Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Following a turbulent year marked by a global economic crisis, the Legatum Prosperity Index seeks to answer these two fundamental questions. It defines prosperity as both wealth and wellbeing, and finds that the most prosperous nations in the world are not necessarily those that have only a high GDP, but are those that also have happy, healthy, and free citizens.79 different variables? Combined into sub-indexes? Mystery meat indeed! The sub-indices are:
The Prosperity Index accounts for 90% of the world�s population and is based on years of statistical analysis and research of objective data and subjective responses to surveys. The data comprises 79 different variables organised into nine sub indexes � each identified as a foundation of long-term prosperity. A country�s performance in each sub-index is given a score, and the overall Prosperity Index rankings are produced by averaging the scores of the nine sub-indexes for each country. Those countries that perform well across each sub-index do best in the overall rankings.
- Economic Fundamentals � a growing, sound economy that provides opportunities for wealth creation
- Entrepreneurship and Innovation � an environment friendly to new enterprises and the commercialisation of new ideas
- Democratic Institutions � transparent and accountable governing institutions that promote economic growth
- Education � an accessible, high-quality educational system that fosters human development
- Health � the physical wellbeing of the populace
- Safety and Security � a safe environment in which people can pursue opportunity
- Governance � an honest and effective government that preserves order and encourages productive citizenship
- Personal Freedom � the degree to which individuals can choose the course of their lives
- Social Capital � trustworthiness in relationships and strong communities
America has a large domestic market but a large trade deficit, and attracts relatively little foreign direct investmentI cannot tell from the information on the website how all this data is combined. (The methodology paper is apparently not ready for posting yet.) If the country is ranked lower because of the domestic savings rate I would ask why. If one can lead a full and happy life with low level of savings why wouldn't it do so? I don't understand the mention of export to import price ratios. A country that has a great amount of domestic capital does not necessarily need FDI. And many of these variables are interrelated. As I wrote (in a paper with Bill Luksetich), the independent effect of many variables is muted once one includes fundamental variables like the presence of private property rights. (The only mention of property in the Legatum measure I found was for intellectual property.)
America�s household spending is the highest in the world as a proportion of GDP, although domestic savings rates are only 14% of income, ranking the country 82nd in the world. Levels of capital stock per worker are in the top 10, and inflation was 3% in 2007. The US economy focuses on high value added goods and services, and is not dependent on exports of raw materials. However, its ratio of export prices relative to the cost of imported goods is weaker, ranking the country 78th in the world. The US also attracts relatively little foreign direct investment, which accounts for just 2% of GDP, ranking the country 83rd on this variable. Net interest margins are near the global average, while the amount of non-performing loans is low, ranking the country 26th on this variable and suggesting that the banking sector is moderately competitive and efficient.
Averaging 79 measures may be weighted or unweighted. Reading the 2008 report suggests to me some kind of weighting, but I can't tell again how it's done. Until and when we see something on the methodology, you can't rely on measures like this. GIGO.