While no one should miss Hosni Mubarak and his Arab autocratic peers, one may be surprised by the human development improvements their rule oversaw. The British medical journal the Lancet recently assessed developing countries on their progress in maternal and child health since 2000, when the U.N. set a goal of reducing maternal and child mortality by two-thirds in each country.
Just nine countries out of 137 are currently on track to meet this goal. Four of them are Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria.
Clearly, their governments, tasked with achieving these goals, were doing something right. Much of the success can also be attributed to the impressive economic growth these countries experienced under autocratic rule. Not worth the price of oppression, perhaps, but a surprising indication of how broad the unintended consequences of this spring’s upheaval may be.
EDIT: Some commenters have questioned the validity of these statistics — a good point, but probably not relevant. For one, the data in the Lancet study was compiled from a range of sources (international and bilateral organizations, NGOs, and governments), and with singular exceptions (e.g., government-reported suicide rates in China), there isn’t believed to be a particular bias in the health statistics generated in autocratic countries. Part of the reason is probably that for dictators, humanitarian aid can be very profitable — so even if you could, why make your situation look better than it is?