Inter Press Service » Labour http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 29 Jul 2016 18:43:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Chronic Hunger Lingers in the Midst of Plentyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/chronic-hunger-lingers-in-the-midst-of-plenty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chronic-hunger-lingers-in-the-midst-of-plenty http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/chronic-hunger-lingers-in-the-midst-of-plenty/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 23:31:42 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146290 Despite being one of the biggest grain producers of the world, India lags behind on food security with nearly 25 percent of its population going to bed hungry. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Despite being one of the biggest grain producers of the world, India lags behind on food security with nearly 25 percent of its population going to bed hungry. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Jul 28 2016 (IPS)

In a fraught global economic environment, exacerbated by climate change and shrinking resources, ensuring food and nutrition security is a daunting challenge for many nations. India, Asia’s third largest economy and the world’s second most populous nation after China with 1.3 billion people, is no exception.

The World Health Organization defines food security as a situation when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preference for an active and healthy life. The lack of a balanced diet minus essential nutrients results in chronic malnutrition.The global food security challenge is unambiguous: by 2050, the world must feed nine billion people.

According to the Global Hunger Index 2014, India ranks 55 out of the world’s 120 hungriest countries even behind some of its smaller South Asian counterparts like Nepal (rank 44) and Sri Lanka (39).

Despite its self-sufficiency in food availability, and being one of the world’s largest grain producers, about 25 per cent of Indians go to bed without food. Describing malnutrition as India’s silent emergency, a World Bank report says that the rate of malnutrition cases among Indian children is almost five times more than in China, and twice that in Sub-Saharan Africa.

So what are the reasons for India not being able to rise to the challenge of feeding its poor with its own plentiful resources? Experts ascribe many reasons for this deficit. They say the concept of food security is a complex and multi-dimensional one which becomes even more complicated in the context of large and diverse country like India with its overwhelming population and pervasive poverty and malnutrition.

According to Shaleen Jain of Hidayatullah National Law University in India, food security has three broad dimensions — food availability, which encompasses total food production, including imports and buffer stocks maintained in government granaries. Food accessibility- food’s availability or accessibility to each and every person. And thirdly, food affordability- an individual’s capacity to purchase proper, safe, healthy and nutritious food to meet his dietary needs.

Pawan Ahuja, former Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, says India’s problems result mostly from a deeply flawed public distribution system than anything else. “Despite abundant production of grains and vegetables, distribution of food through a corruption-ridden public distribution system prevents the benefits from reaching the poor,” says Ahuja.

There are other challenges which India faces in attaining food security, adds the expert. “Natural calamities like excessive rainfall, accessibility of water for irrigation purpose, drought and soil erosion. Further, lack of improvement in agriculture facilities as well as population explosion have only made matters worse.”

India's agriculture sectors have to bolster productivity by adopting efficient business models and forging public-private partnerships. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

India’s agriculture sectors have to bolster productivity by adopting efficient business models and forging public-private partnerships. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

To grapple with its food security problem, India operates one of the largest food safety nets in the world — the National Food Security Act 2013. India’s Department of Food and Public Distribution, in collaboration with World Food Program, is implementing this scheme which provides a whopping 800 million people (67 percent of the country’s population or 10 percent of the world’s) with subsidised monthly household rations each year. Yet the results of the program have been largely a hit and miss affair, with experts blaming the country’s entrenched corruption in the distribution chain for its inefficacy.

The global food security challenge is unambiguous: by 2050, the world must feed nine billion people. To feed those hungry mouths, the demand for food will be 60 percent greater than it is today. The United Nations has set ending hunger and achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture as the second of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the year 2030.

“To achieve these objectives requires addressing a host of critical issues, from gender parity and ageing demographics to skills development and global warming,” elaborates Sumit Bose, an agriculture economist.

According to the economist, India’s agriculture sectors have to bolster productivity by adopting efficient business models and forging public-private partnerships. Achieving sustainability by addressing greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste are also crucial, he adds.

To work towards greater food security, India is also working in close synergy with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which is not only an implementer of development projects in the country, but also a knowledge partner, adding value to existing technologies and approaches. The agency has helped India take the holistic “seed to plate” approach.

Also being addressed are challenges like livelihoods and access to food by poorer communities, sustainability of water and natural resources and soil health have moved centre stage. The idea, say experts, is to augment India’s multilateral cooperation in areas such as trans-boundary pests and diseases, livestock production, fisheries management, food safety and climate change.

FAO also provides technical assistance and capacity building to enable the transfer of best practices as well as successful lessons from other countries to replicate them to India’s agriculture system. By strengthening the resilience of smallholder farmers, food security can be guaranteed for the planet’s increasingly hungry global population while also whittling down carbon emissions.

“Growing food in a sustainable way means adopting practices that produce more with less in the same area of land and use natural resources wisely,” advises Bose. “It also means reducing food losses before the final product or retail stage through a number of initiatives including better harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure, market mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.

“India is a long way off from all these goals. The current dispensation would do well to work towards them if it aims to bolster India’s food security and feed its poor.”

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African Leaders Driving Push for Industrialisation: UN Officialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/african-leaders-driving-push-for-industrialisation-un-official/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:48:56 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146270 The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2016 (IPS/G77)

Industrialisation in Africa is being driven by African leaders who realise that industries as diverse as horticulture and leather production can help add value to the primary resources they currently export.

This is an “inside driven” process, Li Yong, Director General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) told IPS in a recent interview. “I’ve heard that message from the African leaders.”

The African Union ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want’ sets out a plan to transform the economy of the 54 countries in Africa based on manufacturing, said Li.

The process received support from the UN General Assembly on Monday with a new resolution titled the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (2016-2025).

The resolution was sponsored by the Group of 77 (G77) developing countries and China in collaboration with the African Union, said Li.

“These steps create a momentum that all “industrialization stakeholders” in Africa must take advantage of,” said Li.

The resolution called on UNIDO to work together with the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the Economic Commission for Africa to work towards sustainable industrialisation in Africa over the next 10 years.

The types of industrialisation African countries are embracing often involves adding value to the primary commodities, from mining or agriculture, that they are already producing.

It includes horticultural industry, notably in Kenya, Ethiopia and Senegal, beneficiation, adding value to minerals mined in Botswana, and shoe and garment manufacturing in Ethiopia, said Li.

However Li noted that in order to attract foreign investment in industrialisation, developing countries need to “do their homework.”

This can include building the necessary business infrastructure required for new industries in industrial parks.
“We have already seen some countries move ahead with attracting investments into industrial parks (including) Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa,” said Li.

Li pointed to recent examples from Ethiopia and Senegal, where the respective governments have invested millions of dollars in building industrial parks to attract foreign investors that create jobs and exports for these two Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Currently, there are 48 LDCs around the world, of which 34 are in Africa.

Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

The decent work and value addition that come with industrialisation are considered a key way that these LDCs can grow, transform and diversify their economies and become middle income countries. Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

LDCs in Africa have had “very low and declining shares of manufacturing value added in GDP since the 1970s”, noted Li.
By investing in industry, these countries can add value to their primary exports, including through agro-industry, as is the case in Ethiopia, whose main exports include coffee, gold, leather products and live animals. “Manufacturing connects agriculture to light industry” noted Li, such as through food processing, garments and textiles, wood and leather processing.

Moreover, industrialisation does not necessarily have to be incompatible with the shift to a low carbon economy, said Li, since use of resource and energy efficient production methods and renewable energy in productive activities such as agro-industry, beneficiation, and in manufacturing, in general, will lead the economy onto a low carbon path.

The world’s least developed countries are following in the footsteps of other countries which have already achieved development, in part due to the industrialisation of their economies.

LDCs are “really eager to learn from those countries (that have) already gone through this process so that is why we have established South-South cooperation,” said Li.

However industrialisation does not only benefit the developing countries which want to attract it.

“Firms in today’s manufacturing powerhouses such as China, India and Brazil that are faced with rising wages at home are searching for locations that offer competitive wages, and appropriate infrastructure,” said Li.

With populations in many countries around the world beginning to age, Africa also has a comparative advantage to offer with growing young populations in many African countries.

“With its young and growing population, some indications show that Africa has the potential to become the next region to benefit from industrialization, particularly in labor-intensive manufacturing sectors,” said Li.

By providing employment and opportunities for these young people at home, industrialisation can also address other issues, including migration, inequalities and climate change, noted Li.

“Industry means creating jobs and incomes and industrial jobs partially reduce the pressure on migration and also resolve the root causes,” he said.

The Role of the G77

Li noted that UNIDO works closely with all developing countries, often through the Group of 77 and China, which represents 134 developing countries at the UN.

“The G77 and China has diverse membership, including Least Developed Countries, Land Locked Developing Countries, Small Islands Developing States, and Middle Income Countries, located in almost all regions of the world and with diverse range of priorities with respect to industrial development,” he said.

“In LDCs, labor-intensive manufacturing is promoted to create jobs.”

“In middle-income countries moving up the technology ladder into higher value added manufacturing is targeted.”
This can include collaborations with “science, technology and research and development institutions, targeted foreign investment promotion, and other relevant services,” said Li.

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List of Acts President Must Do for Disaster Risk Reduction and Managementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/list-of-acts-president-must-do-for-disaster-risk-reduction-and-management/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=list-of-acts-president-must-do-for-disaster-risk-reduction-and-management http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/list-of-acts-president-must-do-for-disaster-risk-reduction-and-management/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:35:12 +0000 Editor Manila Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146271 By Editor, The Manila Times, Philippines
Jul 27 2016 (Manila Times)

President Rody Dutuerte’s SONA could not possibly give details about every important program of his administration. But a SONA does mark for the people which activities a president thinks should be given top priority.

Disaster response together with disaster risk reduction should be treated as a high priority by any president. The people, specially the poorest among us, suffer a lot because of natural and recurring disasters brought about by heavy rains and typhoons. May God will the predicted earthquakes to never come. Our entire country suffers because these disasters cause heavy economic losses.

President Duterte apparently ranks disaster response as a high priority because he mentioned it along with some of the important concerns. He said, “We will continue to expand cooperation on human assistance, disaster response, maritime security and counter terrorism. We shall deepen security dialogues with other nations to build greater understanding and cooperation.” And in many parts of his speech, when talking about the environment and working with DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, he was obviously thinking of how to spare the people from suffering from weather and environmental degradation.

We agree with the civil society organization (CSO) Disaster Risk Reduction Network Philippines or NetPhils that the following are the most urgent and immediate priority acts the President and his DRR people should do–before anything else–for effective disaster risk reduction and management:

1. Certify as urgent the passage of an amendatory bill to Republic Act 10121 that will establish an independent National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority.

2. Certify as urgent the passage of a comprehensive legislation that will protect and promote the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially in disaster and conflict-affected areas.

3. Direct the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to immediately take action on Yolanda reconstruction and recovery issues and fast track implementation of reconstruction programs in Yolanda–affected areas particularly on resilient human settlements.

4. Direct the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to issue a clear policy guideline on the proactive use of the National DRRM Fund particularly for high risk and low-income LGUs.

5. Direct the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to intensify inclusive capacity building programs and ensure that Local DRRM Offices are functional and that permanent DRRM Officers are in place.

6. Direct the NDRRMC to create a program supporting the establishment of safe, resilient, and multi-purpose evacuation centers, prioritizing high-risk and vulnerable areas.

7. Direct the NDRRMC to issue a clear policy guideline to ensure inclusive participation and representation of CSOs at the local level.

