The 15 Countries With The Highest Inflation Rates

10-May-2011

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Like death and taxes, no one escapes the ravages of inflation.   These days, it’s the talk of folks from Caracas to Lagos to Moscow.   Americans who are complaining about the rising cost of living probably don’t realize that they have it pretty good, ranking near the bottom of the ranking of core inflation rates compiled by Trading Economics.com.

The cost of living will take center stage in the U.S. as the 2012 election kicks into gear, in particular gas prices which have risen 24% since the start of the year and are nearing the $4 not seen since 2008.   The timing of the increase couldn’t have come as the peak summer driving season is about to start.  Food prices are also soaring and food banks in the U.S. report business is booming so much that supplies are running low at some organizations.

People in other countries have it much worse. In March, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations  and its FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) averaged 230 points in March  2011, down  2.9 percent from its peak in February, but still 37 percent above March last year.   Last year, there were reports of food price riots in Africa and rumors that the unrest may spread to the developing world.

Prices are rising for many reasons.   The unrest in the Middle East has helped boost oil prices along with demand from emerging economies such as China and India.   Growing demand for ethanol and other alternative fuels is helping boost prices for corn, which in turn helps keep prices for wheat high because farmers are increasingly planting the more profitable crop.

“The rise in food prices could well be a temporary phenomenon,” according to Deloitte’s recently released Global Economic Outlook.  ” However, food retailers who are currently burdened with high costs will likely raise the cost of products on the shelves and not drop prices even if food costs decline. The result is that several food products are likely to be permanently costlier.

Oil prices, which currently trade at about $113 a barrel, are expected to remain above $100 a barrel for “quite some time,” according to the Institute for International Finance. Some pessimists are predicting that oil will hit $150, a level at which no one from large companies such as airlines to average consumers can afford.

It is against that backdrop that we present the  15 countries with the highest inflation in the world.  Data comes from a variety of sources including the CIA’s World Factbook and the International Monetary Fund.

15.  India

  • Actual Inflation Rate: 8.8% (Feb. 2011)
  • Population: 1,189,172,906
  • GDP: $1.43 trillion
  • GDP Per Capita: $3,400
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 25%

The second-most populous country has a gargantuan problem with inflation, so much so that the central bank has raised key interest rates nine times since November 2010.  Its 8.8% rate is the highest among developed countries.  Like every country,  India has been stung by high oil prices.  Recently, the Federal Reserve Bank of India predicted that the economy would grow 8 percent in 2011-2012, down from the government’s earlier estimate of 9%.

14. Ghana

  • Annual Inflation Rate: 9.13% (March 2011)
  • Population: 24,791,073
  • GDP:$38.24 billion
  • GDP Per Capita: $1,600
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 28.5%

Ghana, with its abundant natural resources including offshore oil deposits,  has an economy ready to overheat.  Earlier this year, the World Bank predicted the country would have the fastest-growing economy in Sub Saharan Africa as prices for gold and cocoa climbed, gaining an astonishing 13.4 percent in 2011.   The economy will cool to only 10 percent in 2012.

13.  Kenya

  • Annual Inflation Rate:9.19% (March 2011)
  • Population: 41,070,934
  • GDP: $65.95 billion
  • GDP Per Capita: $1,600
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 50%

How fast is Kenya growing?  Well, the local media is reporting that demand for electricity skyrocketed by 20% in March, prompting worries about power shortages. The country’s tax revenues surged 16% in the first 3 quarters of the 2010-2011 fiscal year.   Experts, though, are not sure if this growth, which has been fueled by the telecommunications sector, will last.

12. Russia

  • Annual Inflation Rate: 9.50% (March 2011)
  • Population: 138,739,892
  • GDP: $2.229 trillion
  • GDP Per Capita: $15,900
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 13.1%

Russia’s fortunes have been helped by the rise for prices for commodities such as oil.  Between 1999 and 2008, Russia’s average growth rate averaged almost 7 percent.   As Bloomberg News noted, ” President Dmitry Medvedev said in February that Russia should seek growth of as much as 10 percent a year within five years to keep up with the pace of rival so-called BRIC developing economies. “   That hasn’t happened yet.  Government officials are predicting GDP growth of 4.2% this year, up from 4% in 2010.   Corruption remains a problem.

11.  Argentina

  • Annual Inflation Rate: 10% (March 2011)
  • Population: 41,769,726
  • GDP: $596 billion
  • GDP Per Capita: $14,700
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 30%

Latin America’s third-largest economy grew at torrid 9.2% last year, driven by strong demand for its manufactured goods from neighboring Brazil, high prices for its grain exports and growing consumer spending.   Dark clouds, though, loom over Argentina, as Reuters notes:

Critics say the widely discredited INDEC national statistics agency has been under-reporting inflation since 2007, when the government replaced the head of its consumer price unit with a political ally and ousted long-standing technical staff.

Economists say double-digit inflation is becoming entrenched, leaving a thorny legacy for the next government, and raising doubts about the long-term viability of current policies.

10. Bolivia

  • Annual Inflation Rate: 10% (Feb. 2011)
  • Population:10,118,683
  • GDP: $47.98 billion
  • GDP Per Capita: $4,800
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 30%

Bolivia is one of Latin America’s poorest and least developed countries.   That may not change after the recent announcement of a huge natural gas discovery.  “President Evo  overturned mining, banking and investment laws in a bid to increase state control over the Andean country’s economy,” according to Bloomberg News.

