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The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report offers a comprehensive view of individual country risk/reward. There has been an explosion of these types of indexes over the past few years.

The UN has its Human Development Index, the World Bank has its Ease of Doing Business report and there are dozens of other organisations producing such analysis and rankings.

Given that there are over 200 country investment destinations and you might want to narrow that list down before conducting in-depth research which reports/indexes or data/comparisons are most useful (health, education, tax rates, employment levels, that sort of thing)?

Please ignore ratings agencies in your answer. They produce useful scores but their methodology and underlying data is "closed" and proprietary, so difficult to evaluate or adjust to particular needs. This question is about being able to evaluate the analysis and, potentially, reweight or reorientate the existing index.

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This looks like the core of a very good question. At the moment, the specific wording looks like four questions rather than one; and I'm not sure that any have objective answers. Can you nail this down to one specific question that could be answered with some objectivity? –  EnergyNumbers Oct 13 '11 at 10:25
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Will do my best - it's one I grapple with daily... –  Turukawa Oct 13 '11 at 20:53
    
+1 Good edit - I like it –  EnergyNumbers Oct 13 '11 at 21:28
    
Cool, thanks :) –  Turukawa Oct 13 '11 at 21:33
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Off the top of my head, credit default swaps (CDS) on sovereign debt -- and perhaps on large companies in the sector you care about in that country, if the CDS's exist -- leap to mind. Check out the Wikipedia article on them. They are something along the lines of "insurance rates" (not exactly, but this is a reasonable first-pass understanding) on a country's debt. This is like a market-based way to think about likelihood of default.

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And the nice thing about them is that you can take the difference between, say, 2 year and 10 year CDS to see what kind of risk the country is running. I've seen the BIS doing it in their reports –  CarrKnight Oct 14 '11 at 1:07
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