Daily Archives: June 23, 2014

By Vincent Boland in Dublin

It is tough being number one. Just ask the Irish. One of the things Ireland has had to get used to over the past decade is being ranked top (or near the top) in a range of global surveys for this, that and the other. The reaction is two-fold: a moment of pride followed by the question, “Surely they can’t mean us?”

A decade ago, Ireland was named the world’s best place to live, by the Economist. Now a new ranking has comes along declaring Ireland to be the country that contributes most “to the rest of humanity and the planet.” That sounds like the kind of award countries should be winning.

The Good Country Index, compiled by the international policy consultant Simon Anholt, is essentially an interpretation of the results of surveys carried out by international organisations such as the UN and the World Bank. The index measures the contribution of 125 countries to the world in seven categories of achievement relative to the size of their economy. Read more

The question went unanswered all weekend: who were the male members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly who jeered a female colleague, Ayaka Shiomura, as she tried to challenge senior city figures on their plans to support working women?

The heckling of Ms Shiomura, a 35 year-old member of the minority Your Party group, has drawn condemnation from across Japan’s political spectrum. The head of one rival faction in the assembly complained of “monstrous sexual harassment,” while another lamented that the hecklers – who appeared to be sitting within the section reserved for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) – had brought “shame” on the prefectural parliament.

“Why don’t you hurry up and get married?” one assembly member interrupted about eight minutes into Wednesday’s ten-minute presentation, causing Ms Shiomura to smile weakly before trying to soldier on. Another shouted: “Can’t you bear a child?” Read more


Croatia's economy is not so sunny

The slow, painful healing of the Greek economy after a catastrophic debt crisis raises an interesting question. Which country now holds the title of No.1 Economic Basket Case of the European Union?

The answer is surely Croatia. It is a small country (4.3m people, not even 1 per cent of the 28-nation EU’s 506m inhabitants) that did not join the EU until last July. It is not a eurozone member. It has gorgeous islands and beaches where life seems distinctly pleasant. So Croatia and its economic troubles often slip under everyone’s radar.

But Croatia is now in its sixth successive year of recession. During this time it has lost almost 13 per cent of its gross domestic product. Unemployment is about 17 per cent of the workforce, and among young people the rate is close to 50 per cent. Read more