Where on earth is there economic optimism?

Across the 117 countries Gallup surveyed in 2009 the respondents to the poll were asked this question:

Right now, do you think that economic conditions in the city or area where you live, as a whole, are getting better or getting worse?

Now I certainly do not claim to be the citizen of the world like the current occupant of the oval office, but I had read enough economic news stories that I thought I knew which countries would be in the top five for local economic optimism. I figured they would be China, India, Brazil, Malaysia, and Indonesia. You know, the places where manufacturing is going on. I knew it was not going to be Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Ireland. The only one of the top five that I got right is China which is #1 where 81% of the respondents think local economic conditions are getting better.

Real Clear World wrote up a piece about the top five, and while I do not take issue with the Gallup poll itself the conclusions miss the mark in my opinion. The piece concludes that rich natural resources, stable populations, and globalization are what makes respondents in these five countries the most optimistic. What I conclude is that urban manufacturing populations that are in a market-oriented instead of a centrally-planned economic system have minimized regulatory and tariff trade barriers to bring about this local economic optimism. Below are the other four countries that make up the top five. You can draw your own conclusions, and let me know if you expected to see these countries listed.

#5 Djibouti

This urban concentration – coupled with the city’s strategic proximity to the Red Sea – sets Djibouti apart from the rest of the sub-Sahara. This also allows for a lot of economic experimentation and investment in the country, such as the Djibouti Free Zone.
Djibouti Free Zone was created with one primary goal in mind – to bring about a sea-change in the way Africa thinks and does business. No red tape, ruthless efficiency and genuinely exhaustive services – in essence, we offer the ideal conditions for trade and commerce to flourish in.

#4 Vietnam

After market-oriented reforms and entry into the World Trade Organization in 2007, Vietnam has enjoyed strong GDP growth of 5.3 percent in 2009, with significant exports to the United States. A booming garment industry has put thousands of Vietnamese to
work, while the country has transitioned from a centrally planned economy.

#3 Qatar

Sitting atop the world’s third largest reserves of natural gas (and plenty of oil), your average Qatari appears to have much to be optimistic about. Indeed, citizens of Qatar enjoy the second highest per capita income in the world, and the second fastest per
capita income growth rate. As for unemployment, there is nearly none. The country has the second-lowest unemployment rate in the world at 0.5 percent.

#2 Bangladesh

China has proposed to help Bangladesh build a deep-sea port in Chittagong and agreed to exchange data about the Brahmaputra river that flows from Tibet to Bangladesh through India. China has also promised assistance in installing Bangladesh’s first space satellite.

China offered last month duty-free access to some 5,000 Bangladeshi products in a goodwill gesture. The garment industry has boomed over the last decade in Bangladesh.

Across 110 countries Gallup surveyed in 2009, median approval of U.S. leadership by asking the question:

Do you approve or disapprove of the job performance of the leadership of the United States?

I thought it might be interesting to compare the results of respondents in these top five countries that are obviously on a different economic track than the US is on.

#107 Vietnam 17% approve
#103 Qatar 22% approve
#82 Bangladesh 38% approve
#18 Djibouti 81% approve

China was not surveyed, and Djibouti was lower approval than most of the polled African countries. There are a lot of reasons I would not want to move to these five countries that have nothing to do with economics. In the past these countries have been led by corrupt tyrants who put them on the wrong economic track. I think the polls indicate they are currently doing some things right. Good for them.

Cross-posted at The Minority Report