The question refers to which economies are underrated or undervalued, not which economies are the strongest. (Along these lines, LBJ is probably the most overrated player in the NBA today, but he is still also probably the best.)
Last time I picked Pakistan and the Philippines, the latter was a good choice for sure, although now its reputation has caught up to the reality of ongoing rapid growth. I would say Pakistan remains up for grabs, but still the growth rate has been running about five percent, which you would hardly guess from a random episode of Homeland season four. The fiscal deficit is down from eight percent to 5.5 percent, a big step for Pakistan. The stock market has been doing quite well. I don’t wish to claim vindication there, but at the very least it does seem they were underrated a year ago or two and still today.
This year I am going to pick Sri Lanka as well, which has a growth rate of about eight percent, one of the highest in the world. The country receives a lot of bad press because of its vicious, decades-long civil war. Sri Lanka also practices censorship and has iffy democratic credentials and a potentially chaotic election coming up. That’s what helps make it underrated, but of course the war is over now.
The educational system is reasonably good relative to per capita income, English literacy is much higher than in India, and the Chinese are building a lot of infrastructure there. Its tourism potential will expand considerably (I loved the trip there I did with Yana). The poverty rate is down. Here is one overview of recent developments. Here are a variety of country reports, lots of positive features.
Still, you don’t hear so much positive about Sri Lanka these days. On economic terms, I don’t find this one such a tough call, it’s simply a sticky reputation because of the bad politics and previous history.
So my picks for most underrated, this year, are Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Here are some of my quasi-predictions from 2012.