8. Direct the NDRRMC to develop a Magna Carta for DRRM Workers and volunteers.

9. Direct the NDRRMC to ensure accountability of public officials as stipulated in Republic Act 10121.

NetPhils issued a press statement urging the President to really give this concern top priority. The statement contains these proposed actions.

We pray the President gets to read it or is at least made aware by his aides of this priority list.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Climate Migrants Lead Mass Migration to India’s Citieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/climate-migrants-lead-mass-migration-to-indias-cities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-migrants-lead-mass-migration-to-indias-cities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/climate-migrants-lead-mass-migration-to-indias-cities/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 21:20:44 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146243 Migrants arrive daily at New Delhi railway stations from across India fleeing floods and a debilitating drought. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Migrants arrive daily at New Delhi railway stations from across India fleeing floods and a debilitating drought. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

Deepa Kumari, a 36-year-old farmer from Pithoragarh district in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, lives in a one-room tenement in south Delhi’s Mongolpuri slum with her three children. Fleeing devastating floods which killed her husband last year, the widow landed up in the national capital city last week after selling off her farm and two cows at cut-rate prices.

“I was tired of putting back life’s pieces again and again after massive floods in the region each year,” a disenchanted Kumari told IPS. “Many of my relatives have shifted to Delhi and are now living and working here. Reorganising life won’t be easy with three young kids and no husband to support me, but I’m determined not to go back.”Of Uttarakhand's 16,793 villages, 1,053 have no inhabitants and another 405 have less than 10 residents.

As flash floods and incessant rain engulf Uttarakhand year after year, with casualties running into thousands this year, burying hundreds under the debris of collapsing houses and wrecking property worth millions, many people like Kumari are abandoning their hilly homes to seek succour in the plains.

The problem, as acknowledged by Uttaranchal Chief Minister Harish Rawat recently, is acute. “Instances of landslips caused by heavy rains are increasing day by day. It is an issue that is of great concern,” he said.

Displacement for populations due to erratic and extreme weather, a fallout of climate change, has become a scary reality for millions of people across swathes of India. Flooding in Jammu and Kashmir last year, in Uttarakhand in 2013 and in Assam in 2012 displaced 1.5 million people.

Cyclone Phailin, which swamped the coastal Indian state of Orissa in October 2013, triggered large-scale migration of fishing communities. Researchers in the eastern Indian state of Assam and in Bangladesh have estimated that around a million people have been rendered homeless due to erosion in the Brahmaputra river basin over the last three decades.

With no homes to call their own, migrants displaced by flooding and drought live in unhygienic shanties upon arriving in Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

With no homes to call their own, migrants displaced by flooding and drought live in unhygienic shanties upon arriving in Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Daunting challenges

Research done by Michael Werz at the Center for American Progress forecasts that South Asia will continue to be hard hit by climate change, leading to significant migration away from drought-impacted regions and disruptions caused by severe weather. Higher temperatures, rising sea levels, more intense and frequent cyclonic activity in the Bay of Bengal, coupled with high population density levels will also create challenges for governments.

Experts say challenges for India will be particularly daunting as it is the seventh largest country in the world with a diversity of landscapes and regions, each with its own needs to adapt to and tackle the impacts of climate change.

Several regions across India are already witnessing large-scale migration to cities. Drought-impacted Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are seeing a wave of migration as crops fail. Many people have been forced to leave their parched fields for India’s cities in search of work. Drought has affected about a quarter of India’s 1.3 billion people, according to a submission to the Supreme Court by the central government in April.

Rural people have especially been forced to “migrate en masse”, according to a recent paper published by a group of NGOs. Evidence of mass migration is obvious in villages that are emptying out. In Uttaranchal, nine per cent of its villages are virtually uninhabited. As per Census 2011, of Uttarakhand’s 16,793 villages, 1,053 have no inhabitants and another 405 have less than 10 residents. The number of such phantom villages has surged particularly after the earthquake and flash floods of 2013.

The intersection of climate change, migration and governance will present new challenges for India, says Dr. Ranjana Kumari, director of the Center for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank which does rehabilitation work in many flood- and drought-affected Indian states. “Both rural and urban areas need help dealing with climate change. Emerging urban areas which are witnessing inward migration, and where most of the urban population growth is taking place, are coming under severe strain.”

Tardy rescue and rehabilitation

Apparently, the Indian government is still struggling to come to terms with climate change-induced calamities. Rescue and rehabilitation has been tardy in Uttaranchal this year too with no long-term measures in place to minimise damage to life and property. In April, a group of more than 150 leading economists, activists, and academics wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling the government’s response “listless, lacking in both urgency and compassion”.

The government has also come under fire for allocating a meagre 52.8 million dollars for climate change adaptation over the next two financial years, a sum which environmental experts say is woefully inadequate given the size of the country and the challenges it faces.

Experts say climate migration hasn’t been high on India’s policy agenda due to more pressing challenges like poverty alleviation, population growth, and urbanisation. However, Shashank Shekhar, an assistant professor from the Department of Geology at the University of Delhi, asserts that given the current protracted agrarian and weather-related crises across the country, a cohesive reconstruction and rehabilitation policy for migrants becomes imperative. “Without it, we’re staring at a large-scale humanitarian crisis,” predicts the academician.

According to Kumari, climate change-related migration is not only disorienting entire families but also altering social dynamics. “Our studies indicate that it’s mostly men who migrate from the villages to towns or cities for livelihoods, leaving women behind to grapple with not only households, but also kids, the elderly, farms and the cattle. This brings in not only livelihood challenges but also socio-cultural ones.”

Geetika Singh of the Centre for Science and Environment, who has travelled extensively in the drought-stricken southern states of Maharashtra as well as Bundelhkand district in northern Uttar Pradesh, says the situation is dire.

“We’ve seen tiny packets of water in polythene bags being sold for Rs 10 across Bundelkhand,” Singh said. “People are deserting their homes, livestock and fields and fleeing towards towns and cities. This migration is also putting a severe strain on the urban population intensifying the crunch for precious resources like water and land.”

A study titled “Drinking Water Salinity and Maternal Health in Coastal Bangladesh: Implications of Climate Change” 2011 has highlighted the perils of drinking water from natural sources in coastal Bangladesh. The water, which has been contaminated by saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels, cyclone and storm surges, is creating hypertension, maternal health and pregnancy issues among the populace.

Singh, who travelled extensively in Bangladesh’s Sunderbans region says health issues like urinary infections among women due to lack of sanitation are pretty common. “High salinity of water is also causing conception problems among women,” she says.

Until the problem is addressed on a war footing, factoring in the needs of all stakeholders, hapless people like Deepa will continue to be uprooted from their beloved homes and forced to inhabit alien lands.

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Fertilizer Access Grows Farmers, Food and Financehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/fertilizer-access-grows-farmers-food-and-finance/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 11:07:24 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146220 Smallholder farmers prosper if they have access to knowledge and use of inputs such as fertilizers and credit. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Smallholder farmers prosper if they have access to knowledge and use of inputs such as fertilizers and credit. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
LOUIS TRICHARDT, South Africa, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

Brightly coloured cans, bags of fertilizer and packets containing all types of seeds catch the eye upon entering Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop tucked at the corner of a roadside service station.

But her seeds and fertilizers have not exactly been flying off the shelves since Khorommbi opened the fledging shop six years ago. Her customers: smallholder farmers in the laid back town of Sibasa, 72 kilometers northeast of Louis Trichardt in Limpopo, one of South Africa’s provinces hard hit by drought this year. The reason for the slow business is that smallholder farmers cannot access, let alone effectively use plant-nourishing fertilizers to improve their low productivity.

“Some of the farmers who walk into my shop have never heard about fertilizers and those who have, do not know how to use them effectively,” Khorommbi told IPS said on the sidelines of a training workshop organised by the International Fertilizer Association (IFA)-supported African Fertilizer Volunteers Program (AFVP) to teach smallholders farmers and agro dealers like her about fertilizers in Limpopo.

Khorommbi, describing information as power, says fledging agro-dealer businesses are a critical link in the food production chain. Agro-dealers, who work at the village level, better understand and are more accessible to smallholder farmers, who in many cases rely on the often poorly resourced government extension service for information on improving productivity.

“Smallholder farmers can make the change in food security through better production, one of whose key elements is fertilizer,” said Khrorommbi, one of more than 100 agro-dealers in the Vhembe District of Limpopo.

An assistant checks stock in Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop in Vhembe District, Limpopo, South Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

An assistant checks stock in Nancy Khorommbi’s agro dealer shop in Vhembe District, Limpopo, South Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Growing knowledge, growing farmers

Noting the knowledge gap on fertilizers, the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), supported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and private sector partners, launched Agribusiness Support to the Limpopo Province (ASLP) in 2015 which has trained over 100 agro-dealers in the Province.

The project promotes the development of the agro dealer hub model, where established commercial agro dealers service smaller agro dealers and agents in the rural areas, who in turn better serve smallholder farmers by putting agricultural inputs within easy reach and at reasonable cost. The AFVP aims to attract the private sector in South Africa – a net fertilizer importer – to developing the SMEs sector in the fertilizer value chain focusing on smallholder farmers and agro dealers.

Smallholder farmers hold the key to feeding Africa, including South Africa, but their productivity is stymied by poor access to inputs and even effective markets for their produce, an issue the FAO believes private and public sector partnerships can solve.

AFAP and a private company, Kynoch Fertilizer, have embarked on an entrepreneurship development program for smallholder farmers and agro dealers in the Limpopo province, one of the country’s bread baskets, in an effort to help close the ‘yield gap’ among smallholder farmers.  Smallholder farmers and agro dealers have been trained on fertilisers, soils, plant nutrients, safe storage of fertilizers, environmental safety and business management skills.

“By using more fertilisers correctly, South Africa’s smallholder farmers can grow more and nutritious food, achieve household food security, create jobs, increase incomes and boost rural development,” AFAP’s Vice-President, Prof. Richard Mkandawire, told IPS. “To grow and support SMEs in Africa is the pathway if we are to reduce hunger and poverty. The future of South Africa is about growing those rural enterprises that will support smallholder farmers and employment creation.’

In 2006, African Heads of State and Government signed the Abuja Declaration at a Fertilizer Summit in Nigeria committing to increase the use of fertilizer in Africa from the then-average 8kg per hectare to 50kg per hectare by 2015 to boost productivity. Ten years later, only a few countries have attained this goal.

Mkandawire said research has established that for every kilogram of nutrients smallholder farmers apply to their soils, they can realize up to 30kg in additional products.

Research has shown that smallholder farmers in South Africa in general do not apply optimum levels of fertilizers owing to high cost, poor access and low awareness about the benefits of providing nutrition for the soil.

Fertilizer Registrar and Director in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests (DAFF) in Limpopo Province Jonathan Mudzunga says smallholder farmers have structural difficulties in getting much needed fertilizers, a critical input in raising crop yields and providing business and employment creation opportunities for agro dealers.

“Commercial farmers are successful because they have access to inputs such as fertilizers and knowledge and it does not mean smallholder farmers are having challenges because they do not know how to farm but the biggest issue is knowledge and access to affordable inputs,” Mudzunga said.

Agriculturalist at Kynoch, Schalk Grobbelaar, says smallholder agricultural production in Limpopo is hampered by, amongst other things, low use of productivity-enhancing inputs such as fertilizers, seeds and crop protection products; animal feeds and veterinary medicines for livestock.

“Fertilizer increase yields. We fertilize what crops will take away and we put back into the soil but farmers lack knowledge on the balancing fertilizers according to what crops need,” said Grobbelaar.

