11 November 2014

In a strange juxtaposition, the capitulation of Germany and its allies 96 years ago, ending the war to end all wars, is being used as a centennial marker for the horrors of the conflict that in 1914 was already being called the Great War, becoming increasingly known from the 1920s as the First World War.

By the time of the Armistice, the slogan of the British Prime Minister was that his government would create a land fit for heroes. The 2014 Prosperity Index, released over the weekend, suggests that whatever the benefits of victory were in 1918, Britain may still not have delivered on that aspiration.

As a snapshot in time the Prosperity Index suggests that some victor nations have held onto to spoils of that war,  some non belligerent countries have fared better, but none of the defeated nations make the Top 10.

The United States which emerged from the war as a great power, makes it into tenth place among the ten most prosperous nations.  The old Empire is represented by New Zealand (3rd), Canada (5th) and Australia (7th) but the United Kingdom doesn’t feature in the Top 10 (being 12th and below Ireland (11th) which seems to have benefitted by its independence.  Finland (8th) which was part of Russia at the start of the War, wrought its independence through a civil war in 1917.

Norway (1st), Switzerland (2nd), Denmark (4th) ,Sweden(6th) and the Netherlands (9th) avoided being embroiled in the conflict.

Germany  (14th) and Austria (15th) have not suffered in the same way as the Balkan states where events precipitated the war – Croatia (50th), Serbia (77th), Bosnia ( 91st), Montenegro (65th).

Other belligerents  are a mixed bag eg France (21st), Italy (37th), Czech Republic (29th), Hungary (39th) and Turkey (86th).

An interesting contrast is a World Economic Forum survey Outlook on the Global Agenda, which includes ratings on leadership and governance – of relevance to the APEC summit this week.   The Confidence in Leaders measures show most confidence in Switzerland (5.21).  Some other measures are Germany (4.95), China (4.93), Japan (4.69),  Canada (4.38)  United Kingdom (4.29), France (4.28), Australia (4.11) and United States (3.93).

A Pew Report published last week highlights the obverse of the Prosperity Index.  Crime and corruption top the list of problems faced by respondents in emerging and developing nations,  and are viewed as having a growing impact. The median across 20 countries surveyed in 2008 and again in 2014 shows the number of people citing these issues as a very big problem has jumped from 64% to 74% for crime, and 63% to 73% for corruption.  Poor quality schools has jumped from 38% to 51%.

Legatum Prosperity Index 2014 (Overall Top 10)

1  Norway

2   Switzerland

3   New Zealand

        Personal Freedom  1st

       Social Capital          2nd

      Governance               2nd

      Education                   7th

      Safety & Security      10th

     Economy                      15th

      Entrepreneurship   18th

      Health                          20th


4   Denmark

5   Canada

6   Sweden

7   Australia

8   Finland

9   Netherlands

10   United States