Happiness Budget — Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s administration allocated nearly 40% of the national budget — more than what it set aside for military and energy expenses — to what it calls “supreme happiness”, notes the Christian Science Monitor. Spending on “happiness” has increased since last year to take up 38% of the new $92 million budget and covers social programs that provide free housing, medical services and subsidized food. The administration’s budget, however, is drawing “widespread criticism for its vague language and alarmingly low estimates of inflation and oil prices,” wrote CSM.
Most Prosperous – A new survey shows that Norway is the world’s most prosperous nation, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Australia, reports Bloomberg. The 2012 Legatum Prosperity Index, compiled by the Legatum Institute, measures wealth and well-being in 142 countries based on eight criteria, such as economic strength, governance, health, social capital and personal freedom. The report notes that the U.S. ranks 12th this year “amid increased doubts about the health of its economy and ability of politicians,” wrote Bloomberg.
São Paulo Mayor — Residents of Brazil’s biggest and wealthiest city, São Paulo, elected Fernando Haddad of the governing Workers’ Party as their new mayor, reports the BBC. Former education minister Haddad, who received support from his fellow party members such as ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and current President Dilma Rousseff, won 56% of the votes. Haddad pledged to fight inequality in the megacity of 11 million people but his other challenges, according to the BBC, include alleviating the city’s chronic traffic jams and improving infrastructure and security.
Job Cuts – Swiss bank UBS has announced that it will cut up to 10,000 jobs and make other significant cost reductions in its investment banking division after revealing considerable losses during the third quarter, the New York Times reports. The company posted a loss of 2.2 billion Swiss francs ($2.3 billion) from July until August. The company also announced that it would scale back its work force by up to 16% over the next two years. Officials from the bank told the Times that Europe’s debt crisis and “volatility in the global financial markets will continue to weigh on earnings” since “clients remain cautious about investing their money.”
Protest Ban – Protests and gatherings in Bahrain have been banned after clashes between police and demonstrators, according to the BBC. Protests would only be permitted once “security and stability were sufficient to maintain national unity,” according to Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Al Khalifah. The government claims that recent demonstrations “jeopardized civil peace” and were meant to overthrow the state. Demonstrations were last banned in March 2011 and the opposition activists claim that at least 80 people have died since February 2011.