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Icelandic Prime Minister calls for ‘alternative future’ based on wellbeing

05 Feb 2020
Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland, has urged for wellbeing to be given greater priority than GDP and economic growth.

Speaking at London’s Chatham House international affairs think tank, Jakobsdóttir called for “an alternative future, based on wellbeing and inclusive growth”.

She urged governments to take up both green and family-friendly targets, instead of just concentrating on economic growth.

Iceland is a member of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEA), a recently formed global collaboration of organisations, alliances, movements and individuals working to change the economic system so it delivers a wellbeing economy.

The organisation defines a wellbeing economy as one that delivers human and ecological wellbeing.

New Zealand and Scotland are also a part of the WEA, Jakobsdóttir has recently teamed up with Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Arden and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to promote a “wellbeing agenda”.

Writing for the Evening Standard, Jakobsdóttir confirmed that the Icelandic government is also planning to finance this initiative, saying: “A wellbeing budget is in the works, with a number of priorities already having been identified. These include the improvement of mental health and reduction of carbon emissions.”

At Chatham House, Jakobsdóttir was asked whether the creation of a “wellbeing” budget was achievable for both developed and developing countries, she responded: “You can always have an emphasis on wellbeing, it’s just about how you prioritise it in the public budget”.

Jakobsdóttir heads up The Icelandic Prime Minister’s Committee on Measurements for Wellbeing in Iceland.

“This committee has developed 39 wellbeing indicators that include economic, environmental and social factors, GDP and other economic indicators are among them, but in a new context with social and environmental indicators, to aim for the delicate balance of sustainable development”.

“Developing wellbeing indicators has the potential to transform fiscal policies, putting people and the planet first”, she wrote.

These indicators are linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and are used to inform government policy formulation.

“Developing such indicators is a step towards ensuring a common understanding of what factors make our lives better”, said the Icelandic government in a statement.

According to a survey commissioned by the committee, the general public in Iceland views health to be the most significant factor in the quality of life, followed by relationships, housing and making a living.

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