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Asiaweek
 > summer special 2000
For the year 2000

GOVERNANCE
The Best Government Reformer
How Asia Is Governed
The Best Local Administrator
The Best Activist


BUSINESS
The Best Dealmaker
The Best IPO
The Best Stock
The Best Advocate of Shareholder Rights
The Best Fund Manager
The Best Cost Cutter

LIFESTYLE
The Best Airport
The Best Hotel Service
The Best Hotel Gym
The Best Store
The Best Food

ENVIRONMENT
In Tune with Nature
The Best Forest Preserve
The Best City Park
The Best Transport
The Best Green Test
The Best Marine Preserve
The Best Marine Park

THE WIRED WORLD
The Hottest Video Game
The Hottest Gadget
The Hottest Portal
The Best Asian Websites

POP CULTURE
The Hottest Fad
The Hottest Toy
The Hottest TV Show
The Hottest Album
The Best Movie
The Best Short Film

 

Government Reformer | How Asia Is Governed |  Local Administrator |  Activist
How Asia is Governed
Not nearly as well as it could be
By DAN WOODLEY

The following is Asiaweek's take on Asia's governments, plus how they are doing in the battles against corruption and for human rights. Who's the best? Only future generations can say.

1. Bangladesh
2. Brunei
3. Cambodia
4. China
5. Hong Kong
6. India
7. Indonesia
8. Japan
9. Laos
10. Malaysia
11. Myanmar
12. North Korea
13. Pakistan
14. Philippines
15. Singapore
16. South Korea
17. Sri Lanka
18. Taiwan
19. Thailand
20. Vietnam

1. Bangladesh

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11. Myanmar
Officially Republic
Reality Democratic institutions have their hands full dealing with one of the world's poorest nations. Government is often deadlocked between the two main parties who hate each other.
Anti-corruption rating D
Unsurprisingly, graft is common, though efforts are being made to reduce the kind of palm-greasing abhorred by investors.

Rights rating C
It's a tough life between occasionally heavy-handed police and party-linked mobs. But poverty is the greatest rights violator.
Officially Republic
Reality The country is run by a small clique of obdurate, capricious generals.
Anti-corruption rating D
Bribes are virtually written in to project cost assessments.

Rights rating F
Allegations of forced labor persist. Aung San Suu Kyi's 1990 election victory continues to be ignored by the regime.
2. Brunei

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12. North Korea
Officially Constitutional sultanate
Reality The oil-producing state is dominated by the Sultan, who is PM, finance minister and defense minister, and his family.
Anti-corruption rating B
When the Sultan is the state, who is there to corrupt? Well, just ask Prince Jefri.

Rights rating B
Though rule-bound and with limited political rights, Bruneians have economic freedoms their neighbors can only dream about.
Officially People's republic
Reality A one-man communist dictatorship.
Anti-corruption rating ?!
Bribe someone for what? But petty graft is said to be rampant in border areas where ethnic-Korean Chinese can travel.
Rights rating F
Pyongyang diverts over 9% of GDP to military programs, while a food crisis persists in which 16% of children under seven are acutely malnourished.
3. Cambodia

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13. Pakistan
Officially Constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy
Reality Ruled by PM Hun Sen's strong-arm decree.
Anti-corruption rating D-
Cambodia is nearing parity with Myanmar as an Asian manufacturing and transport hub for illicit drugs. Guns still overrule laws.

Rights rating C-
Still-at-large Khmer Rouge leaders, garment sweat shops, arbitrary detentions. Did someone say things had improved?
Officially Islamic republic
Reality Chaos under an elected government now replaced by chaos under a military regime.
Anti-corruption rating D
Ranks among the world's most corrupt, with a few landed families dominating the economy.
Rights rating C
Institutional discrimination persists against women and religious minorities. Some parts of the country are virtually run by mobs or local militias.
4. China

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14. Philippines
Officially People's republic
Reality Old-style communist oligarchy endeavoring to negotiate a path between political authoritarianism and free market reform.
Anti-corruption rating D
Money talks in China, despite high-profile crackdowns on corruption. Now, government investment in poor western regions has created new frontiers for graft.

