WASHINGTON/SINGAPORE — Singapore has retained its spot as the world’s second least miserable country in this year’s Misery Index.
The Republic scored a 3.1 on Bloomberg’s annual index by virtue of its relatively low unemployment and inflation outlook in 2017.
Singapore was denied the top spot by Thailand’s score of 2.6 — a country which has been topping the chart for the last three years, mainly due to its unique way of calculating employment.
At the other end of the spectrum, Venezuela’s economic and political problems make it the most miserable in the ranking for the third year in a row.
The rest of the ladder features noteworthy moves by the United Kingdom, Poland and Mexico, to name a few, mapping 2016 as the year of political shocks and how it impacted the global economy.
Economic woes have plagued Venezuela for years. Sluggish oil prices, the country’s only significant export, have fuelled a crisis that has left grocery store shelves empty, hospitals without basic medication and violent crime rampant as desperation leads to anger. While the country has not reported economic data since 2015, Bloomberg’s Cafe Con Leche Index, which aims to track inflation via the cost of a cup of coffee, shows a price surge of 1,419 per cent since mid-August. Economists estimate that prices will rise almost six-fold this year, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey.
A TURN FOR THE WORSE
Moving closer to Venezuela territory — though no country even comes close to its score of nearly 500 — are a handful of central and eastern European countries.
Poland, which experienced the biggest negative move in the rankings, clocks in at No 28 among this year’s 65 economies, from a rank of 45 in last year’s index of actual performance. The higher the ranking, the more miserable the economy. Though it’s seen a steady decline in its unemployment rate since the financial crisis, inflation rose to 1.8 per cent in January after Poland’s longest period of deflation on record. Similar price increases in Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia drove large jumps in the countries’ Misery Index rankings.
The misery also has deepened in Mexico, according to the index. After finishing 2016 at No 38, it’s slated to rise to 31st place as inflation balloons to a forecast of 5 per cent in 2017 from an average 2.8 per cent last year. A combination of the end of government fuel subsidies and the peso’s 11 per cent decline against the dollar since the US presidential election in November is pressuring prices.
The UK’s move by two notches toward more misery comes on the heels of the Brexit vote. The popular referendum that cemented the start of the country’s move out of the European Union has driven the pound to a more than 30-year low, pushing up the cost of imports and, along with it, inflation. Price growth has been sluggish in the UK since oil prices fell at the end of 2014.
Making strides to become less miserable is a diverse cast of characters: Norway, Peru and China.
Norway’s economic woes could at least lower prices for consumers this year, allowing the country some room to improve on last year’s mediocre performance and become less miserable by 18 spots. Economists see oil spending slipping in 2017 while unemployment holds at around 4.8 per cent — the latter perhaps a credit to the government’s spending spree.
Peru also is poised to impress with a noteworthy 13-position move toward a happier economy this year. Again, this is good news for bad reasons: Peru was more miserable than expected in 2016 as a drought sparked food-price inflation and weak domestic demand weighed on the labour market. Economists appear to agree with Peru’s central bank, which sees improvement in investment and trade on the horizon.
Rounding out the most-improved in the rankings this year should be Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Netherlands, China, Ecuador and Russia — each set to move down nine spots or more. A rosier outlook in China, the world’s second-biggest economy, is a boon for global prospects. BLOOMBERG