The misery index is an economic indicator created by economist Arthur Okun. It helps determine how the average citizen is doing economically and it is calculated by adding the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate to the annual inflation rate. It is assumed that both a higher rate of unemployment and a worsening of inflation create economic and social costs for a country. The data is based on projections for 2018 from Bloomberg.
10 – Saudi Arabia
On paper the Saudi Arabian economy looks strong, with a reasonable recovery from the oil price collapse a few years ago. However, the World Bank has said that it is ‘likely’ that the kingdom is facing a looming poverty crisis. It said ‘as in other GCC countries, the bulk of low-income residents are migrant workers, but as the citizen population passes 20 million, inadequate access to economic opportunities is also an issue for nationals.’
9 – Brazil
Brazil’s recovery remains steady, with growth projected to reach 2.8% in 2019. Corruption remains rife in the country, however. In addition, fiscal sustainability remains at risk without pension reform. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ‘strengthening the focus of social spending towards those most in need and scaling back ineffective regressive tax breaks and subsidies for specific economic sectors can make public expenditures more effective and more inclusive, and rein in opportunities for corruption.’
8 – Spain
Spain’s inflation rate is around 2%, but is currently trending upwards. According to the OECD, ‘public debt is gradually declining, but remains high. As the recovery continues, public debt is projected to fall in relation to GDP, but the government will have to ensure further significant declines in the years ahead, by further improving its fiscal position and introducing additional reforms to strengthen long-term growth.’ ‘The implementation of the pension reform will be key to ensuring long-term fiscal sustainability. More effective labour market policies and efforts to re-skill the workforce are needed to further reduce unemployment and inequalities, and make growth more inclusive.’
7 – Ukraine
According to the World Bank, 2017 growth in manufacturing, services, and construction was ‘robust, but weaknesses in the agriculture and mining sectors, together with delays in key reforms to further strengthen investor confidence contributed to the modest overall growth performance.’ It added that ‘faster growth is needed to improve living standards for the people of Ukraine who continue to hurt from the economic crisis of 2014-2015.’ ‘This will require decisive measures in the next few months to complete pending reforms to bolster investor confidence and safeguard macroeconomic stability.’
6 – Greece
Greece’s economic woes may have slipped off the mainstream news agenda since the days when a Grexit loomed, but in the background the country has still been struggling. The government has missed key privatisation targets, which in turn has seen assets capitalised and vital infrastructure like airports go to waste.
5 – Turkey
While public cries of ‘doom’ in Turkey seem to be slightly exaggerated, there is no doubt the country is looking at trouble. Inflation in the Turkish economy sits around 10%. Like Argentina, Turkey’s lira has gone into freefall. On the political front, Turkish president Recep Erdogan has attempted to curb the independence of Turkey’s central bank. That combined with accusations of political persecution following the attempted coup against him in 2016 does not paint a pretty picture.
4 – Egypt
Egypt’s population has hit 93.1 million. Despite pro-market reform, the country’s economy boasts some concerning key performance indicators. Unemployment remains high in the country at 11.8%, despite the fact that in the last few years it has been in steady decline. Likewise, Egypt’s public debt remains at over 100% of its gross domestic product, despite its own target of reductions to 97% in 2018/19.
3 – Argentina
Argentina is indisputably one of the great footballing nations of the world. All eyes will be on its team this month when the World Cup kicks off in Russia. However, off the pitch things have not been going so well for this South American economy. Last month, Argentina’s central bank hiked interest rates from 27.5 percent to 40 percent to avoid further capital outflows. In addition, Argentina’s peso has gone into freefall recently, prompted by panic selling by investors. The country has even been forced to ask the International Monetary Fund for financial aid.
2 – South Africa
Bloomberg predicted that South Africa would be the second most miserable economy in the world in 2018. Legislative uncertainty surrounding the country’s mines has hampered things, despite the fact that the government has reached out to resolve disputes over the country’s third Mining Charter. Despite that there have been some positive signals. The South African rand has strengthened by about 12% since the African National Congress elective conference in December last year and 10-year government bond yields are down, which has reduced borrowing costs.
1 – Venezuela
Venezuela’s troubles were triggered by a collapse in the oil price in 2014, and its travails seem to have gone from bad to worse ever since. Ambitious socialist projects that were once funded by state-run oil companies are now struggling. Reports of rising homelessness, shortages in hospitals, and an exodus of public sector staff are commonplace. In addition, President Nicolás Maduro now faces allegations that recent elections were unfairly administered.