Statistic Time Again

About once a year, I almost gaze down from my Arctic tower to the (alleged) world below, but then I realize I don’t need to do this, because my loyal servants are able to fax me statistics upon which I can pontificate (if, that is, I feel like pontificating). This year, I’ll fill you in on gross national income, press freedom and higher education, three subjects you are no doubt fascinated by.

Every year a list of countries is published by the World Bank, ranked by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita: ‘according to the Atlas Method, an indicator of income developed by the World Bank’. The Wikipedia definition of GNI says it ‘comprises the total value produced within a country (i.e. its Gross Domestic Product), together with its income received from other countries (notably interest and dividends), less similar payments made to other countries’. The World Bank’s calculations are based on the previous year, i.e. 2007, and the latest statistics for 2007 (published in October 2008) rank Liechtenstein’s and Bermuda’s economies on top. Next comes the country where I’m living, Norway, and the always-wealthy Luxembourg is in fourth place. The absolute monarchy Qatar, (home to the freedom-loving U.S. Al Udeid Air Base), comes fifth. Ireland is 12th, Sweden 14th, USA 15th (I can hear them now at some rally: ‘We’re number fifteen! We’re number fifteen!’ with some John McCain-type saying, ‘Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the fifteenth greatest nation on Earth.(Cheers, applause.)’), and the UK comes 19th (although the Isle of Man is 18th). The West Bank-and-Gaza ranks a respectable #148 (considering), and Burundi comes last at #209, although there are no statistics for Afghanistan or Iraq (maybe they’re included in #15).
Press Freedom Index 2008
This index, the latest of which covers the 12 months 1 September 2007 to 1 September 2008, is published by Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders). It is a great gauge of the right to free speech. The economic crisis formerly known as Iceland comes 1st, as the country with most press freedom, joint 1st with Luxembourg and Norway (me again). Three countries also share fourth place: Estonia, Finland and Ireland (something to be proud of there). The United Kingdom, always lagging behind Ireland these days is joint 23rd with Hungary and Namibia. The USA is joint 36th with a whole bunch of tiny nations (‘We’re number thirty-six! We’re number thirty-six! Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the thirty-sixth greatest nation on Earth.(Cheers, applause.)’). Eritrea comes last at #173.
World University Rankings 2008
The Times Higher Education supplement ranks the world’s top 200 universities each year, based on six criteria: peer review score, employer review score, staff/student score, citations/staff score, international staff score and international student score. This year’s results have Harvard and Yale on top (the USA can do some things right), with Cambridge and Oxford next (ditto the UK). In fact, of the top 15 universities, 11 are in the US and 4 are in the UK. The best university in Scandinavia is the University of Copenhagen (#48), and Sweden has 4 universities on the list. Ireland makes it onto the list with Trinity at #49 and UCD (where I was educated) at #108. The University of Oslo is #177, which just isn’t good enough, is it? Shall I stroll around the streets of Oslo, parading myself as a product of superior education, then?

Barry Kavanagh writes fiction, and has made music, formerly with Dacianos.

Contact him here.