Author: Tina Aridas, Valentina Pasquali
Project Coordinator: Denise Bedell

The gross domestic product (GDP) of a country can be defined as the value of the total final output of all goods and services produced in a single year within a country's boundaries. The growth is expressed as a percent.

Of the 185 countries around the world whose GDPs are tracked by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Zimbabwe, San Marino, Greece, Portugal and Italy had the worst average growth in the decade between 2003 and 2013, having taken a particularly hard hit in the global downturn that started in earnest in 2007.

Countries with the lowest GDP growth, 2003-2013

Data is from the World Economic Outlook Database of the International Monetary Fund, October 2012.

Click on the column heading to sort the table.

* gross domestic product, constant prices, % change

Beside several European countries, Japan (coming in at position 11) also suffered frustratingly slow growth in the last ten years, as well as many island nations from both the Caribbean, like Jamaica (10 th ) and Barbados (17 th ,) and the Pacific Ocean, such as Tonga and Tuvalu (respectively 6 th and 7 th ).

Olivier Blanchard, Economic Counselor of the International Monetary Fund, discusses global prospects for growth in 2013

IMF Projects Modest Pick-up in Economic Growth in 2013

Zimbabwe, which regularly tops the global list for the slowest growth, has had a history of economic problems, including the draining of hundreds of millions of dollars from the economy during its involvement in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Until early 2009 the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe routinely printed money to fund the budget deficit. In 2008, the country’s economy contracted a record 18.3%. In 2009 some reforms were put in place that turned negative growth into positive territory for the first time in a decade and, in 2010 and 2011, Zimbabwe achieved a remarkable above 9% growth rate. Projected figures for 2012 and 2013, however, point to a slowing of this expansion, with the economy growing only 5% and 6% respectively.

Alongside Zimbabwe, abysmal economic performances were registered in four of the five so-called PIIGS country (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain but not Ireland). This has been especially true from the start of the global financial crisis, which took a particularly nasty turn in the euro zone when it mutated into the painful sovereign debt crisis of the last two years.

Greece’s economy, Europe’s basket case, started contracting in 2008 (only by 0.2% then) and has yet to stop, shrinking a record 7% in 2011. Predictions have it declining another 4% in 2013. A similar negative path, although not as stark, has been followed by Portugal, whose economy is expected to contract yet again in 2013 (by 1%.) Crushed by massive public debt, which has reached a high of almost 130% of GDP, and increasing market pressure, the Italian economy has had its own rollercoaster ride, shrinking 5.5% in 2009, growing again 1.8% and 0.4% in 2010 and 2011 and then collapsing once more in 2012 (by a negative 2 points). And it is not out of the woods yet, with the IMF forecasting that it will decline in 2013 as well (by 0.7%.)

Overall, according to The Economist, “developed countries, weighed down by a slow recovery in America and the ongoing euro crisis, contributed little” to economic growth in the recent past. “The coming year is expected to be much the same,” adds the magazine, according to which the “three economies forecast to contract the most in 2013 are all euro members,” precisely Greece, Portugal and Spain.