Countries which are doing better in 2020

Countries which are doing better in 2020

In 2019 worldwide news was dominated by the USA, UK, Australia, China, Russia and of course for those of us both in and from South Africa, our own country also ranked high.

We analysed, projected and mused over political and economic decisions which would touch our pockets directly, and most of us paid little mind to developments elsewhere. Truth be told, however, the world has more options to offer the international vagrant than the normal, predictable options. Most people move to countries which are familiar, where we know the language and culture, and which is similar to our own in some respects. 

But for those of us who have a sense of adventure and the freedom to explore other options, there are some regions which are showing remarkable growth and stability – places which we may not have considered before, but are becoming increasingly attractive when we look at the statistics. Some other regions, of course, have been popular with South African expats all along.

Rand Rescue takes a look at some of these countries.

New Zealand is a breath of fresh air

According to Seek in New Zealand, job opportunities in New Zealand are increasing by an estimated 10% per year. This trend is ascribed to the incredible growth of New Zealand industries. 

The country’s exports from their primary sector have increased at remarkable rates for the past few years, with farm, fishing and forestry exports growing by 7.1% in 2019, meat and wool exports by 6.4% and seafood exports rising by 7.3%. Though global economic growth has slowed down a bit, New Zealand has had an average 3.1% GDP growth per year from 1983.

Unfortunately New Zealand also has high assault and violent crime rates compared to other countries, but it should be noted that the overall crime ranking is nearly half that of South Africa. Interestingly, New Zealand’s violent crime is higher than South Africa’s in certain respects, when it comes to one of our most devastating statistics – rape and murder rate – New Zealand’s ranking is almost negligible compared to SA.

Also, when comparing our Global Peace Index rankings, it’s alarming that South Africa has lost two spots in the past few years, moving to 127th place compared to New Zealand’s ranking of 2nd most peaceful nation in the world.

New Zealand has also been lauded for its liberal approach to international trade which creates progressive trade agreements and partnerships worldwide. And if you want a breath of fresh air, New Zealand is quite literally the best place to be with the lowest air pollution in the world!

Russia’s homicide rate drops

Russia may not be the first place we look to when considering a safe and peaceful life, but perhaps it should make the cut as a prospective new home. With intentional homicide rates equaling South Africa’s numbers in 2002, it was not necessarily a very attractive alternative in the past, but the country has made a remarkable recovery – with rates dropping steadily over the past two decades, down to a mere 7 per 100 000 citizens in 2019 compared to South Africa’s 35.6.

Using several indices, the comparison of Russia’s crime versus South Africa’s paints a highly contrasting picture. Russia’s rape rate is a mere 3.4, compared to South Africa’s at 90.9 (or 132.4 depending on which statistics you use). And while Russia’s rates are going down, South Africa’s violent crime is increasing. And while South Africa’s common assault rate stands at a sky-high 275.3, Russia’s has decreased from 57.9 in 2005 down to 23.3 in 2018.

Furthermore, although Russia’s economy is not exactly booming, it is showing nearly double the GDP growth per annum than South Africa.

Ethiopia is booming!

Sure, Ethiopia may not be top of mind when considering a place to relocate to, but if you’re up for a bit of adventure, it may as well be on your itinerary.

Listed as the world’s third poorest country in 2000, there was little hope for a country of which half the population lived below the poverty line and had the highest poverty rate in the world. But with a bit of luck, loads of determination and a collective effort from its masses, Ethiopia has become the world’s third fastest growing economy. Given the dire straits of most economies in the world, it is remarkable to note that the country’s GDP has grown by an average 9.9% per year over the 2008-2018 decade, and the  IMF foresees further growth at an annual pace of 6.2%.

By 2016, the chunk of population living below the poverty line had been more than halved – to a mere 24% down from 50%, according to the World Bank.

Of course, Ethiopia will undoubtedly not have achieved this on its own, but the country is an example of how worldwide aid and intervention can rescue an economy – provided those in power work responsibly with the funding they receive. Remarkably, although Ethiopia’s corruption perception score is high, it is far lower than other countries in the region (including South Africa), indicating that they have managed to mitigate the misappropriation of funding far better than some other economies.

Malaysia leads the way!

Malaysia is undoubtedly an Asian success story. Despite slower growth recorded worldwide, Malaysia has shown a steady growth over the past decade, with 4.6% GDP growth recorded in 2019, according to the World Bank.

The reason behind Malaysia’s success is its investment in tech innovation two decades ago. It all started with the Multimedia Super Corridor launched in the mid 90s, which kickstarted the country’s focus on technology as a key driver for tech investment and focused business interests on innovation. Additionally, the National Broadband Initiative launched in 2007 added a further boost to the economy. According to the World Bank, every 10% increase in broadband penetration adds 1.3% growth to the GDP.

But the country didn’t stop at tech innovation, it has also shown remarkable dedication to sustainability and environmental efforts. The KLIA airport in Malaysia has won the Green Globe Certification numerous years in a row. The Green Globe Certification is a badge of honour showing their efforts in sustainable travel. Furthermore, the country has a no-nonsense stance with regards to waste. It recently returned 150 containers of plastic waste to the countries of origin, including the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Spain, Sri Lanka, Japan and Singapore. And don’t dare litter – those caught polluting in Malaysia can expect fines up to RM100 000 (R355 872) or five years imprisonment.