Agriculture support is food business

The South African government is promoting SME development and growth of smallholder farmers who are key to tackling food insecurity at household level.

Despite their high contribution to economic growth and job creation, SME’s are challenged by among other factors, funding and access to finance, according to the 2015/16 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report. Lack of finance is a major reason for SMEs – which contribute 45 percent to South Africa’s GDP- leaving a business in addition to the poor management skills which are a result of lack of adequate training and education.

While the country produces more than enough food for all, many South Africans do not access the right amount and type of food, says a 2014 report by the Southern Africa Food Lab, an organisation promoting food security in the region.

“Poor South Africans are not able to spend money on a diverse diet. Instead the only option to facilitate satiety and alleviate hunger is to feed family members large portions of maize meal porridge that do not address nutritional needs,” according to Laura Pereira, author of the Food Lab report.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, bemoaning underinvestment in Africa’s agriculture, said innovation from farm to market was one solution to turning the sector – employing half of the continent’s population – into a thriving business.

“African farmers need better tools to avoid disasters and grow a surplus – things like seeds that can tolerate droughts, floods, pests, and disease, affordable fertilizer that includes the right mix of nutrients to replenish the soil,” Gates said when he presented the 14th Nelson Mandela Lecture in Pretoria, South Africa last week.

Gates said farmers need to be connected to markets where they can buy inputs, sell their surplus and earn a profit and for them to reinvest in into the farm. That in turn provides on and off the farm employment opportunities and supports a range of local agribusinesses.

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Modern-day Slavery in Oman? Domestic Workers in Perilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 14:45:13 +0000 Dominique Von Rohr http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146210 Domestic migrant workers from South and South-East Asia are now considered  Oman's "modern-day slaves". Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Domestic migrant workers from South and South-East Asia are now considered Oman's "modern-day slaves". Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

By Dominique Von Rohr
ROME, Jul 25 2016 (IPS)

In order to escape poverty and support their families back home, thousands of domestic workers from South and South-East Asia migrate to Oman with the promise of stable employment in local households.

Once they arrive in Oman, new employers often seize their passports so that they cannot depart when they want, ultimately, denying them their freedom of movement.

They are made subject to excessive working hours, sleep deprivation and starvation. Many suffer from verbal or sexual abuse.

All too often, the money they work so hard for is denied to them. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, a great number of female migrant domestic workers fall prey to such abusive employment, and become Oman’s modern-day slaves.

The country’s visa sponsorship system, known as kafala, as well as the absence of labour law protections for domestic workers make migrant workers highly vulnerable to exploitation.

The kafala creates an “unbreakable” tie between the migrant worker and their employer, which means that the migrant worker’s visa is directly conditioned by the employer.

This prohibits migrant workers from switching jobs, even if they face abuse at their workplace. At least 130’000 migrant domestic workers are affected by the kafala system.

Families in Oman acquire their services through recruitment companies, employing them to take care of their children, cook meals, and clean their homes.

The recruitment companies typically ask for a fee to be paid for the mediation, and several migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that their employers demanded they pay them back the recruitment fee in order to be released from their service.

Employers can force domestic workers to work without rest, pay, or food, knowing they can be punished if they escape, while the employers rarely face penalties for abuse”, Rothna Begum, a Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, confirms.

A report from Human Rights Watch also stated that women who decide to escape their abusive employment often face legal penalties.

Asma K., a domestic worker from Bangladesh, told Human Rights Watch that she was not only “sold” to a man, her passport had also been taken away from her, and she was forced to work 21 hours a day tending to the needs of 15 people.

Asma was both sexually and verbally abused, denied of her right to a fair wage in addition to being deprived of food. Many other female domestic workers share Asma K.’s story.

Once a migrant worker has escaped an abusive employer, very few options remain. If the women go back to the agencies that recruited them, the agents often beat them and forcefully place them into new families.

The Omani police offers little help, usually dismisses the domestic workers’ claim, and returns them to the family they came from, where in several cases, the workers are assaulted by their employers, Human Rights Watch says.

Some women risk getting reported as “absconded”, an offense which can lead to their deportation or even a criminal complaint against them.

While several Omani lawyers confirm that they have no confidence in Oman’s labour dispute settlement procedure or courts for redress for domestic workers, some embassy officials dissuade domestic workers from even fighting for their case, due to the lengthy process and the high probability of facing defeat.

This process eventually leads to workers returning to their home countries without pay, with the dream of providing for their families shattered and no hope for justice.

In order to protect its nationals from abusive employment, Indonesia has banned migration to Oman, as well as other countries with a similar history of migrant labour abuse.

However, such bans often have an opposite effect, leaving those most desperate for work vulnerable to traffickers or forced labour as they try to sidestep their own country’s restrictions.

Human Rights Watch states that several countries do not protect their nationals against abusive employment, nor do they provide help to those who fall victim to trafficking, abuse and mistreatment living abroad.

In 2012, Oman promised the United Nations Human Rights Council to look for alternatives to the kafala system, however, Human Rights Watch states that no concrete proposal has since been made, and up until now, Oman’s labour law does not protect domestic workers.

In April 2016, a Ministry of Manpower official stated in the Times of Oman that Oman is considering protecting domestic workers under its labour law, however, when requested for information on possible law reforms or other measures to protect domestic workers, the Omani government remained silent.

Human Rights Watch states that Oman was further criticized by the United States government for not demonstrating increased efforts to address human trafficking.

In 2015, there were only five prosecutions on sex trafficking, with no prosecutions on forced labour at all.

In order to provide protection for domestic workers, Human Rights Watch urges Oman to revise the kafala system, and advises it to cooperate with the countries of origin to help prevent exploitation.

Instead of punishing migrant domestic workers for escaping their appalling conditions, they should be granted justice by means of fair prosecutions against those who manipulated, scorned and abused them.

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Ramifications of Terror Attacks in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/ramifications-of-terror-attacks-in-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ramifications-of-terror-attacks-in-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/ramifications-of-terror-attacks-in-bangladesh/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 13:37:34 +0000 Fahmida Khatun http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146108 By Dr Fahmida Khatun
Jul 18 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

At a time when Bangladesh has broken the 6 percent growth trap and has begun its journey towards achieving a faster growth of about 7 percent, and at a time when Bangladesh has achieved the status of a lower middle income country with a per capita income of USD1314 in 2015, it experiences the greatest shock in recent times. This has suddenly changed the perspective on Bangladesh. The ruthless killing of 20 lives, including 17 foreigners at the Holey Artisan Bakery of Gulshan in Dhaka on July 1, 2016, by terrorists has brought new realities for Bangladesh. A country which boasts to be a moderately Islamic country, holding the values of Islam yet being tolerant to other religions and a country that is reputed for its warmth and hospitality towards foreign nationals, has come under the global radar due to the brutality of recent terror attacks. While the grief for the lost lives is going to make a permanent place in our hearts, the implications of this painful episode on other spheres of lives cannot be ignored either.

Photo: Prabir Das

Photo: Prabir Das

Economic development of Bangladesh is apprehended to bear the brunt of this incident. Countries which lost their citizens on that horrifying night – Japan, Italy and India – are all important partners of Bangladesh’s development. Japan is the largest bilateral donor for Bangladesh. In 2015, the country disbursed USD366 million as foreign aid. Recently, Japan signed its 37th Official Development Assistance Loan Package for Bangladesh, which amounts to USD 1.65 billion, the largest ever in the history of Japan’s ODA to Bangladesh, at an interest rate of 0.01 percent and repayment period of 40 years, including a 10-year grace period. About 230 Japanese companies have invested in Bangladesh, mostly in export processing zones; the investment amount is equivalent to USD 250 million. Japanese support and investment are in sectors such as disaster management, infrastructural development including power plants, deep sea port and metro rail. Tragically, the seven Japanese who were killed during the Dhaka terror attack were working for Bangladesh’s metro-rail development project. Bangladesh’s exports to Japan were worth USD 615 million in 2015, of which the share of RMG was USD 448 million.

As for Italy, it is one of the important export destinations for Bangladeshi products, particularly readymade garments. In 2015, Bangladesh exported goods worth USD 1,170 million, of which USD 1,070 million constituted of apparels. Italy is also a source of remittance for Bangladesh. On the other hand, India’s aid disbursement amounted to about USD 93 million, while exports from Bangladesh to India were worth USD 542 million in 2015. Bangladesh expects these countries to continue supporting its efforts in achieving sustainable economic growth and poverty alleviation in the coming days. The assurance of the prime ministers of the respective countries to work together towards counter-terrorism is the recognition of the fact that terrorism is now a global phenomenon which kills people across the globe – Dhaka, Istanbul, Paris, Nice, Iraq.

On its part, Bangladesh has to work hard in bringing back the confidence of investors, development partners and the foreign community. The damage has already been done through worldwide media coverage. Now Bangladesh needs to reassure foreigners working here about their safety. The government has beefed up the security of the diplomatic zone in Gulshan and Baridhara, and other important places, including the Dhaka airport. But there are also foreign consultants and officials involved with projects, who are working at the field level. Their safety should also be ensured. We should also be careful in sending out our messages to the global community. While the Prime Minister fears more terror attacks in the country, some ministers are probably trying to show a brave face, dispelling possible negative impacts of the recent terror attacks in Bangladesh.

But the terror attack at Holey Artisan Bakery has been taken very seriously by the diplomatic community and development partners working in Dhaka. Some of them have given their officials the option to send their families to their respective countries, and many officials have already started to move their families out of Dhaka. Some are considering continuing their operation through regional offices, such as Delhi or Bangkok. We hope that this will not have any negative impact on the size of their operation in Bangladesh. But this obviously is an indication of the insecurity felt by foreigners in Bangladesh. This will have an impact on prospective investors and visitors to Bangladesh. As an important sourcing destination of apparels, the country may face new challenges if buyers do not feel secure to come to Bangladesh, and if they place their orders in other countries.

The shocking revelation of the terrorists’ social background has prompted us to reflect on our education system, particularly that of the private universities where some of these terrorists studied. Run like private banks, some of these universities have made education a commodity, through which they can mint money. Many of these universities do not have a registrar or a proctor, and the Vice Chancellor has no say at the board room. Several of these universities have mushroomed through high profile connections without any plans for human resources and curriculum. Borrowed teachers from public universities often find no reason to be an integral part of the university. The curriculum of these universities does not include holistic education that helps students to become enlightened human beings. Instead, they try to cater to the need of the corporate world, sprinkling a bit of everything in the syllabus. It is time to bring an overall change in the education system.

Globally, the impact of terrorism has been manifested through reduced growth, mainly due to higher government expenditure for actions against counter-terrorism and loss of investment. The new reality dictates that Bangladesh has to strategise its security measures with the help of its friends so that its growth momentum can continue.

The writer is Research Director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Rewriting Africa’s Agricultural Narrativehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rewriting-africas-agricultural-narrative/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 11:08:02 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146098 Albert Kanga's plantain farm on the outskirts of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Albert Kanga's plantain farm on the outskirts of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
ABIDJAN, Cote d'Ivoire, Jul 18 2016 (IPS)

Albert Kanga Azaguie no longer considers himself a smallholder farmer. By learning and monitoring the supply and demand value chains of one of the country’s staple crops, plantain (similar to bananas), Kanga ventured into off-season production to sell his produce at relatively higher prices.

