September 05, 2012

Is Bolivia a Failed State?

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I was just taking a look at the Failed States Index 2012 site and found something that struck me funny. If you  see the graph below, and if you follow Bolivia's political and social development somewhat, you will notice something that doesn't feel right ...

Yes, that is right, Bolivia is red and the color denotes critical. Now I knew Bolivia was in trouble but to be in critical as a failed state is something new to me.

According to the site, the criteria used to come to this conclusion includes: Demographic pressures, refugees/IDPs, group grievance, human flight, uneven development, economic decline, delegitimization of the state, public services, human rights, security apparatus, factionalized elites, external intervention.

Now, I look at the categories and I am thinking to myself, well, Bolivia might meet some of those criteria but wouldn't a country have to meet 90 percent of the criteria in order to be a failed state?

I mean, yes, there is a significant group grievance (if you consider the Santa Cruz opposition as a group and their desire to have more saying on their own affairs as a grievance). The country has been plagued with inequality, but right now the government has managed actually to reduce it with all those transfers it has implemented. There is no human flight whatsoever, unless the index means emigration with it. In economic terms, Bolivia is passing through one of its best moments ever. The current state has a level of legitimacy rarely seen since re-democratization, granted it is losing legitimacy in the process. Political rights are suffering and not human rights. Finally, and the one thing I do agree with, is that Bolivia's relationship with Venezuela has been problematic, to say the least.

The thing that confuses me is that Bolivia is red as you arrive to the web site. This leads me to conclude, as a Bolivian expert, that either something is wrong with the data or the site has a bug that makes Bolivia show red as in critical.

Personally, I disagree with the results of the index. I don't think Bolivia is a critical case in the universe of failed states. Further, Bolivia might fail in some things but is not a failed state. At the most, I would place it in the "borderline" category.


hbpublic said...

While having studied the situation of Bolivia in the last month, I wouldn't rate Bolivia as a failed State. I'd say it was - until 2006 - and it's still not stable. But surprisingly big progress has been made since then in many sectors. The redistribution of the income by national ressources and the introduction of pensions will give input to the micro-economical consumption level by raising the level of the basket of available commodities. The progress with the new constitution lowers the risk of political instability.

But I mentioned as well two areas of stasis. One is the missing built of SMEs. The other is the fact that I didn't find any citations of Bolivian universities in the field natural science. (Where I'm coming from.) In order to make the progress sustainable and to transform the Bolivian society into a knowlege based society, I'd rate these indicators as relevant.


Miguel A. Buitrago said...

I would agree, education and the building of a strong middle sized enterprise sector is also relevant for the ability of a state not to fail.