Inter Press ServiceGlobalisation – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 18 Dec 2017 15:55:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.4 Our Right of Passage Should be Safe Migration, Not Leaky Boatshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/right-passage-safe-migration-not-leaky-boats/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=right-passage-safe-migration-not-leaky-boats http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/right-passage-safe-migration-not-leaky-boats/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 15:55:08 +0000 William Lacy Swing http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153598 William Swing is the Director General of IOM, the UN Migration Agency

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By William Lacy Swing
GENEVA, Dec 18 2017 (IPS)

“I’m a migrant, but didn’t have to risk my life on a leaky boat or pay traffickers. Safe migration cannot be limited to the global elite.” Thus spoke United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in September 2017.

With a memorable turn of phrase, he captured what is perhaps one of the overriding challenges facing the world today. While we live at a time when a privileged elite considers global mobility virtually its birth-right, it is denied to countless others trapped in hopelessly bad economic or conflict circumstances.

But something else has changed to bring this self-evident reality into the grinding gears of global politics with often tragic consequences.

Not long ago a sort of insider/outsider code-of-conduct meant that what the elite got barely mattered to the global poor, who were only dimly aware of the opportunities to reach a better life beyond the confines of their country`s borders. That was then.

Today, the world’s greatest leveller, the smartphone—which now is in the hands of more than 2 billion across the world—continues to change all that. In less than a decade, smartphones have provided many outsiders with intimate knowledge of heretofore “elite” goings on.

What’s happening is that two coexisting, if starkly diverging realities are clashing on the same planet, turning the hitherto somnolent politics of many countries unpredictable—and, indeed, volatile.

On the one hand, freedom of movement is virtually guaranteed for a privileged and surprisingly broad global citizenry, for whom it has become natural to move safely, freely and relatively inexpensively around the world. This includes tourists, students, visiting family members, migrant workers from the global south (over 2 million Filipinos and 1 million Sri Lankans etc.) as well as the businesspersons who keep our globalized world humming.

What we so easily forget in the discourse about migration is that millions are traveling in ever greater numbers. They move safely and in an orderly way, passing through security on the way to the gate, checking Facebook feeds and instant messages as they go. Above all, they move in a regular way, with passports (and visas) in hand.

So why, one might ask, has migration become such a toxic issue, leading the news headlines and providing fuel for political populism?

Part of the answer may well lie in our brushing over the challenges of integration and being too quick to judge popular hostility towards migration as irrational or worse. Politicians ignore the values people adhere to at their peril.

Equally, if uninterrupted, global mass movements of people are seen to be so orderly, normal and beneficial for all that they do not draw comment, we will need to figure out how to cope with the majority denied mobility because of circumstances.

Hundreds of millions who are not part of the growing, truly global labor talent market find themselves outside looking in, and looking onto a world they can only dream of. They face enormous income disparities and hardships and no chance of getting a visa or a work permit.

It comes as no surprise then that vast armies of hopeful young migrants want to climb aboard the “leaky boats” referred to by the Secretary General. Pushed by lack of economic opportunity, often exacerbated by climate change, they too are vulnerable to the siren song of social media.

That’s where smuggling networks, human traffickers and modern day enslavers ply their trade these days with complete impunity. These cruel deceptions go unchecked, as the social media giants chase new markets in the global south

This is the type of migration that we see on the news and that at its worst has led to the shocking reality—first revealed by IOM—of African migrants being sold as slaves and indentured servants. As population growth and economic failure drive migrants to throw caution to the wind and leave their homes, the inevitable result is populism at the receiving end where communities are also struggling with unemployment and identity issues.

This is why I place so much hope in a global compact for migration, expected to be adopted at the end of 2018. It will be negotiated by Member States under the auspices of the United Nations and aims to address international migration in a comprehensive manner. The first planned inter-governmental agreement of its kind, it crucially is not expected to intrude on nation state sovereignty nor be legally binding, probably just as well given the tinderbox nature of the subject matter.

