Inter Press ServiceLabour – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 20 Oct 2017 03:30:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Zimbabwe’s Diaspora Could Help Revive Ailing Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/zimbabwes-diaspora-help-revive-ailing-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zimbabwes-diaspora-help-revive-ailing-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/zimbabwes-diaspora-help-revive-ailing-economy/#respond Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:55:15 +0000 Sally Nyakanyanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152588 At the dawn of the millennium, Sheila Mponda, 60, waved goodbye to her four children, who were leaving Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom in search of greener pastures. Mponda had just lost her husband and had been a housewife all her life. While the parting was bittersweet, since they established new lives abroad, Mponda’s children […]

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Zimbabweans applying for South African work permits in Johannesburg in 2010. Credit: Raymond June/flickr

Zimbabweans applying for South African work permits in Johannesburg in 2010. Credit: Raymond June/flickr

By Sally Nyakanyanga
HARARE, Oct 19 2017 (IPS)

At the dawn of the millennium, Sheila Mponda, 60, waved goodbye to her four children, who were leaving Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom in search of greener pastures. Mponda had just lost her husband and had been a housewife all her life.

While the parting was bittersweet, since they established new lives abroad, Mponda’s children have faithfully sent her money to provide for her needs.“Slowly trust is being built between the government and the diaspora and enquiries from the diaspora associations have been coming in on how they can work together with government in national development.” --IOM Zimbabwe Chief of Mission Lily Sanya

“As a widow, people would expect me to live in abject poverty – with old age, no skills and a late husband.  But my children overseas have been a miracle,” she said.

They all hold down multiple jobs to sustain their families in the United Kingdom as well as back home. “[But] where would they be working [in Zimbabwe] with this current economy?” Mponda told IPS.

Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa Director of Human Rights Watch, explained that family-level remittances from the diaspora are very important as they keep families in Zimbabwe afloat and mean the difference between survival and starvation for many.

“The collapse of the Zimbabwean economy due to poor governance has made it difficult for the government to harness funds from the diaspora and make good use of them for sustainable development,” Mavhinga told IPS.

He stressed the need for the government to restore public trust and confidence in its willingness to protect people’s investments in its effort to lure more funding from the diaspora.

Dr. Prosper Chitambara, an economist at the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ), told IPS that remittances from the diaspora are only mitigating extreme poverty, serving as social protection rather than financing development.

‘The uncertainty in the country is affecting [it] to fully utilize and better harness remittances from the diaspora as no one would want to invest money in an unstable environment,” Dr Chitambara said.

He suggested the need for government to issue diaspora bonds, clarify the issue of dual citizenship and allow member of the diaspora to vote in elections.

“Government should engage people in the diaspora on how they can best work together for the development in the country,” Dr Chitambara added.

Last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) together with the government of Zimbabwe launched the Zimbabwe National Diaspora Directorate to enhance engagement and participation of the Zimbabwe diaspora on national development.

IOM Zimbabwe Chief of Mission Lily Sanya said, “We encourage the government to get to know its diaspora by mapping their locations, compiling inventories of their skills and experience, and engaging a wide range of the diaspora in listening events to understand what the diaspora is willing to offer and what it expects from the government in turn, as this lays the foundation for good communication and mutual trust-building.”

IOM is currently implementing a project dubbed “Promoting Migration Governance in Zimbabwe”, which seeks to provide capacity to the government to better manage migration issues.

“IOM aims at creating platforms to promote dialogue between government and the Zimbabwean Diaspora for the latter to participate in governance and national development,” Sanya said.

In October 2016, IOM facilitated the initial diaspora engagement meetings for government in the UK, Canada and South Africa.

“Slowly trust is being built between the government and the diaspora and enquiries from the diaspora associations have been coming in on how they can work together with government in national development,” Sanya told IPS.

A skills transfer program has been put in place, where Zimbabwean experts abroad can come back home on short-term assignments to build the capacity and skills of local professionals in the health and education sector.

“IOM has also been assisting irregular Zimbabwean migrants in foreign countries to return home with dignity under IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme. They are supported to start small businesses of their choice to help them reintegrate into society,” Sanya said.

In addition, IOM aided the government to formulate its National Diaspora Policy and action plan for the 2017–2022 period.

“Support is being provided to government through the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare (MoPSLSW) formulate the National Labour Policy which will ensure protection of the rights of Zimbabwean migrant workers abroad,” Sanya said.

For Zimbabweans in South Africa, the South African government has announced an extension of special permits for nearly 200,000 economic migrants by four years. This only applies to those already in possession of the permits, not new applicants.

“The government of Zimbabwe should make a fresh call for new applicants as there are likely more Zimbabweans undocumented in South Africa than those with special permits. This can help the government of Zimbabwe to document Zimbabweans and to place them in a formal tax role for them to contribute to the South African economy,” Mavhinga of HRW said.

The South African Minister of Home Affairs Hlengiwe Mkhize stressed that the extension was due to the worsening economic situation, but the permits are not a path to permanent residency.  As such Zimbabweans are expected to return home.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, more than one million people have sought asylum in South Africa. The majority of them are Zimbabweans, while others have come from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Mozambique, among other African countries. About 50-150 people are arrested each day as they attempt to renew their permits.

Speaking to the website Refugees Deeply, Gabriel Shumba, the director of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, said, “We have visited Lindela Repatriation Centre and noted with serious concern that those arrested for deportation include those either attempting to apply for or renewing asylum and refugee status.”

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New Villages Bloom in the Shadow of a Mountain’s Wrathhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/new-villages-bloom-shadow-mountains-wrath/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-villages-bloom-shadow-mountains-wrath http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/new-villages-bloom-shadow-mountains-wrath/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 12:46:50 +0000 Kafil Yamin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152545 Repeated volcanic eruptions of Mount Sinabung since 2010 have displaced thousands of people, leaving villages around the mountain deserted, with volcanic ash, lava and mud covering the soil, trees and empty houses. No one knows when the eruptions will cease. Some displaced people have formed new settlements; others live in temporary houses or refugee camps. […]

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A woman works in her vegetable patch at the foot of Mount Sinabung, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Credit: Kafil Yamin/IPS

A woman works in her vegetable patch at the foot of Mount Sinabung, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Credit: Kafil Yamin/IPS

By Kafil Yamin
MEDAN, Indonesia , Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

Repeated volcanic eruptions of Mount Sinabung since 2010 have displaced thousands of people, leaving villages around the mountain deserted, with volcanic ash, lava and mud covering the soil, trees and empty houses.

No one knows when the eruptions will cease. Some displaced people have formed new settlements; others live in temporary houses or refugee camps.Mount Sinabung is one of 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, an archipelago vulnerable to seismic upheavals because of its location on the ‘Ring of Fire’, a horseshoe-shaped belt of tectonic plate boundaries that fringes the Pacific basin.

With support from BNPB, the Indonesian acronym for the National Agency for Disaster Management, the local government has resettled 347 families in three housing complexes in Siosar area, Karo regency, with each family getting a 500 square meter plot for farming. They grow vegetables, breed animals, and operate shops and services. Social, cultural and economic life have blossomed.

Since 2015, following a major eruption, Siosar farmers have sent their harvest to Kabanjahe, the capital of Karo Regency. Potatoes, carrots, cabbages, oranges and coffee beans are on the market, helping stimulate economic growth of 4.5 percent of the North Sumatra province.

But the 2016 eruption devastated the staggering economy. At least 53,000 hectares of farmland was destroyed by volcanic ash and mud. The harvest failed throughout the entire district. Of 17 sub-districts, 14 were severely affected. The head of the local Agriculture Office, Munarta Ginting, urged the farmers to shift to tubers, which were more resilient to volcanic ash.

The farmers refused to give up. They started all over again late last year. BNPB sent seeds, fertilizers and consultants to help.

“After emergency management measures come social and economic recovery measures, which look farther ahead but are no less challenging,” said Agus Wibowo, director of the Social-Economic Division of BNPB.

“We aid victims to overcome the calamity, start a better life, restore social and economic enterprises, and more importantly, restore confidence for the future,” Agus added.

Mount Sinabung is one of 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, an archipelago vulnerable to seismic upheavals because of its location on the ‘Ring of Fire’, a horseshoe-shaped belt of tectonic plate boundaries that fringes the Pacific basin.

In the first week of October, life in Siosar has returned to normal, with farmers harvesting potatoes, cabbages, carrots and chilies, despite lower production due to lack of rainfall.

Several farmers have enjoyed large harvests. Berdi Sembiring grew nine tons of potatoes on his 500 meter square farm, which is good for the dry season.

“I sold my potatoes for 48 million rupiah (4,000 dollars) – not bad,” said Sembiring with a big smile.

BNPB also encourages the refugees not to rely solely on farming and raw products. “We encourage people to develop new business opportunities, such as food industry, mechanics and manufacturing,” said Agus Wibowo, who sent a team of business consultants to train the wives of farmers.

Now, with potato chip processing machines from BNPB, Siosar has started producing chips branded Top Potato. But challenges remain in turning a profit.

“One of the shortcomings is the unstable rate of production. Four groups of farmer wives take turns using one processing machine. Each group has its own production capacity,” said Nurjanahah, a business consultant for the potato chip manufacturing.

“Uncompetitive quality and big diminution from raw potatoes to final potato chip is another challenge to deal with. Four kilograms of potatoes produce only 600 grams of chips,” she added.

“The potato chip has yet to be a professional product until we solve all these shortcomings,” Nurjanah told IPS.

BNPB provided four processing machines for groups of farmer wives in Siosar, beyond the Rp590 billion fund it created for the Mount Sinabung disaster, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of BNPB’s Center of Data and Information.

Basic mechanics is another alternative to diversify from agriculture. For one thing, the sector has yet to have competitors in the new settlements. For another, the area is in urgent need of such services, considering the absence of public transportation. Personal minivans and motorcycles are the backbone of village transportation.

Basmadi Kapri Peranginangin returned to his village after living for a year in a refugee camp. He grew potatoes and other vegetables, but just as he finished planting, Mount Sinabung erupted again and his newly-replanted farm – part of the area’s most vulnerable ‘red zone’ – was ruined.

Peranginangin decided to go to Siosar and shift to the motorcycle repair business, but lacked the funds to buy tools and build a workshop. Then he heard about a training program for displaced people jointly sponsored by the International Labor Organisation (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Development Program and BNPB.

After one month of training, he received a set of equipment to repair motorcycles. And with his new knowledge, including administration and financial management, he started a motorcycle repair business in July 2016. Now he earns Rp3,5 million a month on average.

When social and economic life blooms, so does art and culture. On October 1, the new community celebrated its one-year anniversary with an art and music show.

Biri Pelawi, a local religious leader, said in his opening remarks, “Siosar land is God’s promised land for us. Sigarang-garang, our former village, is the departing spot. One year in refugee camps is our training period. God’s plan for us is here. He kept His plan secretly.”

“Now we live safe with no fear of Mount Sinabung eruption. God has sent us to safer place to carry on,” he said.

On that very day, Mount Siabung erupted again, spewing volcanic ash as high as four kilometers, but this time, no one was affected and the celebration continued as planned.

“We don’t have to worry anymore. We live in a safe place,” said Mesti Ginting, one of the celebration organizers.

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International Day of Rural Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/international-day-rural-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-day-rural-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/international-day-rural-women/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 20:57:49 +0000 Michel Mordasini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152524
Michel Mordasini, is Vice President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development - IFAD

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Michel Mordasini, is Vice President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development - IFAD

By Michel Mordasini
ROME, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

On this International Day of Rural Women, the world celebrates women and girls in rural areas and the critical role they play in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.

Michel Mordasini. Credit: IFAD

To increase the impact of IFAD-supported projects on gender equality and to strengthen women’s empowerment in poor rural areas, our approach is centered on three pillars, which are the strategic objectives of our Policy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment:

First, we promote economic empowerment to enable rural women and men to have equal opportunities to participate in, and benefit from, profitable economic activities. To do this, we need to ensure that women have equal access to land and other productive resources and inputs, to knowledge, financial services and markets, and to income-generation opportunities.

Second, we enable women and men to have equal voice and influence in rural institutions and organizations. To this end, we support women’s self-organization in women’s groups and their participation in farmer organizations, water user associations, cooperatives and many other rural institutions. We set quotas for women’s representation and train women in leadership.

Third, we strive to promote a more equitable balance in workloads and in the sharing of economic and social benefits between women and men. Infrastructure development, and access to water, energy, roads and transport all contribute to reducing women’s burden of work, thus enabling them to take on economic activities and decision-making roles.

At IFAD, we celebrate the 2017 International Day of Rural Women by honouring the best-performing project in each region that empowers women and addresses gender inequalities. The Gender Award was established to recognize the efforts and achievements of IFAD-supported projects in meeting the strategic objectives of IFAD’s Policy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. The Award gives visibility to those projects that have successfully reduced rural women’s workload, given them a voice and created opportunities for economic empowerment. While selecting the winning projects, we also evaluate the strategic guidance provided by the project management unit and the achievements of gender focal points. We pay particular attention to innovative and gender transformative approaches that address underlying inequalities.

This year the Gender Awards go to the following projects:

The Char Development and Settlement Project – Phase IV in Bangladesh. The project is improving livelihoods for poor people living on newly accreted coastal islands known locally as chars. It uses a combined approach to development, which includes infrastructure works, forestry, water supplies, provision of health and sanitation, management of land and agriculture, securing women’s and men’s access to land and addressing social norms such as child marriage.

The Agricultural Value Chain Development Project in the Mountain Zones of Al-Haouz Province in Morocco. The project is supporting smallholder farmers and livestock producers, and promoting the development of value chains for olives, apples and lamb. With access to subsidies and credit, women have formed professional teams and associations, and cooperatives for income-generation.

The Building Rural Entrepreneurial Capacities: Trust and Opportunity Programme in Colombia. The programme is helping rural communities to recover from conflict. It is improving living conditions, income and employment for small farmers, indigenous groups, Afro-Latino communities, young people, families who have been forcibly displaced and households headed by women in post-conflict rural areas.

