October 13, 2009

The Democratic Development Index: Bolivia

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The Konrad Adenauer Foundation and Polilat.com have developed an index measuring the development of democracy in Latin America. The index, Democratic Development Index (DDI), measures that process in light of four dimensions: Basic conditions of democracy, respect for political rights and civil liberties, institutional quality and politic efficiency, exercise of the effective power to be able to govern (this last dimension is divided into two sub dimensions: capacity to generate well being policies and capacity to generate economic efficiency policies). The authors have published the results in the form of reports, which have been published since 2002.

The 2009 report finds Bolivia in last place, out of 18 Latin America countries. The explanation points to the relative better performance of other countries and the, again, relative worst performance in the institutional quality and political efficiency as well as in the capacity to generate social well being.

This report is a blow to the Bolivian government which has been wanting to portray that Bolivia is doing generally better than before (pre Morales), in democratic terms as well.

In comparison to other countries, the fact that Bolivia is doing worst than countries such as Venezuela, Honduras, and Guatemala, gives me something to think about. Taken with a bit of criticism, it might be in the way these authors measure the distinct dimensions. For one, it cannot be, the more I ponder, that Honduras scores better than Bolivia in the institutional quality and political efficiency dimension.

Just to put some more perspective, the Economist Intelligence Unit's Index of Democracy, finds Bolivia, worldwide, in 75th place as a flawed democracy for 2008. That is ahead of Nicaragua (78), Guatemala (79), Ecuador (88) and Venezuela (95). Honduras was placed 74 at the time. While Freedom House places Bolivia in the company of Paraguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, as partly free countries. Another index, the Bartelsmann Transformation Index, ranks Bolivia below Nicaragua and Honduras, but above Guatemala, Ecuador and Venezuela.

So, what is the conclusion from all this? The conclusion is that it is very difficult to measure democracy. Who knows where Bolivia is on the average. The questions remain: is it a more democratic country? is democracy taking hold?

For what its worth, it is nice to see another index join the ranks, so to speak!