SA in top five of world’s most miserable countries

Inflation is a disease that can wreck a society, Milton Friedman, the late Nobel laureate economist, once said.

Add rising unemployment to that disease and his profession ascribes a rather nontechnical term to the debilitating effect on people – misery.

This year, that affliction will be most acute in Venezuela, Argentina, South Africa, Ukraine and Greece – the five most painful economies in which to live and work, according to the Bloomberg survey data that make up the misery index for 2015.

It’s a simple equation: unemployment rate plus change in the consumer price index equals misery.

In Ukraine’s case, war will exact greater economic casualties. Tension with Russia-backed rebels will prolong joblessness in the Eastern European nation, and inflation won’t offer much relief, the surveys shows.


The one-two punch means Ukrainian consumers will be the fourth-saddest among 51 economies (including the eurozone area), according to forecasts based on the measure.

Adding to the agony is the relatively abysmal income growth that will fail to cushion Ukrainian households against the still-surging prices. At $8 494 gross domestic product (GDP) per capita this year, Ukraine only edges out the Philippines among the countries surveyed and measured by the International Monetary Fund’s proxy for resident income.

Unemployment will probably climb to 9.5% in Ukraine this year from its 8.9% rate as of the third quarter in 2014, the survey data shows. Inflation is projected to rise at a 17.5% in 2015, compared with the 24.9% December year-on-year rate.

The depressing expectations for Ukraine still aren’t as bad as what the embattled nation faced in 2014, when it finished second in the misery index.

The 2015 projections, dismal as they are, makes Ukraine overtake South Africa and Argentina from last year’s misery-index readings.

The three countries that will probably see the most economic misery in 2015 – South Africa, Argentina and Venezuela – haven’t budged much from their 2014 rankings, when they occupied three of the top four spots, the data shows.

At 78.5%, the estimated consumer price index inflation rate in most-miserable Venezuela more than quadruples Ukraine’s inflation rate. The dire shortage of basic goods in Venezuela last week prompted neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago to offer a tissue paper-for-oil swap.

Five years after investors popularised the term PIIGS to describe a handful of European countries with bloated budget deficits, four of those five countries remain in dire straits, according to their projected misery indexes.

Greece is fifth, Spain is sixth, Portugal is 10th and Italy is 11th in this year’s ranking, though each show about average projected income levels relative to survey peers. Ireland happily sits further down the chain at number 16 in the misery ranking, with a much better than average GDP per capita of $48 787.

The average GDP per capita of the 51 economies in the misery index was $31 079. – Bloomberg

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Michelle Jamrisko
Michelle Jamrisko works from Singapore. Bloomberg SE Asia economy reporter. Ex-Kyodo News. Old beats: U.S. economy, Congress, White House. Happy traveler. Chicago fan. mjamrisko at bloomberg dot net Michelle Jamrisko has over 3351 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

Covid-19 is taking its toll on people’s state of mind

The future is uncertain, and the number of people suffering from anxiety and depression is rising

Three million jobs lost and hunger surging amid Covid-19 crisis — survey

Income shocks and the breakdowns in social protection schemes have had consequences for hunger and food insecurity in South Africa

South Africa’s GDP contracts 2%, entrenches recession

Stats SA’s latest GDP figures show the country’s economy has shrunk 2% in the first quarter of 2020

Ramaphosa: Find the ‘silver lining’ in Covid-19

President Cyril Ramaphosa tells MPs he expects tough economic times ahead for South Africans, but the crisis is a chance to ‘look at the way we’re doing things’

Censorship, surveillance could be the biggest rights challenges post Covid-19

The impacts of these infringements could last well beyond the life of the Covid-19 pandemic

Covid concerns have call centres closing doors — and opening new ones

The sector employs 60 000 people in the Western Cape alone. Whereas some centres have cut staff, others are reskilling and preparing for a different future
Advertising

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

The PPE scandal that the Treasury hasn’t touched

Many government officials have been talking tough about dealing with rampant corruption in PPE procurement but the majority won't even release names of who has benefited from the R10-billion spend

ANC still at odds over how to tackle leaders facing...

The ANC’s top six has been mandated to work closely with its integrity committee to tackle claims of corruption against senior party members
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday