The World’s Best (and Worst) Economies

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The Least Competitive Economies in the World

10. Swaziland
> GCI score: 3.28
> GDP per capita: $3,358 (51st lowest)
> Debt as a pct. of GDP: 17.5% (22nd lowest)
> Individuals using Internet: 18.1% (46th lowest)
> Infant mortality rates: 55.1 per 1,000 live births (27th highest)

Of the 144 countries studied by the World Economic Forum, Swaziland ranked 14th lowest in providing basic requirements for competitiveness. The kingdom is ranked as one of the 20 worst macroeconomic environments in the world. Swaziland is rated so poorly partly because it is just one of three nations surveyed with a negative savings rate. The country also was especially ineffective, 135th out of 144, at promoting health and basic education, both of which are necessary for a productive and competitive workforce. The health problems presently facing Swaziland are among the worst in the world: 25.9% of the population is estimated to have had HIV or AIDS as of 2009.

9. Timor-Leste
> GCI score: 3.27
> GDP per capita: $3,949 (56th lowest)
> Debt as a pct. of GDP: 0% (the lowest)
> Individuals using Internet: 0.9% (2nd lowest)
> Infant mortality rates: 56.2 per 1,000 live births (25th highest)

Timor-Leste was a province of Indonesia from 1976 to 2002, when it was known as East Timor. While the country, with a population of 1.2 million, has since been independent, it has struggled to compete with other countries in the world. Timor-Leste’s infrastructure is poor and is ranked as the 14th worst out of 144 countries by the WEF, partially because the country’s roads and ports were rated as some of the worst in the world. Much of this may be the product of deliberate infrastructure destruction by anti-independence militias in the late 1990s. Additionally, health concerns are prevalent in the small tropical nation, which has some of the world’s highest incidences of malaria and tuberculosis.

Also Read: Ten Countries Paying People to Retire

8. Lesotho
> GCI score: 3.19
> GDP per capita: $1,264 (30th lowest)
> Debt as a pct. of GDP: 39.6% (71st lowest)
> Individuals using Internet: 4.2% (15th lowest)
> Infant mortality rates: 64.6 per 1,000 live births (18th highest)

According to the WEF, Lesotho was the ninth-worst country for providing the basic health and formal education necessary to develop a strong workforce. The small enclave of South Africa has among the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world at 23.6% in 2009. The country was also the fifth worst in the world for tuberculosis incidence, at 633 cases per 100,000 people in 2010. In addition to health concerns, Lesotho also had poor ratings for the quality of its legal and administrative frameworks, ranking 24th lowest, and infrastructure, ranking 19th lowest.

7. Mozambique
> GCI score: 3.17
> GDP per capita: $583 (11th lowest)
> Debt as a pct. of GDP: 33.2% (51st lowest)
> Individuals using Internet: 4.3% (16th lowest)
> Infant mortality rates: 92.2 per 1,000 live births (5th highest)

Health problems are a very serious concern in Mozambique. The country is among the top 10 in the world in terms of the prevalence of HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. More than 9% of children are expected to die before their first birthdays, while the average life expectancy at birth is just under 50 years of age. To compare, in Switzerland, the most competitive country in the world, less than one-half of 1% of children are expected to die before they turn one, and the life expectancy is 82.2 years old. While Mozambique scores very low in many other areas, it fares slightly better in some. The score of 5.0 for foreign direct investment and technology transfer, while not on par with most highly competitive countries, is higher than for more than most countries.

6. Chad
> GCI score: 3.05
> GDP per capita: $892 (23rd lowest)
> Debt as a pct. of GDP: 32.2% (47th lowest)
> Individuals using Internet: 1.9% (7th lowest)
> Infant mortality rates: 98.9 per 1,000 live births (3rd highest)

Few countries have either a lower quality of legal and administrative framework or lower quality of infrastructure than Chad. Among the problems facing the country are the poor protection of intellectual property, unreliable police services and a low quality electrical supply — all noted by the WEF as significant concerns. Worse yet, none of the 144 countries reviewed by the WEF were rated worse for health and basic education than Chad. The nation has one of the world’s highest incidences of malaria, at 37,881 cases per 100,000 people, as well as the world’s 17th-highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS. The country has one of the world’s lowest life expectancies, at 49.2 years, and highest infant mortality rates — 98.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.