The Economist claim is no gospel


It has been claimed that Colombo, Sri Lanka’s financial capital is among the ten worst livable cities in the world, according to a recent survey carried out by The Economist Intelligence Unit. Accordingly Harare (Zimbabwe), followed by Dhaka (Bangladesh), Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea), Lagos (Nigeria), Algiers (Algeria), Karachi (Pakistan), Douala (Cameroon), Tehran, (Iran), Dakar (Senegal), and Colombo, Sri Lanka ranked as worst cities to live in the world. On the other hand the following were the top 10 most livable cities as ranked by The Economist Intelligence Unit: 1. Vancouver, Canada, 2. Melbourne, Australia, 3. Vienna, Austria, 4. Toronto, Canada, 5. Calgary, Canada, 6. Helsinki, Finland, 7. Sydney, Australia, 8. Perth, Australia, 9. Adelaide, Australia and10. Auckland, New Zealand.

First it is better to understand the background of Economist Intelligence Unit. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is part of the Economist Group. It is a research and advisory company (with stakeholders) providing country, industry and management analysis worldwide and incorporates the former Business International Corporation, a U.S. company acquired by the parent organization in 1986. But it has some criticisms in the past also. The April 2010 country report by Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) pointed out an uneasy relationship between the government of Guyana and the private sector despite a net increase in private investment in the country’s economy last year. A recent report which gives a less than upbeat picture of the overall economic climate in Guyana has come in for severe criticism from Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh (PhD in accounting and finance from Lancaster University, which is a triple-accredited, world-ranked management school, consistently among the UK’s top five), who says it paints a "misinformed, distorted, warped, and totally inaccurate picture". Further he stated that EIU’s coverage on Guyana has been hijacked by partisan domestic political operatives. The Government Information Agency (GINA) reported him as saying that it is most unfortunate that the EIU, a Unit whose publications have come to be expected to be objective and competently prepared, "would allow itself to be misled and misinformed by one or two political aspirants and spokespersons who pose as independent correspondents and commentators."  As a result, the EIU’s recent reports on Guyana paint a misinformed, distorted, warped, and totally inaccurate picture of economic developments in Guyana, GINA said.

In Sri Lanka we have to question whether the reports made on Sri Lanka also are valid or not. Serious doubts arise as to how they collected information and the methodology adopted including the way they name researchers etc.

We can study the role played by some of the local media on this news caption. One publication went so far as to question the wisdom of investing in infrastructure in 2010. It was argued that there was no need to invest money in road developments etc because Sri Lanka is not getting enough rankings from EIU!  This is all about the colonial mentality of some people. Even they highlighted the fact that the Defence Ministry has taken over the urban development authority. It is quite evident that these elements like to see Pettah as it was and the country as it was in 2005!

Nalin Abeysekera

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