“I am now a big farmer. The logic is simple: I deal in off-season plantain. When there is almost nothing on the market, mine is ready and therefore sells at a higher price,” says Kanga, who owns a 15 Ha plantain farm 30 kilometres from Abidjan, the Ivorian capital.

Harvesting 12 tonnes on average per hectare, Kanga is one of a few farmers re-writing the African story on agriculture, defying the common tale of a poor, hungry and food-insecure region with more than 232 million undernourished people – approximately one in four.

Albert Kanga on his plantain farm. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Albert Kanga on his plantain farm. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

With an estimated food import bill valued at 35.4 billion dollars in 2015, experts consider this scenario ironic because of Africa’s potential, boasting 60 percent of the world’s unused arable land, and where 60 percent of the workforce is employed in agriculture, accounting for roughly a third of the continent’s GDP.

The question is why? Several reasons emerge which include structural challenges rooted in poor infrastructure, governance and weak market value chains and institutions, resulting in low productivity. Additionally, women, who form the backbone of agricultural labour, are systematically discriminated against in terms of land ownership and other incentives such as credit and inputs, limiting their opportunities to benefit from agricultural value chains.

“Women own only one percent of land in Africa, receive one percent of agricultural credit and yet, constitute the majority of the agricultural labour force,” says Buba Khan, Africa Advocacy Officer at ActionAid.

Khan believes Africa may not be able to achieve food security, let alone sovereignty, if women remain marginalised in terms of land rights, and the World Bank Agenda for Global Food System sourcebook supports the ‘closing the gender gap’ argument.

According to the sourcebook, ensuring that women have the same access to assets, inputs, and services in agriculture as men could increase women’s yields on farms by 20-30 percent and potentially reduce the number of hungry people by 12-17 percent.

But empowering women is just one of the key pieces to the puzzle. According to the African Development Bank’s Feeding Africa agenda, number two on its agenda is dealing with deep-seated structural challenges, requiring ambition and investments.

According to the Bank’s analysis, transforming agricultural value chains would require approximately 280-340 billion dollars over the next decade, and this would likely create new markets worth 55-65 billion dollars per year by 2025. And the AfDB envisages quadrupling its investments from a current annual average of US 612 million to about 2.4 billion dollars to achieve this ambition.

“Our goal is clear: achieve food self-sufficiency for Africa in 10 years, eliminate malnutrition and hunger and move Africa to the top of agricultural value chains, and accelerate access to water and sanitation,” said Akinwumi Adesina, the AfDB Group President at the 2016 Annual Meetings, highlighting that the major focus of the bank’s “Feed Africa” agenda, is transforming agriculture into a business for farmers.

But even with this ambitious goal, and the colossal financial resources on the table, the how question remains critical. Through its strategy, the Bank sets to use agriculture as a starting point for industrialisation through multi-sectoral interventions in infrastructure, intensive use of agro inputs, mechanisation, enhanced access to credit and improved land tenure systems.

Notwithstanding these well tabulated interventions, there are trade-offs required to create a balance in either system considering the climate change challenge already causing havoc in the agriculture sector. The two schools of thought for agriculture development—Intensification (more yields per unit through intensive agronomical practices) and Extensification (bringing more land under cultivation), require a right balance.

“Agriculture matters for Africa’s development, it is the single largest source of income, food and market security, and it is also the single largest source of jobs. Yet, agriculture faces some enormous challenges, the most urgent being climate change and the sector is called to act. But there are trade-offs to either approaches of up-scaling. For example, extensification entails cutting more forests and in some cases, displacing people—both of which have a negative impact on Agriculture’s role to climate change mitigation,” says Sarwatt Hussein, Head of Communications at World Bank’s Agriculture Global Practice.

And this is a point that Ivorian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mamadou Coulibaly Sangafowa, stresses regarding Agricultural investments in Africa. “The emphasis is that agricultural investments should be climate-sensitive to unlock the opportunities especially for young Africans, and stop them from crossing the Mediterranean seeking economic opportunities elsewhere,” he said.

Coulibaly, who is also president of the African conference of Agricultural Ministers, identifies the need to improve specialised agricultural communication, without which farmers would continue working in the dark. “Farmers need information about latest technologies but it is not getting to them when they need it the most,” he said, highlighting the existing information gap, which the World Bank and the African Media Initiative (AMI) have also noted regarding media coverage of Agriculture in Africa.

While agriculture accounts for well over 60 percent of national economic activity and revenue in Africa, the sector gets a disproportionately small amount of media coverage, contributing less than 10 percent to the national economic and political discourse. And this underreporting has resulted not only in limited public knowledge of what actually goes on in the sector, but also in general, misconceptions about its place in the national and regional economy, notes the AMI-World bank analysis.

Whichever route Africa uses to achieve the overall target of feeding itself and be a net food exporter by 2025, Ivorian farmer, Albert Kanga has already started the journey—thanks to the World Bank supported West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme-WAAPP, which introduced him to off-season production techniques.

According to Abdoulaye Toure, lead agro-economist at the World Bank, the WAAPP initiative which started in 2007 has changed the face of agriculture in the region. “When we started in 2007, there was a huge food deficit gap in West Africa, with productivity at around 20 percent, but it is now at 30 percent, and two similar programmes in Eastern and Southern Africa, have been launched as a result,” said Toure.

Some of the key elements of the programme include research, training of young scientists to replace the older generation, and dissemination of improved technologies to farmers. With in-country cluster research stations set up based on a particular country’s potential, there is improved information sharing on best practices.

“With new varieties introduced and off-season irrigation techniques through WAAPP, I am now an example,” says Farmer Kanga, who does not only supply to big supermarkets, but also exports to international markets such as Italy.

He recalls how he started the farm named after his late brother, Dougba, and wishes “he was alive to see how successful it has become.”

The feed Africa agenda targets to feed 150 million, and lift 100 million people out of poverty by 2025. But is it an achievable dream? Farmer Kanga is already showing that it is doable.

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Women Empowerment Holds the Key for Global Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/women-empowerment-holds-the-key-for-global-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-empowerment-holds-the-key-for-global-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/women-empowerment-holds-the-key-for-global-development/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 20:32:35 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146086 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/women-empowerment-holds-the-key-for-global-development/feed/ 0 Increased Adb Aid Will Help Cushion Economic Blowshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/increased-adb-aid-will-help-cushion-economic-blows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=increased-adb-aid-will-help-cushion-economic-blows http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/increased-adb-aid-will-help-cushion-economic-blows/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:28:33 +0000 Editor Manila Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146085 By Editor, The Manila Times, Philippines
Jul 15 2016 (Manila Times)

The Philippines faces prospects of slower growth this year because of external factors.

One such factor is the effect of Brexit on the world economy. With Brexit causing the European Union’s already sluggish economy to shrink further, Philippine exports to EU countries in 2016 may end up being less than half of last year’s.

A European freeze, notwithstanding the European countries not being as hot as the US or China or Japan, would also cool down their trade with other countries, including us.

At this point, it is already certain that Philippine exports growth this year will end up less than 2015’s.

The government has cut down its original export growth target of from 6.6 – 8.8 percent to 3 percent. This is a drop of more than 50 percent.

The export growth reductions were seen to be the result of Brexit.

Perhaps the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision in our favor in the complaint we filed against China over its takeover of our islets and reefs in the West Philippine Sea will also make China deal angrily with us in trade, commercial matters and tourism. So loss of exports to China will probably add to the export growth decline in 2016—and the coming few years.

The website of the Philippine Exporters Confederation includes on its lists of news items on July 14 the Philippine Star story headlined “Philippines likely to miss exports growth target this year.” The Times has a July 13 story, “Exports decline prompts focus on domestic market,” which contains the data in the Star story and a lot more.

That Star story by Richmond Mercurio has the lead: “The Philippines is unlikely to meet its exports growth target this year on account of the ‘Brexit’ event and the country’s continuing political tension with China, an export industry official said.”

The export industry official is Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. President Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Jr., who is quoted as saying:

“Lately we have been saying we can’t meet it so we’re looking at the lower end of the target as a six percent growth is very ambitious.”

“So we expect a three percent growth for exports this year. We’re already at half of the year and we’re still negative so for us to be able to beat the target, we have to grow 20 to 25 percent and there’s no way we can get that,” he added.

Ortiz-Luis, who is also the private-sector vice chairman of the Export Development Council, surmises that his lower growth figures are likely also to be the NEDA’s updated numbers if it decides to revise the earlier target.

As if it has come to the rescue in the old cowboys vs Indians movies, ADB announced that it was increasing its aid to the Philippines.

The story on Wednesday, July 13, by The Times’ Mayvelin U. Caraballo said, “The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has expanded the areas where it is ready to support the Duterte administration and affirmed its commitment to boost assistance to the Philippines going forward.”

ADB President Takehiko Nakao had met with President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss how the bank could support the new government in its efforts to achieve sustainable growth, reduce poverty, and increase transparency in government affairs.

Mr. Nakao commended Duterte for his early efforts to consult the private sector, civil society, and other partners to ensure a level playing field for all businesses, and uplift the lives of poor Filipinos that make up one-fourth of our country’s population.

ADB’s increased aid will surely help us ward off economic blows delivered by China.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Entrenched Inequalitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/entrenched-inequalities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=entrenched-inequalities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/entrenched-inequalities/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:19:17 +0000 Faisal Bari http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146083 By Faisal Bari
Jul 15 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Do a girl born in a poor household in rural Balochistan and a boy born in a rich household in Karachi have the same or even a similar set of opportunities in life? Are their chances of acquiring an education similar? Do they have access to comparable healthcare services and facilities? Do they have equal opportunities for access to physical infrastructure and the freedom of movement and association?

Faisal Bari

Faisal Bari

The girl from the poor household in rural Balochistan has a significant probability of not surviving infancy. If she does, it is unlikely she will go to school. The chances of her making it to matriculation are almost negligible. She will be malnourished as a child and anaemic as an adult (the oft-heard refrain that at the very least nobody goes to sleep hungry in Pakistan is a blatant lie and a powerful means of self-deception). If she survives and makes it to adulthood, it is unlikely that marriage will change her economic/social status by much. Childbearing-related health risks and exposure to environmental hazards will make it likely that she will have a less than average lifespan.

Distribution of opportunities is highly unequal in Pakistan, and the differences are of many dimensions: income, wealth, gender, caste, ethnicity, sect, religion, rural/urban and provincial. But, more importantly, these inequalities are very deeply entrenched in our social, political and economic fabric. Our institutions, organisations and ways of doing things are structured to perpetuate this inequality and deepen it across generations. A poor child is likely to remain poor in his/her lifetime and his/her children are likely to remain poor too.

Our society and institutions are structured to perpetuate inequality across generations.

Socio-economic inequalities, and their entrenched and self-perpetuating nature, are the biggest challenge we face in shaping a future for Pakistan. It is easy to find challenges that Pakistan faces: there are plenty of good candidates. The fundamental one is inequality and what perpetuates it. But, and here is the perplexing part, despite its fundamental nature, it is one issue that is not even on the agenda for discussion or on the reform agenda.

People have been concerned about terrorism and extremism. Right or wrong, the government, with most stakeholders in agreement, came up with Operation Zarb-i-Azb and the National Action Plan to deal with it. We have been concerned about stabilisation and, right or wrong, we have been shoving stabilisation policies, under the guidance of the IMF, down everyone’s throat. We have become concerned about growth and, right or wrong, we have responded with investments in energy, infrastructure and now through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

But where is the response to the highly unequal access to opportunities in the country? Where is the outrage against this blatant neglect of the rights and needs of the majority? The politicians are not interested in the issue. There is no debate on the issue in legislatures, there are no policy options on the table, and there is not even an articulated demand or ideological approach by any political party on this larger question.