The Rural Markets Promotion Programme in Mozambique. The programme is enabling small-scale farmers to increase their incomes and helping them to market their surpluses. Women are learning to read and write, and benefiting from community-based financial services. The programme has achieved transformative changes, including greater involvement of men in activities related to nutrition.

The Poverty Reduction Project in Aftout South and Karakorum – Phase II in Mauritania. The project is improving the income and living conditions of poor rural households in M’Bout, Kankossa and Ould-Yengé. With a female gender officer and an actionable gender strategy, the project has invested in information dissemination and sensitization on gender equality and equitable workloads, and the importance of healthcare and sanitation, water supplies and access to markets.

Let me congratulate the winners. IFAD President and staff look forward to welcoming them to Rome on 29-30 November for the award ceremony and a learning event.

The hundreds of thousands of poor households targeted in these five projects have made considerable progress in reducing rural poverty and empowering women. Let us continue to ensure that poor rural communities and individuals – particularly women, indigenous peoples and young people – become part of a rural transformation that drives overall sustainable development and leaves no one behind. IFAD aims to achieve real transformative gender impact. And to do this, we need to address the deep roots of gender inequality – prevailing social norms, entrenched attitudes and behaviours, and social systems.

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Can the Kenyan Lion Kick High Enough to Be the South Korean Tiger of Africa?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/can-kenyan-lion-kick-high-enough-south-korean-tiger-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-kenyan-lion-kick-high-enough-south-korean-tiger-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/can-kenyan-lion-kick-high-enough-south-korean-tiger-africa/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 11:52:14 +0000 Mary Kawar and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152505 Dr Mary Kawar is Country Director of the ILO for Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Follow her on twitter: @mary_kawar

Mr Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya. Follow him on twitter: @sidchat1

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Taekwondo a Korean martial art also practiced in Kenya. Credit: Capital FM

By Mary Kawar and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

In 1953 South Korea emerged from the ravages of a debilitating war, yet the total gross domestic product in nominal terms has surged 31,000 fold since 1953.

Consider this: in 1950 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of South Korea was US$ 876 and Kenya’s was US$ 947. In 2016, the GDP per capita of South Korea rose to US$ 27,539 and Kenya’s to US$ 1,455.

South Korea over the past four decades has demonstrated incredible economic growth and global integration to become a high-tech industrialized economy. In the 1960s, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. In 2004, South Korea joined the trillion-dollar club of world economies.

In South Korea the Gini coefficient is 0.30 (extent of inequality) whereas in Kenya it is much higher at 0.45. Despite posting some of the highest GDP growth rates globally, countries in Africa continue to have the worst poverty and unemployment rates, with Kenya being one of those countries where the gap between rich and poor is widening.

While the majority of these Kenyans are occupied in the agricultural industry, technology advances and the rising prominence of the service industry is threatening to render many of these superfluous unless urgent shifts in growth models are undertaken to create quality jobs.

Lessons from economic structural transformation abound especially from the Asian tigers. Once an agricultural country like Kenya, South Korea spent much of the 20th century driving modern technologies and is now regarded as one of Asia’s most advanced economies. Among the focus areas for the country were facilitating industrialization, high household savings rates, high literacy rates and low fertility rates.

What South Korea achieved was fast economic growth underpinned by a strong industrial base that led to full employment and higher real wages. When the 1997 financial crisis threatened employment and welfare of its citizens in 1997, the country engaged in ambitious structural adjustment that introduced social protection measures for workers, the unemployed and poor people, in addition to reigniting the drivers of growth.

The international experience suggests that, for a given increase in the labor force, GDP growth should be at least double that rate to prevent unemployment from rising, and even higher if unemployment is to be reduced. With Kenya’s labor force growing at 3 percent corresponding to one million youth entering the job market each year, GDP should keep growing at 6 percent.

But this may not be enough as there is a lot of slack in the labor market to be absorbed. Kenya has one of the highest informal sector employment rates in the continent. With about three out of four workers employed in casual jobs whose key features include unpredictable incomes, poor working conditions and low productivity.

According to the latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), employment in the informal economy has grown much faster than in the formal economy, rising by nearly 4 million versus 60,000 since 2009, with the corresponding share of the formal economy in total employment shrinking to 17 percent from 19 percent.

Income inequality remains a challenge in Kenya, with the highest 10 percent earning almost 15 times higher than the lowest 10 percent, which is double of that in South Korea.

There are grounds for optimism, as Kenya seeks to move from being a regional leader to local innovator. In August 2016, Kenya hosted the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which was the first on African soil. Kenya is also developing policy and institutional reforms to increase export through better trade logistics and greater regional integration.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to boost standardization activities between the two countries. Credit: Citizen TV


In addition, Kenya’s internet prices are low at half of even lower than those in neighboring countries. Innovations in mobile phone-based banking and related technological platforms have resulted in more financial inclusion that has reached 75 percent of the population. A large population of educated youth is already employed in these areas that have high job creation potential.

Kenya’s policies will need to consider the effects of technological innovations on the labor market and their socioeconomic impact. Household incomes improve when the largest number of people get involved in technology-based productive work. Even agriculture needs to be high-tech and include agro-processing.

Underlying this is the ability of the education and training system to adapt and promote the creation of a sustainable and inclusive economy. Kenya’s policies will therefore need to assess the effects of technological innovations on the labor market and their socioeconomic impact.

Kenya is moving ahead on education with its more than 1000 post-secondary institutions, 22 public and more than 30 private universities that produce the largest numbers of highly trained and skilled persons in the East African Community.

However, Kenya has substantial disparities in access to education. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, children in capital city Nairobi have about 15 times more access to secondary education than those living in Turkana, one of the poorest counties.

In addition to education, that increases employability on the labor supply side but does not in itself create jobs, more emphasis should be given to policies that increase labor demand. With an increasing youthful population, Kenya faces a window of demographic opportunity not only numerically.

Today’s youth are more educated than their parents and are “waiting in the wings”, not yet active but ready and willing to do so. But for this to happen and thus reduce youth and educated unemployment, there is a need to ensure that there are enough opportunities for them to participate actively in the economy and society.

Unfortunately, about 43 percent of Kenya’s youth are currently either unemployed or working yet living in poverty. Not unrelated to the few employment opportunities at home, many job seekers emigrate. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) reports for Kenya a skilled emigration rate of 35 per cent reaching 51 percent among health professionals. These rates are among the highest in the world. A continued lack of decent work opportunities as a result of insufficient or misapplied investments can perpetuate, if not increase, emigration and lead to an erosion of the basic social contract underlying democratic societies.

Still within the area of labor markets, good governance is critical for linking employment growth to decent employment creation. A recent meeting on the Future of Work organized by the Ministry of Labour, the Kenya Federation of Employers and the Kenya Federation of Trade unions in collaboration with the International Labour Organization discussed the implications for the 4th industrial revolution and its impact on Kenya. The discussion confirmed that laws, policies and institutions can be improved through social dialogue that would also include the informal sector.

For women, access to family planning and maternal health services – as well as education for girls is the best bet for improved economic opportunity. Global data shows that the highest benefits from reducing unintended pregnancies would accrue to the poorest countries, with GDP increases ranging from one to eight percent by 2035. There are few interventions that would give as wide-reaching impacts.

Finally, Kenya would need to address the rural/urban divide. Urban population growth is naturally fueled from growth in the population already living in cities but in Kenya, more than in many other African countries, urban growth comes from significant internal migration. This suggests that the country side is becoming increasingly less attractive. The share of population living in slums remains high at 55 percent with no discernible decline since 1990.

In conclusion, increases in real wages and decent employment creation will remain elusive as long as growth is not inclusive while educated job seekers are not employed in sectors that require new skills. The shifting population of Kenya provides many opportunities for growth. With a median age of 18, investing in Kenya’s youth would reap a demographic dividend. Key investments have to be in education and skills, empowerment of women and girls, a Marshal plan of employment and equity. These would help accelerate Kenya’ march to prosperity and help end poverty.

When this happens, Kenya will increase its ability to introduce more comprehensive and effective social protection policies that would add to the income security provided by decent employment. And unlike South Korea, Kenya should not wait to do so after a financial crisis.

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Land Settlement Empowers: Bangladesh Sets an Examplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/land-settlement-empowers-bangladesh-sets-example/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=land-settlement-empowers-bangladesh-sets-example http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/land-settlement-empowers-bangladesh-sets-example/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 08:26:15 +0000 Shahiduzzaman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152459 History was made for 400 landless families in the remote char lands of Noakhali district. On 4th October, they all received land titles from the government for which they had waited for over two decades. In Bangladesh, as in other countries, the title is a permanent legal ownership document. Over a thousand people, including the […]

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Afrusa Begum and Shafiul Alam receiving land title from Deputy Commissioner Md Mahbubul Alam Talukder

By Shahiduzzaman
Maijdee, Noakhali (Bangladesh), Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

History was made for 400 landless families in the remote char lands of Noakhali district. On 4th October, they all received land titles from the government for which they had waited for over two decades. In Bangladesh, as in other countries, the title is a permanent legal ownership document.

Over a thousand people, including the landless families, children, friends and neighbours, gathered under a big colourful ‘pandal’ (marquee) near Saddam Bazar of Nolerchar. It was a sunny but very hot day, with temperatures between 37 to 39 degrees Celsius. Everybody was sweating in the sweltering heat but it didn’t matter because this was a day for celebration, a day they had waited for a very long time.

At noon when the top district official, Deputy Commissioner Md. Mahbubul Alam Talukder arrived, everyone gave him and the accompanying officials a warm welcome by standing up and clapping. Soon the officials began announcing names of the beneficiaries of land titles. The very first ones to be called were Afrusa Begum (68) and her husband Shafiul Alam (72).

They both looked frail and older than their real age. They walked slowly to the dais to receive the land title from DC Talukdar. Both of them broke down, saying they had waited for 25 years for this day and never thought that they would get the land title in their lifetime. They are now free from uncertainty and no one can uproot them from their land again. Other recipients of land titles, Rima Akther, Md. Shamim, Panna Begum and Md. Asraf were all overjoyed and could not hold back their tears.

landlees families are waiting in a colourful pandal.


Panna Begum and Md. Asraf came with their one-month-old baby girl Noor Jahan Begum. Panna said, “Our life was horrible and full of tension. Never, ever settled down peacefully, moving all the time. Today I am so happy I can’t express it in words. I can only say that my daughter will take her first step on our own land and grow up with a secure life. We are saluting the government and the people who helped us.”

Officials of the Char Development and Settlement Project Phase IV (CDSP IV) helped to make their dreams come true. The project introduced processes to improve the position of women in regard to land rights. A wife’s name is now written first in the legal document. As a result, she is legally entitled to 50 percent of the land.

This strengthens her position in the family and in many decision-making processes. Also, if the husband abuses his wife or there is evidence of any illegal actions on his part, legal action can now result in him losing his share of the land.

DC Talukder addressing the land title recipients said, “The government is very much pro people and has come to your door to address your issues. Today is one of its best examples shown by concerned officials of the district who have come to you to hand over the land titles properly. We hope you will now build a future with happy families without any fear and further complication.”

He warned not to undermine the rights of women on the land. “If we receive any allegation in this regard then the government will take serious measures to protect women rights,” the Deputy Commissioner said.

The CDSP IV project started in March 2011 and is co-financed by the Government of Bangladesh, the Government of the Netherlands, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The 89.2-million-dollar project has focused on the development of five new chars of Noakhali district and those adjacent to Meghna river. The chars are: Char Nangulia, Noler Char, Caring Char, Urir Char and Char Ziauddin. These encompass around 30,000 hectares of char land, with an estimated population of 155,000 persons in 28,000 households.

Panna begum and her one year old daughter Noor Jahan Begum.


The local people said that in all respects CDSP IV is a blessing for them. Since 1994, when the project started, unrest in char lands has reduced and land grabbers have left the area.

The dispute over char lands in this area has gone on for more than half a century. It is government property and the landless people should have priority to get land allotments but this was not always upheld. Groups of land grabbers, power brokers and musclemen in collaboration with some local corrupt officials controlled the char lands illegally for decades.

Several violent incidents happened between the landless people and land grabbers. Many people lost their lives and assets, and women were often violated by the land grabbers who treated the landless people as slaves.

Bazlul Karim, Deputy Leader of the CDSP IV, described how hard it was to settle the landless people, particularly to counter and free the land from grabbers and power brokers. He said, those people brought under permanent settlement have now risen above the poverty line.

“Nowadays, you will not find any really poor people within 300 square kilometers of the project areas. Because, in addition to land title, the beneficiaries are also receiving a package of support services including credit and healthcare facilities,” said Karim.

“The most challenging aspects were developing the char lands for habitat by constructing enclosures, embankment, culverts, sluice gates and roads to connect remote areas. It has also ensured pure drinking water to people by setting up hundreds of tubewells around the project area and helped prepare the land for cultivation. Now settlers are getting four times more crops than before. On the other hand, massive planting has been undertaken in the char lands. So, it has become real green fields to enjoy,” the deputy leader said.

Panna Begum and Md. Asraf.


The Land Settlement Adviser of the project Md. Rezaul Karim said, “Since CDSP’s launch in 1994 all along it has been a tough job to settle the many issues around land titles. Anyway, we have successfully completed Phase I to III. Now Phase IV (CDSP IV) is ongoing, where IFAD came forward with huge support to carry out the activities of the project. This Phase has targeted distribution of land titles to 14,000 people by the year 2018. The progress is quite good. To date 11,538 families have received their land titles, so we have enough time to achieve the set target.”

The char lands are formed from sedimentation of the Meghan river. On an average annually 1.1 billion tons of sediment is carried down by the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) river system, the largest sediment load in any river system in the world. Much of it forms the raw mass for new developing land in the coastal areas, the ‘chars’, as it is known in Bangla language.

