Autocrats more trusted than democrats?


autocrats vs democrats FT

Authoritarian leaders are seen as far more trustworthy than politicians in more openly democratic countries across the emerging world, according to data compiled by the World Economic Forum, The Financial Times reports:

Leaders in Singapore, the Gulf states and Rwanda are rated as having the highest ethical standards in the emerging markets, closely followed by their Chinese and central Asian counterparts.

In contrast, politicians in democracies such as Brazil, Paraguay, Nigeria, Mexico and Romania are seen as exhibiting the lowest ethical standards…. One of the biggest losers in the WEF’s “trust in politicians” ranking over this period has been Tunisia, widely regarded as the sole success story of the 2011 Arab uprisings. Its politicians were ranked as the 15th most trustworthy in the world in 2010, before the overthrow of President Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali. Under democratic rule, the country has fallen to 63rd.

“It does look counterintuitive,” says Thierry Geiger, head of analytics and quantitative research at the WEF, which has polled local and expatriate business communities in 138 countries on the issue since 2007 as part of its annual Global Competitiveness Report.

Furthermore, contrary to recent findings, democracy does not seem to be the key to unlocking economic growth, research suggests:

Of course, this cautionary reality applies in reverse, too. While democracy does not seem to be the key to unlocking economic growth, it would be a mistake to conclude that an autocratic or dictatorial regime would fare any better. In other words, the form of government has little bearing on economic prosperity.

Wealth disparities also fail to explain the findings for Latin America, which accounts for 10 of the 12 lowest-rated countries in the world and has an average continent-wide political trustworthiness score of 2.08 out of a possible 7, comfortably behind the 2.89 average of far poorer sub-Saharan Africa, The FT’s Steve Johnson adds:

Brazil, in particular, has been rocked by the Petrobras scandal and the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff, but even before this its highest ranking since the start of the survey was a not much more impressive 97th in 2011. However, [one analyst] warned of the possibility of bias creeping into the rankings, particularly when it comes to the high standing of authoritarian states.

“The issue in Latam at the moment is the perception, and in some cases the existence, of corruption. It’s not surprising that there has been a loss of faith in politicians and democracy,” said Neil Shearing, chief emerging market economist at Capital Economics, the consultancy.

“If you don’t have a culture that is particularly free or there isn’t a culture of challenging, it might not be a surprise that people have trouble questioning governments and authorities,” he said. RTWT

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