9. Paraguay

  • Annual Inflation Rate: 10.3%
  • Population: 6,459,058
  • GDP: $33.27 billion
  • GPD Per Capita: $4,900
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 18.8%

Growth in the Paraguay’s economy exploded between 2003 and 2008 thanks to soaring demand for its commodities such as soy.   After dropping off as the worldwide recession hit, growth resumed at a blistering 14.5% rate last year, the highest in Latin America.   Officials expect inflation to slow this year because of the booming economy.  Corruption remains a problem.

8. Bangladesh

  • Annual Inflation Rate: 10.49%
  • Population: 158,570,535
  • GDP: $259.3 billion
  • GDP Per Capita: $1,700
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 40%

Given its mind-numbing levels of poverty and political instability, it’s remarkable that Bangladesh has grown at 5-6% since 1996.   Inflation, though, has become a serious problem, jumping to a three-year high in March.   Food inflation, fueled by soaring prices of rice which are a staple in country’s diet, was a whopping 13.87% in March, versus 12..77% in February.

7. Egypt

  • Annual Inflation Rate: 12.20% (March 2011)
  • Population: 82,079,636
  • GDP: $500.9 billion
  • GDP Per Capita: $6,200
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 20%

Though the Egyptian economy grew at a rapid pace for years,  very few of those benefits helped make the lives of ordinary people better.  Add to it the corruption under the rule of former strongman Hosni Mubarak and food price inflation and there is a recipe  political chaos.  The Institute of International Finance recently predicted that Egypt’s economy would hit a recession in 2011.

6. Nigeria

  • Annual Inflation Rate: 12.80 (March 2011)
  • Population: 155,215,573
  • GDP: $369.8 billion
  • GDP Per Capita: $2,400
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 70%

Most Nigerians don’t reap the benefits of the country’s massive oil wealth as an astounding 70% live in poverty.    Rising food prices are only adding to the country’s inflation woes as did a massive government spending program ahead of the recent presidential election.  Meanwhile, The Central Bank
of Nigeria has risen its benchmark interest rates twice this year to slow inflation’s progress.

5.  Pakistan

  • Annual Inflation Rate: 13.16% (March 2011)
  • Population: 187,342,721
  • GDP: $451.2 billion
  • GDP Per Capita: $2,400
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 24%

Were it not for the $11 billion in aid it has received from the U.S. since 9-11, the Pakistani economy would be in far worse shape.   Poverty and corruption remain serious problems.   The government recently raised fuel prices by 12% reflecting to rise in oil global markets. “The coalition led by President Asif Ali Zardari had halved the increase in petroleum prices in March to mollify a key partner which quit the government in protest over the fuel price hike in January,” Reuters says.

4. Vietnam

  • Annual Inflation Rate: 13.89 (March 2011)
  • Population: 90,549,390
  • GDP: $278.1 billion
  • GDP per capita: $3,100
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 10.6%

Vietnam is fighting inflation head-on by raising interest rates in May for the second time in a month.    Some experts are advising a cautious approach. “If they are willing to endure the political pressure — the pressure from business and consumers, who are inconvenienced by higher interest rates — for a long enough period of time, then inflation will abate,” Jonathan Pincus, a Ho Chi Minh City-based economist with the Vietnam Program at the Harvard Kennedy School , told Bloomberg News.

3. Angola

  • Annual Inflation Rate: 14.76% (March. 2011)
  • Population: 13,338,541
  • GDP: $114.1 billion
  • GDP per capita: $8,700
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 40%

Angola is yet another case where oil wealth has not filtered down to most of the population.  Unemployment is a staggering 20%. Most of Angola’a  GDP — some 85% — is tied to the petroleum industry.  The country is also known for its diamonds.  Angola’s economy grew by double-digits for several years after its civil war ended in 2002.   Inflation, which was 14.76% at the end of the first quarter, has been heading down since November 2010.  Corruption remains an issue.

2. Mozambique

  • Annual Inflation Rate: 15.23% (Feb. 2011)
  • Population: 22,948,858
  • GDP: $22.19 billion
  • GDP per capita: $1,000
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 70%

Concern over inflation turned deadly last year in Mozambique’s capital Maputo when six people were killed in riots over rising food and fuel prices.  Experts are expecting inflation to ease this year as the country’s economy rebounds.  Government officials are not taking any chances, however, ]and “recently raised interest rates and implemented some direct price control measures, including lowering import tariffs and fixing the prices of certain foodstuffs,” according to Fin24.com.

1. Venezuela

  • Annual Inflation Rate: 22.9% (March 2011)
  • Population: 27,635,743
  • GDP: $344.2 billion
  • GDP Per Capita:$12,600
  • Percentage of Population Below The Poverty Line: 37.9%

Leave it to Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez to blame currency speculators and private companies for his country’s sky-high inflation.  Chavez has some explaining to do ahead of next year’s presidential elections. Reuters reports that there are shortages of milk and electricity blackouts.   Venezuela remains heavily dependent on oil.  Chavez scared away foreign companies in 2006 when he nationalized the  country’s oil fields.  GDP rose a surprisingly tepid 3% to 4% in the first three months of 2011. It contracted last year.  Minister of Planning and Finances Jorge Giordan is quoted by the website venezuelanalysis.com as saying that Venezuela expects inflation of between 23% and 25%. “We were prudent regarding the budget, expending resources and in estimations of inflation and growth,” he said.

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