A study conducted by the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) said about 1 million people are directly affected by riverbank erosion each year and landlessness in these areas could be as high as 70 percent. Affected people are frequently forced to settle in more disaster-prone areas where displacement can occur several times. On an average each household studied was displaced 4.46 times.

This scenario is prevalent in the CDSP IV area. It is estimated that each year 26,000 people lose their land through Meghna river erosion. It has been observed that the river eroded families from the adjacent areas are migrating into the new char for shelter and livelihooda. The families are mostly from the other coastal chars and offshore islands who have lost their land due to erosion.

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World Bank Must Stop Encouraging Harmful Tax Competitionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-bank-must-stop-encouraging-harmful-tax-competition-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-bank-must-stop-encouraging-harmful-tax-competition-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/world-bank-must-stop-encouraging-harmful-tax-competition-2/#comments Tue, 10 Oct 2017 18:29:38 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152413 Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Instead of encouraging tax competition, the World Bank should help developing countries improve tax administration to enhance collection and compliance, and to reduce evasion and avoidance. Credit: IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 2017 (IPS)

One of the 11 areas that the World Bank’s Doing Business (DB) report includes in ranking a country’s business environment is paying taxes. The background study for DB 2017, Paying Taxes 2016 claims that its emphasis is “on efficient tax compliance and straightforward tax regimes”.

Its ostensible aim is to aid developing countries in enhancing the administrative capacities of tax authorities as well as reducing informal economic activities and corruption, while promoting growth and investment. All well and good, until we get into the details.

Tax less
First, the Report advocates not only administrative efficiency, but also lower tax rates. Any country that reduces tax rates, or raises the threshold for taxable income, or provides exemptions, gets approval.

Second, it exaggerates the tax burden by including, for example, employees’ health insurance and pensions and charges for public services like waste collection and infrastructure or environmental levies that the businesses must pay. The IMF’s Government Financial Statistics Manual correctly treats these separately from general tax revenues.

Third, by favourably viewing countries that lower corporate tax rates (or increase threshold and exemptions) and negatively considering those that introduce new taxes, DB is essentially encouraging tax competition among developing countries.

Thus, the Bank is ignoring research at the OECD and IMF which has not found any convincing evidence that lower corporate tax rates or other fiscal concessions have any positive impact on foreign direct investment.

Instead, they found net adverse impacts of tax concessions and fiscal incentives on government revenues. According to the research, factors such as the availability and quality of infrastructure and human resources were more important for investment decisions than taxes.

Moreover, the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys do not find paying taxes to be high on the list of factors that enterprise owners perceive as important barriers to investment. For example, the Enterprise Survey for the Middle East and North Africa found political instability, corruption, unreliable electricity supply, and inadequate access to finance to be important considerations; paying taxes or tax rates were not.

Yet, the World Bank has been promoting tax cuts and tax competition as magic bullets to boost investment. Not surprisingly, thanks to its still considerable influence, tax revenues in developing countries are not rising enough, or worse, continue to fall. According to some estimates, between 1990 and 2001, reduction in corporate taxes lowered countries’ tax revenue by nearly 20%.

Instead of encouraging tax competition, therefore, the World Bank should help developing countries improve tax administration to enhance collection and compliance, and to reduce evasion and avoidance. According to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria, “developing countries are estimated to lose to tax havens almost three times what they get from developed countries in aid”.

Global Financial Integrity has estimated that illicit financial flows of potentially taxable resources out of developing countries was US$7.85 trillion during 2004-2013 and US$1.1 trillion in 2013 alone!

Conflicts of interest
But the Bank’s Paying Taxes and DB reports do little to strengthen developing countries’ tax revenues. This should come as no surprise as its partner for the former study is Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC), one of the ‘Big Four’ leading international accounting and consultancy firms. PwC competes with KPMG, Ernst & Young and Deloitte for the lucrative business of helping clients minimize their tax liabilities. PwC assisted its clients in obtaining at least 548 tax rulings in Luxembourg between 2002 and 2010, enabling them to avoid corporate income tax elsewhere.

How are developing countries expected to finance their infrastructure investment needs, increase social protection coverage, or repair their damaged environments? Instead of helping, the Bank’s most influential report urges them to cut corporate tax rates and social contributions to improve their DB ranking, contrary to what then Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu observed: “Raising [tax] allows developing countries to invest in education, health and infrastructure, and, hence, in promoting growth.”

How are they supposed to achieve the internationally agreed Agenda 2030 for the Sustainable Development Goals in the face of dwindling foreign aid. After all, only a few donor countries have fulfilled their aid commitment of 0.7% of GNI, agreed to almost half a century ago. Since the 2008 financial crisis, overseas development assistance has been hard hit by fiscal austerity cuts in OECD economies except in the UK under Cameron.

The Bank would probably recommend public-private partnerships (PPPs) and borrowing from it. Countries starved of their own funds would have to borrow from the Bank, but loans need to be repaid.

Governments lacking their own resources are being advised to rely on PPPs, despite predictable welfare outcomes – e.g., reduced equity and access due to higher user fees – and higher government contingent fiscal liabilities due to revenue guarantees and implicit subsidies.

Financially starved governments boost Bank lending while PPPs increase the role of its International Finance Corporation (IFC) in promoting private sector business. Realizing the Bank’s conflict of interest, many middle-income countries ignore Bank advice and seek to finance their investments and other activities by other means. Thus, there are now growing demands that the Bank stop promoting tax competition, deregulation and the rest of the Washington Consensus agenda.

Bank must support SDGs
However, nothing guarantees that the Bank will act accordingly. It has already ignored the recommendation of its independent panel to stop its misleading DB country rankings. While giving lip service to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and others who have asked it to stop ranking countries by labour market flexibility, the Bank continues to promote labour market deregulation by other means.

If the Bank is serious about being a partner in achieving Agenda 2030, it should align its work accordingly, and support UN leadership on international tax cooperation besides enhancing governments’ ability to tax adequately, efficiently and equitably. In the meantime, the best option for developing countries is to ignore the Bank’s DB and Paying Taxes reports.

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Alternative Financing Strategies to Boost Small Businesses in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/alternative-financing-strategies-boost-small-businesses-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alternative-financing-strategies-boost-small-businesses-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/alternative-financing-strategies-boost-small-businesses-africa/#respond Thu, 05 Oct 2017 12:38:20 +0000 Franck Kuwonu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152365 A few years ago, more than half a century after the concept was first proposed, the government of Côte d’Ivoire completed construction of the Henri Konan Bédié Bridge, a span over the Ébrié Lagoon linking the north and south of Abidjan, the country’s main city. The project became a reality after the government received development […]

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Chef and owner of a restaurant and catering company in Liberia. Credit: UN Photo/C. Herwig

By Franck Kuwonu, Africa Renewal*
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 5 2017 (IPS)

A few years ago, more than half a century after the concept was first proposed, the government of Côte d’Ivoire completed construction of the Henri Konan Bédié Bridge, a span over the Ébrié Lagoon linking the north and south of Abidjan, the country’s main city. The project became a reality after the government received development bank and private capital financing.

Similarly, the Dakar-Diamniado Highway in Senegal, although a public structure, was built and is being operated by private companies. Increasing difficulties in obtaining traditional financing, including bank loans for public infrastructure such as roads, railways and dams are forcing African countries to explore alternative financing approaches.

Having the private sector build and operate infrastructure, recoup its investments and later transfer the infrastructure to governments is one way of compensating for the shortfall in official development assistance and banks’ reluctance to provide loans.

Economic backbone

Aid to the least developed countries (LDCs), most of which are in Africa, fell by 3.9% in 2016, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which promotes policies that improve economic and social well-being of rich countries.

At the moment, governments are coming up with innovative financing strategies, while big corporations are relying on investments or bank loans to grow and expand their businesses. However, Africa’s small and medium-size (SMEs) enterprises, still struggle for financing.

Governments that seek financing from private partnerships or international financing institutions such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank and others often realise that the funding available cannot meet the financial needs of the SMEs.

“In Ghana, SMEs can safely be regarded as the backbone of the economy, employing thousands of people,” Ghana’s minister of finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, said at a gathering of Ghanaian entrepreneurs in June.

SMEs represent 92% of all local businesses in Ghana, providing up to 85% of manufacturing jobs in the country and contributing about 70% to the country’s GDP. In Nigeria, 37 million SMEs employ about 60 million people and account for about 48% of the country’s GDP.

South Africa (the most advanced economy south of the Sahara) is home to more than 2.2 million SMEs, about 1.5 million of them in the informal sector. About 43% of South Africa’s SMEs operate in trade and accommodations, according to South Africa’s Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), which, among other functions, implements the government’s small business strategy.

A 2016 SEDA report says that SMEs face challenges in accessing finance and markets. Yet eight out of 10 jobs and nine out of 10 of all businesses in sub-Saharan Africa are related to small business, according to UN figures.

Potential

SMEs, especially those in the informal sector, have a hard time accessing bank loans. A majority of African SMEs rely on personal savings or start-up capital from friends and family.

“Even when a bank is willing to lend them some money, the collateral and guarantee they require and sometimes the down payment is just too much for a small company like us,” says Alex Treku, the communications and projects manager at the Togo-based LOGOU Concept Togo (LCT).

LCT manufactures a type of electric food mixer (the Foufou Mix) that is used in place of the traditional mortar and pestle and saves women the energy used in pounding yam for fufu, a West African staple dish.

“The Foufou Mix allows for quick and hygienic yam preparation in approximately eight minutes,” the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) said when it named LCT the runner-up for the Innovation Prize for Africa in 2014.

AIF added that “pounding of yam has traditionally been done by women; this innovation provides a solution not currently being contemplated by international manufacturers. It also opens up possibilities for a whole new industry for manufacturing of such appliances on the continent.”

One-third of Nigerians reportedly eat fufu, making the country of 170 million people an attractive market for the gadget. Yet LCT is able to manufacture only about a hundred mixers a month, according to Mr. Treku. The reason? “We don’t have access to bank credit or funds to grow our business,” he says. LTC currently employs 19 people.

Operational capacities and access to markets are other challenges African MSMEs face, but access to financing is the most critical.

Partnership and innovation

On the occasion of the first-ever MSME Day marked globally on 27 June, the AfDB called for an increase in new and affordable financing schemes. Both the AfDB and the IFC would like SMEs to have increased access to financing.

Last year the AfDB reported helping 156,000 SME business owners through financial intermediaries such as commercial banks, development investment and guarantee funds. That’s a good start, but hardly enough, experts say.

By providing coverage for risks associated with lending to SMEs, an intermediary such as the African Guarantee Fund (AGF) can provide credit guarantee facilities to financial institutions that give loans to enterprises they would normally be reluctant to lend to.

Last June, the AGF announced that through a partnership with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, the European Union and the UN Development Programme, some 5,000 SMEs in “development minerals” in five countries will have more affordable financing because of AGF’s $12 million credit guarantee.

Two years ago, the IFC and Ecobank, a pan-African commercial and investment banking group, launched a $110 million risk-sharing facility that allows Ecobank to lend money to SMEs operating in fragile and conflict-afflicted states in West and Central Africa. In addition to current efforts by traditional banks to lend to SMEs, experts have urged SMEs in Africa to explore innovative financing, such as cooperative financing and diaspora funds.

The World Bank is said to be exploring other ideas like crowdfunding—an innovative way of financing a project by raising funds from a very large number of people—peer-to-peer lending, social impact bonds and development impact bonds.

But the AfDB wants credit providers to increase lending by at least $135 billion to meet demand by African SMEs. As the overall financing gap in developing countries is currently between $2.1 and $2.6 trillion, new strategies are required to finance the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

According to the World Economic Forum, “blended finance” could plug this hole. Should these funds become available, the majority of SMEs still operating in the informal sector will have to “take giant steps towards formalisation in order to increase their potential for accessing formal credits,” according to a 17 March study, Financing the Growth of SMEs in Africa: What Are the Constraints to SME Financing within ECOWAS? published in the Review of Development Finance.

The authors of the study maintain that policy reforms are as necessary as available financing. They also suggest requiring companies to provide credit information to boost creditors’ confidence and to make sure that government-sponsored credit schemes are managed efficiently and transparently.

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information

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Ghana Aims to Regain Top Spot in Cocoa Productionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/ghana-aims-regain-top-spot-cocoa-production/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ghana-aims-regain-top-spot-cocoa-production http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/ghana-aims-regain-top-spot-cocoa-production/#comments Thu, 05 Oct 2017 12:03:16 +0000 Kwaku Botwe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152368 Ghana is home to the world’s favourite cocoa beans. They’re bigger in size, have a higher butter content and superior flavour – all qualities which make Ghana’s cocoa the world standard against which all cocoa is measured. But while cocoa used to be the biggest foreign exchange earner for the West African country, contributing about […]

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Professor of Food Science and Technology at the University of Ghana, Emmanuel Afoakwa, and other researchers at a cocoa farm. Credit: Kwaku Botwe/IPS

Professor of Food Science and Technology at the University of Ghana, Emmanuel Afoakwa, and other researchers at a cocoa farm. Credit: Kwaku Botwe/IPS

By Kwaku Botwe
ACCRA, Oct 5 2017 (IPS)

Ghana is home to the world’s favourite cocoa beans. They’re bigger in size, have a higher butter content and superior flavour – all qualities which make Ghana’s cocoa the world standard against which all cocoa is measured.

But while cocoa used to be the biggest foreign exchange earner for the West African country, contributing about 45 percent of the total foreign exchange earnings, now the commodity barely provides 25 percent.“They [farmers who sell their lands] don’t know what they are doing because cocoa is a legacy that can be left to children, unlike one-time cash.” --Nana Kwasi Ofori of the Cocoa Farmers Association

Farmers in Ghana follow a strict routine in the planting, harvesting and drying of cocoa, supported and monitored by the government regulator, the Ghana Cocoa Board.