There does not seem to be any articulated demand from the public for addressing this issue either. Elections are not lost or won on the issue of addressing equality of opportunity: the provision of quality education/skills training, basic health, access to good social/physical infrastructure, and employment and growth opportunities.

Though we often talk of both the free, highly vocal and developed mass media in the country and the free and independent judiciary, they have not been instrumental in raising fundamental issues of rights and opportunities. The media produces more heat than light through the debates that incessantly go on. The judiciary has not taken up any of the fundamental issues — be it the right to education, healthcare or employment or questions of access to resources through land reform — at all. Cases filed on these matters with the higher courts have been languishing for years.

Is it not a fact that the hold the upper classes have on society is very strong, not only in terms of managing access to resources but even over the power to start and sustain debate? The upper classes, the top five to seven per cent, the main beneficiaries of the current system, do not have an interest in starting a debate on rights and equality of opportunities: they stand to lose the most. But, in addition, it seems that the people who rise to middle-class level (the professionals), the subsidiary beneficiaries of the current system, also see their benefit in perpetuating the system rather than in challenging it. They are co-opted.

But if we feel we can address terrorism, extremism, ethnic strife, sustainable development, high growth, and income and employment generation without addressing the issue of opportunities for all, we live in la-la land. If we believe we do not have the resources to provide a basic level of services to all, we are wrong again. Kerala, an Indian state that boasts developed society level statistics on education, health and well-being, provided basic health and education services to all when it was a relatively poor state.

Many people also feel that there is a trade-off in growth and expenditure on basic services. They are wrong. Human development theories have shown that. Empirical evidence is also there. Kerala was not the fastest-growing state in India when it extended basic services to all, and many critics thought this extension would limit Kerala’s growth prospects even further. Today, Kerala stands at the top of the list of Indian states in growth and income terms.

If a poor girl from rural Balochistan does not get almost the same opportunities as a boy from the middle or upper class from Karachi, our dreams for a better Pakistan will remain just that: dreams. And, in reality, we will continue to live the nightmare that we currently face.

The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives and an associate professor of economics at Lums, Lahore.
Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2
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This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Displaced Youth: Selling Souls to Sex and Drugshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/displaced-youth-selling-souls-to-sex-and-drugs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=displaced-youth-selling-souls-to-sex-and-drugs http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/displaced-youth-selling-souls-to-sex-and-drugs/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 14:44:37 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146072 From violence in refugee camps to the rise of Islamophobia, the gay Syrian community faces a multitude of challenges. Credit: IPS

From violence in refugee camps to the rise of Islamophobia, the gay Syrian community faces a multitude of challenges. Credit: IPS

By Rose Delaney
ROME, Jul 15 2016 (IPS)

Omar’s striking blue eyes and well-built physique are accentuated by his fashionable, tight-fitting apparel. At first glance, one would regard him as a carefree young man, blessed with the gifts of intellect and beauty. However, appearances can be deceptive. The traumas of war, displacement and isolation hang over Omar like an ominous shadow.

In 2013, triggered by the death of his best friend in the midst of bloody conflict, Omar fled Syria eventually landing in Germany. Desperately in search of a safe haven, he paid over 15 000 euro for a false Nordic passport which was later seized at the Hannover airport in Germany on his arrival. As one of the thousands of refugees, predominantly from Syria and Iraq, to flood into Germany in the past few years, Omar’s journey as a displaced youth has been far from easy.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) refugees as young as Omar are “Persons of Concern” and for the most part, their strife remains undocumented and underrepresented. In this case, the plight of a young displaced person was especially challenging for Omar who identifies himself as part of the gay community.

Although Omar arrived in Germany over three years ago, he claims every day of his life is spent reliving the bloodshed and warfare he bore witness to in Syria. “Every time I see a plane pass by, a jolt of pure fear passes through my body”. A lot of his anxiety is also rooted in his time spent at a refugee camp when he first arrived.

He described his feelings of social exclusion and frustration. “In the camp, I felt as if I had been captured and caged like a defeated lion. I remember trying to jump over the wall to get out…they locked up all the doors at 9 pm every night”.

The need to put on a “straight mask” to conceal his sexual orientation also acted as a form of incarceration for him. “I was less than a person, denied the right to express my true identity among my own people”. Men who openly identified themselves as gay in the camp or who were considered to be “feminine” by the other refugees were subjected to violence, torment, and humiliation.

Omar expressed happiness over the fact that in recent months many camps have been established solely concentrated on providing refuge to those who identify themselves as LGBT. He does not wish the grief gay refugees experienced in his camp on anyone.

The transition from his camp to government-funded accommodation in Berlin forced Omar to overcome many hurdles. The reality of his situation turned out to be a far cry from the “European dream” he had fantasized about in Syria. Then free to lead his own life, he quickly gave into vices and fell into the precarious world of drugs.

“During my first year, in order to send money home to my family, I began to sell drugs. I was one of many Syrians pushed into this underground business. Feelings of depression and desperation make young men like me fall into this trap”.

Omar explained that the “white” market could never give him enough to lead a sustainable life whilst funding his sister’s university education and maintaining the upkeep of his parents. Once well-to-do and affluent, his family had lost their prosperous business during the war in Syria.

“No one could ever understand how hard life is here for Syrians like me, my main priority is getting my sisters through education. At this point, I can only think of them, my family has been left with nothing.”

According to a study issued by the UNHCR on displaced youth, the majority of young refugees are obliged to take on the role of breadwinner for their families. They are seen as “the backbone of the community” left at home. This, in turn, has pushed displaced men like Omar to become involved in illegal trade and crime to provide for the bare necessities of their loved ones.

Unable to cope with the risks he exposed himself to, Omar abandoned the drug trade and went on to work in the local sex industry as a male escort. Although his family would have never accepted this choice, he emphasised the fact that “in times like these, you cannot think about love or respect.”

Ashamed about what he considered a “seedy” occupation, he began to tell friends and family that he was taking on modelling work to get by. Omar stated that within the gay community, the majority of Syrian refugees opt for the easy money that comes with the sex trade.

“One can typically earn between 100-150 euro per hour for this work. Finding an affluent man to be your “sugar daddy”, escorting and even porn” have all become ways for many of Omar’s displaced friends to support themselves and those depending on them back home.

Omar explained that even finding love can be difficult due to the recent rise of Islamophobia across Germany. On Grindr, a popular dating app used by the gay community, Omar and many of his friends have experienced discrimination and verbal abuse from other men using the service.

Omar receives messages such as “Go back home, we don’t want ISIS in our country” and “You’re a Muslim terrorist” on a daily basis. Whereas he once felt the need to hide his sexuality, he now feels it is more important to conceal his religion and nationality.

“When I first arrived, the German people were accommodating and kind-hearted, now they are taking to the streets in protest. They want us out, they believe we are all extremists.”

Now, Omar has left the dark underworld of sex and drugs that he feels in many ways dehumanized him. He’s hopeful for the future as he is now fluent in German and is working towards his goal of becoming a personal trainer.

When asked if he thought the conflict in Syria would end anytime soon he replied “A peaceful Syria is not possible in the near future. It’s in the same situation as Iraq. Religious intolerance leads to conflict, even though it’s a secular state. No one forgives and forgets, it’s a vicious circle.”

In spite of this, Omar still dreams about the day he can return to his homeland. “If the war stopped, I would go back to Syria in a heartbeat. However, speaking for the majority of the gay Syrian community, they are in no hurry to go back to a society that never accepted them in the first place”.

In this sense, although Europe has presented young gay refugees like Omar with a multitude of challenges, it has also provided them with refuge, stability and the first chance to be themselves and embrace their sexuality.

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We’ve Won a Monumental UN Victory, so What?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/weve-won-a-monumental-un-victory-so-what/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=weve-won-a-monumental-un-victory-so-what http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/weve-won-a-monumental-un-victory-so-what/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2016 14:46:10 +0000 Editor Manila Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146061 By Editor, The Manila Times, Philippines
Jul 14 2016 (Manila Times)

The important thing about the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), as far as day-to-day life for Filipinos is concerned, is that our fishermen may continue to do what they and their ancestors have been doing since time immemorial—fish in the waters of the West Philippine Sea. Both because of that, and the affirmation of Philippine sovereignty over those waters, which are inside the UN definitions of what belongs in our EEZ (exclusive economic zone), we rejoice that the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration decided in our favor on Tuesday.

The international court nullified China’s nine-dash-line claim as a legal basis for maritime rights under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It said no feature—reef, rock and whatever—within the Spratly Islands chain is an island entitled to a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Because of this, the EEZ extending from our country’s shore gives us de facto jurisdiction over most of the waters in the Spratly Islands not covered by the territorial seas of other countries.

It is against China’s (1) nine-dash line that covers practically the entire South China, including some of our territorial waters and the features inside them, and (2) reclamation and building of structures on our islets and reefs that the Philippine case at the UN was lodged. China has, however, rejected as null and void the UN ruling even. As early as when the Philippines was filing the case, China had declared that it did not accept the UN Court’s jurisdiction and would not abide by its decision. China did not participate in the UN tribunal’s hearings, despite its being a signatory to the UNCLOS, the United Nations covenant that is supposed to govern member-states’ adherence to the laws of the sea. Taiwan, too, which claims to be the real and legitimate China as the Republic of China, has declared that it does not accept the tribunal’s ruling and will not abide by its decision.

Even Itu Aba, which Taiwan holds and calls Taiping Island, was ruled to be only a rock entitled, therefore, to only a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea.

This means that no matter how monumental our victory in the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration, this does not amount to anything as far as the woes of Filipino fishermen are concerned. Our fishermen will still be harassed by Chinese in large and armed Chinese fishing vessels escorted by the Chinese Navy; these will continue to drive our Filipino fishermen away from fishing waters that are our sovereign territory. And Chinese expeditions will still come and destroy our corals in the process of stealing our rare and marine treasures.

This is what will happen because the officials, Coast Guard, Navy and people of Communist Party-ruled People’s Republic of China intransigently insist that our sovereign territorial waters belong to them.

Instead of us driving away Chinese fishing parties from our sovereign territory, they and the navy of the People’s Republic of China will drive away and fire water cannons and maybe machine guns on our fishermen, so that Chinese fisherman can have their way.

They have done this before. The complaints of our fishermen who are losing their livelihood and source of food for their families will go unrelieved—because we are a poor and small country that cannot match the wealth and armed might of nuclear power China.

The best that we can do, in the view of some who would not mind having China control the Philippines and make us its slavish running dog and milking cow at the same time, is just grin and bear our rape and humiliation. We must not dare fight China. We must give up our rights to our West Philippine Sea, and to other things we hold sacred, like honor and dignity, if we want to continue enjoying the goodwill of the second-richest and most powerful country in the world.

To many other Filipinos, who love our country as envisioned by Rizal, Bonifacio and the other great patriots, that is a fate worse than death.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Is Sustainable Development Hindering Economic Recovery?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-sustainable-development-hindering-economic-recovery/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-sustainable-development-hindering-economic-recovery http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-sustainable-development-hindering-economic-recovery/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2016 13:04:02 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146053 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015 and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015 and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jul 14 2016 (IPS)

The global economic and employment situation is alarmingly protracted, with recovery not expected any time soon. In October 2012, then IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard indicated he did not see a global economic recovery before 2016.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Now, in mid-2016, it is clear that the global crisis has dragged on for several reasons; many governments, especially in advanced economies, still prioritize fiscal austerity and tough labour market reforms, even though such measures undermine livelihoods, incomes, the social fabric and economic recovery prospects.

