Burma on cusp of failure

08 March 2008

[Source - Mizzima News]
March 7, 2008

Burma is one of only five countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa to be strapped with the label of “critically weak,” according to a 2008 study.

The research, conducted through the Brookings Institution and co-authored by Susan Rice and Stewart Patrick, is aimed at assisting American policymakers in their assessment of where attention should be given as well as highlighting positive correlations between individual indicators and a state’s likelihood of failure.

Overall Burma is listed as the 17th weakest state, largely as a result of receiving the second-poorest overall “political” score, trailing only Somalia. Burma’s dire political situation is partially the result of its receiving the lowest possible scores for “voice and accountability” and “freedom,” while coming in third worst for “corruption.”

Though also scoring in the bottom fifth in “economics” and “security,” it comes as something of a surprise to find the Southeast Asian country placing in the middle of the table for “social welfare.”

With respect to economics, Burma’s lowest scores came for “regulatory controls” and “inflation.”

Through analysis of the findings Rice and Patrick determine a strong relationship between poverty and the propensity of state failure, concluding that the United States should drastically increase its commitment to poverty alleviation – an initiative which United Nations Special Advisor to Burma Ibrahim Gambari has already, and thus far unsuccessfully, tried to address. However, the authors warn that America should desist from unilateral attempts at state building.

Estimates are that Burma’s per capita income in 2007 was less than $2,000.

Interestingly, no strong correlation is found between the incidence of a military coup and the weakness of a state.

With vocal calls for ASEAN to assume a leading role in bringing reform and stability to Burma, the study, looking at 141 “developing” nations from around the world, includes eight of the ten ASEAN members, with less than enthusiastic findings.

Rankings for ASEAN’s other entries are: Cambodia (34), Laos (45), Philippines (58), Indonesia (77), Thailand (79), Vietnam (83) and Malaysia (124). Malaysia is the only entry that falls outside the researcher’s classifications of either “weak” or “states to watch.”

However Southeast Asia is termed as being stronger and more stable that South Asia, with which Burma also shares a historical legacy as well as geographical boundary.

Somalia, Afghanistan and the Congo are the three lowest ranking entries, and are defined by the reports authors as the three “failed states” at this time.

Brookings Institution is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. The 2008 study is entitled “Index of State Weakness in the Developing World.

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