Ireland retains global ranking

24 Feb 2004

Ireland ranks as the world’s most global nation for the third year in a row, according to the fourth annual AT Kearney/Foreign Policy Magazine Globalisation Index. This year’s index saw weakening global economic integration, but globalisation was strengthened by better person-to-person contact as well as technology.

Amidst a faltering global economy, Ireland maintained strong economic links and high levels of personal contact to the rest of the world, helping it hold onto the top spot even as many countries saw their globalisation scores slip.

Economic integration dropped to the lowest levels since 1998, reflecting slow economic growth in many regions as well as the effects of heightened travel alerts, stringent new security at ports and airports, corporate scandals, financial market fallout from Argentina’s economic unravelling, and jarring terrorist attacks in Indonesia and Kenya.

However, non-economic drivers of global integration – from travel to telephone traffic – maintained their forward momentum, making the world more integrated at the end of 2002 than ever before.

The AT Kearney/Foreign Policy Globalisation Index measures economic, person-to-person, political, and technological integration in 62 countries, accounting for 96pc of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 84pc of the world’s population.

In the top 20 index, Ireland topped the list, closely followed by Singapore, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Finland, Canada and the US respectively. Lower down the list were Sweden in 11th place, the UK in 12th place and Malaysia in 20th place.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) flows, already down about 40pc in 2001, slid another 20pc to US$651bn – the lowest level in five years. The US and UK accounted for nearly half the drop, but the trend was felt worldwide, with FDI inflows dropping in two-thirds of the countries covered. Global portfolio capital flows also contracted, with stock market losses in the US, Germany and Brazil erasing wealth and risk aversion growing in the wake of Argentina’s economic meltdown.

International connections via telephone and the Internet also grew in 2002 – in part because they offered safe substitutes for “being there” in an era of increased travel safety concerns. International telephone traffic rose by 15bn minutes to total more than 21 minutes per person. Many of these calls were from mobile phones, which outnumbered fixed-line telephone connections for the first time in 2002 and allowed subscribers in many developing countries to “leapfrog” outmoded fixed line infrastructure.

More than 130 million new internet users also came online in 2002, bringing the world total to more than 620 million — 9.9pc of total world population, up from only 8.1pc the year before. The number of users in developing regions rose 40pc — three times faster than in developed countries. In China, the number rose 75pc in 2002; in Brazil, 78.5pc; and in India, 136pc. Even in the Middle East, one of the world’s least wired regions, internet usage jumped up by 116pc in 2002.

By John Kennedy