3 April 2014

The earthquake in Chile this week – as with other recent major shocks – illustrates how jurisdictions with good governance are likely to have a lower toll of human misery than makes earthquakes such disasters elsewhere.

We know that from the Christchurch experience. Casualties were most likely to occur where there  has been questionable compliance with construction controls.

The following blog post by Daniel Kaufmann at the time of the 2010 Chilean earthquake is equally relevant this week;

“Chile’s good governance played a significant role in limiting the death toll resulting from this earthquake. In particular, two dimensions of governance stand out—government effectiveness (the efficacy of the public sector), and control of corruption. Over the years, Chile’s effective institutions succeeded in designing and adopting better building codes, which have been periodically upgraded, to take into account previous earthquake experience, innovations in preventative technologies and the country’s growing wealth (made possible in part by good governance).

Equally noteworthy is that these building codes are enforced. …

Naturally, there are many damaged structures, particularly (but not exclusively) those built long ago. Even though there are many people close to the epicenter who are now homeless, the overall stock of houses was not decimated and the number of fatalities due to buildings collapsing was limited. …”

The death toll in earthquakes in Japan, Chile, New Zealand, Iran, China and Haiti seems more related to the ranking of those countries on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index than on the richter scale rating or the depth of the earthquakes.

(CPI ranking in 2013; New Zealand 1, Japan 18, Chile 22, China 80,  Iran 144,  Haiti 163.)