Of all the lists published online each year, none is more disheartening than Bloomberg's annual Misery Index of the world's most depressed economies.
The top three countries in this year's list -- bottom three, technically -- include a somewhat surprising element, as Sapna Parikh reports in today's Seeker Daily dispatch. South Africa, the continent's second-largest economy, has endured a historically hard year as measured by the study's two most critical metrics: inflation and unemployment.
Plummeting demand for the nation's largest exports, gold and platinum, has walloped the national economy. To make matters worse, a severe drought decimated agricultural output. As a result, the country's currency value hit an all-time low in the first months of 2016, and more than a quarter of South Aftricans found themselves unemployed.
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Argentina fared even worse in 2015, according to Bloomberg's analysis. Inflation has been a serious problem for the country ever since it effectively declared bankruptcy in 2001. Prices for consumer goods have risen 10 to 40 percent each year, and those numbers have produced a scary side effect. Because inflation rates are higher than interest rates, Argentinians have learned to keep their savings in cash. In turn, crime rates have gone through the roof and robbery is rampant.
But the world's worst economy, by an alarming margin, belongs to Venezuela. Declining oil prices have devastated the country, which is heavily dependent on petroleum exports. Inflation rose to 150 percent in 2015, triggering a cascade of social ills. The state has imposed a rationing system, restricting shopping to designated days of the week. Electricity is also being rationed, with some rural areas having their power cut off entirely. The government even reduced the workweek for federal employment to two days.
Economic forecasts for all three countries are grim, according to Bloomberg, but Venezuela's crisis is especially severe. Economists say spiraling inflation could reach 700 percent in 2016. For a more in-depth look at the situation, click on over to this Seeker report.
-- Glenn McDonald
Bloomberg: These Are the World's Most Miserable Economies
BBC: South Africa's economy 'in crisis'
CNBC: Food inflation: It's getting hard for Venezuela to feed itself