Democracies have slightly outperformed authoritarian countries in suppressing the coronavirus This emerged from an analysis which found that smaller populations and competent bureaucracies were the main drivers in managing the global pandemic

The COVID Performance Index compiled by the Lowy Institute ranked 98 countries in treating the COVID-19 outbreak, finding that New Zealand performed the best while Australia ranks eighth

New Zealand was closely followed by Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand and Cyprus, while the United States was the fifth worst performing country

Western commentators have raised concerns that the failure of some democracies to suppress the virus will result in more countries losing faith in the model of liberal democratic government and turning to authoritarianism

However, the Lowy study shows that authoritarian countries, on average, had no sustained advantage in suppressing the virus and democracies “found marginally more successful than other forms of government in dealing with the pandemic.”

While democracies did worse at the start of the pandemic and there were some notable exceptions, including the United States and Britain, they preferred authoritarian and hybrid states when the outbreak worsened, suggesting that democracies might be better off their mistakes According to Hervé Lemahieu, one of the authors of the study, he acts too slowly

Many “hybrid” regimes like Ukraine and Bolivia were the least prepared to deal with the virus

Overall, the level of economic development and differences in political systems between countries had less of an impact on results than other indicators. Smaller populations, cohesive societies, and capable institutions were much larger factors

Countries with less than 10 million inhabitants consistently outperformed the major nations in 2020, although this lead decreased slightly towards the end of 2020

The study suggests that American political scientist Francis Fukuyama was right last year when he said that regime type is not the determining factor in how effectively states respond to the crisis, “but whether citizens trust their leaders and whether these leaders preside over more competent and effective state “

Mr Lemahieu said research has disproved claims that authoritarian regimes had an advantage in dealing with the global pandemic

“We have picked up this comprehensive narrative of the inherent superiority of societies and various political systems, and for the most part we say this is bullshit,” he said

Mr Lemahieu said smaller countries could “fence in” their populations, while their larger counterparts would have problems closing external and internal borders

“Even countries with smaller populations may have stronger social contracts between governments and citizens and higher levels of trust in governments,” he said

Although Australia has a population well in excess of 10 million, Lemahieu said it benefited from being an island nation while “transferring” responsibilities to states effectively turned it into “seven or eight countries.”

“We have the geographic and demographic distribution to enable this delegation of responsibilities at the state level,” he said

“States have quarantined themselves and set up borders that are almost as closed as international borders. Other countries can’t really do that”

The study measured a number of key indicators including confirmed cases, deaths, cases per million, deaths per million, and cases where part of the testing was done China was not included as not all test rates are publicly available are

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Anthony is the foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

Lowy Institute

COVID Performance Index

World News – AU – The analysis ranks the countries that have handled COVID-19 best