They employ natural drying of the beans in the sun (instead of heating), turning the beans at regular intervals for not less than a week. This natural and painstaking means of drying ensures the beans turn out their characteristic golden brown. The layers of monitoring at the time of purchase are all part of government’s intervention.

The country is the second biggest supplier of cocoa worldwide, beaten only by its West African neighbour, Cote D’Ivoire. But Ghana was once the world champion. It lost the first spot to its neighbour in the 1970s after government reduced the price given to farmers, thereby discouraging many from going into the venture.

Exchanging Golden Pods for Golden Nuggets

Several factors have contributed to the shortfall. Distribution of free or subsidized farm inputs such as fertilizers or chemicals have been fraught with several challenges.

“Not all of us were given the free fertilizers. And they were politicizing it. Someone with a small farm of four acres could be given 50 bags of fertilizer while others with very big farms were given less,” Abusuapanyin Kwabena Amankwaa, a cocoa farmer, told IPS.

Central Regional Chief Cocoa Farmer Nana Kwasi Ofori also said that “farmers who are not cultivating cocoa were given some of the inputs”.

CEO of the Cocoa Board Joseph Baidoo has said his interactions with farmers revealed that Ghana’s fertilizers – which are not supposed to be for sale – were in fact being sold in Nigeria, Gabon and other neighbouring African countries, adding that this meant the free fertilizers were given to political party loyalists who were not cocoa farmers.

Diseases such as black pod, swollen shoot, and capsids have had a field day as a result.

The new government decided to discontinue the free fertilizer programme following what it says were complaints from farmers. Instead, it wants to sell the fertilizer at subsidized prices.

Ghana has an annual cocoa production target of one million tonnes. That target was achieved in 2011. Since then government has struggled to maintain the target, with annual production hovering around 800,000 tonnes.

In previous years, government decided to absorb the cost and technical assistance needed to apply the right chemicals and fertilizers to cocoa farms nationwide – initiatives called the Mass Spraying Exercise and the Hi-tech Programme, respectively.

Government also created the Rehabilitation Programme where old, less productive trees were felled and replaced with new, more-yielding hybrid seedlings for free. This saw a big dividend in cocoa bean output, with the country recording its highest cocoa output of over 1 million tonnes in 2011. But government has not been able to sustain the programme.

Probably the biggest threat to hit the cocoa industry in recent times is illegal mining, locally called galamsey. The upsurge in the search for gold between 2012 and 2016 has threatened the livelihoods of several cocoa farmers as galamsey takes over cocoa farms.

“Some chiefs are part of the problem which we are facing. They sell the land to the miners and collect the money so sometimes farmers are not even compensated,” said Nana Kwasi Ofori, an executive member of the Cocoa Farmers Association.

Most farmers are tenant farmers who work on lands owned by chiefs or families. Fifty-three-year-old Adwoa Oforiwaa, a cocoa farmer in the Central Region, says she was only given 500 cedis (about 112 dollars) as compensation when galamsey operators took over a good part of her farm.

“When they [galamsey operators] come, they tell you they have orders from the chiefs or even government, and they start the destruction,” she added.

A journalist in the Western Region – the leading cocoa-producing region in Ghana – Yaw Obrempong says some farmers willingly sell off their cocoa farms for ready cash.

“If the galamsey operator is here with a bag full of cash, why won’t I sell my land instead of staying in a queue for over two weeks only to be given a bag of fertilizer?” Obrempong noted.

He says some farmers claim they had to pay bribes in order to get farm inputs from the government. Other farmers sold their lands when the much-needed labour to work on the cocoa farms shifted into illegal mining.

But Nana Kwasi Ofori says, “They [farmers who sell their lands] don’t know what they are doing because cocoa is a legacy that can be left to children, unlike one-time cash.”

The galamsey invasion has affected a good part of the 1.7 million hectares of cocoa farms in the country.  The Government has launched an anti-galamsey crusade to flush out illegal miners. With the help of a taskforce including the military, several arrests and confiscation of galamsey equipment have been carried out.

The launch of the Media Coalition against Galamsey has also given government a shot in the arm. Government has moved the crusade a notch higher with the announcement by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources of its intention to procure drones at the cost of 3 million dollars for surveillance.

Guaranteed Pricing

Nonetheless, cocoa remains the most important economic crop for Ghana, raking in about 2 billion dollars annually, contributing to some 4.22 percent of the country’s GDP.  Such a feat has been achieved through government interventions such as price stability. For instance, the world price of cocoa beans has plummeted from about 3,122 dollars per tonne last year to about 1,900 dollars this year, yet the Cocoa Board maintained s producer price of 7,600 cedis per tonne (1,700 dollars).

The Board is able to cushion farmers with a Stabilization Fund established some ten years ago, as well as other sources of funds. This presents a big advantage for cocoa farmers in Ghana over other cocoa-producing countries on the continent this year.

For instance, the Ivorian government has slashed the prices of cocoa almost by a third, to 700 CFA per kg (about 1,300 dollars per tonne). Some Ghanaians have expressed concern that the development is likely to reverse the dreaded cross-border smuggling of cocoa (Ghana has in the past seen a lot of its cocoa smuggled to their neighbor countries because of price differences).

But professor of Food Science and Technology at the University of Ghana, Emmanuel Afoakwa says “it is not likely because Ghana is bent on protecting its premium quality and so there is tight security to ensure cocoa does not move from Cote D’Ivoire and other countries into the country”.

He adds that “farmers must cherish that government is interested in their welfare because government now loses about 500 dollars on every tonne of cocoa bought from them”.

The Ghana Cocoa Board also has an arrangement to pay for the felling and replanting of old and diseased cocoa trees. The board has announced that it will be giving away about 60 million seedlings to farmers for replanting. The exercise, called rehabilitation, is meant to boost output.

The Government also has a programme to woo youth into the sector to replace aging cocoa farmers. The Board is providing support for all young cocoa farmers by giving them hybrid pods, improved seedlings, free fertilizer and inputs, a farmer business school programme, as well as extension support to boost cocoa production. Cocoa farmers are also pushing for a Cocoa Farmers Pension Scheme which they believe will help attract the youth.

Cocoa Processing

To maximize revenue from cocoa, the government has its eyes on adding value to the cocoa it exports. The global cocoa market has an estimated value of 9 billion dollars for unprocessed cocoa beans, about 28 billion dollars for semi-processed/intermediate products and a whopping 87 billion dollars for fully processed/final products. In an attempt to get its share of the 87-billion-dollar cake, government has set a target of processing 50 percent of its exported cocoa.

Currently, the seven processing companies operating at various levels of value-addition process about 25 percent of the county’s exported cocoa. But most of the processed cocoa are exported in semi-processed form of cocoa paste.

Prof. Afoakwa says the huge capital requirement involved in processing cocoa into finished products fit for export could be a big hurdle for Ghana. Moreover, there are high tariff walls with regards to the export of processed products. For example, the European Union levies no duties on the import of raw cocoa beans, but levies a 7.7 percent and 15 percent duty on cocoa powder and cocoa cake, respectively.

He believes heightening the campaign on the consumption of cocoa products would be one way of tackling the issue.

“I’m working with Ghana Cocoa Board to conduct the cocoa product processing competition and we are bringing together ten different polytechnic institutions to develop new products using cocoa. We are going to invite high schools to come witness it. What we are trying to do is to advocate for higher consumption of cocoa products and this can be done when we know the kind of different products that we can make out of cocoa,” he added.

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Why American Overseas Aid Should Focus on SDGs?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/american-overseas-aid-focus-sdgs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=american-overseas-aid-focus-sdgs http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/american-overseas-aid-focus-sdgs/#respond Wed, 04 Oct 2017 14:59:39 +0000 Bjorn Lomborg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152347 Bjorn Lomborg is director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and a visiting professor at the Copenhagen Business School.

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Bjorn Lomborg is director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and a visiting professor at the Copenhagen Business School.

By Bjorn Lomborg
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC, Oct 4 2017 (IPS)

The average American believes the US spends a whopping third of its federal budget on foreign aid. Consequently, a majority of people think that too much is spent on foreign aid. That is one reason US President Donald J. Trump, who has campaigned on putting the needs of Americans first, has proposed deep cuts to foreign aid in his 2018 budget.

The problem is, this common understanding is very wrong. US foreign aid in 2017 will cost $41.9 billion out of a total federal budget of $4.15 trillion or one percent. When informed of this, support for cutting aid halves, while support for increasing the budget more than doubles. The aid budget should be maintained. And the far more important question should instead be addressed: how do we get the most possible out of this spending?

We can look to recent history for reassuring evidence that US aid spending can achieve a great deal. A recent Brookings study revealed that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the development agenda set by the US and others for the first fifteen years of this century – were more successful than anybody knew.

From 2000, the world agreed on 18 key undertakings, including halving the proportion of people in poverty, halving the proportion of people going hungry, and cutting child mortality by two-thirds.

The study concludes, “especially on matters of life and death, 2015 outcomes were not on track to happen anyhow”. The MDGs ensured that more money went to the most important areas. Improvements sped up. At least 21 million more people are alive today as a result.

This tells us that the simple MDG approach worked; the U.S. and other, smaller donors helped save a number of lives equivalent to the entire population of Florida. We know more today than ever before about how to create meaningful change with each dollar spent. More transparency should be encouraged to reassure taxpayers about how money is spent.

When the MDGs were being replaced in 2015 with a new development agenda called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), my think-tank Copenhagen Consensus commissioned economists from around the world to analyze development priorities as they were proposed. The results are a body of work revealing what one aid dollar can achieve if spent in different ways.

I would be the first to argue that the SDGs are problematic: the simple 18 MDG targets were replaced with an impossibly long list of 169 targets. That’s just silly.

Targets such as the development of tools to monitor sustainable tourism or teaching the “knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development” don’t deserve priority when malnourishment claims at least 1.4 million children’s lives annually, 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty, and 2.6 billion lack clean drinking water and sanitation.

But our research conclusively showed that among this list, there are 19 incredibly powerful development targets. If USAID focuses more on the most effective targets, the public could be reassured that every dollar is achieving the most possible.

The reduction of childhood malnutrition does deserve funds. Evidence for Copenhagen Consensus showed that every dollar spent providing better nutrition for 68 million children would produce over $40 in long-term social benefits.

Malaria, too, deserves attention. A single case can be averted for as little as $11. We don’t just stop one persons suffering; we save a community from lost economic productivity. Our economists estimated that reducing the incidence of malaria by 50% would generate a 35-fold return in benefits to society.

Tuberculosis is a disease that has been overlooked and under-funded. Despite being the world’s biggest infectious killer, in 2015 it received just 3.4 per cent of development assistance for health. Reducing TB deaths by 90 per cent would result in 1.3 million fewer deaths. In economic terms, this would bring benefits worth $43 for every dollar spent.

Among the myriad of well-meaning environmental targets, our research shows that protecting coral reefs deserves prioritization. In addition to biodiversity benefits, healthy reefs increase fish stocks, benefitting fishermen and tourism.

Another transformative target would be universal access to contraception and family planning. At an annual cost of just $3.6 billion, allowing women control over pregnancy would mean 150,000 fewer maternal deaths and 600,000 fewer children being orphaned.

There are 19 such targets that deserve prioritization, because each dollar would do a lot to achieve a safer, healthier world – a result that leads to lasting benefits for the US.

If common belief were right and foreign aid really did swallow one-third of all federal resources, it may indeed make sense to focus more on American needs.

But in a world where a few dollars can do a world of difference, spending just one percent of the budget on aid seems a sensible investment.

When it comes to development, everyone’s goal should be the same. Rather than slashing funds for development, the United States should maintain its global leadership by focusing on the areas where every dollar achieves the most good.

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Greater Cooperation To Strengthen Taxationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/greater-cooperation-strengthen-taxation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=greater-cooperation-strengthen-taxation http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/greater-cooperation-strengthen-taxation/#respond Tue, 03 Oct 2017 10:25:09 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152323 Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Many tax avoidance schemes are not illegal. But just because it is not illegal does not mean it is not a form of abuse, fraud or corruption. Credit: Servaas van den Bosch/IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 2017 (IPS)

Since the 1950s, there has been a popular dance called the ‘limbo rock’, with the winner leaning back as much as possible to get under the bar. Many of today’s financial centres are involved in a similar game to attract customers by offering low tax rates and banking secrecy.

How Low Can You Go?
This has, in turn, forced many governments to lower direct taxes not only on income, but also on wealth. From the early 1980s, this was dignified by US President Ronald Reagan’s embrace of Professor Arthur Laffer’s curve which claimed higher savings, investments and growth with less taxes.

Following a long hiatus, Laffer is now making a comeback with the recent election of Donald Trump who has espoused a similar claim that lower taxes will lead to higher growth, lifting all American boats. It remains to be seen how President Trump will reconcile this with his promise to build and improve infrastructure in the US, which many hope will finally create the basis for the long awaited recovery following the 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing Great Recession.

With the decline of government revenue from direct taxes, especially income tax, following Laffer’s advice, many governments were forced to cut spending, often by reducing public services, raising user-fees and privatizing state-owned enterprises. Beyond a point, there seemed to be little room left for further cuts, while governments had to raise revenue to fund its functions.

Regression
This increasingly came from indirect taxes, especially on consumption, as trade taxes declined with trade liberalization. Many countries have since adopted value added taxation (VAT), touted in recent decades by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and others as the superior form of taxation: after all, once the VAT system is functioning, raising rates is relatively easy.

Instead, a progressive tax system would seek to ensure that those with more ability to do so, would pay proportionately more tax than those with less ability to do so. Instead, tax systems have become increasingly regressive, with the growing middle class bearing the main tax burden.

Meanwhile, tax competition among developing countries has not only reduced tax revenue, but also made direct taxation less progressive, while the growth of VAT has made the overall impact of taxation more regressive as the rich pay proportionately less tax with all the loopholes available to them, both nationally and abroad. Although there are many reasons for income inequality, untaxed assets have undoubtedly also increased both wealth and income inequalities at both national and international levels.

