Special Report

The World's Best (and Worst) Economies

5. Yemen
> GCI score: 2.97
> GDP per capita: $1,340 (32nd lowest)
> Debt as a pct. of GDP: 42.5% (66th highest)
> Individuals using Internet: 14.9% (37th lowest)
> Infant mortality rates: 57.3 per 1,000 live births (23rd highest)

Yemen is the lowest-rated country when it comes to innovation, ranking last in company spending on research and development. But it’s hard to drive innovation in a non-technologically-advanced country such as Yemen. Low technological readiness scores were the biggest indicator of a noncompetitive country than all other economic measures and Yemen was no exception, scoring the sixth worst of all 144 countries. A weak educational system is also a problem for the country — it ranks dead last in terms of quality of primary education, quality of math and science education and overall quality of the educational system. The government has not provided the necessary help. Like many uncompetitive countries, Yemen suffers from a dysfunctional public sector. Nowhere is the diversion of public funds to various groups and individuals due to corruption more common. Yemen was also rated to have the third-most wasteful spending government. Respondents to the WEF said the two most problematic factors for doing business are policy instability and corruption.

4. Guinea
> GCI score: 2.90
> GDP per capita: $492 (8th lowest)
> Debt as a pct. of GDP: 72.2% (26th highest)
> Individuals using Internet: 1.3% (5th lowest)
> Infant mortality rates: 81.2 per 1,000 live births (10th highest)

Few countries have a poorer infrastructure than Guinea, where the nation’s roads and electrical supply are rated among the lowest quality in the world. Further, the country has a poor institutional environment, with bribes more common than in all but two other countries and auditing standards for businesses among the world’s weakest. Guinea’s economy also faces significant inflation concerns, as Guinea’s CPI rose 21.5% last year — the second highest increase among all 144 countries studied by the WEF. Aside from economic concerns, health issues were also a problem in the country, which had the highest incidence of malaria in the world, at almost 39,710 cases per 100,000 people.

Also Read: The 10 Most Educated Countries in the World

3. Haiti
> GCI score: 2.90
> GDP per capita: $738 (18th lowest)
> Debt as a pct. of GDP: 10.6% (13th lowest)
> Individuals using Internet: 8.4% (23rd lowest)
> Infant mortality rates: 70.4 per 1,000 live births (14th highest)

As evidenced by the devastation of the Haiti’s earthquake and the struggle to rebuild the country, Haiti lacks the infrastructure necessary to compete in the global economy. The country’s infrastructure is the weakest in the world, according to the WEF. Furthermore, the country’s second-to-last ranking for institutions, is exacerbated by government problems. The country ranks last in public trust in politicians and second to last in transparency in government policymaking. Improvement in both these fields will be necessary for Haiti to allow it to slowly begin competing on the world stage.

2. Sierra Leone
> GCI score: 2.82
> GDP per capita: $366 (5th lowest)
> Debt as a pct. of GDP: 60% (39th highest)
> Individuals using Internet: 0.3% (the lowest)
> Infant mortality rates: 113.7 per 1,000 live births (the highest)

Access to health services and education is a serious concern for the country. The country has the worst infant mortality rate of all countries, with 113.7 deaths per 1,000 live births. For children dying before the age of five, the rate is nearly 1 in 5, according to the World Health Organization. The country is in the bottom 10 in the percentage of the age-appropriate population enrolled in both secondary and tertiary education. According to the most recent data from the World Bank, only 41% of the population aged 15 and older is literate. While the Internet has become an increasingly important factor in the global economy, less than 1% of the country’s population uses it, the lowest rate of all 144 countries.

1. Burundi
> GCI score: 2.78
> GDP per capita: $279 (the lowest)
> Debt as a pct. of GDP: 35.3% (58th highest)
> Individuals using Internet: 1.1% (4th lowest)
> Infant mortality rates: 87.8 per 1,000 live births (7th highest)

The least globally competitive country had problems all around. It was ranked in the bottom five in eight of the 12 major economic measures. The country ranks dead last in technological readiness, a key factor in what separates competitive and noncompetitive countries. Residents blame poor access to financing and corruption as the two most problematic factors for doing business in the country, and based on the WEF’s research it is not hard to see why. The country was ranked last also in the pillar of financial market development, which involves factors such as availability and affordability of financing. Last year, Burundi was ranked the most corrupt in East Africa, according to the nonprofit Transparency International.

Ashley C. Allen, Samuel Weigley and Alexander E. M. Hess

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