No one can deny the explosive rate of advancement in the human civilization within the past few centuries. It is in our nature to aim for perfection in knowledge, health, and happiness. Yet we are still way behind our goals, even the richest countries are filled with flaws here and there; but even more depressingly, the gap between our countries is growing ever so large!
I have come across an organization, the Legatum Institute (LI), which has launched a global project that gathers information about most countries and compares them to each other, generating a “prosperity index” that is renewed each year (since 2009).
Now what instantly caught my attention was that this index does not measure prosperity solely on economic growth, as might immediately jump to mind, but based on many variables (89 to be precise), which were categorized into eight “Pillars of Prosperity”; Economy, Entrepreneurship & Opportunity, Governance, Education, Health, Safety & Security, Personal Freedom, and Social Capital (network). Check the picture below.
I will mention below some of the interesting data found, criticize some of the methods used in this study, make a couple of suggestions to improve the index, and mention a few ideas about the so-called “Arab Spring”.
- Despite some countries falling into war, political distress, and increased poverty; The overall global prosperity has been constantly increasing within the past 4 years.
- There seems to be a continuous shift in the rankings; countries some consider superior are losing their places. Asian and Latin American countries are rising, some exceeding European countries. While the US and UK have fallen out of the top 10, and Canada has jumped up to 3rd place.
For more “Key Findings” check this link: http://www.prosperity.com/#!/key-findings
The Legatum Institute is aware of much of the reasons behind it’s statistical errors, but has yet to apply solutions. Here are some of the problems:
- Data Lag: not all the data is up-to-date, especially when it come to education.
- Autocratic Countries: This is probably the largest issue. Data from such countries are extremely misdirecting. People are afraid to give their real opinion in surveys on one hand, while on the other, much of the sample consists of people in service of the dictator in order to give a false impression of good conditions within the country. This is also true regarding official data, such as economy, education, crime and health, which are always tampered with, sometimes to unimaginable degrees.
Considering these facts, it is safe to say that the gap between democratic and autocratic countries are actually several times as big as they are reported!
- The Sample: some samples were not representative of the whole population, mostly in the Arab world. And further investigation is needed to determine if the sample sizes are enough to give significant data.
- There is much more about the methodology in this PDF.
These are some suggestions that should probably be adopted by the Legatum Institute, or any other institution concerned in such studies.
- While the prosperity index focuses on two things, income and well-being, the latter meaning “life satisfaction”; I suggest adding a third focus, or perhaps a 9th pillar, related to research and the advancement of the human race in general, in technology & science, and in humanitarian studies as well. It may not seem to affect the citizens of a country directly at first, but it has a tremendous impact on all pillars, and can also help explain results and predict future rankings.
- The Social Capital pillar needs further development, adding certain manners and ethics, such as generosity, fairness and truth; strength of family connections; and religion factors that may positively or negatively affect social relations.
The “Arab Spring”
After taking a look at the results in Syria, it is obvious that not all the data is updated, and those that are up-to-date, are seriously unbelievable. In a small country were hundreds of people are killed everyday; millions have been driven out of their homes; deaths caused by harsh weather, famine, and poor health are constantly increasing; millions have stopped their education; and millions of buildings have been destroyed; It is impossible to believe the results reported; I even that Syria holds the 122nd place out of 142!
In general, it is useful to take a look at the results of all Arab countries, but keep in mind the bias I mentioned in the methodology. Tunisia & Turkey (along with Israel) are the only countries doing well regarding the government pillar. Kuwait and the UAE have a high index even in comparison with the global rankings. And many countries are not listed within the index at all, such as Qatar, Sudan, Oman, Bahrain, and Ghaza Strip.
We need to find new methods to overcome this bias and collect correct data in this critical time in the Arab & Muslim world. Perhaps even new organizations will come forward with possible solutions and new data. This information would be very helpful in the struggle ahead of us.