The Ten Best Countries At Everything [Analysis]


Monitoring international indices is becoming a bit of a hobby of late. I’m fascinated by how some countries seem to get everything right, while others seem to get nothing right at all (incidentally, if you’re into learning about such things I highly recommend Acemoglu and Robinson’s Why Nations Fail.  Another great book is From Third World to First: The Singapore Story, by the late great Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister of Singapore).

Below is a table of the top ten performing countries in eight different indices, and they are (1) The World Happiness Report, (2) The Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index, (3) The Social Progress Index, (4) The Corruption Perception Index, (5) The Global Peace Index, (6) The Human Freedom Index, (7) The Human Development Index, and (8) The Global Innovation Index.  Of course there are many others as well, but these eight give us a pretty good idea who the most successful countries in the world are.

What I find particularly fascinating is that the same countries show up over and over again on the major indices!

Top Ten Countries

I’ve highlighted the countries that show up three or more times.  Here are the ones with the most appearances:

• Switzerland: 8

• Denmark: 8

• Canada: 7

• Finland: 7

• New Zealand: 7

• Netherlands: 6

• Sweden: 6

• Australia: 6

• Norway: 5

• Iceland: 4

If there ever was a list of countries that every developing nation should study, it’s the ten mentioned above.

Weighted rankings:

I took the countries above, and gave them a rating based on how high they were in each index.  If the country was in first place, for example like Switzerland in the World Happiness Report, I gave it ten points.  If a country was in second place, I gave it nine points, and so on. I then added up the points for each country.  The results is below.  Based on this weighted rating, the ten most successful countries in the world are:

1) Switzerland – 61 points

2) Denmark – 45 points

3) Norway – 43 points

4) New Zealand – 41 points

5) Finland – 38 points

6) Sweden – 37 points

7) Iceland – 34 points

8) Canada – 28 points

9) Netherlands – 24 points

10) Australia – 19 points

Success has nothing to do with the size of the economy:

I intentionally left out GDP from my success rankings as it’s a very flawed measurement.  Using GDP as a success measure is like only considering a person successful or good at what he does if he’s rich.  There is so much more to being a successful person than being rich.

For me GDP has way too many limitations to be used as an accurate measurement of a nation’s progress or success.  The ten richest nations – as measured by size of economy – are not the happiest, nor the most free, or the most progressive etc.

Incidentally, the ten countries with the largest economies are:

1) United States

2) China

3) Japan

4) Germany

5) UK

6) France

7) Brazil

8) Italy

9) India

10) Russia

Of these countries, the US and UK appear only twice in the eight indices mentioned above, and Japan and Germany only once. The rest don’t make the top ten at all.

To be sure most of our successful countries have healthy economies and very good GDP per capita, but that’s a side matter.  What truly matters is that they focus on happiness, freedom, development and innovation.

Military might also doesn’t matter:

According to Global Fire Power, the ten most powerful countries from a military point of view are:

1) United States

2) Russia

3) China

4) India

5) UK

6) France

7) South Korea

8) Germany

9) Japan

10) Turkey

Again, only the US, UK and Japan barely make it on the eight indices above.  I can only assume that bigger militaries lead to less happiness as these countries have a lot of wars, or have to live with the constant threat of one.


As developing nations we have to learn how Switzerland, Denmark and Norway and the rest became so world class.  Of course we cannot copy them exactly as each nation has it’s own circumstances, but there is a lot to learn from them.  We should start sending delegations to them, and start benchmarking ourselves against them.

Thanks for reading and talk soon.

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2 Responses to The Ten Best Countries At Everything [Analysis]

  1. Farhan 10 November 2015 at 11:13 am #

    Salaam Sohail. Good article. Having visited Norway, Sweden and Denmark, I have seen the developments they have made. We, in Bahrain, can learn from them. I can list a dozen examples. An example – public green areas, the caretaker decides he can add more trees, makes recommendation to municipality, gets the permission and plants the trees. All this for the benefit of the community and the nation as a whole. Our nation needs to send more officials from various sectors to observe and see what they do. Also, implementing processes should be looked at and imbibed. We need to do more walking with the talking. Keep up the good work and have a positive week.

    • Suhail Algosaibi 10 November 2015 at 12:11 pm #

      Thanks for the great input Farhan. I hope to visit those countries myself one day.

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