After Panama

Following the Panama revelations, most Western government leaders have pledged tough action against tax evasion and avoidance, especially by those using developing country tax havens. In the face of continued failure to deliver on the almost half-century old United Nations commitment to provide aid to developing countries equivalent to 0.7 per cent of their national incomes, then OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) chair, Erik Solheim, proposed greater tax cooperation instead.

After all, many developing countries are not devoid of financial assets, but so much has been taken out and hidden by wealthy elites in private financial institutions, especially in ‘offshore’ tax havens.

But since most using tax havens seek assets in OECD countries, the Paris-based organization has historically focused efforts on very limited matters of concern to their members. Hence, they have blocked efforts to give the UN a stronger mandate to advance international cooperation on taxation, culminating in the modest Addis Ababa Action Agenda declared at the third UN Financing for Development conference in July 2015.

As major users of such facilities themselves, many developing country elites have been conspicuously silent in the face of the Panama revelations of what they have long enabled and practiced. After all, much of what is involved is publicly considered illicit, immoral, and even ‘sinful’, even if not illegal. As Warren Buffett and the group of ‘patriotic millionaires’ in the US have noted, the rich currently pay less in tax than most of their lowest paid employees.

Reversing the slide
Many tax avoidance schemes are not illegal. But just because it is not illegal does not mean it is not a form of abuse, fraud or corruption. To tackle the corruption at the heart of the global financial system, tax havens need to be shut down, not reformed. ‘On-shoring’ such funds, without prohibiting legitimate investments abroad, will ensure that future investment income will be subject to tax as in the US and Canada.

If not compromised by influential interests benefiting from such flows, responsible governments should seek to enact policies to:
• Detect and deter cross-border tax evasion;
• Improve transparency of transnational corporations;
• Curtail trade mis-invoicing;
• Strengthen anti-money laundering laws and enforcement; and
• Eliminate anonymous shell companies.

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A Taste of India in Australia’s Hinterlandhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/taste-india-australias-hinterland/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=taste-india-australias-hinterland http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/taste-india-australias-hinterland/#respond Fri, 29 Sep 2017 14:23:16 +0000 Neena Bhandari http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152288 Julmat Khan migrated from the seaside resort town of Digha in West Bengal, India, about 14 years ago to the coastal tourist town of Broome in Western Australia. He is amongst a small proportion of international migrants to have settled in a regional town instead of Australia’s popular metropolises of Sydney and Melbourne. Only 20 […]

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Julmat Khan [center] cooking with two other migrant chefs at his Little Indian restaurant in Broome, Western Australia. Credit: Neena Bhandari/IPS

Julmat Khan [center] cooking with two other migrant chefs at his Little Indian restaurant in Broome, Western Australia. Credit: Neena Bhandari/IPS

By Neena Bhandari
BROOME, Western Australia, Sep 29 2017 (IPS)

Julmat Khan migrated from the seaside resort town of Digha in West Bengal, India, about 14 years ago to the coastal tourist town of Broome in Western Australia. He is amongst a small proportion of international migrants to have settled in a regional town instead of Australia’s popular metropolises of Sydney and Melbourne.

Only 20 percent of international migrants settle in regional Australia, which is home to approximately one-third of the nearly 24 million populace. Often international migrants are seen as an option of last resort for regional communities that need more people, but the Canberra-based economic and political think tank, Regional Australia Institute (RAI), believes they should be the top priority. Broome, renowned for pearling and home to the Aboriginal Yawuru people, has been a melting pot of cultures since the 1800s.

A father of three young children, Khan says, “The slow-paced lifestyle is similar to what I was used to back home and it is ideal for raising a family. My parents were farmers, but I trained as a chef. I have been running my own restaurants here, improvising on my mother and grandmother’s Bengali and Oriya cooking styles to create my own recipes.

“We grind our own spices and prepare our own paneer [Indian cottage cheese], which is a drawcard with the multicultural mix of locals and tourists. The number of visitors has been swelling with more cruise ships now sailing along the Kimberley coast, which is good for business.”

Broome, renowned for pearling and home to the Aboriginal Yawuru people, has been a melting pot of cultures since the 1800s. It has attracted migrants from Japan, China, Malaysia, Philippines, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Germany, South Africa; and in recent years from Thailand and India. Indians comprised 4.8 percent of recent arrivals (2007-2016) in Broome, which has a population of 16,222 with the median age being 33 years, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2016 Census.

RAI’s research, examining the latest 2016 Census data, found from 2011 to 2016, 151 regional Local Government Areas helped offset local population decline by attracting international migrants. For example, in the 2011 Census, Darwin had 45,442 people recorded as born in Australia and 19,455 born elsewhere. By 2016, the number of Australian-born locals had reduced to 44,953 and the number of overseas-born had increased to 24,961.

“By relocating to regional areas, migrants not only provide population stability and younger residents with family-building potential, they also build diversity in the local community and create new jobs. Importantly, they help fill labour shortages in both high [such as doctors and nurses] and low [workers in abattoirs and poultry plants] skilled occupations, where positions are unable to be filled by the local workforce alone,” according to RAI’s analysis.

The small, agricultural town of Nhill in the south-eastern state of Victoria, had been facing a declining working-age population. Over a five-year period, the economic impact of increased labour supply – with 160 Karen humanitarian migrants settling in the community – in terms of Gross Regional Product is estimated to be 41.5 million dollars in net present value terms, according to a joint Adult Multicultural Education Services and Deloitte Access Economics Report published in March 2015.

“Regional communities may initially attract a small settlement group. Once they start to see some success, the process can begin to ‘snowball’, with both the community and the initial migrants helping encourage others to move to the area,” according to RAI’s The Missing Migrants report.

“Shifting the settlement of international migrants however is not primarily about numbers. It is about enabling regional communities to access people with the vital skills and resources they need to ensure their future. Furthermore, it can result in much better outcomes for migrants – especially those who come from agricultural backgrounds and would much prefer to live and work in rural areas than in metropolitan cities,” the report says.

Since 2004, the Australian Government has been providing incentives to skilled visa applicants who move to regional areas. Australia’s First Assistant Secretary, Immigration and Citizenship Policy, David Wilden says, “The Government encourages all migrants to explore Australia and seek residence and employment in regional areas. We work closely with regional authorities and State and Territory Governments to develop specialised migration programs that help fill skill shortages, boost the local economy and attract migrants to regional Australia.”

“The programs developed by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection are flexible, designed to address the special circumstances of rural and regional Australia, and include concessions for regional employers,” Wilden tells IPS.

Most migrants prefer big cities because they are perceived to provide better access to education, employment and health services; and where they are more likely to find people from their cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

The RAI report says. “To be successful in attracting and retaining international migrants, regional communities must work to ensure there are sufficient employment opportunities and availability of quality services and amenities (e.g. affordable housing, education, healthcare, public transport, childcare). In the past decade, there has been a particular focus on secondary migration to regional areas. That is, of relocating international arrivals from metropolitan areas to regional ones. This has been propelled by community partnerships with local businesses and local government initiatives.”

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) offers a five-day Australian Cultural Orientation (AUSCO) program for refugees and migrants in Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Latin America. Funded by Australia’s Department of Social Services, the program has been delivered to over 80,000 people since its inception in 2003.

IOM’s AUSCO program manager Constanze Voelkel-Hutchison tells IPS, “AUSCO is the first step in a cultural orientation journey that continues with an onshore settlement program that starts after our clients arrive in their new home. We provide them with practical advice and information on the departure and resettlement processes.

“At the most basic level, this includes how to pack a suitcase and what to expect upon arrival in Australia. We also provide guidance on the many aspects of their settlement, including employment, education and health. Most importantly, we try to empower participants to become self-sufficient.”

But it is not always easy for international migrants to be accepted in their local regional communities. As Dr David Radford from University of South Australia’s Hawke-European Union Centre for Mobilities, Migrations and Cultural Transformations says, “International migrants, especially non-European background migrants, often also bring cultural, social and religious differences that regional communities, generally more tight-knit, traditional and conservative in nature, can find difficult to embrace.

“On the other hand, there is greater acceptance where international migrants are viewed as supporting population stability and regional growth through meeting employment needs and adding resources for the community.”

“When there are members from both long-term regional communities and international migrants, who are able to bridge and promote relationship and understanding between the two communities, this increases the opportunity for acceptance, participation, and a sense of belonging in the regional community. The reverse occurs when international migrants are not seen to contribute to regional growth and/or the inability of members of local and international migrant communities to bridge social, cultural and religious differences,” Radford tells IPS.

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Merkel’s Defeat Confirms Dismal Trend for Europehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/merkels-defeat-confirms-dismail-trend-europe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=merkels-defeat-confirms-dismail-trend-europe http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/merkels-defeat-confirms-dismail-trend-europe/#comments Fri, 29 Sep 2017 07:40:39 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152283 Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

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Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Sep 29 2017 (IPS)

Generally, media have failed to analyse why the result of German elections is the worst possible. Merkel is not a winner, but a leader now in a very fragile position, who will have to make many compromises and pay now for her mistakes. Let us make at least the most important four points of analysis.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

 

Point One: the decline of traditional parties

Now for some years, the traditional parties who have run their countries since the end of the Second World War are becoming irrelevant. The last French elections saw the practical collapse of the Socialist and Gaullist parties, with the arrival of a totally unknown candidate, Macron, who has now 60% of the seats in the Parliament. The same happened earlier in the Austrian presidential elections.

This process has now started in Germany. Merkel’s party, the CDU, had the worst performance since its creation. And its sister party, CSU (the Bavarian CDU) has lost a staggering million votes. The same has happened to the SPD, who saw the lowest approval since modern times. The two parties, who had in the last elections 67.2% of the votes, now got just 53.2%. And, as everywhere else, the missing votes went to parties who were recipients of discontent, and the desire to punish the establishment was evident. Linke, a radical left-wing party, got an additional 0.6%, by voters rejecting the increasing social inequality, and did not believe that SPD would be different from the CDU on this issue. The Green got an additional 0.5%, by those who were incensed by Merkel’s promise to increase defense costs to 2% of GDP, to please Trump. But the big winner was the AfD, an extreme right wing party, who was the conduit for people’s dissatisfaction on immigrants, on the European Union, and other nationalist and populist themes. AfD got 12.6 % of the votes, becoming the third party and with 96 members of parliament. AfD got 980.000 votes from the CDU, 470.000 from the SPD, 400.000 votes from the Linke. But, much more importantly, 1,200.000 votes from people who did not vote in the last elections. In a poll, 60% of them said that they were “disappointed with the present political situation’. At the same time the poll company Infratest Dimap, found out that 84% considered Germany’s economic situation “good”, when this was 74% four years ago, and a mere 19% eight years ago. The elections were not clearly on economy, but about immigration and the loss of German identity.

Therefore, Macron’s victory over Le Pen is not the end of the populist wave. And few doubt that if Macron loses his appeal (as it is already happening), and his fight for social reforms is stopped by mass manifestations, Le Pen would win the next elections. And the antisystem parties all over Europe did not win in the last elections, but they did not lose eithe. Now they are the needle of the balance in all Nordic countries, and can declare, like Farage , the founder of the anti-Europe party UKIP, when he lost in the last British election: it is irrelevant, our message has become part of all the political system. And Brexit was the best example that he was right…all parties in the Nordic countries had to incorporate points of the populist, especially on immigration.

It has been generally ignored that it is the middle class, the main actor in this change. Social inequality in Europe has constantly grown, and many from the middle class are impoverished or afraid. Germany is a good example. While unemployment went down with Merkel from 11% to 3.8%, those close to the poverty line went from 11% to 17% of the total. Merkel went from a public deficit of 100 billion dollars, to a surplus of 20 billion, but at the same time poverty doubled to 10%, and there are 2 million people who have two jobs to help them reach the end of the month. And the pensioners who live below the poverty line , have increased by 30%. A full 15.7% of Germans now live under the poverty line. Of these, nearly 3 million are children.

Are the fears and frustrations of the middle class only who have pushed Brexit and Trump ? The economist Homi Kharas, specialized on the middle class, considers that 43% of the world population (some 3.200 million) now form the world middle class. It grows every year by 160 million. What is common to them is that especially the lower middle class have high expectations from the government and they put economic growth before anything else. They are helped by the Internet and social media, to be aware of their rights, and of the risks. In rich countries, massive education helps awareness. In developing countries, the pressure on governments is equally strong. The best example is China. Between 2002 and 2011, there has been a strong increase in protests and loss of trust in the public institution, despite a period of economic growth. The fact is that to keep growth and social justice together, you need resources. And this a problem for the left. Its genetic message is redistribution and participation. How to do this when we are in a world of diminishing resources?

 

Point Two. The antisystem becomes an entrenched system

Bill Emmot, the ex-director of the Economist, has written: “we live in a period of political turmoil. Parties less than a year old have taken power in France and in the megalopolis of Tokyo. A party less than five years old is heading the polls in Italy. The White House is hosting a billionaire who never had any political experience. And we should add that before the crisis of 2009, no populist or xenophobe party was represented in Parliament.

We have therefore little experience on how antiparty system behaves when they are in power. But if we look at the United States, Poland and Hungary, clearly they are trying to put under control the public institutions, not because of the values of democracy that brought them to power, but a new campaign on fears and greed: globalization, immigration, automatization’s displacement of jobs, inequality, racism, and “my country first”. And the antisystem parties, who all have sent congratulatory message to the AfD, look to Putin as the political model to follow (except Poland for obvious reasons). But Urban of Hungary speaks openly of “illiberal democracy” as the main reason to combat the EU (and Poland of values of Catholicism against a secular Europe).

It is legitimate then to think that when the AfD, Le Pen, and company will come to power, (if the trend toward antisystem is not stopped), we are going to see a serious decline of democracy…also because we have Japan, India, China, Turkey, Philippines, just to name a few, who are nationalists, xenophobe and tend to project their vision, as the Russian hackers did in the last elections.

