This shows that a virtuous circle of rising prosperity can be achieved by building from a solid foundation of Safety and Security. Where citizens feel secure, countries prosper and rise steadily irrespective of where they started in the rankings. Safety and Security is a broader measure of human security and freedom than military capability and defence, although this can be important for ensuring security. It focuses on absence of violence and absence of fear of violence, in all their forms. The fact that Zimbabwe has risen the most after decades of hyperinflation and violent, political oppression shows that even the most fragile states are capable of positive reform and social progress such as improved judicial independence in Zimbabwe’s case. While backsliding on this progress is possible, we do see grounds for optimism and a fresh perspective on what drives prosperity.
While most risers do not yet enjoy high levels of prosperity and half of the risers are ranked 90th or below, with a long way to catch up, they have all sustained a significant improvement in their prosperity over a 10-year period. India, for example, alongside extensive economic growth, has risen 11 places in the last decade from 103rd to 94th. Rising prosperity is achievable by almost any country when it achieves a degree of safety. It does not matter where a country is ranked now, rather its direction and speed of travel up the rankings are based on the reforms and choices made by its government, leaders and business entrepreneurs.
The pathway to prosperity is about individuals and creating an environment where they can fulfil their potential and thrive. The risers have all improved in wealth and almost all improved wellbeing. People’s levels of satisfaction with freedom, healthcare and education, and their confidence in governments and elections have all registered some of the largest improvements, despite a global decline in these areas over the last decade. Each riser has had a different set of challenges to overcome, including civil war, political corruption, extreme poverty or a weak Business Environment. One of the highest ranked of our risers, Estonia experienced a sustained rise in prosperity over a period longer than a decade and has successfully managed to increase personal safety since the restoration of independence in the 1990s. The lowest, Togo, faced oppression and autocracy, which have been reduced but still are a major challenge under the president Faure Gnassingbé.