The next lot of global worries

  • Date:01 Oct 2013
  • Type:Company Director Magazine
While they represent just six per cent of the world’s population, Phil Ruthven warns that the possible emergence of theocratic republics is a looming threat to economic growth, religious freedom and peace.

There is always something to worry about in business, government and our personal lives. However, there is more progress than relapse if one takes the long view of a well-run country, and of most other countries as well.

The global financial crisis has dominated world concerns since 2008 and is still a reality in the European Union (EU), the US and Japan. These collectively represent 50 per cent of the world’s GDP of US$74 trillion, but a smaller 13.6 per cent of the world’s population of 7.2 billion in 2013.

In a world with over three per cent growth, this disabled cohort’s economic growth is sputtering between zero to a few per cent, even after deficits of a much higher share of GDP.  Indeed, this group may enter the next decade before it restores full employment and reasonable economic growth.

By that time, our region, Asia Pacific, will be close to overtaking the economic size of the EU and North America combined. Indeed, by 2025, it could be comfortably larger, as Figure 1 suggests.

The repositioning of importance, power and influence across the world is moving quickly.

Populations and their standards of living are part of this repositioning at the regional level, as indicated in Figure 1. But individual nations are also changing their relative importance, both within a region and as a member of the world’s 230 nations and sovereign states.

Figure 2 shows the importance of the most populous nations in the world in 2013.


Only two of the top 10 are well-advanced economies (the US and Japan) with just over six per cent of the world’s 7.2 billion population. Two others are of middling development (Brazil and Russia).

But the developing and poor nations make up almost half (47.5 per cent) of world population, headed by China and India. Some are a lot poorer, such as Bangladesh and Pakistan. But these are slowly improving their lot in life, albeit with a lot of social abominations and difficulties, especially for females. Sadly, it is the poorer countries where politics, religion and economics are not sufficiently advanced to ensure peaceful coexistence internally or with neighbouring countries.

The richest nations in terms of GDP per capita are out of sight in Figure 2. This is because the top 10 most affluent are all tiny in population size. The list includes Qatar, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Bermuda, Monaco, Singapore, Jersey, Brunei and even the Falkland Islands. The US comes in around twelfth, being the first of the very-populated nations.

However, population, economics and financial matters are not the only issues of global change and potential concern.

Political structures and religions – inseparable in some countries – are a source of suffering and discord to many of the world’s 230 nations and sovereign states, and to those affected externally from within those troubled nations.

Figure 3 shows the religious affiliations of the world population in 2013. The non-religious include atheists, secular humanists, agnostics and others. Religions, as we know, have been a source of aggression and carnage over the millenniums, as seen via the Mediaeval Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, Ku Klux Klan, Moral Majority, Hindu Nationalism, Messianic Zionism and, more recently, Islamic terrorism, internecine fights and hegemony.

The Al Qaeda, Taliban, and Muslim Brotherhood movements match many of the historical religious horror periods.

There is growing concern with religious intrusion into political structures where theocratic regimes have emerged in both poor and middling-developed economies such as Egypt, Iran and others. Such hegemony has existed in the past, of course, in 16th century Christian England, later in Italy (the Vatican States) and the Ottoman Empire.

The faster growth of Islam across the world is likely to see that affiliation overtake Christianity (having its own problems with disaffection, disbelief or disinterest) within decades. And while there is little aggression from the largest Islamic nation (Indonesia), there is some zealotry and terrorism emerging in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere.

This affects the type of political structures around the world and how separated/secular or otherwise they are from religious interference. See Figure 4.

Democracy in its many forms dominates, with 73 per cent of the world’s population having a say in how they are governed – a far cry from centuries and millennia past. Communism is shrinking, accounting for less than 22 per cent of the word’s citizens, due to the demise of the USSR and the low population growth in China. As a political ideology, it is unlikely to survive at all beyond the end of the next decade. It didn’t work!

It is the “other” political systems that are more worrying, consisting of Islamic theocratic governments (mainly) and dictatorships. While they currently represent just six per cent of the world’s populace, it is the possibility of the emergence of theocratic republics among the democratic sector – which have to date been secular democracies – that is the emerging threat to economic growth, religious freedom and peace.

The world has a lot of its progress of the past century or so to defend. Or lose. We will need better statesmen and a stronger UN than we now have to tackle this coming threat.