Armenia Scores High on Global Index: Perception vs. Reality

Harut Sassounian
Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian


The latest report of The Human Freedom Index for 152 countries gives Armenia a surprisingly high score. The study was conducted jointly by the Cato Institute, Washington, D.C.; Fraser Institute, Vancouver, Canada; and Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, Berlin, Germany. The 108-page comprehensive report ranks countries according to personal, civil, and economic freedoms enjoyed by their citizens.

The rankings are based on 76 distinct indicators grouped in 12 categories: Rule of Law; Security and Safety; Movement; Religion; Association, Assembly, and Civil Society; Expression; Relationships; Size of Government; Legal System and Property Rights; Access to Sound Money; Freedom to Trade Internationally; and Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business.

The top 10 countries according to The Human Freedom Index are: Hong Kong, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Ireland, United Kingdom, and Sweden. The United States is in the 20th place.

According to the figures released last week for the year 2012, Armenia ranks 53rd in the world, much higher than most of its neighbors: Azerbaijan (126th), Turkey (62nd), Iran (152nd); and slightly behind Georgia (48th).

Armenia’s impressive overall ranking reveals an even more stunning score when one looks at the two major components of that ranking. Armenia occupies the 17th place in the world in Economic Freedom, and 70th in Personal Freedom!

The reason I qualified Armenia’s ranking as ‘surprising’ is that most people would not have expected it to have such a high score, given the persistent criticism of its leadership by Armenians within and outside the country. While it is true that the Armenian government has many shortcomings and deserves to be criticized, we should acknowledge that the authorities must be doing something right for Armenia to outrank in The Human Freedom Index such influential countries as:

Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Kuwait, Mexico, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Venezuela.

The only explanation for this dichotomy between people’s perception of Armenia and reality is that its officials have done a bad job of promoting the country’s positive accomplishments. Otherwise, most Armenians would not have such a negative impression of their homeland.

To illustrate this point, let’s take Singapore, a country that successfully promotes its achievements and is universally praised as a model of good governance, rapid economic development, and prosperous living conditions. While there is no question that this Asian Tiger has an impressive record of accomplishments, it is surprising that Singapore — ranked 43rd in the world — is only 10 places ahead of Armenia in The Human Freedom Index. If one pays attention to all the hype about Singapore, one would expect that country to be ranked in the top 10, while Armenia should be ranked 100, given the constant critical comments it receives.

As they say, “perception is reality.” In fact, perception is much more important than reality, because people judge everything on the basis of their own impression, regardless of how different it might be from reality. For example, in the past several years Armenia has been ranked higher than expected on several global reports. Yet, the Armenian government has never publicized these respectable rankings, thereby failing to create a positive image for the country which would attract tourists and investors from around the world.

Many of the countries that Armenia outranks are much more prosperous, yet they fall far behind in The Human Freedom Index, which can only mean that a country’s wealth — multi-billion dollar oil revenue in the case of Azerbaijan — does not guarantee affluence or freedom for its citizens!

However, given Armenia’s relatively high ranking, its leadership can no longer use the excuse that the country’s development is handicapped due to limited financial and natural resources. Everything does not depend on money. Since Armenia is ranked 17th on Economic Freedom, there is no excuse for it to be ranked 70th on Personal Freedom. The latter index could be improved greatly without costing the state a single dollar. All it takes is caring government officials who are committed to improve the people’s welfare.

The biggest deficit of the Armenian leadership is not the lack of funds, but the lack of public trust. The authorities can regain the citizens’ trust by working diligently to better their living conditions, and only then, the public’s positive perception would match the reality of Armenia’s global rankings.


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  1. Harutik said:

    Baron Sassounian. I would only add that there is more freedom (including political freedom) here in Armenia than in the US. As soon as this freedom permeates into the economic sector in the country as well (I believe in time it will) Armenia will be on the road to becoming the paradise that it once was. However, as you touched upon in your commentary, obstacles along Armenia’s development will not be the Turk but the Armenian. I say this because national/genetic traits that help Armenians succeed in foreign lands (i.e. intelligence, tribalism, materialism, jealousy, arrogance, competitiveness, shrewdness, stubbornness, etc) are the same ones that will make things difficult for Armenia. Our people’s emotions, “otaramolutiun” and political illiteracy will not help either. With that said, while the tempo may be slow and at times eventful as a result of the above noted traits, Armenia is nevertheless on the right track.

    • Norin said:

      Well said Harutik, thank you for commenting. I’m sure the irony of Mr. Sassounian’s article is clear as well, he speaks of perception being reality and how Armenia’s accomplishments are over shadowed by Diaspora ‘s incessant whining and criticism. Yet this whole article is being written in the pages of Asbares, one if the most notoriously subjective and pessimistic Armenian media outlets around when it comes to Armenia’s progress and governance. It goes back to genetic traits as you stated.

  2. Hovik Mirzayan said:

    Mr Harut Sassounian, you are intiteled just to your opinion but nobody else, even more to question Human Freedom Index institute for their recent study of Human Freedom in Armenia and 152 countries.

  3. Harutik said:

    Every year I spend a considerable potion of time in Armenia. I have property in Armenia. I have close friends in Armenia. I have seen and experienced the best as well as the worst about the country. And I cry every time I have to leave. I know I will move here permanently in the near future. We must recognize that Armenia is a work in progress. A country systematically destroyed for the past one thousand years cannot magically turn into Switzerland overnight despite our best wishes. Armenia will have to go through severe – yet natural – growing pains as it develops and enters into the modern world. In the meanwhile we, as children of Armenia, have to be loving, objective, constructive and more importantly – patient. In a nutshell: What Armenia needs is sociopolitical evolution with the help of its sons and daughters and not a Western instigated revolution.

    What bothers me deeply is our people’s self-righteousness, politically illiteracy, narrow world view and constant pessimism/negativity. Many do this to justify their reason to leave their economically stagnant homeland (i.e. native Armenians) and others do this to justify not repatriating or having much to do with their ancestral homeland (i.e. Diasporan Armenians). I suspect many do this subconsciously. Nevertheless, the situation created by the aforementioned two types of Armenians – coupled by an active Western agenda to sow despair inside Armenian society – is poisoning the air the rest of us Armenians breath. Commentator “Hovik Mirzayan” (who is probably somehow affiliated with Western-funded NGOs in Armenia or elsewhere) is a good example of our collective problem. The Western-financed information war against Armenia and this agenda’s Armenian servants are one of Armenia’s most pressing problems today.