EAC-PM working paper analyzes problems with Freedom in the World Index, V-DEM indices, and EIU Democracy Index

Source: The post is based on the article “EAC-PM working paper analyzes problems with Freedom in the World Index, V-DEM indices, and EIU Democracy Indexpublished in PIB on 22nd November 2022.

What is the News?

The Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister(EAC-PM) has released a working paper titled ‘Why India does poorly on global perception indices’.

What is the purpose of this working paper?

The working paper analyses three perception-based indices: Freedom in the World Index, V-DEM indices and EIU Democracy Index.

What are the problems EAC-PM has found with these Indices?

Freedom in the World Index: It has been published since 1973 by Freedom House. The index has placed India in the “partially free” category.

Since the publication of the index, the only two previous instances where India was considered as Partially Free was during a time of emergency and then during 1991-96 which were years of economic liberalization. 

Clearly, this seems very arbitrary as what did the period of emergency which was a period of obvious curtailment of various activities similar to the period of economic liberalization or of the current times. 

Moreover, India has been placed below countries like Northern Cyprus. Surely, this is not credible.

The index also continues to treat Jammu and Kashmir as separate territory since the early 1990s and now places it in the category of “not free”. 

Democracy Index: The index is published by Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). India is placed in the category of “Flawed Democracy” and its rank deteriorated sharply from 27 in 2014 to 53 in 2020 and then improved a bit to 46 in 2021.

The comparison of India’s scores with other countries in this index has some surprising results.

India’s score for Civil Liberties is behind Hong Kong (8.53). Similarly, India’s score for Political Culture is much lower than that of Hong Kong (7.5) and Sri Lanka (6.25). Clearly, this seems very arbitrary.

Varieties of Democracy(V-DEM) Report: It is produced by the Varieties of Democracy Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. 

It comes up with six indices covering various aspects of democracy such as Liberal Democracy, Electoral Democracy, Liberal Component, and Egalitarian Component among others.

India has been termed as an “electoral autocracy” in the 2021 report, the same as it was during the period of Emergency. 

The cross-country comparison of this index also throws up some interesting results. India’s rank on Liberal Democracy Index is 93. In contrast, the Kingdom of Lesotho which started having a democratically elected government only in the mid-1990s and has since faced various disruptions including a military coup and emergencies has a rank of 60 and Kosovo which declared independence from Serbia only in 2008 has a rank of 79.

What are the problems with the methodology of these indices?

First, these indices are primarily based on the opinions of a tiny group of unknown “experts”

Second, the questions that are used are subjective and are worded in a way that is impossible to answer objectively even for a country, let alone compare across countries. 

Third, there are questions that should be asked but are excluded.

Fourth, certain questions used by these indices are not an appropriate measure of democracy across all countries.

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