Rights rating C-
Abuses run the whole gamut. Only time will tell if greater economic freedoms will generate political reform.
Officially Republic
Reality Free and fair elections brought a former movie star with a Elvis hair-do to the role of commander-in-chief.
Anti-corruption rating C
President Joseph Estrada's tough talk doesn't seem to have curbed Manila's culture of cronyism.
Rights rating B+
A free-wheeling democracy, but widespread poverty and a raging military conflict in the Muslim-dominated south undermine people's welfare.
5. Hong Kong

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15. Singapore
Officially Special administrative region of China
Reality Beijing hasn't interfered, but the virtually hand-picked chief executive is too slavish to need overt guidance.
Anti-corruption rating B+
Sure, big business owns the place, but outright graft is rare.

Rights rating B+
Laissez faire rules, but is that the sound of judicial and academic freedoms being eroded?
Officially Republic
Reality The ruling People's Action Party always knows best.
Anti-corruption rating A
Rigid controls and top-down transparency make Singapore Asia's least sleazy business environment.
Rights rating B
Though no Myanmar, political opponents can expect a summons should their protests hit a nerve
.
6. India

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16. South Korea
Officially Federal republic
Reality Run by a diverse coalition government dominated by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. As democratic as a nation of one billion can be.
Anti-corruption rating D
Government-private sector corruption is standard in Asia. But allegedly fixing cricket matches just goes too far.

Rights rating B-
Traditionally tolerant of political diversity and boasts a famously independent media. Still, half its population lives in abject poverty, and Hindu extremists weigh upon the minorities.
Officially Republic
Reality A democracy, but with parties centered on personalities.
Anti-corruption rating C+
Continual discoveries of official graft are taxing the public's trust, but at least the dirt is coming out into the open these days.
Rights rating B+
President Kim Dae Jung agreed to release dozens of long-term political prisoners following a recent rapprochement with the North.
7. Indonesia

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17. Sri Lanka
Officially Republic
Reality Fledgling democracy subject to a maelstrom of political, religious and ethnic forces.
Anti-corruption rating D-
Despite the investigative heat being turned up on ex-dictator Suharto, corruption remains endemic throughout the nation.

Rights rating C+
Chaos in Aceh, Ambon and other volatile regions has resulted in countless deaths, with the military either ineffective or complicit.
Officially Republic
Reality The multiparty democracy is continually bled by the 17-year-old civil war.
Anti-corruption rating C
Heavy media censorship due to the war undermines a key check on government management.
Rights rating C
Recent "emergency regulations" granted authorities expanded powers of arrest. Tamil rebels reportedly use child soldiers.
8. Japan

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18. Taiwan
Officially Liberal democracy
Reality After ruling for 44 of the last 45 years, the entrenched Liberal Democratic Party gerontocracy smells somewhat past its use-by date.
Anti-corruption rating B+
Influence-peddling officials get headlines, but the real problem is pervasive mutual back-scratching by business and government.

Rights rating B+
The death penalty, poor prison conditions, sexism and structural discrimination against minority groups mar an otherwise solid commitment to human rights.
Officially Republic
Reality The not-quite-a-nation looks more independent than ever after the peaceful transition of power from the Kuomintang to the Democratic Progressive Party.
Anti-corruption rating C+
The KMT's "black gold" lost to DPP leader Chen Shui-bian, but it's too early to asses the latter's anti-corruption campaign pledge.
Rights rating A-
Recently enacted progressive social welfare reforms.
9. Laos

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19. Thailand
Officially People's republic
Reality Classic hardline communist state dominated by its larger neighbor, Vietnam.
Anti-corruption rating D
Weak rule of law and the absence of transparency leave Laos as the basket case of Indochina.

Rights rating D
Media repression and discrimination against the Hmong minority.
Officially Constitutional monarchy/liberal democracy
Reality PM Chuan Leekpai is introducing Thailand to clean, competent government, but even he is beholden to tainted allies.
Anti-corruption rating C+
Resolve in driving out vote buying is to be commended.
Rights rating B+
Thailand has admitted thousands of asylum-seekers in the past year. But hill tribes complain of continued discrimination.
10. Malaysia

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20. Vietnam

Officially Constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy
Reality Led since independence by UMNO, which has been dominated for the past 19 years by PM Mahathir Mohamad. Anti-corruption rating C+
Dr. M says everybody is his crony, but some seem to be more equal than others.
Rights rating C
Life is fine for most, but the Inter-nal Security Act, providing for detention without trial, is there just in case.

Officially People's republic
Reality The communist gerontocracy may want to join the modern world of its ASEAN neighbors, but it doesn't want to loosen its grip.
Anti-corruption rating D
Persistent official graft has resulted in Vietnam's lowest foreign investment levels in a decade.

Rights rating D
It's a communist dictatorship — what do you expect? Rights monitors are consistently denied entry.



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