There is a great deal of existing common ground and it hinges on the understanding that migration isn’t so much a problem to be solved as a human reality to be managed. If we stop to think about the strict and mandatory rules which enable over 34.5 million flights per year that enable the equivalent of 44 per cent of the world’s population to take off and land safely, it should be possible to find some common rules in order to allow many more to travel, migrate and return home freely and safely. We need to offer hope to those facing economic despair, to provide legal pathways for more migrants or circular migration options for those who wish to work and return home.…because if we don’t come up with solutions the smugglers will do it for us, at great cost to human life and to the fabric of our societies.

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Civil Society Activists Speak Out– Despite Threatshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-activists-speak-despite-threats/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-activists-speak-despite-threats http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-activists-speak-despite-threats/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 13:49:12 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153575 They are young, smart and willing to take the rough road. Victor, Jubilanté and Khaled are independent fighters who speak out with a force that could possibly change the appearances of their countries, and beyond. These ‘sparks of hope’ were awarded with the Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards for their contributions to civil society. Nigeria, […]

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Victor Ugo dedicates the award he won to all Nigerians coping with mental illness. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

By Pascal Laureyn
SUVA, Fiji, Dec 15 2017 (IPS)

They are young, smart and willing to take the rough road. Victor, Jubilanté and Khaled are independent fighters who speak out with a force that could possibly change the appearances of their countries, and beyond.

These ‘sparks of hope’ were awarded with the Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards for their contributions to civil society. Nigeria, Guyana and Egypt already heard about them, the award will make their endeavors known internationally—and it’s high time to hear these inspiring voices.

Creating awareness for mental health in Nigeria. Motivating young creatives in Guyana to speak out using digital media. Defending human rights and freedom of speech in Egypt. These are some of the missions they have dedicated their lives to. Victor Ugo, Jubilanté Cutting and Khaled al-Balshy received the yearly award in Fiji last week.

The Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards seeks to promote individuals and organizations for their excellence and bravery in creating social change. “They inspire compassion and empathy at a time of growing fear, xenophobia, and hate speech,” says Graça Machel, the former First Lady of South Africa.

During the International Civil Society Week (ICSW)— highlighting a conference organized by CIVICUS in Fiji’s capital Suva – the winners had the opportunity to capture a large audience eager to learn about their projects. The interest was overwhelming and often left them exhausted after the daily rounds of interviews and panel discussions. The fourth winner of the prestigious prize – the philanthropic Guerrila Foundation of Germany – was not present in Fiji.

Every year, CIVICUS – a civil society organizations alliance – brings the ICSW to another location to “promote and defend a more just and sustainable future.” Fiji hosted the 2017 event, highlighting the potential and problems of the Pacific.

Victor Ugo (Nigeria) – Best organization of civil society

Victor has the confident stride of a young man with proven achievements while walking from venue to venue at the conference in Suva. He shows no trace of the depression he once suffered from. He was diagnosed with the condition almost 4 years ago. And he was lucky, he got treatment. Most Nigerians who have psychiatric ailments never get help.

Victor Ugo patiently answers questions of interested journalists: “The award makes us more desirable.” Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

“Mental healthcare is none existent in Nigeria,” explains Victor. “There is no knowledge. Not just illiterate people, but also university professors think that mental illnesses are caused by evil ghosts. Patients get punished for their disease.”

As a consequence of the stigma, mental health facilities are really poor. “There are only 200 psychiatrists in Nigeria, a country of 186 million people,” an exasperated Victor says. “And many of them go into banking because they can’t find a job.”

After his depression the young doctor founded the Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI). Two years later, it has become Nigeria’s largest mental health organization. MANI combats the stigma, creates awareness and promotes services for mental health. “Most people don’t know the symptoms and that it can be treated.”

Therefor MANI encourages conversation on social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are platforms used for online campaigns on depression, bipolar disorders or bullying. “We explain how a depression feels like. We make people talk about it,” says Victor. Patients share their experience, family and friends can ask for help. “We try to find people who want to talk about it. We call them our ‘champions of mental health’.”

Media sometimes spread misconceptions about mental health or ignore it completely. “We correct the media so that it is understood that it’s about diseases,” the young man explains. “Suicide, for example. We teach the press how to report on suicides without encouraging it.”

MANI is also creating an online platform to link doctors to patients, like Uber does with drivers and passengers. When a patient asks for help, a therapist in the area is alerted. They can make an appointment after they agree on the price. The platform will be launched next year.