Meanwhile, despite ‘quantitative easing’, investments remain depressed, blocking employment creation. Easy credit before the crisis led to over-investment in sectors expected to be profitable. Hence, despite low-interest rates, with the overhang of excess capacity, there has been less private investment in recent years.

Since 2007, employment rates have only risen in six of the 36 developed economies, while youth unemployment rates have increased in four-fifths of advanced countries and two-thirds of developing countries.

With higher inequality and unemployment, as well as shrinking incomes and domestic markets, it is obviously unrealistic for everyone to recover by exporting. Even developing countries, long pressed to produce for export, are switching course – producing increasingly for the domestic market once again.

Having suffered more current and capital account difficulties with greater openness, many emerging market economies still feel compelled to accumulate large reserves for ‘self-protection’. Meanwhile, financial globalization has not enhanced growth but has instead exacerbated volatility and instability.

Recovery for All
There have been few efforts since 2008 to enhance national ‘policy space’ for economic recovery, especially for sustainable development. Increased public investment and other spending, including for social protection, can help turn this situation around, creating tens of millions of jobs.

For decades after the end of World War Two, most advanced economies have used counter-cyclical fiscal policy to great effect. Such deficits have not only financed strong, sustained and inclusive recovery, and growth in their own economies but also abroad — as with the US Marshall Plan at the beginning of the Cold War, so crucial to European post-war reconstruction, recovery and take-off.

A cruel logic has been invoked to justify recent inaction. First, huge financial resources were deployed to selectively rescue ‘too big to fail’ private financial interests. Then, the resulting greatly increased sovereign debt was invoked to impose fiscal austerity, ostensibly in deference to bond markets.

To make matters worse, Eurozone countries are not only constrained by this fiscal fetish, but also by their lack of exchange rate policy space, resulting in insurmountable obstacles to recovery in a monetary union not among equals.

And despite strong evidence to the contrary, the presumption that public spending crowds out private investment continues to deter government-led economic recovery efforts.

Perhaps most frustrating in the recent period have been the limited efforts at multilateral cooperation for global recovery since 2009 — the year of the G20’s London and Pittsburgh summits, including the Global Jobs Pact, on which there has been little meaningful progress since.

As a consequence, subsequent years have seen little progress towards a strong, sustained and inclusive recovery. Instead, after decades of promoting globalization, often recklessly, the recent period has seen a gradual turn to creeping protectionism and currency warfare.

Thankfully, after decades of promoting economic, including financial liberalization and pro-cyclical macroeconomic policies, even the IMF, under its recent French leadership, has become more careful, if not skeptical of its own earlier analysis, policy prescriptions, and priorities. But the earlier conventional wisdom still prevails in most of its operations, policy conditions and advice.

Why Sustainable Development?
How can the world get out of this cul-de-sac, worsened by the short-termism of markets, especially financial markets, electoral politics and powerful corporate interests?

Although inclusive multilateralism has been battered by various challenges, including its slow progress, it remains the best option available. Hence, the UN system has to be bolder, but also has to be allowed to play a greater leading role.

In early 2009, the UN Secretary-General proposed a Global Green New Deal. The GGND proposed cross-border public-private partnerships, especially to generate renewable energy and increase food production, recognizing that market forces alone would not generate the investments needed to address climate change as well as to ensure adequate and affordable food production.

If pragmatically implemented, UN initiatives – such as the GGND, the Global Jobs Pact and the Social Protection Floor – can help overcome the current stasis. Likewise, if sufficiently supported, the recently approved UN Decade of Action against Malnutrition can help improve nutrition for all.

As the quadrennial High-Level Political Forum, mandated by the Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development in 2012, meets for the first time in mid-July, it is crucial that global leaders recognize that sustainable development is not a luxury which the world cannot afford in these dire times. Instead, it must be recognized as providing the essential sense of common purpose for collective action by the multilateral system, not only for it to stay relevant, but also to lead us all out of the darkness of our times.

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Bangladeshis among Domestic Workers Trapped in Oman: HRWhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/bangladeshis-among-domestic-workers-trapped-in-oman-hrw/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bangladeshis-among-domestic-workers-trapped-in-oman-hrw http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/bangladeshis-among-domestic-workers-trapped-in-oman-hrw/#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 15:46:56 +0000 Star Online Report http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146031 By Star Online Report
Jul 13 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Many migrant domestic workers including Bangladeshis are trapped in abusive employment in Oman with their plight hidden behind closed doors, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released today.

A migrant domestic worker watches over a child playing in the Magic Planet, City Centre Muscat, a shopping mall in Oman. Photo: Human Rights Watch

A migrant domestic worker watches over a child playing in the Magic Planet, City Centre Muscat, a shopping mall in Oman. Photo: Human Rights Watch

The New York-based rights organisation stressed in the report that Omani authorities should take immediate steps to reform the restrictive immigration system that binds migrant workers to their employers.

They should provide the domestic workers with labour law protections equal to those enjoyed by other workers, and investigate all situations of possible trafficking, forced labor, and slavery, it added.

The 68-page report, “‘I Was Sold’: Abuse and Exploitation of Migrant Domestic Workers in Oman,” documents how Oman’s kafala (sponsorship) immigrant labour system and lack of labour law protections leaves migrant domestic workers exposed to abuse and exploitation by employers, whose consent they need to change jobs.

Those who flee abuse – including beatings, sexual abuse, unpaid wages, and excessive working hours – have little avenue for redress and can face legal penalties for “absconding.”

Families rely on migrant domestic workers to care for their children, cook their meals, and clean their homes. Yet many migrant domestic workers, who rely on their salaries to support their own families and children at home, face cruel and exploitative conditions, the report said.

Employers rarely face penalties for abuse: Researcher

“Migrant domestic workers in Oman are bound to their employers and left to their mercy,” said Rothna Begum, Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Employers can force domestic workers to work without rest, pay, or food, knowing they can be punished if they escape, while the employers rarely face penalties for abuse,” she said.

At least 130,000 female migrant domestic workers, and possibly many more, work in the sultanate. Most are from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Ethiopia, the report said.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 59 migrant domestic workers in Oman. In some cases, workers described abuses that amounted to forced labor or trafficking – often across Oman’s porous border with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Employers typically pay fees to recruitment agencies to secure domestic workers’ services, and several workers said that their employers told them they had “bought” them.

Some employers demand that workers reimburse them for recruitment fees for their “release”, the report said.

“Asma K,” from Bangladesh, said she went to the UAE to work there, but that her recruitment agent “sold” her to a man who confiscated her passport and took her to Oman.

He forced her to work 21 hours a day for a family of 15 with no rest or day off; deprived her of food; verbally abused and sexually harassed her; and paid her nothing.

“I would start working at 4:30 a.m. and finish at 1 a.m.,” she said. “For the entire day they wouldn’t let me sit. When I said I want to leave, he said, ‘I bought you for 1,560 rials (US$4,052) from Dubai. Give it back to me and then you can go.’”

The HRW said migrant domestic workers in Oman are bound to their employers and left to their mercy.

Employers can force domestic workers to work without rest, pay, or food, knowing they can be punished if they escape, while the employers rarely face penalties for abuse, the rights organization said.

Most of the workers said their employers confiscated their passports. Many said their employers did not pay them their full salaries, forced them to work excessively long hours without breaks or days off, or denied them adequate food and living conditions. Some said their employers physically abused them; a few described sexual abuse.

The situation is so dire that some countries, such as Indonesia, have banned their nationals from migrating to Oman and other countries with comparable track records.

The bans, however, are ineffective, and can put women at heightened risk of trafficking or forced labor as they and recruiters try to circumvent the restrictions. While some countries have increased protections for their nationals who work abroad, others do not fully protect workers against deceptive recruitment practices or provide adequate assistance to abused nationals abroad, the report said.

Domestic workers and kafala system

The report said Oman’s restrictive kafala system, also used in neighbouring Gulf countries, ties migrant domestic workers’ visas to their employers. They cannot work for a new employer without the current employer’s permission, even if they complete their contract or their employer is abusive.

In 2011, Oman told members of the United Nations Human Rights Council that it was “researching an alternative to the [visa] sponsorship system,” but Human Rights Watch said itis not aware of any concrete proposals made since.

Oman’s labour law explicitly excludes domestic workers, and regulations issued in 2004 on domestic workers provide only basic protection. In April 2016, the Times of Oman quoted a Ministry of Manpower official stating that Oman is considering including domestic workers in its labour law, it added.

The Human Rights Watch said the Omani government did not respond to its requests for information on law reforms or other measures to protect domestic workers’ rights.

Bangladesh Embassy in Oman’s reaction

Talking about the report, Zahed Ahmed, counsellor (Labour) at Bangladesh embassy in Muscat, admitted that there are some incidents of abuses like work-load, passport confiscation and irregular salary payment.

“Like other Middle Eastern countries, domestic workers including Bangladeshis are also facing different abuses. As the domestic helps are being hired individually or privately, it is difficult to assess all the employers,” he told The Daily Star from Oman over phone today.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Unions of the Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/unions-of-the-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unions-of-the-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/unions-of-the-poor/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 16:28:33 +0000 Syeda Shehrbano http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145979 By Syeda Shehrbano Kazim
Jul 8 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

One of the greatest outcomes for development economic policy is, or should be, the reduction in poverty and unemployment, both in the rural and urban areas. Recent reports show that poverty in Pakistan, based on cost of basic needs, has come down from around 64.2pc in 2001-02 to 29.5pc in 2014. Based on food energy intake, poverty during this period has declined from 34.6pc to 9.31pc.

dawn_writerSimilarly, unemployment has also dropped from 6.2pc in 2012-13 to 5.9pc in 2014-15. This year the government will allocate Rs22.4 billion for vertical health programmes and continue to implement the Prime Minister’s National Health Insurance Programme. Meanwhile, the provinces have announced their own development budgets.

Nevertheless, that is only one side of the story. With a Human Development Index value of 0.538, Pakistan ranks 147th out of 188 countries and territories. In terms of the Gender Inequality Index it ranks 121st out of 155 countries: only 19.3pc women complete secondary education compared to 46.1pc men, while female participation in the labour market is 24.6pc compared to 82.9pc for men.

Rural poverty must be addressed.

Another dimension of the socioeconomic situation is that rural poverty has declined less than urban poverty while more than two-thirds of Pakistanis live in rural areas. Of these, more than two-thirds are employed in agriculture, accounting for about half of the employed labour force.

Agriculture thus constitutes the largest sector of our economy with the majority of the population — directly or indirectly — dependent on this sector, which contributes about 24pc to the GDP and is the largest source of foreign exchange earnings.

Recent trends in agricultural incomes have been less than encouraging due to a resurgence in rural poverty. While droughts, floods, changing rain patterns and the vagaries of nature have played a role in hobbling rural economies and bringing down agricultural incomes, vulnerability to disaster is an¬other dimension of poverty. The issues that face Pakistan’s rural population are varied. They include poorly functioning factor markets and constrained access to assets, inequality of land and resource ownership, diminishing water resources and poor management of existing water supply, and constraints to agricultural productivity — which include knowledge or information gaps, amongst other factors.

Equitable development, provision of adequate and appropriate social services to the rural sector and the structural shift from raw material agricultural production to value addition requires cohesive economic, social and human development. Considering the sheer size of the population — roughly 140 million of which is in the rural areas, no top-down approach will yield results.

