Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN
Regardless of whether you believe or not in all the rankings of happiness or prosperity, the placing of three Baltic States in them is always nearly the same: Estonia cosies up above the other two and Latvia, most of the time, lags behind Lithuania.
The recent ranking on global prosperity by the Legatum Institute is nothing out of the blue – Estonia clinched 31st spot while Lithuania and Latvia ended being lower on the adjacent perches, 40th and 41st respectively.
As many as 142 nations compared
The Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank, compared countries using 89 measures which are grouped into eight broad categories: economy, entrepreneurship and opportunity, governance, education, healthcare, safety and security, personal freedom and social capital and even a number of secure internet servers a country has and how well rested people feel on a day-to-day basis.
Lithuania was ranked highest for education (30th) and safety and security (30th). It was ranked 45th for entrepreneurship and opportunity, 40th for governance, and 44th for healthcare.
Estonia fell behind Lithuania in education (39th) and safety and security (39th), but was well ahead in entrepreneurship and opportunity (26th) and governance (23th).
Latvia, meanwhile, outstripped both for education (35th), but significantly lagged behind the other two for personal freedom, which put Latvia only 83th in the ranking.
In total, 142 countries worldwide have been assessed.
According to the Institute’s latest edition, the «Top 10 overall rankings 2015» are as followed: Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Finland and Ireland. The United States finished out of the top ten in 11th place.
Lithuania scrambles up the ladder
Indexes of happiness or prosperity cannot be equalled to scientific finds, warns Lithuanian pollster Vladas Gaidys, but agrees that they do reflect the dynamics of a country’s development.
«That Estonia in most various rankings tends to be higher than Latvia and Lithuania hardly surprises anyone. Estonia’s economy is performing better most of the time and the success about its citizens’ higher earnings, pensions, i.e. standards of living, tersely,» Gaidys said.
Speaking of Lithuania, the director of Vilmorus, an opinion and market research company, noted that it is constantly rising in the surveys on happiness and prosperity.
«And the last research by Eurobarometer has not been an exception – a whopping 75 percent of Lithuanians are happy with their life. To look back to 2000, only a mere 40 percent of Lithuanians were satisfied with their life. At the level, Lithuania was on the bottom of European countries,» the pollster told BNN.
Cultural heritage is key
Although the economy has always been the defining moment for the citizens’ happiness, the cultural and historical heritage factors are as much important, Gaidys emphasizes.
«For example, 20 years ago, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were literally in the same starting positions, economy-wise, but I clearly remember the Estonians being ahead of the other two neighbours in the rankings. Why? Here I’d support a hypothesis brought up by German scholar Max Carl Weber, who insisted that religious affiliation does play a significant role in the cultural perception of a person,» the Vilmorus CEO pointed out.
According to him, Protestants, especially Estonians and, to a lesser degree, Latvians tend not to glance over the shoulder to the past but rather focus on the time being.
«In other words, protestant nations tend to believe they can forge their future and the nation’s happiness, too. When taking to an Estonian, I will never hear him complaining. In that regard they are like the Americans, although with the Nordic chill on the face,» Gaidys, a sociologist by profession, says.
Notably, out of five top most prosperous countries on the Legatum list three are protestant countries – Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
Lithuania tends to whip itself
As a Roman Catholic country, the researcher says, Lithuania tends to often plunge into self-scrutiny and, even worse, flagellation.
«I believe that the construct of the mentality of Lithuania is hinged, for the most part, on the past, not the future,» he emphasized.
But, well, there is always an exception to the rule, and it does apply to the otherwise happy-happy Baltic nation, Estonia.
According to the World Happiness Index published last March, Lithuania, not Estonia constituted the Baltics’ most happy nation. And surprise – Russia appeared to be happier than Lithuania!
In the report, Lithuania ranked 60th, down four positions from 2015, Latvia held the 68th position and Estonia, well, sat on the 72th perch, with neighbouring Belarus being 61st , Russia – 56th and Poland 58th. Denmark led the pack with Switzerland (last year’s winner), Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden rounding out the top 10.
Protestant Latvia should be happier
«Well, it depends on who surveys and who concludes,» notes Vytautas Dumbliauskas, a Lithuanian observer, but insists that Estonia is widely perceived my most pollsters as the region’s most prosperous and happy nation.
Agreeing with Gaidys, of Vimorus, he claims that, besides the economics, religious denomination, as well as the proximity to the prosperous Nordic countries has been major factors for Estonia’s high rankings.
«The Estonians certainly perceive the management of land as more effective and better in general,» says Dumbliauskas. «You cannot expect to have it high in Lithuania, which is embroiled now in the major parties-rattling corruption scandals,» he added.
Besides, he notes, many Lithuanian emigrants have pointed out to lack of respect to human being in Lithuania, which is also believed to be a major factor in the country’s high emigration statistics.
«I’ve never heard it being mentioned in Estonia. I mean the disrespect factor,» the analyst underlined to BNN.
Dumbliauskas, nevertheless, finds the adjacent placing of Latvia and Lithuania in Legatum’s nation prosperity ranking «off-kilter».
«Latvia, as a protestant country, should have clinched a higher position. Like Estonia. Perhaps the economy has been a determining factor in this poll,» pondered Dumbliauskas.
And the most peaceful Baltic nation is…
Cheering news to Latvians comes from the Institute for Economics and Peace headquartered in Sydney, Australia, with branches in New York, Mexico City and Oxford. It has placed Latvia as the world’s 32nd most peaceful country on the Global Peace Index.
Among the 163 countries included in the study, Estonia has taken 36th and Lithuania 37th position. Last year, Latvia was in 33rd place, Estonia in 39th, and Lithuania in 35th place.
Iceland has been named as the world’s most peaceful country, followed by Denmark, Austria, New Zealand, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, Slovenia, and Finland.
The index shows that 81 countries became more peaceful in the past year, while the situation deteriorated in 79.