Spain for a long and healthy life!

Spain is currently ranked 5th in the world when it comes to life expectancy – sharing the spot with Italy. However, a study published by international medical journal The Lancet indicates that Spain will take the top spot by 2040, with a life expectancy of 85.8 years.

The country is currently at no.1 of Bloomberg’s Healthiest Country Index, moving a whopping five places in just two years from 2017 to 2019. The remarkable health and longevity indices are said to be due, in part,  to penalties imposed on risks such as tobacco use and obesity, and access to provisions like clean water and sanitation.

The European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies also noted that Spain’s no.1 ranking comes down to primary care and treatment of chronic and acute diseases. Researchers also noted the stark dietary contrasts when comparing Spain to nations like the USA. The types of fats and oils and ways in which meals are prepared and food processed are key indicators of lifelong health and wellness. 

The six health factors guiding the trajectory of death are high blood pressure, high body mass index, high blood sugar, tobacco use, alcohol use and air pollution – and for those six factors Spain seems to be making the best progress and addressing the issues throughout its citizenry.

Georgia gets it right

With an annual GDP growth rate exceeding 4% for the past few years, Georgia is certainly one of the places to consider if you’re moving abroad.

It is one of the easiest places to open a bank account and get citizenship, and you’ll also be happy to know that this country has taken a stand against climate change. A mere four years ago, Georgia had one of the highest rates of air pollution in the world, with detrimental health consequences for residents. But the country has taken action with stricter enforcement of its Clean Air Act and a greater interest in clean energy.

The Georgia Conservancy is dedicated to not only reducing the country’s carbon footprint but improving the health and safety for all citizens. The focus on environmental safety and preservation has sparked widespread action, with Tbilisi becoming a hub for conservation activism.

Such are their dedication to improving air quality and reducing their carbon footprint, that certain areas of Georgia are now being monitored from space to better gauge where illegal logging activities are taking place, where degradation is taking place and where the country needs to focus its environmental and biodiversity conservation efforts.

Vietnam the triumphant underdog

There’s no denying the impact of war on a country, and when it comes to Vietnam, the story is no different. But out of the ashes walks a nation who would not be left behind and would show the world it’s strength.

In 2017, PriceWaterhouseCoopers indicated that Vietnam was the most rapidly growing economy in the world, and though it’s not in first place anymore, it has shown consistent positive growth over the past few years, exceeding 6% since 2015.

What’s more, the country has also taken steps to recover from other losses incurred by the Vietnam War. Vietnam has taken great strides in recovering its forests. While forests had covered a mere 10% of Vietnam in 1999, by 2011 it was estimated that they had regrown their forests to cover 40.6% of the country. Though growth is still below the ideal rates, the country is definitely taking positive steps to address an environmental disaster.

Suriname’s makes headlines

Many South Africans pay little mind to South American sovereign state, Suriname, but the tiny nation has made headlines of late for the discovery of oil reserves in the region. Though oil discovery is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to environmental efforts, it is most definitely an indicator for economic growth.

Of course, they have also made headlines for some more sinister reasons. Suriname president, Desi Bouterse, was found guilty of countless murders of political opponents during his dictatorship. Though this conviction and 20-year prison sentence which followed may make you weary of visiting the nation, it should be noted that the decision made by the courts point towards a progressive legal system and a focus on ridding the country of crime and corruption.

Compared to other central and South American nations, Suriname is also ranked low for kidnapping and terrorism and is generally safe for travel. And South Africans should be happy to know that unlike other South American countries, they will probably understand the locals since the official language of Suriname is Dutch and it still has strong ties with the Netherlands.

Canada is still king!

In addition to being one of the most breathtaking countries, but it is also one of the most progressive with regards to human rights. In fact, in 2018, Canada welcomed more refugees from across the world than any other nation. The country prides itself in being welcoming and accepting foreigners of all creeds into the country – even US citizens who have grown weary of nationalist sentiments in their own country.

Though Canada is said to miss their carbon emission target for 2013, it is still a country which is wholly dedicated to addressing environmental degradation and climate change. Consider, for instance, that Canada currently contributes 2% of the world’s share of CO2 emissions, compared to South Africa at 1%. Though Canada contributes twice the emissions, it is also eight times the size of South Africa. 

But it is in an unlikely category where Canada seems to be winning over some other western nations. Following in the footsteps of nations like Portugal and Italy, Canada has dedicated itself to solving the problem of drug abuse. The nation realised that the true answer to the high abuse of drugs and incidence of overdose was not to alienate drug users, but to rather provide more treatment, access to naloxone and reintegrating drug users into society through progressive efforts. Though replacing one drug with another is hardly a cure-all for drug abuse, authorities have seen remarkable improvement with citizens more willing to tackle rehabilitation.

The change in policy and approach is a refocusing of efforts – from a war on drugs to a war on the harmful effects and deaths related to drug use. By offering alternatives, drug users are reaching less for substances like heroin, accessing needle-exchange programmes and medical opioids and decriminalising less harmful drugs like marijuana.

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