Monday, 18 June 2007

Failed States

'Foreign Policy' magazine and the Fund for Peace recently released their third annual Failed States Index. Pakistan is ranked a surprisingly high 12th on the overall indicators of instability, making it just better off than Haiti (11th) and just worse off than North Korea (13th).

The bottom five, in order, are: Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, Zimbabwe and then Chad.

'Most Improved' prize goes to Liberia, followed by Indonesia (primarily on the back of its settling of the Aceh conflict since 2005 and economic stabilisation). The country whose situation changed the most drastically for the worse over the last year is Lebanon which has seen a sharp drop, followed by Somalia.

Now generally I'm sceptical about these kinds of exercises and always find that their methodology is endlessly debatable. But a survey of these results does seem to correspond to my own rough estimates. I'm not sure if I would put Sudan at number one though. It seems to me that with the large oil reserves and a rich wildlife ecosystem that have been discovered there, and with the humanitarian disaster and civil conflict limited to one part of the country, and no serious crisis for its government, its probably better off than both Iraq and Somalia, but that's only from a cursory look.

Interestingly Pakistan's economic performance is one of the highest rated in the rankings. In the 50 worst states, only Columbia, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea have better performing economies - and all three economies are major oil exporters that have been benefiting from the oil boom of the last few years. This is particularly interesting because the myth of Pakistani economic weakness still plagues political and public debate in Pakistan. Instead on focusing on social justice, public services and narrowing the poverty gap, the government still insists on following narrow, growth-driven economic polices that contribute to the growing inequality between rich and poor and ignore social priorities such as the environment.

That's particularly important because according to the report, Pakistan is in the high risk category with regards to environmental sustainability. Whatever gains Pakistan is making through its booming economy are at threat if environmental management is not made a priority.


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