One thing that I noticed when looking at a map of the world is how the farther you go away from the equator, the better the economies are. You can see it graphically on this map (or check out this slightly different (and huge) map that shows it more clearly).
I was curious how latitude correlated with GDP per capita (calculated via PPP), so I was glad to see this post over at The Audacious Epigone where he calculated it:
Economic transparency/corruption index: .68, Distance from the equator: .67, Births per woman: -.81, Life expectancy: .85Now I can see why having fewer children, having a longer life expectancy and having less corruption would raise GDP, but being farther away from the equator? I don't intuitively see that. And yet it is correlated almost as strongly as corruption.
I'm not sure exactly why this is. Maybe when it is ungodly hot, people just don't like to work. Or possibly, diseases are worse around the tropics than at other latitudes. Or it could be that the key grains of agriculture: wheat, rice and corn grow better at the higher latitudes. Or maybe, if you are in a tropical area like Hawaii, the idea of sitting on a beach is much more appealing then maximizing wealth. Only when you get to cold areas do you have nothing better to do but build your economy.
Whatever the reason, it makes it that much more impressive that Lee Kwan Yew was able to transform Singapore into a first world nation given how it is so close to the equator.