Sri Lanka among top 20 in failed states ranking

July 3, 2008 (LBO) – In mid 2006, I wrote a column entitled “The Sri Lankan state: Failed, failing or maligned?

It was about a comparative ranking on countries on their likelihood of 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.”

Then last year, I re-examined the 2007 rankings.  I said that “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.  This is a top 20 you do not want to belong to.

But Sri Lanka has just joined the top 20 of failed states, sliding 5 places down in the 2008 survey that covers 177 countries again.

The SAARC region as whole (with the notable exceptions of India and the Maldives) does pretty badly, with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka declining in position, vis-à-vis 2007.  Nepal, which was a member of the top 20 (with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan) in 2006, has now climbed to 23.

2006 rank 2007 rank 2008 rank 2006-08 Improvement
Afghanistan 10 8 7 (3)
Bangladesh 19 16 12 (7)
Bhutan 39 47 51 12
India 93 110 98 5
Maldives Not included 66 67 1
Nepal 20 21 23 3
Pakistan 9 12 9 0
Sri Lanka 25 25 20 (5)

Last year, I bemoaned that Rwanda and Liberia were seen as less likely to end up as failed states than Sri Lanka.  Rwanda (exemplar of genocide) now ranks 42nd and Liberia (once a synonym for failed state) 34th.  These countries are improving; Sri Lanka is going downhill.

Comparison of the component scores for Sri Lanka and Liberia, the land of Charles Taylor, is educative in terms of what it takes to improve/worsen:

Liberia 2007 Liberia 2008 Sri Lanka 2007 Sri Lanka 2008
I-1.  Mounting Demographic Pressures 8.1 8.1 7 7
I-2.  Massive Movement of Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons creating Complex Humanitarian Emergencies 8.5 8.4 8.6 9
I-3.  Legacy of Vengeance-Seeking Group Grievance or Group Paranoia 6.5 6 9.5 9.8
I-4.  Chronic and Sustained Human Flight 6.8 6.5 6.9 6.9
I-5.  Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines 8.3 8.3 8.2 8.2
I-6.  Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline 8.4 8.3 6 6
I-7.  Criminalization and/or Delegitimization of the State 7 7 8.9 9.2
I-8.  Progressive Deterioration of Public Services 8.6 8.5 6.5 6.6
I-9.  Suspension or Arbitrary Application of the Rule of Law and Widespread Violation of Human Rights 6.7 6.7 7.5 8
I-10. Security Apparatus Operates as a “State Within a State” 6.9 6.7 8.7 9.3
I-11. Rise of Factionalized Elites 8.1 7.9 9.2 9.5
I-12. Intervention of Other States or External Political Actors 9 8.6 6.1 6.1
TOTAL 92.9 91 93.1 95.6

Liberia is improving its component scores gradually.   Sri Lanka, on the other hand, is seen as reaching the top score in group paranoia at an astounding 9.8/10.   Criminalization of the state, exemplified by the brazen attacks on journalists, has risen to 9.2/10.   The scores on widespread violation of human rights (8/10) and the security apparatus operating as a state within the state (9.3/10) contributes to Sri Lanka’s decline.

What company shall we keep in 2009 in the absence of remedial action?  Burma?  North Korea?  It’s only 2 more points that we need to overtake North Korea, and only 4.7 to tie with Burma.   Way to go, Mr President!