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Venezuela ranked the second most miserable country in the world

The South American country ranked second in the Hanke's Misery Index 2022, while Switzerland ranked as the happiest.

Venezolanos protestando en la calle con banderas del país en 2023.

(Cordon Press)

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In 2013, new Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro created a Vice-Ministry for the Supreme Social Happiness of the People. After a decade of managing social assistance, the failure of the Orwellian-named state agency is evident.

The evidence of the misery suffered by Venezuelans is more than abundant: 10,000 deaths due to violent repression in 10 years, thousands of lawsuits for crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court, the massive exodus of citizens, the weariness with traditional politicians. Professor Steve Hanke added one more argument: Venezuela is the saddest country in the Americas according to its misery index. It is also the second saddest in the world.

The Hanke's Misery Index 2022 (HAMI) ranks countries between "miserable" and "happy." In doing so, it considers exclusively economic criteria. Three factors tend to cause gloom: unemployment, inflation and interest rates. While the annual percentage increase of the real Gross Domestic Product per capita, on the other hand, is the only one that makes the inhabitants of a certain territory smile. In Hanke's words:

The surefire way to mitigate that misery is through economic growth.


Inflation is the factor that most contributes to unhappiness in Venezuela, according to the study. In 2022, prices increased more than 300% according to some estimates.

This percentage reached 471% year-over-year in April, according to recent estimates by the Venezuelan Finance Observatory (OVF). Although April showed an improvement over the previous month in terms of the depreciation of the bolívar, price increases continue to be a relentless problem. According to the OVF, those who earn the minimum wage and get a bonus from the state, known as the Cesta Ticket, can only afford 98% of their necessities.

Venezuela's historical record is not good either. In the previous edition of the Misery Index, it also ranked second. And, even worse, in the six previous editions, it earned the dubious honor of taking first place.

Argentina and Cuba

Among the top ten most "miserable" countries in the world are two other Latin American countries. They are Argentina, in sixth place, and Cuba, in ninth. The most important ingredient in both is, as in Venezuela, inflation.

Argentina closed 2022 with its highest inflation in 30 years, 94.8%. Since then, the situation has only worsened: in February of this year Argentina joined the "three-digit club," joining Venezuela and Syria in the exclusive group of countries whose inflation exceeds or equals 100%.

In Cuba, formal market prices increased by 39% in 2022, according to data from the National Statistics and Information Office according to various media. Instead, an analysis by Hanke in December of that year put the island's inflation rate at 141% annually.

Where to smile

Do you want to be happy? Move to Switzerland. Or so the Misery Index 2022 seems to recommend. The Alpine nation topped several rankings, such as NiceRx, and achieved fourth place in the World Happiness Report 2022. In 2023, however, it fell to eighth place in the latter ranking.

Hanke explained that Switzerland has the best position in its ranking for, among other reasons, the control it has over its debt. In 2001, the Swiss passed a debt brake at the ballot box, which included the goal of balancing revenues with expenditures in the Constitution, a theme more than familiar to Americans today.

"Unlike most countries, Switzerland’s debt-to-GDP ratio has been on a downward trend in the last two decades," Hanke wrote of the measure. The report also praised the Swiss system, in which "major decisions can, if enough of the electorate insists, be put to a popular vote".

The happiest and unhappiest

Switzerland is followed by Kuwait, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia and Taiwan, in that order. Twenty-three positions down from the happiest country is the United States, for which unemployment would be the most important factor.

The ten most unhappy, according to the Misery Index 2022, were: Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Argentina, Yemen, Ukraine, Cuba and Turkey. The ten happiest are: Switzerland, Kuwait, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Niger, Thailand, Togo and Malta.