Other than infrastructural gains, a benevolent government cannot bring development to poor households in the rural sector. Invest¬ments in infrastructure are integral to the process of development but the infrastruc¬ture — roads, electrification, tele¬com¬munication and irrigation — is only the most basic hardware.

The problems that the rural poor face are those of illiteracy, lack of awareness of options and opportunities, health and sanitation — in short, the problems of the software.

The development of human resources is vital to the uplift of rural society. This means enabling the rural populace to decide on the course of development they want to adopt for their households and communities, building their capacities and abilities, and developing linkages that allow them to access the funds, re¬sources and support they need, when they need it.

Unions of the poor — institutions of the poor through social mobilisation — much like trade unions, create cohesive participatory and representative social groups in communities that are able to speak for, work with and belong to the rural poor. Instead of an alien development agenda brought from an ‘authority’, the changes that such a union brings are organic and sustainable. It also ensures that the so-called improvements do not sever the social and cultural bonds of the rural communities, which differ widely across provinces and linguistic belts.

What is required is the redirection of priorities by mobilising institutional and human resources towards political, economic and civic dimensions. While the government should provide social, legal and economic safety nets, the real focus should be on empowering the people who should organise, plan and execute the programmes at the household and community level.

According to the Rural Support Programme Network outreach data, rural support programmes have a presence in 3,710 union councils in Pakistan, and the methodology they use is to economically empower households through social mobilisation and by organising the poor. This approach is an effective way to reach rural poor households without which poverty cannot be eliminated.

Luckily, pockets of Pakistan have experience of social mobilisation, with over six million households organised into 379,285 community organisations. This experience needs to be scaled up nationally to create unions of the poor that are able to chart their own course to development.

The writer is a development consultant. Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Is Federalism Pro-poor?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-federalism-pro-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-federalism-pro-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-federalism-pro-poor/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 15:25:27 +0000 Jeresa May http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145966 By Jeresa May C. Ochave
Jul 7 2016 (Manila Times)

Poverty, according to the United Nations, is “a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.”

JERESA MAY C. OCHAVE

JERESA MAY C. OCHAVE

Constitutional experts contend that our unitary system’s centralized form is the culprit for poverty in the country. The top-to-bottom approach (pinatulo governance, as we call it) limits the powers, authority and resources of its own local governments, impairing gravely the decision-making process. Planning and programs for the communities are divorced from the realties on the ground.

In effect, local governance are inefficient in providing even the public services that majority of Filipinos need and expect—health care, education, employment and housing; a state of affairs contrary to the promise of the 1987 Freedom Constitution, where framers have been mandated to create one that is “truly reflective of the aspirations and ideals of the Filipino people.”

A research by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), in 2015, affirms that the Philippines remains one of the poorest in Southeast Asia despite robust economic growth in the past few years.

The current and slow increase of the minimum wage cannot partner with the rising prices of commodities; we have the highest income tax rate (32 percent) compared to our neighboring countries in the Asean: Singapore, 2 percent; Vietnam, 20 percent; Malaysia, 11 percent; Cambodia, 20 percent; Laos, 12 percent. We also are a highly corrupt country, ranked 85th out of 175 countries). “Leakages” in our country are far beyond normal—and we don’t prosecute. (The Napoles corruption cases involving senators and congressmen have barely gone up through our justice system and those nominal “name brands” incarcerated may be freed soon with the advent of a new administration).

Rogier van den Brink, of the World Bank (WB), says the perennial challenge is to channel economic growth toward the poor to make the economy inclusive, thus, ending poverty. Rogier adds this can be achieved if investments in infrastructure, health, and education are increased; including an enhanced competition to level the playing field; simpler regulations to promote job creation, especially for micro and small enterprises; and the protection of property rights.

Karl Kendrick Chua, senior country economist of the WB, says both tax administration and tax policy reforms are needed to generate the revenues required to finance the decades-old investment deficit in infrastructure, health and education.

While tax policy reforms can be implemented, however, under a unitary system, national taxes remitted to the center will still take away much of the wealth and revenues generated by agriculture and other industries in various local communities around the country. Major corporations, including banks, pay their taxes in Metro Manila whose cities benefit more from their activities than the provinces and other cities in which the branches of the corporations operate.

Local officials will continue to spend much of their energy and limited funds seeking the assistance and approval of national government officials in Metro Manila. Local dependence will continue to stifle local initiative and resourcefulness, and hamper local business and development.

Although new taxes and fiscal reforms have been initiated, the government lacks funds and is heavily in debt from too much borrowing.

Federalism, in contrast to our current unitary system (that only concentrates political powers and authority in the national government), emphasizes regional and local self-rule and self-reliance in governance based on the principle of subsidiarity. In short, the decisions are made at the lowest possible level where local problems can be solved. In addition, while regions or state governments are designed to be autonomous, the federal government will provide assistance to various regions and states, especially the less developed ones. In most federal governments this is called the “Equalization Fund,” designed to lift the less endowed states to a decent level, meeting the basic needs of its constituencies. This fund is raised by contributions from all the states in the federal republic and expensed by federal government.

As Atty. Josephus Jimenez emphasized in a Philippine Star column, “Once we are under a federal system, all component states collect their own taxes and contribute only a small fraction of their revenues to the federal or central government for only three centralized functions, namely: National Defense, including the National Police, Justice and Foreign Affairs. All the rest shall be left to each state, including health, education, labor and employment, trade, transportation, communication, agriculture, agrarian reform, justice, environment, natural resources. The states will manage mining and forest matters and shall control all natural resources.”

A federal republic will provide better policies and implementation that will enable the people to raise their standard of living. At the same time,

• Citizens will be more willing to pay taxes that will finance government programs and services for their direct benefits, as they see where their money goes;

• Equitable regional development will be promoted;

• Faster political, economic, social, and cultural development and modernization will take place; and

• There will be inter-regional competition in attracting domestic and foreign investments and industries, professionals, and skilled workers.

It is true that there will be inevitably some “leakages,” but corruption on a local level is much more transparent through a vigilant local community now empowered to run its own affairs.

Let us take note at how America has empowered its people and become the most powerful country in the world through federalism:

“So long as local affairs are reserved to the greatest possible extent for the localities themselves and so long as the people are both interested in and capable of understanding and handling their own problems, then the philosopher’s stone has indeed been discovered and a large measure of both freedom and order are possible.” – Dr. George Charles Roche III.

Ms. Jeresa May C. Ochave is communications director of the Centrist Democracy Political Institute (CDPI). A graduate of the Mass Communications program in Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU), she currently serves as secretary of Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) – Davao Chapter and was elected as regional chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) – Region XI. Ms. Ochave is also a part-time professor at the University of the Immaculate Conception, in Davao City, and is taking her masters in Public Administration, major in Public Policy, at the AdDU.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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The UN and Global Economic Stagnationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-un-and-global-economic-stagnation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-un-and-global-economic-stagnation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-un-and-global-economic-stagnation/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 12:06:56 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145957 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development in the United Nations system during 2005-2015, and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jul 7 2016 (IPS)

When the financial crisis preceding the Great Recession broke out in late 2008, attention to the previously ignored UN Secretariat’s analytical work was greatly enhanced. This happened as the UN and the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) had been almost alone in warning, for some years, of the macroeconomic dangers posed by poorly regulated financial sector developments.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

In contrast, most other international organizations – the IMF, World Bank and OECD – which monitor developments in the world economy have failed to see the crisis coming. Until the third quarter of 2008, they were still predicting continued robust growth of the world economy, and, ‘soft landings’ in the unlikely event of financial turmoil, including in the US.

Thus, the UN was in a strong position to lead the global response to the crisis. However, although ‘second opinions’ were offered to Member- States upon request, in practice, it largely remained business as usual. Each part of the international system carried on with their own work programs with obligatory references to the crisis and its impacts. There was no coherent response or sustained attempt to seriously address fundamental issues.

Meanwhile, although there have been some occasional signs of recovery, economic stagnation in most developed economies continues, with high joblessness and underemployment. Occasional signs of recovery have been uneven, and easily reversible. Early withdrawal of stimulus measures in 2009 pushed the global economy into stagnation, especially as private consumption and investment spending remained weak.

Most developing countries have remained vulnerable, with little fiscal space to be able to respond to shocks. Their policy space remains restricted, especially following the collapse of mineral and other primary commodity prices, and continued denial of the need for counter-cyclical macroeconomic policies by most influential policymakers.

The poorest countries and communities also face the prospect of a resurgence of poverty and hunger. In recent years, the push to cut social security institutions and spending threatens to eliminate the main remaining forms of social protection.

Meanwhile, efforts to strengthen prudential regulations in developed countries have been indefinitely postponed since 2009, with the first signs of recovery in response to financial market pressures, once it had been rescued. Since then, there has been little serious discussion of reforms in the international financial system.

In 2009, the UN Secretary-General called for a Global Green New Deal, seeking internationally coordinated fiscal stimuli, involving major investments in renewable energy and other long-neglected global public goods. At its April meeting, the G20 successfully mobilized over a trillion dollars, but these mainly enhanced IMF resources and thus further empowered the Washington-based international financial system.

The UN emphasized the promotion of sustainable energy to address the looming climate change challenge. In the face of limited private investments, it argued that public investments had to take the lead, to help quickly bring down the unit costs of renewable sources.

But the proposal was then rejected as inappropriate owing to the higher costs of renewable energy. In fact, subsequent developments have shown that the UN was too cautious as the costs of renewable energy have fallen much faster than it anticipated although the recent oil price collapse has limited its competitiveness once again.

Another element in the UN proposed New Deal involved strengthening world food security by encouraging investment in food agriculture by small farmers, again with public investment leading, supplemented by ODA.

In addition, there was growing recognition of the need to completely eradicate poverty and hunger with extraordinary measures under the rubric of ‘social protection’. In so far as such measures would also enable beneficiaries to enhance their productive assets and capacities, they would also ensure higher incomes and more investments, thus accelerating economic recovery, greater resilience, and self-reliance in the medium term.

Recognizing the critical role of the 1944 Bretton Woods conference and the institutions it created for post-war recovery and post-colonial development, the UN also called for reforms to the international financial system to better address new circumstances and challenges.

The 2008 second Financing for Development conference in Doha reiterated the Monterrey Conference’s call to mobilize the international community for accelerated debt relief, improve international tax co-operation, better developing countries’ access to developed country markets, and enhance developing country access to technology, especially for life-saving drugs and renewable energy.

If UN initiatives had not been blocked by some OECD countries, it is likely that the world would have developed a debt management framework to address the Icelandic, Greek and other debt crises as well as greater international tax cooperation to better address massive and still growing tax evasion and fiscal constraints faced by so many governments today.

The June 2009 High- Level Conference on the Global Financial and Economic Crisis made specific proposals for urgent actions, many of which were later elaborated by the Stiglitz Commission Report’s recommendations. But some hints of recovery provided the pretext for the U-turn to ‘fiscal austerity’ in Europe once the commanding heights of most powerful financial interests had been rescued.

In early 2009, the UN system committed to supporting Member States to re-orient their macroeconomic policy frameworks to include full employment as an explicit target for both developed and developing countries. But without resources and facilities to support the provision of appropriate policy advice, few countries have sought UN assistance for counter-cyclical macroeconomic management since.

