bne:Chart – Despair Index 2015: Russia feels the squeeze

By bne IntelliNews March 5, 2015

Henry Kirby in London -


In December, bne Intellinews published its Despair Index – a combination of inflation, unemployment and poverty – to survey the relative prosperity of various countries, with surprising results.

Adding poverty to the established ‘Misery Index’ – a combination of inflation and unemployment – saw many emerging market nations stand toe-to-toe with their Western counterparts. Indeed, even with sanction-led inflation increases, Russia was only marginally worse off than the US and UK.

Since then, however, continued sanctions and low oil prices have seen Russia’s score worsen considerably, from 24.1 to 31.5 – more than a 30% increase since the year began.

Ukraine, too, has continued to suffer as the conflict in the east shows little sign of ending. Its 2013-2014 score rocketed over 113% from 16.5 to 35.2, and has worsened by a further 32% to 46.5 in the three months since December. Rapidly rising inflation levels have seen to this.

Cato calculations

While Ukraine’s score uses the country’s latest official inflation figure of 28.5%, the picture could be even grimmer if analysis by the Cato Institute that Ukraine is in fact suffering hyperinflation is accepted.

Steve Hanke of the Cato Institute argues that, “the official inflation rate has consistently and massively understated Ukraine’s brutal inflation” and puts actual rate 272%. Taking this into account would mean that Ukraine’s overall Despair Index score would sit at an astronomical 290 – nearly five-times worse than the second-highest scorer, Bosnia & Herzegovina.

While the Despair Index would suggest that the prognoses of Russia and Ukraine are far from rosy, one promising result is that the overall emerging market Despair Index score fell from 36.2 to 33.6, despite Kyiv and Moscow’s continued woes.

Use the interactive dashboard below to explore the Despair Index data:

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