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On Failed States and Relevant Indexes

28 November 2012, 07:11

On Failed States and Relevant Indexes :

A recent article by Claudia Meades on three reasons why she thinks South Africa will fail must be one of the most widely read and commented on ever to appear in the News24 forum. The extensive  response to her thoughts on this matter indicates that South Africans are afraid that such a failed state may well be where our country is headed. And so I thought it  has become  relevant  to inform myself of what such a country would look like. And  what better place to inform oneself than on the Internet?  There I discovered  that such a tabulation of  the countries of the World actually exists in the form of the Failed States Index. Needless to say that such an index is not  universally (I mean everywhere  on our planet) popular and so there is also a commentary that calls itself “the Failure of the Failed States Index”.  The Failed States Index is compiled by the United States think-tank Fund for Peace  and adopts the following criteria, that I have taken verbatim from Wikipedia:

Common indicators include a state whose central government is so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations; sharp economic decline. Since 2005, the index has been published annually by the Fund for Peace and the magazine Foreign Policy.[1]

Let us take this one point at a time:  Is our government so weak that it has little practical control over much of its territory? The answer to this will obviously impact on the remaining four criteria and so let us go on. As regards the provision of public services I do not think we have much too much to complain about. SARS does a good job (although I suppose not everybody would agree, because no one likes paying taxes), trains mostly run on time, the postal services work and so does road transportation. But for the purposes of  passengers an efficient municipal busservice has, to a large extend, been taken over by an unruly taxi industry that sometimes does not obey traffic regulations and definitely not speed limits.  When it comes to criminality, on the other hand, our government must be blindfolded. Crime and poverty goes hand in hand and in this context it is important to take note of the findings of  the French Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation in a paper “ Trends in South African income distribution and poverty since the fall of apartheid” (Leibbrandt, M. et al. (2010),

OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 101, OECD Publishing, © OECD.doi:10.1787/5kmms0t7p1ms-en) which reported on  the period 1994 to 2008 ) The authors report:   From a policy point of view it is important to flag the fact that intra-African inequality and poverty trends increasingly dominate aggregate inequality and poverty in South Africa. Race-based redistribution may become less effective over time relative to policies addressing increasing inequality within each racial group and especially within the African group.”  Presumably the wide disparity between the incomes of the beneficiaries of BEE and the vast majority of township dwellers was noted.  In this period huge amounts were spent  on the acquisition of military equipment amidst allegations of attendant corruption, rather than on the alleviation of poverty.

Widespread criminality, including farm murders which are reported almost daily in the media, has lead to private investment in  an extensive security industry with alarm systems and patrol vehicles. As a result high walls and electric fencing can be seen everywhere, but especially in the more affluent neighbourhoods. All these things costs money that could better have been invested in an income generating economy.   Rampant criminality has lead to an exodus of highly qualified individuals and this can be seen as an involuntary movement of a population that this country can ill afford. And while a sharp economic decline has not yet become evident, the per capita income of South Africans has in fact declined in recent years.

A listing of countries according to the Failed States Index can be found at  Almost all the countries of Central Africa are on high alert as failed states, with Somalia topping the list. In Sub-Saharan Africa only Zimbabwe is singled out as a failed state and it ranks in the fifth overall  position. South Africa is listed amongst countries for which there are warning signs. As yet it appears in the 115th position overall, but with a red little triangle to indicate that matters are getting worse.  In this context it is of interest to note the huge difference between Haiti, that ranks in the 7th position as a failed state, and the Dominican Republic that appears as number 95, although these countries are neighbours on the same island. Which indicates that where a country appears on the list has little to do with climatic conditions etc and  more with governance.

Apart from the Failed States Index there is also a Corruption Perceptions Index that motivates its existence as follows:

With governments committing huge sums to tackle the world's most pressing problems, from the instability of financial markets to climate change and poverty, corruption remains an obstacle to achieving much needed progress. The 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index shows that nearly three quarters of the 178 countries in the index score below five, on a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt). These results indicate a serious corruption problem.

 In this index we score a lowly 4.5 and is ranked  54th amongst 178 countries.

Last, but not least, there is also a Human Development Index which tries to rate countries in a manner that is more people oriented. This index takes into account life expectancy, standard of living based on income in terms of purchasing power parity and educational level. In terms of this Index South Africa is rated 123rd amongst 185 countries. For this list see:

The reality that we are faced with is that countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada are very favourably rated in all these indexes. Moreover, voting patterns in elections are primarily determined by ethnicity and, therefore, there is no possibility that the ANC, or cANCer, as some prefer to call it, will not keep on winning South African elections. Consequently there is actually only one reason South Africa will “fail”. The result is that most white South African families by now have  relatives living abroad. Young people, especially, find emigration to these Commonwealth countries to be an attractive option. A much more Africanized South Africa with a marginalized white community seems to be what the future hold for us. I suppose from an African perspective this would not rate as a failure.

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