Special Report

The Best and Worst Economies in the World

The Least Competitive Economies

10. Myanmar
> 2014 GDP:
$241.98 billion
> Life expectancy: 65.1 years
> Gov’t debt as % of GDP: 39.7%
> Patent applications per 1 million people: 0.0

Myanmar, previously known as Burma, improved in its rating as a competitive global economy in the 2015 WEF report, moving up three slots, but it still ranks as one of the 10 worst economies in the world. The nation is in the midst of a civil war, fighting several bands of rebels near its Chinese border. Peace may be in sight, but the conflict has certainly done the country no favors as a global competitor.

Specifically, Myanmar has one of the least efficient markets in the world. Obtaining a loan in the country, for example, is extremely difficult, which is a severe hindrance to smooth business operations. The nation’s financial institutions are poorly regulated, and banks are among the least trustworthy and least stable in the world.

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9. Venezuela
> 2014 GDP:
$538.92 billion
> Life expectancy: 74.6 years
> Gov’t debt as % of GDP: 45.6%
> Patent applications per 1 million people: 0.3

Though it ranked slightly better than Haiti, Venezuela is one of two Latin American nations that are among the 10 least competitive in the world. Unlike Haiti, which is still primarily a factor-driven economy, relying on unskilled labor and natural resources, Venezuela is transitioning to an efficiency-driven economy, which means it is developing more efficient production processes and increasing product quality.

Despite the transition to a more sophisticated economy, the South American nation is rife with impediments to development. Though secondary educational enrollment in Venezuela is better than in most countries at 93%, the national education system’s quality is among the poorest in the world. The country’s problems do not stop with the school system. Venezuelan government institutions are among the most corrupt, unethical, inefficient, and secretive in the world.

8. Mozambique
> 2014 GDP:
$31.99 billion
> Life expectancy: 50.2 years
> Gov’t debt as % of GDP: 55.4%
> Patent applications per 1 million people: n/a

The largest drags on Mozambique’s economy are its inadequate access to finances, government protection for businesses, and poor physical infrastructure. While nations with stable, developed economies are able to borrow to fund public services and stimulate the economy, nations like Mozambique, where access to finance, inefficient bureaucracy, and corruption are major problems, are not. The Mozambique government has a budget deficit worth 8.4% of its GDP, one of the lowest government budget balances in the world. The government does not adequately protect its businesses, as laws that protect intellectual property are inefficient and public funds are often illegally diverted to private interests — in a word, the government is corrupt. A healthy population is often essential for sustainable growth and prosperity. Mozambique has among the most cases of Tuberculosis and HIV of any country, as well as relatively high infant mortality. Life expectancy is 50.2 years, far lower than the global average life expectancy.

7. Haiti
> 2014 GDP:
$18.31 billion
> Life expectancy: 63.1 years
> Gov’t debt as % of GDP: 26.7%
> Patent applications per 1 million people: 0.0

One of the most important features of a healthy economy — one that promotes long-term growth and a high standard of living for residents — is access to financing. In Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, access to financing is the most commonly reported hindrance to doing business. The stakes are relatively high for Haiti, especially as the country is in many ways still recovering from the 2010 earthquake, which killed hundreds of thousands of people and crippled the nation’s infrastructure. According to a recent World Bank report, foreign assistance to Haiti has declined from $1.5 billion to $500 million.

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6. Malawi
> 2014 GDP:
$13.73 billion
> Life expectancy: 55.2 years
> Gov’t debt as % of GDP: 62.0%
> Patent applications per 1 million people: 0.0

The southeast African nation of Malawi has one of the worst infrastructures in the world. For example, less than a third of the nation is currently using mobile phones. In the United States, in contrast, 98.4% of the population has a mobile phone subscription. While the nation’s road and rail quality appear to be passable, Malawi’s air transportation and port infrastructures are among the worst in the world. The level of technological development in the nation is also less than adequate. For example, just 5.8% of Malawi’s population has access to the Internet. A quality education system is important to developing a competitive workforce, and Malawi’s school system is weak at every level of education. Only a tiny fraction — 0.8% — of the population has a college education. Barely a third of the population has the equivalent of high school education.

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