The Anarchy Advantage in Somalia


As Ethiopia invades to break the power of the Union of Islamic Courts over Mogadishu and much of Southern Somalia, Benjamin Powell over at the Independent Institute argues that Somalia has been doing better without an effective central government of late than it was with one. The heart of it:

In conducting research for a new study comparing Somalia's economy relative to 42 other African countries, my coauthors and I examined 13 different measures, including life expectancy, immunization and disease rates, access to various telecommunications, and access to water/sanitation.

In 2005, Somalia ranked in the top 50 percent in six of our 13 measures, and ranked near the bottom in only three: infant mortality, immunization rates, and access to improved water sources. This compares favorably with circumstances in 1990, when Somalia last had a government and was ranked in the bottom 50 percent for all seven of the measures for which we had that year's data: death rate, infant mortality, life expectancy, main telephone lines, tuberculosis, and immunization for measles and DTP. Furthermore, we have found that during the last years of Somalia's government, 1985 to 1990, their performance was deteriorating compared to other African nations as their relative ranking fell in five of these measures. Since their government's collapse, Somalia has seen its relative ranking improve in four of these measures and deteriorate in only one: infant mortality.

Perhaps most impressive is Somalia's change in life expectancy. During the last five years of government rule, life expectancy fell by two years but since state collapse, it actually has increased by five years.

Powell's full study on Somalia.

An earlier short report by me on a World Bank study coming to similar conclusions. (You will note I mistakenly referred to Somalia as a West African nation in that piece–it is, of course, in East Africa.)