in reports by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Originally developed and implemented by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq in 1990 “to shift the focus of development economics from national income accounting to people-centred policies”(Haq,1990). The HDI focuses on measuring education, life expectancy and per capita income. So countries where people live long and happy lives, are well educated and have a comfortable standard of living tend to score the highest. Thailand currently has a score of 0.74 placing it at 87 out of all 188 countries measured making it a top scoring country. In 1990 Thailand had a score of 0.54, this means that Thailand has achieved an increase of almost 29 percent since 1990 and the last HDI report in 2015. The mean years of schooling increased by 3.3 years, life expectancy at birth also increased by 4.3 years, and there has been a huge increase of 121.2 percent regarding the GNI per capita. The Inequality-adjusted HDI helps to focus on and brings into account all the inequalities in all three areas; inequality is something that the standard HDI fails to reveal. When the Inequality-adjusted HDI in taken into account Thailand’s score falls to just 0.54, resulting in a 20 percent loss. This is, however, the average for high scoring HDI countries.(HDI report,2016)
The Happy Planet Index was conceived by and carried out by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in 2006.As opposed to the HDI the HPI focuses more on sustainability. The HDI report of a country may only reveal the GDP and solid figures relating to standard development but not on sustainable development or the effects on the environment. Countries that leave small ecological footprints score significantly higher than those that leave large ones. The HPI also takes into account the happiness of people and believes that the usual ultimate aim of most people is not to be rich, but to be happy and healthy(Sen,1999).Thailand measures very well on the Happy Planet Index with a score of 37.3, placing the country at 9th place of all 140 countries that were measured. The life-expectancy of people in Thailand is currently 74.5 years, with people having a wellbeing of 6.3 out of 10. Thailand scored 2.7gha/p(global hectares per person) for their ecological footprint and achieved a score of 15 percent for inequality. Thailand has scored very well on the HPI, making it into the top 10 of all countries measured. The HPI does not take into account human rights abuses, however, although some figures may reflect this. The HPI has also been criticized as an effective tool for measurement as there is too much focus on happiness, something which is subjective and personal and the parameters for which change with each perspective culture.(Happy Planet Index,2017)
The GDP of Thailand currently represents 0.66 percent of the economy of the world which is worth 406 billion USD. The GDP growth rate was showing a downward trend over the last few years due to political turmoil but now is on the rise again due to some sense of political stability. (Trading Economics,2017)
Thailand scored significantly higher on the HPI compared to the HDI. This is due to the focus on sustainability, environmental impact and ‘happiness’. There are major merits to both of these measurements as well as numerous ways that they fall short and fail to see the whole picture. The HPI does not take into account human rights abuses which are a major issue, particularly in Thailand. Human rights abuses do effect the figures to a degree such as the scores for wellbeing and equality. They do not, however, have much to do with life expectancy or Thailand’s ecological footprint. Sen Amartyas statement about the primary focus of people is their wish to be happy over wealth is very accurate. (Sen,1999) If people were offered to be happy or wealthy, they would more often than not choose to be happy. Most people believe that wealth is the vehicle that leads to happiness. Happiness is hard to quantify, as it is not a concrete figure and means something different for everyone. In either case, Thailand is on a positive trend, and as long as there is no more political unrest, the country can look forward to both financial security and happiness.