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The addition of 30 countries to the Wealth of Nations Triangle Index gives a better gauge of Afghanistan’s neighbors, among other revelations, while inducing an avalanche in the rankings overall
For five years, The WorldPaper has been measuring and monitoring three dozen emerging economies by a complex combination of three sets—a triangle—of indicators: Economic, Social and Information Exchange. The variables are chosen to determine how balanced each country is in its development and thus its overall attractiveness to outside investors. Now with a grant from the Better World Fund, the number of emerging economies put under the statistical microscope has been doubled to a total of 70 with a wider range of countries from Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Oceania. The results and subsequent rankings are unexpected for many nations, auspicious for others and surprising overall
The fall 2001 Wealth of Nations Triangle Index of Emerging Economies appears at a time of global turmoil and political realignments. World War and Cold War enemies are uniting as never before in a 21st-century war on international terrorism. NATO is supporting the United States rather than depending on it. A spooked global economy continues its prolonged slump with no clear sign of an upturn. The new Index, now expanded to 70 nations, reveals clues to the global and local terror and severe discontent.
Three border nations with Afghanistan rank at or near the bottom of the Index: Uzbekistan (58), Pakistan (62) and Iran (69), with real GDP per capita of $2,380, $1,960 and $5,900, respectively. Meanwhile, Israel, which Islamic radicals have branded as a main cause of September’s terror attacks, remains in the top three, with real GDP per capita at $19,320. Israel ranks far higher than all its Middle Eastern and North African neighbors—a “have” neighboring a vast region of “have-nots.”
While the addition of 30 new nations brings more depth and definition to the Index, it has also caused dramatic shifts in the rankings. Newcomer Ireland now leads the Index by a considerable margin, spurred by a stunningly strong 11-percent GDP growth in 2000—well ahead of South Korea at 8.81 percent, and Malaysia at 8.54 percent. Ireland, a mix of conflict and potential, has become a new role model for much of the developing world. It was showcased at a WorldPaper International Inquiry in Cartagena, Colombia, as the “new Chile” or the “new Malaysia.”
The addition of 30 new nations to the Index led to precipitous drops for two Index stalwarts from the Middle East. Iran remains one notch from the bottom but still took a plunge, falling from 39th to 69th, while Jordan dropped from 28th to 43rd. Overall indicators for Iran and Jordan remained relatively steady compared with past years, but they both nevertheless lost more than 100 points in their raw scores. A bunching of the added nations in the middle of the Index served to widen rankings overall, with only 100 points separating Panama, at 22nd, from Jordan, at 43rd. The raw-score gap between nations at the top and bottom of the Index also increased.
A summary of the key points in the expanded Index:
Small is beautiful
Two leading nations in the Index happen to be islands—Ireland and Taiwan—suggesting that geographical forces may affect Economic, Social and Information Exchange subindex scores within nations. Small countries in the Index have historically scored better than giants such as China, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan and India, whose packed metropolises and far-flung rural populations create enormous social and infrastructure problems for central governments. China (46), Russia (47) and India (49) all group closely together in the bottom half of the Index. In the raw scores, China leads Russia by merely a point.
Equible Eastern Europe
Seven of the top 20 nations in the expanded Index are in Eastern Europe, including newcomers Estonia (8) and Slovenia (9)—both landing soundly in the top 10. As former socialist countries, they scored especially well in the Social subindex because of their strong health and education policies. These countries were early adopters of modern consumer technologies such as VCRs and fax machines, which spread word of the impending breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and they continued in the 1990s with high personal-computer consumption thanks to their proximity to Scandinavia and steady government investment.
The Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Slovenia and Lithuania all scored higher in the Information Exchange subindex than 7th-ranked Malaysia, where the government has repeatedly pushed technology initiatives and routinely trumpets its “K-economy.” Hungary, for example, counts 75 PCs for every 1,000 residents, compared with 13 PCs for every 1,000 Malaysians.
Islands in the storm
As noted, third-ranked Israel scores much higher on the Index than its neighboring Middle Eastern and North African neighbors, just as 18th-ranked South Africa enjoys a healthier economy than its weaker African neighbors. The data are a reminder of the stark contrasts among nations that share borders and cultures, and of the widespread poverty and social dysfunction that generates internal political turmoil and scares away foreign investment dollars.
Israel easily outranks Kuwait (12), Tunisia (25), Lebanon (29), Morocco (30), Bahrain (32), Egypt (40), Saudi Arabia (42), Jordan (45) and Iran (69). Kuwait is well balanced across all three Economic, Social and Information Exchange subindexes. Both Saudi Arabia and Egypt could advance in the overall rankings by improving Information Exchange. All in all, the Arab states score moderate to low on both Social and Information Exchange subindexes. Bahrain, at 32nd, for example, has a higher Economic subindex rank than 5th-placed Hungary, but it can’t compete with Hungary overall scores.
Mostly because of its high Information Exchange subindex score, South Africa outranks Tunisia (25), Morocco (30), Egypt (40), Uganda (55), Senegal (56), Ghana (57), Algeria (61), Kenya (64), Tanzania (65), Cameroon (66), Cote d’Ivoire (67), Nigeria (68) and Zimbabwe (70). Good Information Exchange bodes well for future economic and social growth. Seven of the bottom 10 nations are in Africa.
Top 10 taking off
The added 30 contries has made it more difficult for most nations to score well in the Index. Most of the original 40 nations in the Index now score lower than they did one year ago. Increasing competition among the indexed nations reduces overall indices and disrupts rank order. Most of the original 40 dropped several notches, if not plummeted outright.
The top 10, however, are a notable exception. Their scores increased as their overall stability against some of the newer and poorer nations gave them a relative lift. The average raw score for the top 10 increased 5 points (to 1,574) while the average for the bottom 10 dropped more than 100 points (to 931). Whether this indicates a growing gap between developing nations and leading emerging economies or is a one-time statistical oddity may be better understood when the Index is recalculated in spring 2002.
Nick Sullivan is a Boston-based financial journalist and a consultant for World Times, Inc. He updated and expanded the 12th semiannual Wealth of Nations Triangle Index.