Why Dictators Love Development Statistics

13 May

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

by Alex Gladstein*, The New Republic, April 26, 2018

They’re an easily faked way to score international points.

The problem with using statistics to sing the praises of autocracy is that collecting verifiable data inside closed societies is nearly impossible. From Ethiopia to Kazakhstan, the data that “proves” that an authoritarian regime is doing good is often produced by that very same regime.

Exchanges at the Organization of American States usually don’t do well on YouTube. But when the Honduran Minister of Foreign Affairs brought up Venezuela’s crackdown on dissent last summer, Venezuelan representative Delcy Rodríguez scored surprise points with a rebuttal citing the United Nations’ 2016 Human Development Index, which ranks Venezuela 59 spots higher than Honduras. Crackdown or no crackdown, “Venezuela does not demonstrate such terrifying statistics,” she said, in an exchange that soon went viral on Spanish-speaking social media. It was a win for the Maduro regime, and the key to victory was trusted U.N. data.

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