Zimbabwe has been ranked as the most miserable country in the world according to an annual “misery index” that primarily assesses economic conditions. This Southern African nation surpassed war-torn Ukraine, Venezuela, and Syria to claim the top position, primarily due to skyrocketing inflation.
The Annual Misery Index is compiled by Steve Hanke, a professor of Applied Economics at John Hopkins University. It calculates the index by combining unemployment (multiplied by two), inflation, and bank-lending rates while subtracting the annual percentage change in real GDP per capita.
Steve Hanke has closely monitored Zimbabwe for over two decades, particularly since the period of soaring inflation in 2008 when Robert Mugabe was president. Despite Zimbabwe’s finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, recently predicting 6% economic growth, Mr. Hanke predicts a mere 0.9% growth.
“Its [Zimbabwe’s] policies have resulted in massive misery,” Mr. Hanke remarked. He highlighted the country’s endemic inflation, including two episodes of hyperinflation during the Mugabe era, where inflation rates exceeded 50% per month for extended periods. Last year, Zimbabwe faced an annual inflation rate of 243.8% and lending rates of 131.8%.
On the streets of central Harare, the unofficial exchange rate for $1 rose to Z3,500, compared to Z$2,800 just four days earlier. In wealthier parts of Harare, like the northern suburbs, the rate reached Z$4,000 by Monday afternoon. Informal money changers have gathered around shopping areas and banks, while even policemen and soldiers openly exchange worn-out local currency for US dollars to purchase basic items like bread.
“The US dollar notes are in such short supply we worry they will not be available. No one wants Zim cash. It doesn’t work,” expressed a man attempting to exchange local currency for a US$5 note using a Zimbabwe bank card in central Harare.
Sudan, a war-torn country, secured the fifth spot on the misery index. The United Kingdom ranked 129th, while Switzerland emerged as the least miserable nation in the world. Russia placed 79th out of the 157 countries listed.
Zimbabwe is expected to hold elections, likely in August.