Zimbabwe is the world’s most miserable country, surpassing Venezuela, Cuba and war-torn Syria.
This is evident from an annual ‘misery index’, which ranks nearly 160 countries at factors such as unemployment rates, inflation and interest rates on bank loans.
The African country, which is home to about 16 million people, has now been among the top five most gloomy countries for three years in a row.
Robert Mugabe’s ruthless rule over Zimbabwe turned his country into an international outcast, mired in corruption, violence and an economic crisis that pushed tens of thousands into abject poverty.
Although the late ex-president was impeached in 2017, the mineral-rich country is still dealing with the economic fallout from his 37-year reign.
Behind Zimbabwe in Hanke’s annual misery index came Venezuela, also plagued by “economic mismanagement,” and Syria, which has been embroiled in a horrific civil war for more than a decade.
Zimbabwe, home to about 16 million people, has been plagued for decades by eye-watering cost-of-living spikes and controversial former President Robert Mugabe, whose 37 years in power have been plagued by corruption and violence. Under Mugabe and his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa (right), Zimbabwe has experienced two periods of hyperinflation – when prices rise by 50 percent or more each month
Britain is more miserable than last year – from 153rd to 129th on the scale.
Professor Steve Hanke, the economist behind the ranking, claimed inflation, which stood at 10.1 percent in March, has been a “key contributing factor.”
Despite being on a downward trend now, it led to the biggest rise in food prices since 1977 and added £800 to the average household’s annual bill.
But the US went the other way, from 102nd to 134th.
Unemployment was the biggest impact factor, with just 3.4 percent of Americans (5.7 million) unemployed in April — the lowest level in decades.
Ukraine, currently defending its country in a violent and bloody war started by Vladimir Putin’s invading Russian forces, came eighth, with Professor Hanke citing unemployment.
Local media reports that unemployment has tripled to 35 percent as a result of the war, or 5.2 million people unemployed. The figure is based on a report by the National Bank of Ukraine.
The misery ranking is based on an algorithm that scores each country based on their unemployment, inflation, interest rates and GDP growth. It does not take into account other metrics such as resident polls or health.
The scores are the sum of unemployment (multiplied by two), inflation, and bank loans, minus the annual percentage change in real GDP per capita.
Cuba, last year’s most miserable country – which suffered skyrocketing inflation in 2021, fueled by the value of the peso, its currency, which fell 95 percent that year alone – is now ninth, just behind Ukraine.
Argentina ranked sixth among the most dismal. It is also battling a cost-of-living crisis, with inflation surpassing 100 percent in February for the first time since the 1990s.
As a result, many live in poverty. Last summer, the country saw three different ministers of economic affairs in just four weeks with protests on the streets over the situation.
Meanwhile, Switzerland remained at the bottom.
said Professor Hanke one of the biggest factors behind Zimbabwe’s ‘most miserable’ position is the ruling political party with an ‘iron grip’. The past three decades have seen allegations of election manipulation and violence.
And under Mugabe and his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, it has experienced two periods of hyperinflation – when prices rise by 50 percent or more each month.
The plummeting value of the currency led to shocking scenes of people filling buckets with cash – just to buy a loaf of bread.
He said: ‘With the elections just around the corner, [opposition leader] Nelson Chamisa and his Citizens Coalition for Change are doing well in the polls, and assuming there will be fair and free elections in Zimbabwe, he could well lift Zimbabwe out of the gutter.”
Popular among young people and the unemployed, Chamisa has promised to solve the country’s economic situation.
Together with Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Lebanon and Sudan are also among the most miserable.
Venezuela has experienced two episodes of hyperinflation under President Nicolas Maduro, now ten years in office.
Professor Hanke said: ‘Since Maduro came to power in 2013, it has also seen the oil production of his state oil company PDVSA collapse by 76 percent.’
The country has the largest oil reserves in the world and depends on industry for almost all of its income. It has also faced US sanctions, which restrict access to foreign currency. As a result, there are high rates of extreme poverty.
‘No wonder more than 7 million Venezuelans have fled their homeland since 2015. They are miserable,’ said Professor Hanke.
Unsurprisingly, Switzerland is at the bottom of the misery table.
The Central European country is one of the richest in the world and among the best in terms of life expectancy, education time and average salaries, according to the UN’s latest Human Development Index.
After the European country at the bottom of the league, Kuwait, Ireland, Japan and Malaysia follow.