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Finland leads the world in prosperity

By Peter Marten, October 2009, updated February 2010

Photo: Krista Keltanen/Finnish Tourist Board
Most prosperous: The Legatum Prosperity Index puts Finland in first place overall.

It isn't quite the same adrenaline rush as when Finnish "monster metal" band Lordi won the Eurovision Song Contest by a landslide way back in '06. But still, there's a reason to rock 'n' roll: Finland has been declared the world’s most prosperous nation.

The 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index (LPI), published by London-based thinktank Legatum, puts Finland in first place overall; the previous year it came in third. [Editor's update: In addition, the Economist magazine's Economist Intelligence Unit places Helsinki at number six on its 2010 Liveability Index of the world's most liveable cities. It's one of only two European cities in the top ten, which is dominated by Canada (Vancouver took the gold) and Australia.]

The LPI ranks countries in nine different subindexes: economic fundamentals; entrepreneurship and innovation; democratic institutions; education; health; safety and security; governance; personal freedom; and social capital.

Out of 104 countries, 90 percent of the global population, Finland was the only one to make the top ten in every category. It placed second in governance and in safety and security, and came third in education. Switzerland was second in the overall rankings, followed by Finland’s Nordic neighbours – Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Also in the top ten were Australia and New Zealand, Canada and the US, and the Netherlands.

The LPI’s creators explain that they utilise ”a holistic definition of prosperity” that includes both ”material wealth” and ”measures of happiness and quality of life”. They note that ”the most prosperous nations in the world are not necessarily those that have only a high GDP, but are those that also have happy, healthy, and free citizens”.

Keys to happiness

In other words, ”happiness is opportunity, good health, relationships and the freedom to choose who you want to be”, they say. For everyone out there who has been wondering how to achieve happiness, the equation is that simple.

Legatum points out that while many of the highly ranked nations have long histories of prosperity, ”several others that not long ago were afflicted with poverty, oppression, and unhappiness” are relatively high on the list. ”History is not destiny,” as the report puts it.

It’s an honour to achieve first place in the LPI and an affirmation that Finland is doing something – many things – right. ”Prosperous countries are strong across the board,” says the report, meaning that all the subindexes are interlinked. In order to build and maintain prosperity and reach the top, countries cannot ignore any of these ”foundations of prosperity”.

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