Table of Contents

  • This is the fourth issue, under the new format, of the annual publication previously entitled, 'Basic Statistical Data on Selected Countries (with populations of less than 5 million)'. While the statistical section of the report covers all small countries in the world, the first part of the narrative focuses on an assessment of the recent economic performance of Commonwealth small states in terms of major macroeconomic trends. There are also two other articles in this issue: (1) an overview of vulnerability issues; and (2) the derivation of a composite index of the vulnerability of small states.

  • Notwithstanding the Asian financial crisis, the world economy grew by 3.2 per cent in 1997 largely owing to continued strong growth in the US and the UK, strong recovery in Canada, and a revival of economic activity in continental Europe (see Chart 1.1). The steep fall in oil prices and a moderate decline in commodity prices helped to keep world inflation subdued. This together with stable exchange rates, except in certain key Asian economies, resulted in low real interest rates.

  • The concept of vulnerability and its various manifestations, including the implications of these dimensions for security and sustainable development of small states, are analysed in detail in the recent Commonwealth Advisory Group report, A Future for Small States: Overcoming Vulnerability. Some of the key concerns of small states, which have been analysed in this report are highlighted in this section.

  • There is growing international recognition that high economic exposure, remoteness and isolation, and proneness to natural disasters have a debilitating effect on small economies, despite their relatively high per capita incomes. Both the Commonwealth and the UN have developed composite vulnerability indexes on the basis of these influences. To date, agreement has not been reached on a simple, robust and widely accepted index that could be used as an operational tool in helping to determine whether small states should be accorded differential treatment by the international development community.

  • The set of statistical tables that follows is the nineteenth of the annual issue previously published under the title "Basic Statistical Data on Selected Countries (with populations of less than 5 million)". It attempts to bring together in 51 tables, basic data on country size with available information on selected economic and social development indicators, as well as characteristics of the major sectors of small economies. It is hoped that the statistical data presented will form a useful supplement to those available on larger countries from other sources.