2015 was a troubling year for the global economy.
Political turmoil, falling oil prices, and decreasing demand for commodities affected
ostensibly every country in the world.  Some countries struggled so much that Bloomberg
dubbed them as having quote “the world’s most miserable economies” in its annual
Misery Index. So, which economies topped that list and why are they so miserable? Well, the label is based on the two factors
that affect daily life the most: inflation and unemployment.  According to Bloomberg’s
report, South Africa is among the worst. This may come as a surprise, as its economy is
Africa’s most industrial and second largest. But 20-15 was a particularly tough year. Demand
plummeted for its two largest exports – gold and platinum – and severe drought thwarted
the country’s agricultural output. By early 20-16, a quarter of South Africans were unemployed,
and the currency had reached an all time low. On top of this, South Africa’s government
is riddled with corruption allegations at every level. In early 2016, the country’s
President, Jacob Zuma, was found guilty of violating the Constitution when he funneled
more than $20 million dollars of state money into his own home for so-called “security
upgrades”. These “upgrades” included a pool, a visitor’s center and a chicken
coop. Slightly more miserable than South Africa…
was Argentina, which suffers from one of the highest rates of inflation in the world, stemming
back to 2001, when the country effectively declared bankruptcy. Since then, consumer
prices have risen anywhere from 10 to almost 40 percent every year. Argentina’s inflation
has had other, unforeseen consequences, one of which is an increase in robbery. Because
the interest rate has been below the inflation rate, many Argentinians have kept their savings
in cash, instead of banks accounts. As a result, the country has one of the highest robbery
rates in Latin America. But beyond Argentina and leading the misery
index by a large margin… is Venezuela, which saw inflation reach an estimated 150 percent
in 2015. Venezuela’s export economy is 95% dependent on petroleum, and with oil prices
dropping around the world, it has decimated the country’s economy. As of early 2016,
the country owed more than $10 billion dollars in debt payments and due to such high inflation,
currency coins have been effectively worthless since last October of 2015. Venezuela’s economic downturn -together
with a drought that drained the country’s hydroelectric dams – has resulted in a food
shortage and a major electricity crisis. To combat food stockpiling, the state enforces
a strict rationing system that only allows citizens to grocery shop on certain days of
the week And to save electricity, the government reduced the workweek to just two days for
state employees and ordered that all clocks be turned forward by a half hour so there’s
more sunlight in the evening and less need to turn on the lights. The President of Venezuela
even asked women to stop using hair dryers and let their hair dry naturally instead. This is likely just the beginning of a miserable
chapter for Venezuela, Argentina and South Africa. Venezuela and Argentina stopped releasing
inflation data in 2015, but economists predict that both countries will continue to see inflation
grow – in Venezuela possibly by as much as 700 percent.   And South Africa’s poor
economic outlook has led foreign investors to withdraw money from the country. There’s
no question all three will face major economic challenges in the coming years.

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