We must look at the youth’s decline in participation in politics as a new phenomenon extremely worrying. The priorities in budget allocations go increasingly to the older generations, which vote. It is important to note that the large majority of young people do not vote for the antisystem parties, but abstain. If young people did vote, we would not have Brexit and Trump. In the German elections, only 10% of those between 18 and 24 voted for AfD: all other age groups did so, and we must go to the oldest age group, those over 70 years to see a decline, to just 7% of the vote . But 69 per cent of the oldest voted for CDU and SPD, against 41% of the youngest. So, the theory that young people are moving to the right is a myth. They prefer to abstain…but the problem remains. Their abstention is helping both the system to stay, and the antisystem to win. But take Italy for example, run by a centre left party, the PD. They have just approved an incentive for youth unemployment (close to 30%), after giving 30 billion dollars to bail out four regional banks. The antisystem M5S, which is now heading the polls, has made the fight against the financial system a priority. If you were young, educated and unemployed, what would be your choice?

 

Point Three: German elections are a disaster for Europe

The appeal of an integrated Europe has been on the wane for a while. It became fashionable to present the European institutions as a bunch of unaccountable bureaucrats, out of touch with reality, intent on discussing the size of tomatoes. In fact, it is the Council of Ministers, formed by representative of the States, who take the decisions: EU can only implement them. But it becomes politically convenient to go back from Brussels and present decisions, especially those unpopular, as a diktat imposed on your country. This, of course, is just one of the many reasons for the decline of Europe as a political project. But is useful to remember this game, because it shows the irresponsibility of the political class. There was never a real unity behind the European project. Every country looked only for dividends, and now, not even for that (as the example of Poland and Hungary, very large recipients show). So, where is Europe heading?

There are in fact three visions of Europe. One is the vision of Juncker, the head of the EU. It calls for strengthening the European institutions, and reinforcing the social goals, until now left behind the economic and commercial priorities. It’s not that Juncker is a progressive: he just realizes without doing that, the anti-European parties will have an easier life. His view is of strengthening Europe as a super national entity, with the states conceding more power, for better functioning. Then there is the vision of Macron, who goes in the same direction, but from a country that has always jealously defended its national sovereignty. Yet he realizes that in this competitive world, no European country can go far, and a strong Europe is therefore necessary. Then there is Merkel’s Europe, which is basically toward a federation of countries, where decisions are taken by the states, (with Germany as the strongest), with the EU implementing them. Since Macron came to power, he has been championing the revival of the French-German entente, which is necessary for a viable Europe. Macron and the south of Europe have been asking for socialization of European revenues, so as to sustain the weakest and have a common growth, creating a European Monetary Fund to overcome crisis, a super minister of finance and economy, a common European defence and several social measures to give back faith to the European losers in Europe.

Well, this is exactly what Germany has vetoed every time. Germans do not want to share their revenues with losers. In this debate, there is a strong religious and moral argument: the protestant ethic against catholic culture of easy pardon. Greece was the field to affirm the doctrine of ordo liberalism, the German view of economics, where easy-going and lack of discipline must be punished. This was also a warning to other countries, like Italy, Spain and Portugal. The result of sanctions on Greece, which was just 4% of the European economy, is that after seven years there is at least 20% unemployment, a loss of 25% of the Greek economy, a reduction of the pensions of nearly 40%, and 20% of the population under poverty line. It should not be forgotten that a large component of the bail out loans went first to the banks (mainly German), to pay the large credits they had with the broken Greek state, and not to the citizens. And that now airports and ports are under German administration.

The face of this imposition of austerity, which is a very important component of the anti-European wind, had the face of the implacable and crippled minister of Finance, Schauble. But there was no doubt that he was pro Europe, even if of a Europe based on the German model. But now he has moved to be the President of the Parliament, to leave his place to the chairman of the FPD, the liberal party, Christian Lindner, who is an avowed anti-European. FDP is against the euro, wants Greece out of the Euro, wants a strong policy on refugees: in other words, he is much on the right. Merkel, the extremely prudent Chancellor , will certainly not be able to meet the expectations of Macron and Juncker. Europe will again be on standby. Italy will be probably run by a young PRime Minister (from the antisystem M5S) a totally untested 31 year old, who has announced that he would like to leave the Euro, and limit Brussels power. The tide against Europe has not been stopped at all, contrary to media enthusiasm.

 

Point Four: Merkel’s responsibilities

There is no doubt that the massive immigration of one million of Syrians, has given a strong weapon to Afd, and the liberals, to help them gain power. But time will prove that it was a wise decision, greeted by the German economy. Statistics show that Immigrants are model citizens, pay their taxes, and bring a net benefit to the country who receives them. Of course, we see only the story of criminals and rapists, that xenophobe parties use with success, because in difficult times to find a scapegoat is easy and convenient. But Merkel just rode the German idiosyncrasy, without doing any statist’s effort to mobilize citizens to a vision. She knows that the secret dream of Germans is to be a Swiss: no participation in the world (other than business), no experiments, no risks. She has become the embodiment of that idiosyncrasy – she is glad to be called Mutti, the mother. Other than the immigrants, she took only another risk, which was to abandon nuclear, after the disaster of Fukushima. Therefore, she did nothing to raise the awareness of the citizens on their European responsibilities. She shielded them from any sacrifice for being Europeans, refused any request by the EU, the IMF and the Wold Bank to spend the huge surplus that Germany made with intra-European trade. Her position was: we will keep the money we made with our hard work. And Schauble was just her instrument. Now, as a result of her odd coalition government she will ask the European Central Bank post for a German hawk, Jedemans, from the Bank of Germany: a good company to Christian Lindner. Dark days are coming for Europe; Merkel is the best illustration of the difference between the Germany of Bonn, run by idealist and committed politicians, with the Germany of Berlin, who is just a selfish entity, without vision. And after spending 100 billion a year, for 20 years, East Germany remains hopelessly behind, and it is where AfD took his largest share of votes.

On the night after the elections, the candidate for SPD, Martin Shultz, said looking into her eyes: Mrs Merkel, you are the great loser. You are the one responsible for the victory of AfD. Let us hope that willingly or not, Mutti will be also the one responsible for the end of the European dream.

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More Public Spending, Not Tax Cuts, for Sustainable, Inclusive Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/public-spending-not-tax-cuts-sustainable-inclusive-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=public-spending-not-tax-cuts-sustainable-inclusive-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/public-spending-not-tax-cuts-sustainable-inclusive-growth/#comments Tue, 26 Sep 2017 15:53:25 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152243 Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Tax cuts do not magically improve economic growth. Instead, the government should focus on building more economic capacity with new investments in infrastructure, research and development (R&D), education, and anti-poverty programs. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 26 2017 (IPS)

The Trump administration’s promise to increase infrastructure spending should break the straightjacket the Republicans imposed on the Obama administration after capturing the US Congress in 2010. However, in proportionate terms, it falls far short of Roosevelt’s New Deal effort to revive the US economy in the 1930s.

To make matters worse, reducing budget deficits remains the main economic policy goal of all too many OECD governments. Governments tend to cut social spending if they can get away with it without paying too high a political price.

But OECD governments’ belief that social spending — on health, education, childcare, etc. — is growth inhibiting is sorely mistaken. There is, in fact, overwhelming evidence of a positive relationship between public social spending and growth.

Return of supply-side economics
The cornerstone of all too many OECD government policies is tax cuts, especially for business corporations, ostensibly so that they will invest more with their higher retained earnings. This policy is premised on the long-discredited ‘supply-side economics’ promoted by conservative economists led by Arthur Laffer, popular during the early Reagan-Thatcher era of the 1980s.

But in retrospect, it is clear that the tax cuts by the Reagan administration on high-income households and businesses failed to boost growth in the US. Harvard professor and National Bureau of Economic Research president emeritus Martin Feldstein, President Reagan’s former chief economist, and Douglas Elmendorf, the former Democrat-appointed Congressional Budget Office Director, have shown that the 1981 tax cuts had virtually no net impact on growth.

Similarly, the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts on ordinary incomes, capital gains, dividends and estates also failed to stimulate much growth, if any. In both cases, growth mainly came from other expansionary policies.

The OECD and the IMF also both doubt that tax cuts significantly induce investments. Cross-country research has found no relationship between changes in the top marginal tax rates and economic growth between 1960 and 2010. During this half-century period, although the US cut its top tax rate by over 40 percentage points, it only grew by just over two percent per annum on average. In contrast, Germany and Denmark, which barely changed their top rates at all, experienced similar growth rates.

Thus, tax cuts do not magically improve economic growth. Instead, the government should focus on building more economic capacity with new investments in infrastructure, research and development (R&D), education, and anti-poverty programs. As the IMF’s 2014 World Economic Outlook showed, the impacts of public investment are greatest during periods of low growth.

Social spending for economic recovery
Effective social programs provide immediate benefits to low-income families, enhancing long-term economic growth prospects. Increased income security improves health and increases university enrolment, leading to higher productivity and earnings.

Similarly, nutrition assistance programs improve beneficiaries’ health and cognitive capacities while housing assistance programs have other positive impacts. Investments in education result in a more skilled workforce, raising productivity and earnings as well as spurring innovation. Extra years of schooling are correlated with significant per capita income increases.

Investments in early childhood, including health and education, also enhance economic benefits. The earlier the interventions, the more cost-effective they tend to be; hence, OECD policymakers now promote preschool childcare and education.

Children enjoying early high-quality care and education programs are less likely to engage in criminal behaviour later in life; they are also more likely to graduate from secondary school and university. Reducing preschool costs also effectively raise mothers’ net incomes, inducing them to return to employment.

But the revenue boost from greater growth and productivity due to such social programs may not be enough to prevent rising deficits or debt. However, there are many ways to deal with revenue shortfalls, including new taxes as well as better regulations and enforcement to stem tax evasion. Progressive social protection programs and universal health care provisioning also help improve equity.

The ‘cure’ is the problem
This is not the time to reduce public debt through damaging cuts to social programs when most OECD economies are stagnant and the world economy continues to slow down. Hence, the current OECD priority should be to induce more robust and inclusive growth.

There is simply no robust evidence – old or new – of growth benefits from ‘supply-side’ tax cuts. This is the time for a pragmatic inclusive growth agenda, breaking free of the economic mythology which has held the world economy back for almost a decade.

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Even in School, More Than Half of All Children Aren’t Learning, Says UNESCOhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/even-school-half-children-arent-learning-says-unesco/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=even-school-half-children-arent-learning-says-unesco http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/even-school-half-children-arent-learning-says-unesco/#respond Mon, 25 Sep 2017 14:57:44 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152232 Six out of ten children in the world are not achieving basic proficiency in reading and mathematics, a new report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) shows. The numbers, which estimate 617 million children in the world, includes 387 million who are primary school age and 230 million adolescents of secondary […]

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Students at Motshane Primary School, Mbabane. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 25 2017 (IPS)

Six out of ten children in the world are not achieving basic proficiency in reading and mathematics, a new report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) shows.

The numbers, which estimate 617 million children in the world, includes 387 million who are primary school age and 230 million adolescents of secondary school age. These numbers mean that more than one half, or 56 percent, of all children will not be able to read or perform simple math by the time they reach adolescence. Similarly, adolescents readying to enter the workforce are lacking necessary education and skills.

This snowballing effect has serious implications for the future of achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which aims to achieve equality in quality education to promote “lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

The staggering numbers, however, hide vast regional differences. For instance, one out of three children in this age group, who are unable to complete education, live in sub-Saharan Africa. If this trend continues, 202 million children stand to be affected by a lack of education. The most disadvantaged group is young girls. The report estimates that more than 70 million girls will not be able to read at the minimum level.

The numbers are worrying because many children are in school – and still not learning. Of all 387 million primary aged children, 262 million are in classrooms. Similarly, 137 million adolescents in school are unable to read and write fluently.

“The figures are staggering both in terms of the waste of human potential and for the prospects of achieving sustainable development,” said Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, in a press release.
Montoya said the new data was a “wake-up call” for far greater investment in quality education.

While the global development goals for inclusive education are clear, it has become increasingly clear that access to schools, albeit a first step, is simply not good enough to ensure literacy.

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Gov’t Actions, Not Religion, ‘Tipping Point’ for African Youths Joining Violent Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/govt-actions-not-religion-tipping-point-african-youths-joining-violent-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=govt-actions-not-religion-tipping-point-african-youths-joining-violent-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/govt-actions-not-religion-tipping-point-african-youths-joining-violent-extremism/#respond Mon, 25 Sep 2017 07:45:13 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152216 Government action, rather than religious ideology, is a stronger predictor for radicalization in Africa, according to a two-year landmark study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). A comprehensive report on the study, recently launched at the UN, highlights crucial aspects in the journey towards extremism in Africa. Far less is known about the causes […]

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Credit: UNDP

By Lindah Mogeni
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 25 2017 (IPS)

Government action, rather than religious ideology, is a stronger predictor for radicalization in Africa, according to a two-year landmark study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

A comprehensive report on the study, recently launched at the UN, highlights crucial aspects in the journey towards extremism in Africa.

Far less is known about the causes and consequences surrounding violent extremism in Africa, when compared to other regions – a fact that necessitated the study.

Drawing from interviews with 718 people aged between 17 and 26, 495 of whom were voluntary recruits in some of Africa’s most infamous extremist groups such as Al Shabaab and Boko Haram, the study revealed that 71 percent of the recruits attributed their final decisions to join the extremist groups to some form of government action.

Examples of these ‘tipping point’ government actions include the killing or arbitrary detention of a family member or friend, according to the study.

Asked about African government actions as drivers to extremism, Cheryl Frank, the head of the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) Transnational Threats and International Crime Programme, told IPS that, “factors such as weak access to political and economic participation and corruption drive individuals to join extremist groups.”

