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Perspectives on Prosperity

Sue Kedgley

Wellington regional councillor
Board Member of the Capitol and Coast District Hea

My definition of prosperity is having the ability to live a satisfying, rewarding and meaningful life where I can contribute to my community and enjoy fulfilling personal relationships.

I think we’ve defined prosperity far too narrowly as being success that comes through having a lot of money. We need to embrace a much wider definition of prosperity that measures wellbeing and happiness rather than just economic success.

Prosperity is created in societies where everyone has sufficient educational, employment and other opportunities - including leisure and financial security - to be able to enjoy a good quality of life, experience a sense of wellbeing and contribute to their community and society.

I prefer to measure prosperity by lifestyle indicators rather than by narrowly measuring short-term economic wellbeing through the Gross Domestic Product. As Robert Kennedy once remarked: “GDP measures everything except what makes life worthwhile.”

The Canadian index of wellbeing (which measures the living standards, education, access to leisure and culture, community vitality, democratic engagement, environment) or the Bhutanese Gross Domestic Happiness (which measures the social and economic health of its citizens) are far more relevant ways of measuring prosperity than just measuring economic wellbeing.

Prosperity for all is possible but not in a society, like ours, where there is environmental degradation, an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, where large numbers of people lack educational or job opportunities and feel alienated from our society. As Bhutan’s Minister of Education Thakur Singh Pawdye points out: “You cannot have a prosperous nation in the long run if you do not conserve the natural environment or take care of the wellbeing of its people.”

Getting rich while trampling over others is unlikely to result in happiness or a sense of wellbeing. Happiness is the product of a meaningful life and the skills needed to experience a meaningful life include living by a code of ethics or set of values, achieving a work life balance, the ability to have fulfilling relationships and to contribute to the wider community, and to pursue what people feel passionately about.

Sue Kedgely was the Diversity category winner at the New Zealand Women of Influence Awards 2016.