SA ranks high on personal freedom on global prosperity index

But suffers from low levels of safety and security and a weakening ability of the economy to generate wealth

28 November 2018 - 07:26 By Nico Gous
South Africa ranks high in personal freedom, legal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) relationships.
South Africa ranks high in personal freedom, legal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) relationships.
Image: Esa Alexander

The biggest challenge to global prosperity today is safety and security.

This is according to the 2018 Legatum Prosperity Index released on Wednesday. The Legatum Institute is a London-based think-tank focusing on eradicating poverty.

“Safety and security are fundamental to prosperity while personal insecurity now poses the biggest risk and challenge to global prosperity.”

South Africa ranked 68th out of 149 countries and second in sub-Saharan Africa.

“While it (South Africa) is a leader in the region, it is falling behind other upper-middle-income countries in the world due to low levels of safety and security and a weakening ability of the economy to generate wealth,” the institute said.

The good news is SA ranked high in personal freedom, legal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) relationships, and fewer government restrictions on religion than last year.

The index reached its all-time high in its 12-year history. The institute believes the growth domestic product (GDP) is insufficient in measuring people’s lived experience, so they also look at health, education and governance in measuring prosperity.

But it’s not all good news as the gap between the highest and lowest countries widened. The top 20 countries steadily improved while the bottom 20 countries “fell sharply and suddenly”. The bottom 20 includes 12 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

The index found the sharpest deterioration were in Mena (the Middle East and North Africa) and sub-Saharan Africa is driven by war, terrorism, oppressive regimes and the declining availability of food and shelter.

“Many of these countries lack the institutional resilience to recover from major setbacks. Others are war-torn and highly insecure places to live, and are fast-becoming the source of a significant proportion of the world’s forced migration, having a disproportionate impact on their neighbours, as seen following the civil war in Syria.”

War, terrorism and oppression are driving insecurity worldwide with deaths from conflict increasing by 58% over the last decade and terrorism deaths quadrupling.

One of the greatest challenges sub-Saharan Africa faces is improving education, which is lagging “significantly” behind the rest of the world in quality and enrolment.

Norway topped the global rankings for the second year in a row while Asia-Pacific was the fastest growing region over the past decade. Prosperity rose in 113 countries which is home to about 6bn people.

The institute found prosperous countries are dependent on and/or have:

  • Good leadership;
  • Pursuing domestic priorities;
  • Open economies;
  • Inclusive societies;
  • Provide safety and security; and
  • Empower their citizens.
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