There are hints of optimism in the air, as more people get fully vaccinated, restrictions on activity ease (even if some states are dragging their heels on reopening) and the economy seems ready to boom.
But there are still plenty of places in the world that are absolutely miserable. Cato’s Steve Hanke has developed a rough tool to measure just how bad, or how good, some countries have it. “Hanke’s Annual Misery Index” for 2020 – the year everything went sideways thanks to the coronavirus – ranks the relative misery of 156 countries around the world. The most miserable place on earth? Venezuela. Hanke writes the South American nation:
…holds the inglorious title of the most miserable country in the world in 2020, as it did in all five preceding years. The failures of president Nicolás Maduro’s corrupt, socialist petroleum state have been well documented. But behind the shroud of secrecy that Venezuela has drawn over itself, significant changes occurred within the components of HAMI during 2020. Inflation, while still the world’s highest, plunged from 7,374 percent per year in 2019 to 3,713 percent in 2020. But the unemployment rate surged from 24 percent in 2019 to 50.3 percent. Both the bank‐lending rate and real GDP growth per capita remained about the same in 2020 as in 2019.
The runners-up for the most miserable are Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Lebanon.
Hanke says the least miserable place on earth, by his metrics, is Venezuela’s next-door neighbor, Guyana, which “literally struck oil, and its percentage change in real GDP per capita in 2020 soared by a stunning 25.8 percent.”
The United States clocks in at 109 on the list – not bad (we were less miserable than Canada, ranked 101, but worse off than China, ranked 152.