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Chart of the Week

Visualizing the Decline of Freedom Over 12 Consecutive Years

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Visualizing the Decline of Freedom Over 12 Consecutive Years

Visualizing the Decline of Freedom Over 12 Consecutive Years

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Like many other things in this world, the amount of freedom that people have ebbs and flows with time.

In general, it can be argued that political and economic freedoms have been increasing steadily since The Enlightenment – but of course, there are always shorter corrections along the way where freedom seems to spiral downwards in the interim.

Right now, we’re in one of those ruts, and global freedom has consecutively declined for a 12 year period.

Democracy in Crisis

Freedom in the World, a report published every year since 1973, attempts to measure civil liberties and political rights around the world. It’s put together by Freedom House, a non-governmental organization based in the United States.

According to their index, here is the share of “free” countries globally between 1973-2018:

Freedom over time

This year’s report for 2018 is entitled “Democracy in Crisis”, and it sounds the alarm on eroding freedom throughout the world.

Falling Scores

While the number of “free” countries is holding fairly steady at close to 45%, there is a clear downtrend with the scores of the countries themselves.

In 2017, for example, there were 71 countries that had net declines in score, while only 35 had net increases. This makes for a differential of -36, which is the widest gap during the 12 year downtrend.

YearImprovedDeclinedDifferential
20065659-3
20074359-16
20083860-22
20093467-33
20103449-15
20113754-17
20124363-20
20134054-14
20143362-29
20154372-29
20163667-31
20173571-36

Why do scores continue to decline?

Here are some of the specific examples, cited by the report:

  • The erosion of democratic norms in the U.S., which is actually the extension of a seven year trend
  • The expansion of influence from key autocracies, particularly Russia and China
  • Turkey’s transition from “Partly Free” to “Not Free” – the result of President Erdoğan asserting more control over the country
  • Big drops in the scores of European countries like Poland and Hungary, where populist leaders are consolidating power
  • Another drop in Venezuela’s score, as the country undergoes a full-blown humanitarian crisis
  • A recent backslide in the scores in Arab Spring countries – even in Tunisia, which was heralded as a democratic success story

For much more in-depth reading, here is a link to the full report PDF.

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Chart of the Week

War and Peace: How Violence is Disrupting the Global Economy

This graphic estimates the direct and indirect costs associated with violence, and explores how they are negatively impacting the global economy.

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War and Peace: How Violence is Disrupting the Global Economy

Although you may not see it, millions of lives are disrupted by violence everyday.

War, homicide, terrorism, suicide, and sexual assault can be found across the world in various degrees. While certain types of violence can incur costs that result in personal traumas, violence can also create significant economic disruptions.

In today’s Chart of the Week, we visualize data estimates from the Global Peace Index 2019 on the global cost of violence, and its geographical spread.

How is Violence Linked to the Economy?

The Global Peace Index calculates the total cost of violence using purchasing power parity (PPP) by considering three factors:

  • Direct costs: Immediate consequences to the victims, perpetrators and the government
  • Indirect costs: Delayed economic losses following the violent event, including the after-effects of trauma experienced by the victim
  • Multiplier effect: Calculates the additional economic activity that would have accrued if the direct costs of violence had been avoided.

Between 2012-2017, the cost of violence increased by 11% to $14.6 trillion—mainly due to rising violence in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

In 2018, the total cost of violence decreased for the first time in six years to $14.1 trillion. That’s the equivalent of 11.2% of global GDP (PPP), or $1,853 for every person.

In this one year, the $475 billion saved from decreased violence costs was largely due to lower levels of armed conflict in Syria, Ukraine, and Colombia.

The Top 10 Worst Affected Countries

It comes as no surprise that countries affected by conflict incur the greatest costs due to a higher than average death toll, and sizable military expenditures.

Here are the countries with the highest cost of violence according to the report:

RankCountryCost of violence (% of GDP)    
#1🇸🇾 Syria67%
#2🇦🇫 Afghanistan47%
#3🇨🇫 Central African Republic42%
#4🇰🇵 North Korea34%
#5🇮🇶 Iraq32%
#6🇻🇪 Venezuela30%
#7🇨🇾 Cyprus30%
#8🇸🇴 Somalia26%
#9🇨🇴 Colombia25%
#10🇸🇻 El Salvador22%

Since 2017, Venezuela has climbed the ranking and now sits in the top 10, due to continuing political repression and a spiraling economy as a result of hyperinflation.

The Global Composition of Violence

Government spending on military comprises 40% of the global total, or $5.7 trillion in constant purchasing power parity (PPP).

Type of economic impactShare of total     
Military expenditure
40.2%
Internal security expenditure
31.7%
Homicide
8.6%
Private security expenditure5.8%
Suicide5.2%
Armed conflict4.8%
Violent crime2.6%
Other1%

Naturally, the types of violence costs vary by region, and the most noticeable difference is in military expenditure. It represents 59% of Middle East and North Africa’s violence costs—but only 8% for Central America and the Caribbean.

regional costs violence

Interestingly, the Middle East and North Africa boast the lowest levels of violent crime, homicide, and suicide, representing only 4% of the total, compared to South America’s 45%.

