NZ 3rd for global prosperity

The 2014 Legatum Prosperity Index™ shows New Zealand is the third most prosperous country in the world, ahead of Australia:

New Zealand has reached its highest level of prosperity ever recorded in the Legatum Prosperity Index (which covers the last six years), climbing two places since 2013 when it ranked fifth.

Norway takes first position while the Central African Republic finishes bottom of the rankings.

The results of the 2014 Prosperity Index show New Zealand ranks in the top 20 in all eight categories, and in the world top 10 in five: Personal Freedom, Governance, Social Capital, Education, and Safety & Security. New Zealand is the most prosperous nation in the Asia-Pacific region, and ranks ahead of Canada (5th), Australia (7th), the US (10th) and the UK (13th).

The Index reveals that New Zealand is now the freest country in the world, ranking 1st for Personal Freedom. It is the most tolerant nation in the world, with 92% and 93% reporting the country a good place to live for immigrants and ethnic minorities respectively.

Freedom is matched by strong civil society, with New Zealand’s families among the strongest in the world: 96% can rely on family and friends in times of need, the second highest in the world. New Zealand society is among the most trusting: 62% are trusting of people in general, up from 51% in 2008. New Zealand ranks 2nd in the world for Social Capital in 2014.

New Zealand has shown a particularly strong improvement in the Economy sub-index, rising 12 places since 2012 to rank 15th in the world. This rise is in large part not the result of a fiscal boost from the Christchurch rebuild, but is instead driven by low inflation, increased optimism about the job market (38% up from 28% in 2011), and a longer term improvement in living standards. 87% of New Zealanders now report being satisfied with their living standards, rising from 80% in 2008.

With improving economic performance, thriving civil society, and high levels of freedom, the 2014 Index reveals that New Zealand is strong, prosperous, and free.

The 5 most prosperous countries are:
1. Norway
2. Switzerland
3. New Zealand
4. Denmark
5. Canada

The 5 least prosperous countries are:
1. Central African Republic
2. Chad
3. Congo (DR)
4. Burundi
5. Yemen

Other interesting findings from the report include:
The United States is no longer perceived to be the ‘land of the free’. While the economy has improved as result of the fall in unemployment and an uplift in economic sentiment, the US comes 21st when it comes to personal freedom, trailing Canada (5th), Uruguay (8th) and Costa Rica (15th). The US has also become less tolerant of ethnic minorities and immigrants over the last six years.
Four of the top 10 countries in the Economy sub-index are in Asia. China rises one place this year in the Economy sub-index to 6th. Singapore is 2nd, Japan 7th and South Korea 9th, demonstrating the region’s potential for beneficial trade agreements.
Sierra Leone is the worst performing country on the Health sub-index and Sub-Saharan African countries make up nine of the bottom 10 countries on this sub-index. The health systems in the majority of countries in the region are underdeveloped and ill-prepared to face serious threats to public health, such as the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.
Britain is the most prosperous of all the major EU countries, ranking 13th in the world.

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne said:

“Today’s report by the Legatum Institute which shows the UK as the most prosperous major EU country provides further international support for the government’s long term economic plan. Thanks to the difficult decisions we have taken to deliver economic security and control the public finances we have moved three places up the global rankings. It is fantastic to see Britain leading the way for entrepreneurship, personal freedom, health and education.”

James Barty, Senior Adviser at the Legatum Institute, said:
“With prosperity recently stated as a key metric in New Zealand’s continued development, the government should take heart from the country’s impressive performance in this year’s Prosperity Index.

“Despite the challenges of productivity, location, and a small domestic market, New Zealand continues to flourish and has seen the government’s commitment to sound finances reflected in the country’s improved performance in the Economy sub-index, reaching its highest ever position at 15th in the world.

“Whilst a solid economy is important, it is in particular its strong civil society, high levels of freedom, and good governance that sets New Zealand apart, driving its prosperity upward and securing its place in the global top three.” . . .

The full report should be here (though when I looked it was still showing 2013’s results).

Doing better doesn’t mean we don’t have problems.

But this result reflects well on New Zealand, New Zealanders, are society and institutions, including government.

It contrasts with UNICEF’s child poverty report published last week which was critical of New Zealand, but the report doesn’t measure poverty, it measures inequality:

Unicef has released another instalment in their annual look at child poverty in the developed nations. And they’ve managed to pile a grievous error on top of their usual misunderstandings to leave us with a report that we really shouldn’t take seriously: for it’s really not a serious report. . .

Given that we’re simply not talking about poverty here, we’re talking about inequality. We can differ on whether inequality really is one of the defining problems of our time (I don’t agree, just for the record) but I do hope that we can all agree that this is a different problem than poverty. This especially important when we try to do cross country comparisons. When I look out my office window here in the Czech Republic I see a country where the average wage (median) is around £600 a month, the minimum wage is around £300 or so (a month). In my native UK the minimum is perhaps £1,050 and the median is more like £2,000. But if incomes are more unequally distributed in the UK (they are) than they are here in Bohemia then, despite near every child in the UK enjoying a higher income than almost all here, child poverty is described as higher in the UK. . .

We spent most of October in India where it is impossible to ignore inequality and where the problem is not just the gap between rich and poor but how little the poor have.

In New Zealand some people don’t have enough.

This won’t be solved by concentrating on inequality.

It will be solved by addressing the causes of poverty which include benefit dependency and poor education.


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