Is Sri Lanka running in place or falling behind?

June 22, 2007(LBO) – A little over a year ago, I wrote a column called “The Sri Lankan state: Failed, failing or maligned?

It was about a comparative ranking on countries on the likelihood of them becoming failed states.  At the end of a critical assessment of their methodology, I concluded that “Notwithstanding these methodological problems, the index does provide a good basis for debate and discussion on the condition of the Sri Lankan state.”

The 2007 rankings are out . The good news is that Sri Lanka is holding its place at 25 in the new survey that includes 177 countries (up from 146 in 2006).  In this ranking, a high score is bad.

The bad news is that all countries in the SAARC region except Afghanistan and Bangladesh have improved their positions, some considerably.  We have not.

2006 position 2007 position Improvement
Afghanistan 10 8 (2)
Bangladesh 19 16 (3)
Bhutan 39 47 8
India 93 110 17
Maldives Not included 66 n.a.
Nepal 20 21 1
Pakistan 9 12 3
Sri Lanka 25 25 0

The worst news is about the countries that are better than us:

  • Rwanda, which was at 24 (just a little bit worse than us in 2006) is now at 36, an improvement of 12.
  • Liberia, which was at 12 (lot worse than us in 2006) is now at 27, an improvement of 15.

In case that does not make an impression, try saying these sentences aloud:

  • Rwanda, a country that saw crimes verging on genocide in the 1990s, is considered less likely to become a failed state than Sri Lanka.
  • Liberia, still an example for a failed state in common usage, has clawed its way back from teetering on the edge of a failed state to overtake Sri Lanka.

Comparison of the component scores for Sri Lanka and Liberia, the land of Charles Taylor, may be educative:

Liberia Sri Lanka
I-1.  Mounting Demographic Pressures 8.1 7
I-2.  Massive Movement of Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons creating Complex Humanitarian Emergencies 8.5 8.6
I-3.  Legacy of Vengeance-Seeking Group Grievance or Group Paranoia 6.5 9.5
I-4.  Chronic and Sustained Human Flight 6.8 6.9
I-5.  Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines 8.3 8.2
I-6.  Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline 8.4 6
I-7.  Criminalization and/or Delegitimization of the State 7 8.9
I-8.  Progressive Deterioration of Public Services 8.6 6.5
I-9.  Suspension or Arbitrary Application of the Rule of Law and Widespread Violation of Human Rights 6.7 7.5
I-10. Security Apparatus Operates as a “State Within a State” 6.9 8.7
I-11. Rise of Factionalized Elites 8.1 9.2
I-12. Intervention of Other States or External Political Actors 9 6.1
TOTAL 92.9 93.1

According to these outside observers, Sri Lanka is significantly behind Liberia on Group Paranoia (9.5 to 6.5); Security apparatus operating as a “state within the state” (8.7 to 6.9); Criminalization and/or delegitimization of the state (8.9 to 7).

This is what the world thinks of us, right or wrong.   Shall we rant against the conspirators or do something positive?