Sri Lanka ranked among world’s 10 worst countries for personal freedom

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has been ranked among 10 worst countries in the world for personal freedoms in a global index of human freedom, just behind Zimbabwe, due to damaged institutions of liberty, though the country scored better on economic freedoms.

Sri Lanka was placed 150 on personal freedoms, out of 159 countries, ahead of Cameroon (151), Congo and Saudi Arabia, Burundi and Iran, but behind Zimbabwe at 149 in the 2017 Human Freedom Index compiled in association with the Fraser Institute, a Canada based think tank.

In the region, India was placed at 103 Bangladesh 138 and Pakistan was ahead of Sri Lanka at 148.

The data only covered the period up to 2015, where early gains in rule of law was recorded but the country failed to recover from the slide during the rule of the second term of ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Lagging Nation

On total human freedoms, Sri Lanka was placed  at 135 position with a human freedom score of 5.91 points, just after Bangladesh and Nigeria (both 133) and ahead of Mali.

Nepal (74) and Bhutan (74) had higher scores than Sri Lanka on both personal and economic freedoms.

Though Sri Lanka’s personal freedom score was weak at 5.17 points, the country scored higher at 6.65 points on economic freedoms, helping improve the overall human freedom index rank.

Sri Lanka’s freedoms had collapsed over President Rajapaksa’s second term, after seeing a major improvement to 104th place with the end of the civil war in 2010.





Sri Lanka also scored badly on freedom of religons and freedom of association.

Institutions of Freedom

Since the end of British rule key institutions of liberty that provided freedom to the people from arbitrary actions of rulers were systematically demolished, liberty advocates say.

The judiciary was systematically undermined, and the institution of permanent secretaries which helpd state workers to be public servants was broken through constitutions in 1972 and 1978.

A partial attempt to bring back freedom has been made through a constitutional council, but ministry secretaries still do not have any assurance of tenure to do the right thing by the people.

A central bank was also set up in 1951 which ended sound money and it generated high inflation, and balance of payments trouble leading to trade restrictions and exchange controls.

Even now protectionists use the excuse of ‘saving foreing exchange’ to exploit the public and the poor with high prices backed by import duties.

The authors of the report said there was a trend around the world to reduce freedoms with the rise of nationalism including in Western Europe where freedoms were highest.

Inter Related

Out of 17 regions, the highest levels of freedom are in Western Europe, Northern Europe, and North America (Canada and the United States).

The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, Eastern Europe (Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine), South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

The top 10 countries where people had the most freedom was Switzerland, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, and, tied at 9th place, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

There was also a strong co-relation with economic and civil freedoms. Some countries ranked consistently high in the human freedom sub indexes, including Switzerland, New Zealand, and Australia, which ranked in the top 10 in both personal and economic freedom.

But some countries ranked high in economic freedom had lower scores on the Human Freedom Index. Singapore the country with the second most economic freedoms, was 18th in the freedom overall.

The United Arab Emirates ranked 37th in economic freedom but 116th in human freedom; and Qatar ranked 45th in economic freedom but 112th in human freedom.

Both countries have strong central banks. The UAE has a very strong peg with the US dollar, and no independent policy rate administered by the central bank.

Popular vote vs Institutions of Liberty

There was a strong correlation of 0.81 between freedom and democracy.

But Hong Kong which was British colony until the 1990s and is now under China with no real popular vote (read democracy) scored very high.

"Given the relationship between freedom and democracy, Hong Kong’s high ranking in our index may be somewhat unexpected," the authors commented.

"The territory, first administered by the United Kingdom as a colony and since 1997 ruled by mainland China under its “one country, two systems” model, has never experienced democracy.

"Hong Kong’s maintenance of a high degree of freedom for a long period of time indeed makes it an outlier in our survey."

"…Hong Kong is unique in that it long enjoyed high levels not only of economic freedom but also of personal freedom and income without transitioning to democracy," the authors noted.

"The territory’s close adherence to the policies and institutions it inherited from the British, including the rule of law, may explain the stability its system has until recently displayed."

Hong Kong also has a currency board and not a central bank, ensuring sound money and trade freedoms by making balance of payments crises legally impossible by outlawing the printing of money.

The many paths of the popular vote

A democracy (the popular vote) which emerged mainly in Europe with the end of monarchical rule or empires, went in three directions depending on which ideology wins, analysts say.

If socialists win there may be interventions in the economy, price controls, and mass expropriation of private property with the state owning everying like ancient kings did, which will lead to economic decline and poverty.

Socialists may impose restrictions on all religions without discrimination. But there will be no discrimination against minorities, and there may be other social freedoms including equality to women.

If nationalist ideas win there will be religious and ethnic discrimination, militarism, protectionism, limited expropriation and strong interventions in business and economy, which may lead to general ethno-religions fascism with a mixed economy, or outright national-socialism involving genocide and civil war.

If liberals win there will be freedom, no restrictions on religion or ethnicity artistic expression, strong property rights, sound money and low inflation, and as little intervention from the state as possible.

People will have the freedom to do whatever they want to come out of poverty and make their own mistakes, subject to the overriding tenet that they cannot infringe on the freedom of others, which is enforced through just rule of law.

In reality however there may be a mix of these ideas, giving optimal or suboptimal results. The winning ideology may also change over time, giving variable outcomes.

Sri Lanka celebrates 70 years of self-determination British rule on February 04. Authorities scrapped an innovative dance involving laptops amid a burst of intolerance by social media users.

The Independence Day parade will have European-style marches with military hardware on full display. (Colombo/Jan03/2018).

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