Thus, despite its longstanding mandate and better track record than most other international financial institutions, a greater pro-active role of the rest of the UN system has been denied by a coalition of powerful countries. Sadly for the world, this marginalization threatens the very future of economic multilateralism, as has long been evident from the continued hegemony of the Washington Consensus, and at the Addis Ababa third UN Financing for Development conference last July and the World Trade Organization ministerial in Nairobi in December.

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How Russia Will Use Brexit to Fight Sanctionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/how-russia-will-use-brexit-to-fight-sanctions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-russia-will-use-brexit-to-fight-sanctions http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/how-russia-will-use-brexit-to-fight-sanctions/#comments Wed, 06 Jul 2016 11:26:23 +0000 Editor Manila Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145953 By Editor, The Manila Times, Philippines
Jul 6 2016 (Manila Times)

FORECAST
EU sanctions against Russia are all but guaranteed to remain in place through 2016, but Moscow will work in the second half of the year to get them eased in 2017.

Russia will capitalize on divisions in the European Union, which will only widen in the wake of Brexit, to oppose sanctions.

Moscow will step lightly, however, to avoid provoking its European rivals ahead of the next sanctions vote.

Europe is not the only region affected by Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. The decision will also have significant effects on Russia, especially where sanctions are concerned. As the Continent focuses on mitigating and managing the fallout from the Brexit vote, it probably will have fewer resources to devote to problems beyond the European Union, namely those in Ukraine, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh — all areas where Russia plays a major role. The EU is also likely, at least in the immediate term, to have less interest in advancing its political and economic integration projects in the former Soviet periphery, such as the Eastern Partnership program.

Sanctions: Russia’s bugbear
Of particular import to Russia are the sanctions against it, which Moscow would like Europe to lift. The European Union first imposed the sanctions in March 2014, around the time that voters in Crimea resolved in a referendum to leave Ukraine and join Russia. The referendum was held in response to the February 2014 EuroMaidan uprising, which ousted then-President Viktor Yanukovich, an ally of Russia, in favor of a new pro-West government. When the European Union passed initial sanctions, they were limited to 21 people in Russia and Ukraine associated with the Crimea referendum. Beginning in May 2014, the European Union passed new sanctions related to the Russian-backed uprising in eastern Ukraine. These sanctions started as restrictive measures for associated individuals, but by September 2014 — when the fighting had intensified and after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down — they expanded to include companies and broader sectors of Russia’s economy. Since passing the measures unanimously, EU member states have reviewed them every six months, agreeing to extend sanctions in June 2015, in December 2015 and again in July 2016.

In upholding the sanctions, the European Union has maintained solidarity with the pro-West government in Ukraine and kept pressure on Russia for more than two years. But recent signs suggest that the bloc’s unity on the issue is becoming strained. Even before the Brexit vote, certain Russia-friendly countries in the European Union — including Italy, Greece and Hungary — pushed for greater discussion and debate on prolonging Russia sanctions. The countries’ leaders argued against an automatic extension of sanctions, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi even co-hosted a recent economic forum with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg. Of course, the pro-Russia sentiment has not sufficed to break the EU unanimity in an actual vote. Nonetheless, it reveals growing uncertainty over the future of the sanctions — regardless of whether Moscow complies with the Continent’s demands to implement the Minsk accords.

A budding opportunity

Nothing will test EU unity more than negotiating Britain’s exit from the bloc. Since the European Union has already decided to extend sanctions through the end of the year, discord on the Continent will not affect Russia immediately. It does, however, raise the possibility that the European Union’s long-standing consensus on sanctions could break by the time the next vote occurs, probably in January 2017. The United Kingdom was one of the biggest proponents of maintaining strong economic pressure on Russia. Now that its status in the bloc is uncertain, other countries may be more willing to diverge from its position — and Russia is ready to take advantage of any rifts. To that end, Moscow will likely encourage the exit campaigns of anti-EU figures such as France’s Marine Le Pen and the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders while also ramping up its charm offensive on countries more critical of sanctions.

Even so, Moscow will be cautious in exploiting the divisions, well aware that any major action it takes — whether backing a military offensive in Ukraine or trying too aggressively to shape EU decision-making — could backfire and strengthen EU resolve against it. Furthermore, Russia is not immune to the economic repercussions of the Brexit, which crashed global markets. Despite the sanctions, Russia and the EU continue to conduct trade and financial activity with each other, albeit at reduced levels. As it is, Russia’s economy is already suffering the effects of low oil prices; a major political and financial crisis spreading throughout all of Europe is not in Moscow’s interests. Therefore, even as Moscow tries to capitalize on Europe’s rifts in time for the next sanctions vote, it will be careful not to overexert its influence. Lead Analyst: Eugene Chausovsky

©2016 STRATFOR GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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How Rulers Affect Migration Measurement of Lifehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/how-rulers-affect-migration-measurement-of-life/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-rulers-affect-migration-measurement-of-life http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/how-rulers-affect-migration-measurement-of-life/#comments Mon, 04 Jul 2016 18:21:27 +0000 Crispin Aranda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145921 By Crispin R. Aranda
Jul 4 2016 (Manila Times)

Will a Duterte administration change the migration pattern of Filipinos searching for a level playing field and a better life?

IF career criminals are stopped dead on their tracks, literally or otherwise—not just petty thieves, drug lords instead of drug users, criminal coddlers as opposed to only small-time hoods, plunderers and not just frontline government bribe takers;

CRISPIN R. ARANDA

CRISPIN R. ARANDA

If taipans and magnates, foreigners and local lackeys are forced to respect Philippine laws, provide decent jobs instead of endos;

If Filipino workers and professionals are adequately paid, allowed to regain productivity at work instead of wasting billions in traffic—then, there is hope that the 6,000-plus leaving daily to find overseas opportunities will decrease.

From the time export of manpower was devised as a safety valve against unemployment and lack of opportunities at home which, in turn, were fumes fueling social upheaval during and after the Ferdinand Marcos years, Filipinos have moved in increasing numbers to foreign shores in search of a better quality of life for at least those who have a life to live.

To a significant number, those who have less in life and even less in law, migrating simply becomes a means to survive.

Which countries offer a better quality of life than what Filipinos have endured before and after martial law?

To a layperson, Numbeo provides an easy comparison. Of course, Numbeo statistics are user-generated (just like Waze, the digital traffic navigator is) but to most, the statistics become eye-openers.

Numbeo explains that its “Quality of Life Index (higher is better) is an estimation of overall quality of life by using empirical formula, which takes into account purchasing power index (higher is better), pollution index (lower is better), house-price-to-income ratio (lower is better), cost of living index (lower is better), safety index (higher is better), health care index (higher is better), traffic commute time index (lower is better) and climate index (higher is better).”

For lack of formatting capability, the column titles of the accompanying table are described, so our readers can match the column with the matching numbers.

From the left, the first of 11 columns represents the Ranking, followed by the City, Qualify of Life, Purchasing Power, Safety, Health Care, and Cost of Living, Property-Price-to-Income Ratio, Traffic Commute, Pollution and Climate indices.

The quality of life is a prime consideration for Filipinos seeking permanent residency not just for themselves but, principally, for their children whom they would want to be spared from what appears to be an intractable trajectory to perpetual poverty.

Host-cities with the most number of Filipino permanent and temporary residents

rank_1

Where have Filipinos settled in search of better quality of life?
North America had been leading the favorite countries of choice for permanent residency. The five countries with permanent migration programs are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA.

It could be argued that the “special ties” between the Philippines and the United States, firmly entrenched by the establishment of a government, laws and education patterned after the US of A, allowed the Philippine kite to fly as far and high as the colonial power allowed it to.

The tie was gradually loosened, especially after the 50 years of Hollywood had run roughshod over the 400 years under Spain; when English became the language of business and education; and rock and roll, then rap, unplugged the kundiman from the musical charts.

Because the US and the subsequent countries of migrant destinations are driven by national interests, migration laws opened and closed as the economic and political situations require.

Mass migration to the US in the 19th century was a result of an earlier exodus of Europeans, separatist Puritans fleeing religious persecution from the Church of England, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock from which the United States was built.

Filipinos, on the other hand, came to know the post-Puritan Americans as replacement masters for the Spanish conquistadores: admirals and generals who snatched the victory from the Katipunan and declared the country its launching pad for Westernization of Asia.

At the time, America had a boundless need for people to man the frontier, build the tracks, protect boundaries as they are created by expansionism, get more people to populate the United States using the new entrants like canaries in a mine allowing America to “safely” search and expropriate gold, minerals, and whatever the US needed to satisfy its expansionary quest.

As inhabitants of a US territory, the Filipinos were regarded as US nationals until the creation of the Philippine commonwealth. Filipinos then could legally go to the US without a need for visas. In fact, they were already in the US without the four seasons.

The Federal government, meantime, started to craft laws defining who could come to America. The teeming masses had to be winnowed: convicts and prostitutes were the first to be barred by the Act of Aug. 3, 1882, allowing the Secretary of the Treasury to establish a tax of 50 cents per immigrant.

1882 also witnessed the creation of the US quota based on national origin—the Chinese Exclusion Act (which prohibited the import of contractual foreign labor) repealed only in 1943.

To strengthen its foothold in its new Asian territory, the United States created the Commonwealth of the Philippines. From 1935 to 1946, this administrative body laid down the foundation for a Philippine Republic and its “independence.” It was during this period that scions of the Philippine elite were sent to the US as student pensionados, to learn the ABCs of USA governance.

After the grant of “independence” on July 4, 1946, Filipinos were only able to go to the US by obtaining the appropriate temporary and permanent resident visas. July 4 of every year is now celebrated as Filipino-American Friendship Day after Independence Day had been reinstated to June 12, a belated and begrudging admission that the Philippines had declared itself freed from the Spanish colonial masters.

With the arrival of information superhighway, Filipinos got caught in the web of migration, discovering other destinations from actual and digital testimonials of those who have set foot and taken residency in other shores.

Canada emerged as a viable and attractive destination, given its proximity to the United States. The Commonwealth states, including the former colonial power—United Kingdom of Great Britain—showed up in the migration horizon.

The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) Stock Estimate of Overseas Filipinos shows the number of kababayan (with temporary or permanent residency) in the leading countries of migration as of Dec. 2012:
country_-2

The tables show that while Australia is only the fifth country with the most number of Filipino permanent residents, Canberra and Sydney are on the top of cities with the best quality of life index.

On the other hand, despite having a low quality of life index (and the sorry state of human rights in the country), Saudi Arabia is second only to the United States as the top destination for Filipinos. It should be explained that those in the KSA are mostly overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), whose main reason for being there is the need for employment and better wages.

The same is true with the rest of five of the 10 country-destinations: United Arab Emirates, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, which all host mostly OFWs. In fact, OFWs in Saudi Arabia could be permanent temporary workers in the Middle East without the ability to obtain lawful permanent residency and citizenship pathways.

Vancouver and Toronto, despite being 23rd and 39th in the Quality of Life Index, are home to a significant number of Filipinos in Canada—which, in turn, is second only to the US in terms of the numbers of lawful permanent residents.

Oh, Davao beats Manila as the better city to live in if quality of life is to be the basis for migration.

In fact, migration to Davao has started, with the daily procession of government officials (turncoats mostly) and the business community seeking audience with and blessing of President Rody Duterte—magnates, taipans and lackeys of foreigners owning public utility companies in the Philippines despite Constitutional ban.

The Duterte administration could then be good for domestic migration, but bad for airlines that would be losing Filipino passengers bound for work or permanent residency destinations.

Amazing, indeed, how migration could be measured by a ruler’s political will.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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