Significantly, a majority of the interviewed recruits believe that their governments only cater to the interests of a few, and over 75 percent generally distrust the politicians and public security systems in their countries.

Other key findings from the study, which focuses on the incentives for recruitment into extremist groups, indicate that deprivation and marginalization, bolstered by weak governance and corruption, are the main factors pushing many African youths into violent extremism.

“A majority of the recruits are from borderlands and peripheral areas that are largely isolated…more than half the population living below the poverty line including many chronically under-employed youth,” said UNDP’s Africa Director, Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, at the launch of the report at the UN.

Facing a shortage of economic prospects and lack of civic engagement in these areas, several of the marginalized youth, who are also prone to less parental involvement, are constantly lured into violent extremism.

Employment is ‘the most acute need’ at the time of joining an extremist group, according to the study’s researchers.

Despite a hardened discontent for their governments, hope or excitement was recorded as the most common emotion among recruits when they joined extremist groups, based on the study.

Anger or vengeance came in third or fourth place.

Asked about this significant finding, Mohamed Yahya, UNDP’s Africa Regional Programme Coordinator, told IPS that “recruits see the extremist groups as a ladder towards transformation…by joining these groups, they are eager to improve their impoverished and frustrating situations and only later do they realize the reality and turn to anger.”

UNDP urges for a stronger development focus to security challenges in Africa. “Delivering services, strengthening institutions, creating pathways to economic empowerment – these are development issues,” said Dieye.

Although more than half of the recruits cited religion as the reason for joining an extremist group, 57 percent of the same recruits also admitted to having little to no understanding of the group’s religious doctrine.

Additionally, the study indicates that six years of religious schooling lowered the likelihood of a person joining an extremist group by about 32 percent. This suggests that an actual understanding of one’s religion can be a pull factor from, rather than a push factor towards, extremism.

“Religious education, in conjunction with secular education, tends to provide resilience towards joining these groups,” said Yahya.

Another driver of extremism in Africa, aside from government disaffection, marginalization, deprivation, unemployment and religion, is the lack of identification with one’s country- a common trait among the interviewed recruits.

The journey to extremism is significantly marked by a fractured relationship between the state and its citizens, according to the study.

Notably, recruitment processes in Africa mainly occur on a local and word-of-mouth level rather than via the internet, as is common in other regions. However, this may be subject to change as connectivity expands.

“This study sounds the alarm that as a region, Africa’s vulnerability to violent extremism is deepening,” said Dieye.

There is a need for intervention at a local level, the report indicates. This involves supporting community-led initiatives and amplifying the voices of trusted local actors, with the singular goal of social cohesion.

“What we know for sure is that in the African context, the counter-extremist messenger is as important as the counter-extremist message…the trusted local voice is also essential to reducing the sense of marginalization that can increase vulnerability to recruitment,” said Dieye.

Further, concerning a commitment to human rights law, the report appeals to African governments to reevaluate excessive militarized responses to extremism.

“Government responses that do not adhere to the rule of law or due process may accelerate violent extremism,” said Yahya. Such responses risk joining the ‘tipping point’ government actions that push youths towards these groups.

Asked about alternative government strategies to curb extremism, Frank told IPS that “governments should focus on criminal justice approaches…the suspects should be pursued, investigated, prosecuted and punished appropriately rather than being killed or captured, often in secret operations.”

“This brings the rule of law to the core of actions,” said Frank.

Demonstrating justice in relation to extremist groups helps prevent its members from portraying themselves as soldiers and martyrs, a potentially admirable quality to recruits, rather than criminals.

An estimated 33,300 people in Africa have lost their lives to violent extremist attacks between 2011 and early 2016, according to UNDP.

Sustained action to prevent and respond to violent extremism is urgently needed.

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Parliamentarians a “Fourth Pillar” of Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:56:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152201 Investing in youth and the population dividend, women’s health, sustainable development objectives, and the key role of parliamentarians to promote transparency, accountability and good governance to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development topped the agenda of a two-day conference of Asian and African lawmakers in New Delhi last week. Of course, these are not […]

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In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif/IPS

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif/IPS

By Baher Kamal
ROME/NEW DELHI, Sep 22 2017 (IPS)

Investing in youth and the population dividend, women’s health, sustainable development objectives, and the key role of parliamentarians to promote transparency, accountability and good governance to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development topped the agenda of a two-day conference of Asian and African lawmakers in New Delhi last week.

Of course, these are not easy challenges. But according to the discussions of a representative group of around 50 legislators and experts from the two most populous continents, parliamentarians – as representatives of the stakeholders themselves – must be the “fourth pillar” to promote the 2030 Agenda, along with government, private enterprises, and civil society."If our countries can work together, our distinctive attributes can make a meaningful contribution to achieving sustainable development.” --Teruhiko Mashiko, Vice-Chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population

“It is not just simply a question of adopting particular legislation and budgetary measures,” said Teruhiko Mashiko, Vice-Chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), in his keynote speech.

“Equally vital will be possession of an overarching vision and the conduct of oversight to ensure that the work is being implemented properly. Promoting the global partnerships that have been discussed to date will also be crucial. That is precisely the role that parliamentarians in every country are to fulfill. It is furthermore a role to be fulfilled by parliamentarians both within regions, and between regions.

“Given the law and tax system reforms that will be needed if we are to achieve the SDGs, parliamentarians will have an extremely big role to play,” Mashiko stressed.

Jointly organised by the Japan-based Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) — which is the Secretariat of the JPFP — and the Indian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (IAPPD), the conference approached what has been considered as the key challenge: the linkage between population issues, in particular youth, and the global sustainable development agenda, also known as the SDGs.

Youth

No wonder — while youth in the African continent of 1.2 billion inhabitants face extremely high rates of unemployment, in Asia and the Pacific, nearly 40 million youth – 12 per cent of the youth labour force – were unemployed in 2015. That year, for example, the youth unemployment rate was estimated at around 12.9 per cent in South-East Asia and the Pacific, 11.7 per cent in East Asia and 10.7 per cent in South Asia.

However, despite these apparently moderate youth unemployment rates, young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as 5.4 times in South-East Asia (over four times in Southern Asia).

This region also faces a big gender gap. In South Asia, low female participation (19.9 per cent) is estimated to be nearly 40 percentage points lower than among youth males (53 per cent). And this gender gap in labour force participation rates has been widening over the last decade in South Asia.

“Building societies where every person can live with dignity - this is the essential principle of our parliamentarians’ activities,” Mashiko said.

“One of the principles of the SDGs is that ‘no-one is left behind’. From that perspective, ensuring equality of opportunity to young people, despite their differences in birth and wealth, has a definite meaning. So to that end, ensuring education and employment opportunities ought to be treated as priority issues.”

Population Growth

Growing populations across the world are the biggest hurdle in the path of equitable development, said India’s Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, adding that in order to achieve the SDGs, it is of “utmost importance” for all the countries to take care of their populations.

He stressed that there is a need for large-scale awareness on population issues, and that increasing population has created problems around the entire world regarding sustainable development, employment opportunities and health services.

Ena Singh, the India Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that his country, India, has registered a rapid decline in fertility rates since its Independence and that currently the average fertility rate is 2.2 children, with the challenge now to bring down the total fertility rate to 2.1.

For her part, Marie Rose Nguini Effa, MP from Cameroon and President of the Africa Parliamentary Forum on Population Development, emphasised the Forum’s readiness to work with APDA to promote investment in youth, “which is critical to Africa’s development and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.”

The Inter-Linkage

New Delhi’s meeting is the latest of a series of dedicated Parliamentarian conferences focusing on the inter-linkages between population issues and the 2030 Agenda, examining ways in which both developed and developing countries as equal partners serve to be the driving force to address population issues and achieve sustainable development.

According to the meetings of Parliamentarians organisers, the fundamental underlying concept is that addressing population issues is imperative to attain universal health coverage (UHC), turning the youth bulge into a demographic dividend, achieving food security, promoting regional stability, and building economically viable societies where no one is left behind.

Bigger than the Whole African Population

“India is the world’s largest democracy and home to 1.3 billion people, which is bigger than the whole African population. Being a highly diverse country with a multitude of cultures, languages and ethnicities, India now enjoys one of the fastest economic growth rates,” according to the organisers.

The country’s serious investment in young people is the driving force behind such growth; the pool of well-educated, skilled young people is making the country an IT capital, they said, adding that the Indian economy also has a great influence on the African continent, especially East Africa, due to long-standing historical, cultural and commercial connections between them.

“Furthermore, with its longstanding history of democracy, the power and role of the Parliament of India is well-established and fully exercised, and its democratic system has contributed to promoting unity of diversity and national development.”

Given that addressing population issues calls for an approach to help people to make free and informed RH choices, parliamentarians as representatives of the people have a crucial role to play in this regard as well, they conclude.

The Arab, Asian Youth Bulge

Lawmakers from the Asia and Arab region had gathered last July at a meeting in Amman under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs.”.

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association and the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population, the Asian and Arab Parliamentarians meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development convened on 18-20 July in the Jordanian capital to analyse these challenges and how to address them.

Since its establishment, APDA has been holding an annual Asian Parliamentarians’ Meeting on Population and Development to promote understanding and increase awareness of population and development issues among Japanese, Asian, and Pacific parliamentarians.

APDA sends Japanese and Asian parliamentarians overseas to observe projects conducted by the United Nations Population Fund, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japanese Government.

Similarly, parliamentarians from selected countries are invited to Japan to visit facilities in areas such as population and development, health and medical care.

Through exchanges between lawmakers from Japan and other countries, the programme aims to strengthen cooperation and promote parliamentarians’ engagement in the field of population and development.

“Japan is embracing its aging society, where individuals in every age group are finding uses for their particular skills and attributes, and is planning to build a vibrant society which makes the maximum use of what its older citizens can offer and helping to achieve sustainable development, which is what humanity should be striving for,” Mashiko concluded.

“This may possibly apply equally everywhere throughout the world. Given their population structure and social systems, the situation in the countries from Africa, the Arab world and Asia represented at this conference will be very, very different. However, the very presence of such differences means that if our countries can work together, our distinctive attributes can make a meaningful contribution to achieving sustainable development.”

*With inputs by an IPS correspondent in India.

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Out of Africa: Understanding Economic Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-understanding-economic-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/#comments Tue, 19 Sep 2017 15:19:45 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152132 Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Young African migrants seek opportunities abroad as the World Bank projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

Not a single month has passed without dreadful disasters triggering desperate migrants to seek refuge in Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 2,247 people have died or are missing after trying to enter Europe via Spain, Italy or Greece in the first half of this year. Last year, 5,096 deaths were recorded.

The majority – including ‘economic migrants’, victims of ‘people smugglers’, and so on – were young Africans aged between 17 and 25. The former head of the British mission in Benghazi (Libya) claimed in April that as many as a million more were already on their way to Libya, and then Europe, from across Africa.

Why flee Africa?
Why are so many young Africans trying to leave the continent of their birth? Why are they risking their lives to flee Africa?

Part of the answer lies in the failure of earlier economic policies of liberalization and privatization, typically introduced as part of the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) that many countries in Africa were subjected to from the 1980s and onwards. The World Bank, the African Development Bank and most Western donors supported the SAPs, despite United Nations’ warnings about their adverse social consequences.

SAP advocates promised that private investment and exports would soon follow, bringing growth and prosperity. Now, a few representatives from the Washington-based Bretton Woods institutions admit that ‘neoliberalism’ was ‘oversold’, condemning the 1980s and 1990s to become ‘lost decades’.

While SAPs were officially abandoned in the late 1990s, their replacements were little better. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) of the World Bank and IMF promised to reduce poverty with some modified policy conditionalities and prescriptions.

Meanwhile, the G8 countries reneged on their 2005 Gleneagles pledge to provide an extra US$25 billion a year for Africa as part of a US$50 billion increase in financial assistance to “make poverty history”.

Poor Africa

Thanks to the SAPs, PRSPs and complementary policies, Africa became the only continent to see a massive increase in poverty by the end of the 20th century and during the 15 years of the Millennium Development Goals. Nearly half the continent’s population now lives in poverty.

According to the World Bank’s Poverty in Rising Africa, the number of Africans in extreme poverty increased by more than 100 million between 1990 and 2012 to about 330 million. It projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”.

The continent has also been experiencing rising economic inequality, with higher inequality than in the rest of the developing world, even overtaking Latin America. National Gini coefficients – the most common measure of inequality – average around 0.45 for the continent, rising above 0.60 in some countries, and increasing in recent years.

While the continent is experiencing a ‘youth bulge’, with more young people (aged 15-24) in its population, it has failed to generate sufficient decent jobs. South Africa, the most developed economy in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), has a youth unemployment rate of 54%.

The real situation could be even worse. Discouraged youth, unable to find decent jobs, drop out of the labour force, and consequently, are simply not counted.

Surviving in Africa
Most poor people simply cannot afford to remain unemployed in the absence of a decent social protection system. To survive, they have to accept whatever is available. Hence, Africa’s ‘working poor’ and underemployment ratios are much higher. In Ghana, for example, the official unemployment rate is 5.2%, while the underemployment rate is 47.0%!

Annual growth rates have often exceeded 5% in many African countries in the new century. SAP and PRSP advocates were quick to claim credit for the end of Africa’s ‘lost quarter century’, arguing that their harsh policy prescriptions were finally bearing fruit. After the commodity price collapse since 2014, the proponents have gone quiet.

With trade liberalization and consequently, greater specialization, many African countries are now even more dependent on fewer export commodities. The top five exports of SSA are all non-renewable natural resources, accounting for 60% of exports in 2013.

The linkages of extractive activities with the rest of national economies are now lower than ever. Thus, despite impressive economic growth rates, the nature of structural change in many African economies have made them more vulnerable to external shocks.

False start again?
Africa possesses about half the uncultivated arable land in the world. Sixty percent of SSA’s population work in jobs related to agriculture. However, agricultural productivity has mostly remained stagnant since 1980.

