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Elections: If SA isn't happy, neither is the rand, index suggests

May 09 2019 17:25
Marelise van der Merwe

The researchers analysing SA's mood over the election period say the country was on an emotional roller coaster on election day – but South Africans were nonetheless happier than on previous days, and stayed happier for longer.

Moreover, the researchers added, early indications were that the country's mood might be a useful tool in a bigger-picture reading of the country's economy – noting that the rand's value had followed in the footsteps of the country's happiness level.

Fin24 earlier reported that the new happiness index was developed by well-being economists Professor Talita Greyling and Dr Stephanie Roussouw. It measures South Africa's 'Gross National Happiness' (GNH) by analysing their Tweets. A daily interpretation is being provided by economist Dawie Roodt over the election period.

Roodt and Greyling earlier told Fin24 they would be monitoring the index for any suggestive patterns. 

Leading indicator 

The day after voting, a note was issued discussing the country's Tweets on election day. According to the note, anecdotally, the researchers had noticed the rand's value mimicking the country's mood.

"By the way, as the happiness levels increase, the rand’s value follows," the note said.

"So far, we are seeing higher levels of happiness compared hourly to previous days. Believe it or not, the rand has also been slipping somewhat, the same as happiness, during this time period.

"Coincidence? We think not. Although anecdotal at this point, we are starting to think that happiness levels in a country is a leading indicator, signalling what is to come in the economic indicators.

"As we keep on measuring the affected happiness daily, we will be able to test this relationship scientifically."

They would also be watching the happiness index for a correlation between mood and voter behaviour, the note added. "By tonight we will know whether the international theory, happier people are more likely to vote, is indeed true for South Africa as well."

According to Roodt, when the happiness index was added to other economic indicators, such as GDP growth data, the unemployment rate, inflation, consumer and business confidence and the like, a more accurate picture of the state of the economy emerged, Fin24 previously reported. 

Roodt said it was potentially useful to see whether happiness correlated with other measures of economic health.

He also noted that the index was a leading index, not a results index. That is, the data gathered gives an indication of what may happen in future.

The index could potentially also provide some longer-term insight into the relationship between the country's mood and investment behaviour, Greyling said.

The Happiness Index was developed by Roussouw and Greyling, who are wellbeing economists. Roodt is providing interpretation of the data, with input from Greyling and Roussouw, who are responsible for data analysis.

Find everything you need to know about the 2019 National and Provincial Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections. Make sure your News24 app is updated to access all our elections coverage in one place. 

,election 2019

economy  |  elections 2019
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