LEVELS OF SOCIAL EXCLUSION: SOME
OF THE WORLD’S WORST PERFORMERS
tries with increased political instability over the past six years belong to
the bottom half of the BTI countries
in terms of levels of social inclusion.
This holds true regardless of whether
social exclusion worsened.
In other words, what appears to be
more important is not a sharp drop in
living standards and equal opportunity,
but the persistence of social exclusion.
A close look at the Arab world reinforces this early conclusion. It is
tempting to trace political unrest in
Syria, for instance, to the fact that social inclusion decreased in that country by 0.50 during the past two years.
Likewise, Bahrain is the only country
of all 128 states in which both indicators for the welfare regime—social
safety nets and equal opportunity—
decreased during the past two years.
But this would not explain the relative
lack of political ferment in Saudi Arabia—at least on
the surface—which experienced an identical decline
in social inclusion.
MIDDLE EAST &
Highlighted countries saw a deterioration in political stability between 2006 and 2012.
ECONOMIC GROW TH AND POVERT Y
The global economic and financial crisis had a far less severe impact on most developing countries than originally feared. In fact, developing countries were harder hit by price spikes in raw materials,
energy and agricultural commodities in 2007 and 2008
than by the financial crisis of 2008–2009.
The BTI illustrates that 63 countries demonstrated a
performance ranging from good ( 7) to very good ( 10), as
measured by GDP growth, inflation and fiscal policy.
Around 70 percent of all Arab, Latin American and East
Central/Southeast European countries, as well as about
half of all Asian countries, fall under these categories.
In contrast, economic performance is considered poor
or very poor in just 15 countries, including four Asian
countries and six African countries.
Despite the relative stability in economic strength,
the data show that countries that experienced economic
growth failed to invest sufficiently in their welfare regimes, more specifically, in efforts to improve social inclusion. Figure 3 lists the 35 economies that performed
strongest among the 128 developing and transition countries included in the BTI.
On a positive note, t wo-thirds of these countries show
a high (above 8. 5) or at least moderate (above 6. 5) level
of social inclusion, when we combine our three dimensions of social inclusion. However, almost one-third of
these countries showed a decrease in social inclusion,
and only four countries improved. Given the strong economic performance of these countries, the failure to
improve social inclusion should be seen as stagnation.
Regarding political instability, it is telling to take a
closer look at the economically most advanced BTI regions of East Central and Southeast Europe and of Latin
America, which form the majority of this listing. Half
of these 16 countries experienced changes in political
stability. In Latin America, for example, the Dominican
Republic formalized discrimination against Haitian immigrants, while conflict stemming from social protests
and police violence has increased in Panama and Peru.
In Panama, political violence erupted over land disputes
and during urban strikes, while in Peru, conflicts have escalated more rapidly amid an “ethnicization” of politics.
Such changes only assess regime stability but already
point to the rising intensity of conflict in democracies.
When we include indicators on the quality of democracy (political participation rights, rule of law, commitment to democratic institutions), we see even more
signs of trouble in Eastern Europe and Latin America.
In 15 of the 38 countries in these regions, the quality of
Americas Quarterly SPRING 2012