With agriculture stagnant, people moved from rural to urban areas, only to find life little improved. Thus, Africa has been experiencing rapid urbanization and slum growth. According to UN Habitat, 60% of SSA’s urban population live in slums, with poor access to basic services, let alone new technologies.

Powerful outside interests, including the BWIs and donors, have been advocating large farm production, claiming it to be the only way to boost productivity. Several governments have already leased out land to international agribusiness, often displacing settled local communities.

Meanwhile, Africa’s share of global manufacturing has fallen from about 3% in 1970 to less than 2% in 2013. Manufacturing’s share of total African GDP has decreased from 16% in 1974 to around 13% in 2013. At around a tenth, manufacturing’s share of SSA’s output in 2013 is much lower than in other developing regions. Unsurprisingly, Africa has deindustrialized over the past four decades!

One cannot help but doubt how the G20’s new ‘compact with Africa’, showcased at Hamburg, can combat poverty and climate change effects, in addition to deterring the exodus out of Africa, without fundamental policy changes.

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Ending Modern Slaveryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/ending-modern-slavery/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ending-modern-slavery http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/ending-modern-slavery/#comments Tue, 19 Sep 2017 14:29:33 +0000 William Lacy Swing http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152128 William Lacy Swing is Director General of the United Nations Migration Agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM)

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One in four victims of modern slavery were children. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

One in four victims of modern slavery were children. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By William Lacy Swing
NEW YORK, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

Two centuries ago, right here in this city soon to emerge as the world’s center of commerce, a coalition of clergy, government officials, business leaders and rescued victims rose to fight the scourge of human slavery.

Their cause was Abolitionism and it became the world’s first transnational human rights movement.

Thanks to Abolitionism, businesses that depended on human bondage would no longer be tolerated. Soon they would be illegal. Slavery, which had endured since antiquity, was driven first from the English-speaking world and, eventually, everywhere else.

William Lacy Swing

William Lacy Swing

Or was it? We are here this week to examine a problem that’s risen in today’s increasingly globalised economy. To put it in blunt terms, the “chains” of historic slavery have in some cases been replaced with invisible ones: deception, debt bondage, unethical recruitment. It may be an infection buried within the supply chains of sophisticated global industries—like fishing, logging or textile manufacturing.

Or it can be hidden in plain sight—on any street corner where sex is sold for money.

Its victims number in the tens of millions. At any moment in 2016 forced labor—and its twin scourge, forced marriage—enslaved an estimated 40.3 million men, women and children worldwide, this according to research being released here this week during the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.

While many consider slavery a phenomenon of the past, it is a plague that is still very much with us. Criminals worldwide continue to find new ways to exploit vulnerable adults and children, undermine their human rights and extract their labor by force. Whether this takes the form of the sexual enslavement of women or the recruitment and trafficking of men forced to labor, no continent, and no country, is free today of this threat to human rights and human dignity.

At any moment in 2016 forced labor—and its twin scourge, forced marriage—enslaved an estimated 40.3 million men, women and children worldwide
On 19 September, Alliance 8.7, the global partnership to end forced labor, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labor, will bring together key partners representing governments, United Nations (UN) organizations, the private sector, workers’ organizations and civil society to launch new global estimates of modern slavery and child labor.

The global estimate of modern slavery was developed by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with my organization, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is also the United Nations global migration agency.

Accurate and reliable data are vital tools in tackling complex social challenges like modern slavery. The estimates prepared by Alliance 8.7 will not only raise international awareness about such violations, but will also provide a sound basis for policymakers around the world to make strategic decisions and enable development partners to address funding gaps.

Drawing on in-depth responses from thousands of face-to-face interviews conducted in 48 countries, combined with comprehensive data sets about the experiences of victims of human trafficking from the IOM, the global estimates of modern slavery will provide valuable insight into the numbers behind modern slavery with specific information regarding region, group and gender.

Among the findings to be presented here this week:

  • Debt bondage affected half of all victims of forced labor.
  • Women and girls accounted for 71 per cent of total modern slavery victims.
  • One in four victims of modern slavery were children.

Such data, sadly, reveal only one facet of this ongoing tragedy: its global scale. The hard work of rescuing victims reveals how deeply modern slavery affects whole families.

Recently, IOM’s Global Assistance Fund for victims of trafficking and other migrants in vulnerable situations contributed to assisting 600 men from foreign fishing boats enslaved in Indonesian waters. Some had not been on dry land for years. One victim told IOM he had been separated from his family, without any contact, for 22 years.

There should be no mystery as to why this has become such a concern of IOM. We call for migration that is safe, legal and secure for all. Safe and legal migration means mobility managed transparently by the world’s governments, instead of hidden in a labyrinth of criminal netherworlds.

Migration that is secure for all means just that: for all. Governments need not wonder who is sneaking tonight across some unguarded border. Employers need not worry their new hire is, unknown to them, a debt-slave bound to a “recruiter” who is pocketing their pay—even as he or she increases the debt burden on the victim. Families need not dread what has become of a son, or daughter, who leaves home for a distant opportunity—and then is never heard from again.

So please join me in this fight against global slavery. The struggle may be centuries old but, in some ways, it’s just beginning.

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ITUC: The Global Economic Model has Failedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/ituc-global-economic-model-failed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ituc-global-economic-model-failed http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/ituc-global-economic-model-failed/#respond Mon, 18 Sep 2017 11:14:32 +0000 Linda Flood http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152114 The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has declared war on climate change and fears that the global economy is permeated by greed. Secretary General Sharan Burrow makes the point: – Nobody can survive in a world with a temperature increase of 3 or 4 degrees.

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ITUC: The Global Economic Model has Failed - Sharan Burrow at her office in Brussels. Foto: Linda Flood

Secretary General of the ITUC Sharan Burrow at her office in Brussels. Foto: Linda Flood

By Linda Flood
BRUSSELS, Sep 18 2017 (IPS)

Sharan Burrow has just returned from a long weekend in Latin America. In Panama she met with laborers. Out in the real world. That is where she is most at home. Where working conditions are poor. Conditions that she has spent her life trying to change.

It’s Monday at ITUC’s office in Brussels. A first hectic week after the summer is underway. This autumn’s agenda is, as always, the obvious areas of concern for the organization: equality, migration, climate and the eradication of slave labor.

ITUC has launched a campaign that they call “war on climate change”.

– When you consider the losses of life due to weather change and season shifts, it’s already a reality. People are being displaced.

Sharan Burrow scorns the criticism that the ITUC shouldn’t be spending time and money on the climate.

– If you don’t have jobs – you can’t fight for wages and conditions. So if jobs are at risk in the context of climate destruction then it’s our core business.

Among ITUC plans, is to put pressure on the giant pension funds to make sure they make climate smart investments. But pressure and demands are also put on governments, corporations and investors.

ITUC is a confederation of confederations for the world’s trade unions. Sharan Burrow has been Secretary General since 2010 and both represents and is responsible to 176 million members.
– Of all the international bodies that have an influence in the world of work, we are represented there.

The relative importance of organs like the Davos World Economic Forum or the G20 summit for the global labor markets has been downplayed by some critics. But Sharan Burrow doesn’t pay heed to that view.
– People say the G20 is not effective and we could join that critique if solely in terms of implementation, but in terms of establishing an agenda the last G20 reached two very important pieces policies for us. The labor ministers decided that violations of labor rights and human rights could no longer be part of the competition. And they decided that minimum wages had to be based on dignity. That set a framework for fair competition in a global economy that has lost its way.

About 94% of the global supply chains are reliant on a hidden workforce - If you take Latin America, 25 of the largest companies employs 70 million people but only 4 million are employed directly. The rest are a hidden workforce and they are subject to abused fundamental rights and nobody takes responsibility for this
She is both visibly and audibly incensed.

– The global economic model has failed. People are horrified that inequality is growing at such a high rate, well for us it’s not a shock, it’s built into the model.

She is refering to studies that show that about 94% of the global supply chains are reliant on a hidden workforce.

– If you take Latin America, 25 of the largest companies employs 70 million people but only 4 million are employed directly. The rest are a hidden workforce and they are subject to abused fundamental rights and nobody takes responsibility for this.

ITUC’s position is that the importance of a social dialogue is pivotal, and they support the Global Deal initiative launched by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.

– Collective bargaining is under attack, minimum wages are low and social protection isn’t expanding.

At the moment sixteen countries, seventeen unions and seven corporations are in the Global Deal partnership. Several Swedish large companies that Arbetet Global has spoken to question the intitiative, while employer organizations claim the initiative may undermine the efforts of ILO.

– That’s simply an excuse to take no responsibility. Where we don’t have a social dialogue, then it it easier to deny workers collective bargaining. We need to change the rules of the global economy and Sweden is a good model on which to start.

Sharan Burrow hails the economic system and the labor market in Sweden.

– Collective bargaining is the strength of your economy. Why would you want to change that when you have everything? The rest of the world is trying to catch up with you.

As a warning example she mentions the US.

– What we see now are cities that are bargaining for higher minimum wages because there are workers who can’t live off their wages. Nobody in Sweden, nobody in Europe, nobody in the world wants a labor market and working environment like the US.

In the fight for better working conditions ITUC want to see a mandatory monitoring of businesses, so called due diligence. Sharan Burrow wants all companies to make a risk analysis of the working conditions, in terms of potential abuses involved in product safety, product placement or property rights.

– We want to see mandated due diligence but so far France is the only country to legislate for due diligence.

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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South-South trade cooperation key to sustainable and inclusive model of globalizationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/south-south-trade-cooperation-key-sustainable-inclusive-model-globalization/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-south-trade-cooperation-key-sustainable-inclusive-model-globalization http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/south-south-trade-cooperation-key-sustainable-inclusive-model-globalization/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 06:22:38 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152020 Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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South-South trade cooperation key to sustainable and inclusive model of globalization

Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Sep 12 2017 (IPS)

Thanks to globalization and trade liberalization of commodities, services and goods, global trade has reached an unprecedented level. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, world trade in goods was valued at approximately USD 16 trillion. North-North trade generates the highest trade volume at approximately 6 trillion; trade flows within and between countries of the Global South amounts to 4.6 trillion. Trade between the Global South and the Global North -approximately between 2.5 and 3 trillion – add up to less than the trade flows within the Earth’s two main poles.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

With a rapid population growth on the horizon, the potential to increase South-South trade and South-North trade is crucial to maintain economic growth and promote a sustainable and inclusive model of globalization. With more than 80% of the world population living in developing countries, South-South trade has the potential to increase in the years to come and to become a vector for economic growth and prosperity for a major world region whose potential has not been fully tapped during past decades.

The 2017 International Day for South-South Cooperation is an important opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of strengthening and enhancing economic cooperation between the world’s most populous regions. According to the US Energy Information Administration, 7 out of 10 countries with the highest proven oil reserves in the world are located in the Global South (Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Libya). If we look at the world’s diamond producing countries, 4 out of 7 are in thesub-Saharan Africa region (Botswana, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Namibia). Not only does the Global South account for more than 80% of the world population, it is also blessed with abundant natural resources.

There are numerous obstacles to unleashing the full potential of South-South trade cooperation, notably in the Arab region. In 1997, 14 Arab countries took the initiative to establish the Greater Arab Free Trade Area – a pan-Arab free trade and economic union – to spur economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa. This initiative can still become a success story if Arab states agree to remove and to eliminate tariffs hindering trade liberalization from taking full effect. The Gulf Cooperation Council is a good starting point. But even within this grouping which is one of the most successful economic trade block, setbacks occur. In addition, the unprecedented rise of military conflicts in the Arab region has hindered trade and economic growth. Ideological and political differences are still dividing Arab states in different sub-camps. These obstacles are also rife in many other regions in the Global South.

Another fundamental problem impeding better South-South trade cooperation is the current structure of the trade system. Many countries in the Global South are raw material producers with a strong primary sector in which the economic backbone is built primarily on the export of raw materials and commodities. Commodity and raw material prices are subject to volatility spurring social instability, as witnessed during the 2007-2008 world food price crisis or in the recent drop in oil prices. Countries in the Global South need to take further steps to move from a monoculture economy or one based on oil rent to an industrialized economy with a growing service sector as witnessed in the developed world. In the Arab region and especially in oil exporting countries, efforts are being made to diversify the economy despite the persistence of what is currently referred to as the “Dutch disease” (the discovery of natural gas in Groningen, Netherlands, drew all economic factors of production to the gas sector which led to the dereliction of the rest of the economy). The UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in particular are developing robust economic systems by reducing over-reliance on raw materials such as oil and gas. However, many countries in the Global South have not managed to free themselves from the raw material curse.

Countries in the Global South need to take further steps to move from a monoculture economy or one based on oil rent to an industrialized economy with a growing service sector as witnessed in the developed world.
In order to unleash the potential of South-South trade cooperation and ensure the right to development of their communities, countries in the Global South need to renew their commitments to create a global trade agreement that could bring about a meaningful South-South trade partnership. Although efforts were made to promote the Agreement on the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP) as a blueprint for increased South-South cooperation, the GSTP has not materialized owing to differences in the elimination of trade tariffs. In the latest GSTP negations round that were held in Sao Paolo (Brazil), few countries signed the Sao Paolo Round Protocol despite the fact that the GSTP consisted of – at that time – 43 countries including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia. Although the Sao Paolo Round was concluded in 2010, it has not yet become effective owing to the insignificant number of countries signing and ratifying the protocol.

In order for an economic South-South trade agreement to become a reality, countries in the Global South need to ensure that trade policies are in line with the provisions set forth in the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development. The protection of human rights needs to be embedded in all trade agreements of relevance to the Global South. In addition, developed countries must provide for an enabling environment to boost trade and development in developing countries. Unfair trade tariffs, subsidies and economic sanctions – hindering the realization of free trade between the Global South and the Global North – need to be eliminated so as to promote an inclusive and sustainable model of globalization that would serve the interest of the world society.

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