“Today, in villages, patients are still being flogged and chained because of traditional beliefs,” Victor sighs. The taboo needs to be broken. “The less stigma, the more people will ask for help. That will create a market that can encourage more students to become a psychiatrist,” says the hopeful award winner. He dedicates the award to all Nigerians coping with mental illness. “The award makes us more desirable. Everybody wants to join.”

Jubilanté Cutting (Guyana) – Youth Activist Award

At just 19, Jubilanté Cutting founded the Guyana Animation Network (GAN) to help empower young people with skills in digital media and animation. During the conference in Fiji, she was not only promoting the business model of GAN but also trying to inspire. When the stylishly dressed young woman engages in discussions on civil society, she easily impresses people with her enthusiasm and motivational calls to action.

Jubilanté Cutting: “We help children to think out of the box, to learn something about themselves and express themselves.” Credit: Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

“I got the spark when I was 17, at a workshop on art, technology and animation in Trinidad and Tobago. There I met many talented people who were pushing out Caribbean style media products. It was an explosion of talent, it made my creative juices flowing. Although I noticed quickly that I’m not very talented as an animator. But I do have a talent for networking, I decided to focus on that and help to develop Guyana’s digital and creative industries,” Jubilanté concludes.

Two years later, the young law student created GAN. In its first year GAN has reached than 3,500 people through summer camps, events, talks in schools and social media. The main purpose is to change a way of thinking. “Art is still seen as a hobby, not as a professional career,” says Jubilanté who taps her fingernails on the table out of frustration.

“But digital creatives can have a profitable career. If we could attach a price on creativity, many people would already be millionaires. We have to embrace creativity as more than just fun and teach people how to monetize it.”

And no better way to learn new skills and creative mind sets than to start at a young age. “Children are an important target for us,” Jubilanté points out. “Our society is ignoring the young ones. I use every forum I get to emphasize this. Children are born in the digital age. We have to learn them to use that technology in a responsible way. That’s why our organization opens its doors to children, because we acknowledge how transformational they are,” says the young woman.

Jubilanté tells enthusiastically what happened at one of her workshops. When teaching software to create digital graphics, the children aged 6 and 7 were quicker than the older ones to grasp the complicated tool. “Children are unafraid to learn, that’s critical for creative development. But books only teach them things in a structured way. We help children to think out of the box, to motivate them to learn something about themselves and express themselves.”

It took Jubilanté and her team of co-workers and volunteers a year to get the attention of the government. “We need more infrastructure, training and equipment to break the barriers for development. The Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Award won us the recognition of the government and it draws attention to Guyana and the whole Caribbean. Now people know that something is happening there with digital media.

At her 21, Jubilanté is already a force that drives things forward on sheer will power. GAN is only one year old, but she is thinking big. “I want to spread the Caribbean culture. Everyone already loves Bob Marley and Rhianna. I will make them love Caribbean animation and promote our own artists.”

Khaled al-Balshy (Egypt) – Individual Activist Award

Khaled al-Balshy is a prominent human rights defender and journalist fighting to protect free speech. In Egypt, that is no easy job. The government has increasingly cracked down on the press and has become one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists. In a nation where media are under constant attack, Khaled is struggling to defend freedom of the press.

The journalist is gifted with the calmness necessary to face hardship. Khaled knows all too well how an Egyptian cell looks like. He has a suspended 1 year sentence for harboring journalists wanted for expressing critical views. His news website al-Bedaiah is blocked. He was accused for “insulting the police” on social media. The courts have 10 pending cases against him. These are just a few of the harassments he has grown accustomed to.

“The situation in Egypt is one of the worst in the world. More than 12 journalists have been murdered in the last three years. More than 20 are in prison, some without clear accusations. Many others are being stopped from writing and publishing,” Khaled explains for the umpteenth time. He gives many interviews at the conference in Fiji, always with the same energy and indignation.

Known to be an ardent defender of press freedom, Khaled leads numerous initiatives for the detained and disappeared journalists. “I write about their cases. I visit their families. We organize meetings and we create groups that helps lawyers with the legal process.” Sometimes that leads to success. “When a journalist is released, we are happy. But only for a few minutes. Sometimes they have spent years in prison without a clear accusation.”

