Despite grim overall economic data, some countries have actually faired exceptionally well even in the face of record inflation, plunging global equity markets, rising interest rates, and the fact that 2022 was a bad year financially for even the richest countries around the world.
Assessing five economic and financial indicators – GDP, inflation, inflation breadth, stock market performance, and public debt – The Economist ranked all 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The British weekly mag analyzed how well each country performed on all five measures and created an overall score.
Mediterranean countries take five of the top ten spots
For the first time ever, Greece came in at number one – averaging the highest overall. Greece’s GDP from Q4 2021 to Q3 2022 rose by 2.2%; consumer prices increased by 7.8% from December 2021 to October 2022 with 82.4% of products increasing by over 2%.
The Economist said that public debt in southern European countries appears to be on the way down and despite the challenges impacting world economies, Greece’s performance was a “pleasant surprise.”
Additionally, share prices on the Athens Stock Exchange rose 0.8% in the first 11 months of 2022 and Greece reduced its net public debt by 16% as a percentage of GDP.
Portugal ranked second in the editors’ list of “economic winners” of 2022, classifying the country as one of the “unlikely” winners. Portugal’s GDP from Q4 2021 to Q3 2022 rose by 2.9%; consumer prices increased by 9.6% from December 2021 to October 2022 with 82.4% of products increasing by over 2%.
Additionally, share prices on the Euronext Lisbon Stock Exchange rose 7% in the first 11 months of 2022 and Portugal reduced its net public debt by 11.8% as a percentage of GDP.
On opposite ends of the Mediterranean, Spain tied Israel as the fourth-best performing OECD countries of 2022. Further down the list, France tied Italy, taking the ninth spot on the top ten list.
The Economist said Ireland, ranking third on its list, probably had a strong year, although not nearly as strong as the GDP numbers suggest. The activities of large multinational companies, many of which are tax-registered there, skew the numbers.
Ireland’s GDP from Q4 2021 to Q3 2022 rose an impressive 11.8%; consumer prices increased by 8% from December 2021 to October 2022 with 76.5% of products increasing by over 2%.
However, share prices on the Euronext Dublin Stock Exchange fell 12.4% in the first 11 months of 2022 and Ireland reduced its net public debt by 7.6% as a percentage of GDP.
Across the Irish Sea, Britain did not fare as well, ranking 13th overall, which the publication says despite its strong stock market is, “populated by boring, sluggish businesses that tend to be rewarded in tough economic times.”
Regions had mixed results
In North America, Mexico and Canada ranked a solid sixth and seventh respectively while the United States lagged in the number 20 spot.
Despite the apparent thriving economy in parts of southern Europe, Sweden, Finland, and Germany underperformed, taking spots 28, 29, and 30 and the Baltic countries Estonia and Latvia, which were praised for rapid reforms in the 2010s, placed at the bottom of the list, ranking 33 and 34 respectively.
In Asia, Japan placed a respectable eighth while South Korea ranked much lower at 21.
Will the gap between the winners and losers of 2022 remain in 2023?
According to its analysis, the publication found that, overall, many countries have retreated from fiscal profligacy and helped put the fiscal ship back in order and there are signs that in countries like America and Britain, high inflation may finally be easing, helping them climb the rankings.
However, it predicts economic growth in southern Europe, weighed down by a rapidly aging population and high levels of debt, is certain to revert to less than stellar levels.
See: Economic Rankings for 2022 by The Economist
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