Like death and taxes, no one escapes the ravages of inflation. These days, it’s the talk of folks from Caracas to Lagos to Moscow. Americans who are complaining about the rising cost of living probably don’t realize that they have it pretty good, ranking near the bottom of the ranking of core inflation rates compiled by Trading Economics.com.
The cost of living will take center stage in the U.S. as the 2012 election kicks into gear, in particular gas prices which have risen 24% since the start of the year and are nearing the $4 not seen since 2008. The timing of the increase couldn’t have come as the peak summer driving season is about to start. Food prices are also soaring and food banks in the U.S. report business is booming so much that supplies are running low at some organizations.
People in other countries have it much worse. In March, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and its FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) averaged 230 points in March 2011, down 2.9 percent from its peak in February, but still 37 percent above March last year. Last year, there were reports of food price riots in Africa and rumors that the unrest may spread to the developing world.
Prices are rising for many reasons. The unrest in the Middle East has helped boost oil prices along with demand from emerging economies such as China and India. Growing demand for ethanol and other alternative fuels is helping boost prices for corn, which in turn helps keep prices for wheat high because farmers are increasingly planting the more profitable crop.
“The rise in food prices could well be a temporary phenomenon,” according to Deloitte’s recently released Global Economic Outlook. ” However, food retailers who are currently burdened with high costs will likely raise the cost of products on the shelves and not drop prices even if food costs decline. The result is that several food products are likely to be permanently costlier.
Oil prices, which currently trade at about $113 a barrel, are expected to remain above $100 a barrel for “quite some time,” according to the Institute for International Finance. Some pessimists are predicting that oil will hit $150, a level at which no one from large companies such as airlines to average consumers can afford.
It is against that backdrop that we present the 15 countries with the highest inflation in the world. Data comes from a variety of sources including the CIA’s World Factbook and the International Monetary Fund.