Keeping the Peace

Despite today’s chart painting a picture of the world as a dangerous place, it is worth noting that there are two sides to this story.

Of the 163 countries ranked in the index, 86 countries improved their peace score in the last year, with Iceland retaining its number one position for over a decade. In fact, the country has not had any gun murders since the Global Peace Index began in 2007.

Is the recent drop in costs of violence a sign that we are moving towards a more peaceful planet, or just a blip on the radar?

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Business

Ranked: The 20 Easiest Countries for Doing Business

Entrepreneurship is challenging at the best of times. Here are the countries where at least starting a new business is easy to do.

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Easiest Countries to do Business

Ranked: The 20 Easiest Countries for Doing Business

Contrary to popular belief, the hardest part about running a business may not be finding customers, it’s getting one started.

Depending on the public policies and application processes of your country, you might struggle or succeed in opening and operating a business.

If you live in New Zealand, for example, you can get a new enterprise up and running in half a day. If you live in Luxembourg or Argentina, however, it’s a different story─with the process sometimes taking over a year.

Today’s chart uses data from the World Bank’s annual Doing Business 2020 report, which delves into the ease of doing business in countries around the world.

Measuring the Ease of Doing Business

Now in its 17th year, the Doing Business (DB) report measures how easy it is for someone to start and run a company in an economy, using 12 key factors throughout a business lifecycle:

  1. Starting a business
  2. Employing workers
  3. Dealing with construction permits
  4. Getting electricity
  5. Registering property
  6. Getting credit
  7. Protecting minority investors
  8. Paying taxes
  9. Trading across borders
  10. Contracting with the government
  11. Enforcing contracts
  12. Resolving insolvency

Of the 190 countries reviewed last year, only 115 made it easier for entrepreneurs to do business.

Note to readers: this year’s DB score did not factor in Employing Workers or Contracting with the Government when ranking economies.

Top 20 Easiest Countries to Run a Business

RankCountryDB Score
#1🇳🇿 New Zealand86.8
#2🇸🇬 Singapore86.2
#3🇭🇰 Hong Kong85.3
#4🇩🇰 Denmark85.3
#5🇰🇷 South Korea84
#6🇺🇸 United States84
#7🇬🇪 Georgia83.7
#8🇬🇧 United Kingdom83.5
#9🇳🇴 Norway82.6
#10🇸🇪 Sweden82
#11🇱🇹 Lithuania81.6
#12🇲🇾 Malaysia81.5
#13🇲🇺 Mauritius81.5
#14🇦🇺 Australia81.2
#15🇹🇼 Taiwan80.9
#16🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates80.9
#17🇲🇰 North Macedonia80.7
#18🇪🇪 Estonia80.6
#19🇱🇻 Latvia80.3
#20🇫🇮 Finland80.2

In the top spot for the fourth year in a row, New Zealand only requires half a day to start a business. Singapore also stands out for having the shortest timeframe when it comes to paying business taxes and enforcing business contracts.

Only two African nations─Rwanda and Mauritius─are listed in the top 50 countries, with Mauritius being the only one to crack the top 20 list.

Latin American economies are noticeably missing from the rankings, as many countries in this region are fraught with bureaucracy and prolonged processes.

Most Improved Scores

Several developed and developing economies made significant strides in 2019 to implement reforms that opened doors for new business owners.

The Doing Business 2020 report shows that the cost of starting a business has fallen over time, particularly in developing economies.

Top 10 Most Improved Economies, 2018-2019

Top 10 most improved economies for doing business

Saudi Arabia made the greatest improvement overall, adding 7.7 points to its score.

Bahrain also made improvements over the most number of factors (9). While Jordan showed improvement in the fewest factors (3), it showed the second highest jump in DB Score.

Gains Among Low-Income Countries

The DB 2020 study also shows that developing economies are making progress: it’s now cheaper than ever before to run a business in developing economies.

However, a significant disparity still remains when we consider the difference in business costs between high-income and low-income economies.

An entrepreneur starting a company in a low-income economy will spend about 50% of per capita income (PCI) to launch a venture, whereas an entrepreneur in a high-income economy spends only 4% PCI to accomplish the same task.

Put another way, entrepreneurs located in the bottom 50 economies spend an average six times more to open a new company as those in a high-income economy.

Entrepreneurship and Economic Growth

Generally, more entrepreneurs will enter a market where they can easily conduct business─adding more value to local economies.

While the rankings clearly illustrate the link between ease of doing business and economic growth, there are still significant barriers in place that not only deter entrepreneurship but also inhibit a relatively simple strategy for growth.

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