“This absurd dictatorship is feels threatened, why else would they imprison us?” Khaled continues. “They are afraid of us. When we write, we make a change. If we just tell the truth all the time, that change will come. We did this with Mubarak, we can do it again with al-Sisi,” says Khaled. “The only way to protect freedom of expression is to exercise it and to denounce the violations against it.”

“When I knew I won the Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Award, I was sad for 3 days. I’m getting an award, while people are spending years in prison. My son convinced me that this award is for everyone, for the people I’m fighting for. It’s a message to the imprisoned journalists that their voices can break through prison walls.” The Tunisian translator wipes tears off her face when she repeats his words in English. Her country had a successful uprising, the one in Egypt has failed.

But Khaled has hope. He will continue to fight. “I want to make that change for my son, he is making me do this.”


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world met in Suva, Fiji, December 4 through December 8 for International Civil Society Week..

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Shedding Diplomacy, Roberto Savio Speaks about Fear as a Tool to Gain Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/shedding-diplomacy-roberto-savio-speaks-fear-tool-gain-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shedding-diplomacy-roberto-savio-speaks-fear-tool-gain-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/shedding-diplomacy-roberto-savio-speaks-fear-tool-gain-power/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:17:39 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153533 This op-ed by Roberto Savio, IPS founder and President Emeritus is adapted from a statement he made as a panelist on Migration and Human Solidarity, A Challenge and an Opportunity for Europe and the MENA region held on 14 December at the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

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This op-ed by Roberto Savio, IPS founder and President Emeritus is adapted from a statement he made as a panelist on Migration and Human Solidarity, A Challenge and an Opportunity for Europe and the MENA region held on 14 December at the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

At the outset my thanks to Dr Hanif Hassan Ali Al Kassim, and Ambassador Idriss Jazairy who lead the Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue for organizing this panel discussion at a critical moment in history. The Centre, is one of the few actors for peace and cooperation between the Arab world and Europe. As a representative of global civil society, I think it will be more meaningful if I speak without the constraints of diplomacy, and I make frank and unfettered reflections.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The misuse of religion, of populism and xenophobia, is a sad reality, which is not clearly addressed any longer, but met with hypocrisy and not outright denunciation. Only now the British are realizing that they voted for Brexit, on the basis of a campaign of lies. But nobody has taken on publicly Johnson or Farage, the leaders of Brexit, after Great Britain accepted to pay, as one of the many costs of divorce, at least 45 billion Euro, instead of saving 20 billion Euro, as claimed by the ‘brexiters’. And there are only a few analysis on why political behaviour is more and more a sheer calculation, without any concern for truth or the good of the country.

President Trump could be a good case study on the relations between politics and populism. Just a few days ago the United States has declared that they are withdrawing from the UN Global Compact on Migration. This has nothing to do with the interest or the identity of United States, which has built itself as a country of immigrants. It has to do with the fact that this decision is popular with a part of American population, which is voting for President Trump, like the evangelicals. I have here to show the message they are circulating, after the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is what it is said in the Bible. If we recreate the world described in the bible, Jesus will make his second coming to earth, and only the just will be rewarded. And therefore they think that Trump brings the world closer to the return of Christ, and therefore he acts for the good of their beliefs. Evangelicals are close to thirty million, and they strongly believe that when the second coming of Jesus will happen, he will recognize only them as the believers who are on the right path. Trump is not an evangelical, and he has shown little interest in religion. But, like each of his actions, he is coherent with his views during the campaign, which brought together all the dissatisfied people catapulting him into the White House. Everything he does, is not in the interest of the world or of the United States. He is just focused on keeping the support of his electors – those who do not come from big towns, academia, media and the Silicon Valley. They come mainly from impoverished and uninformed white electors, who feel left out from the benefits of globalization. They believe those benefits went to the elite, to the big towns and to the few winners, and believe that there is an international plot to humiliate the United States. So, climate change for them and Trump is a Chinese hoax ! During the first year, Trump can well have a shocking approval rating of 32%, the lowest in history for a President of United States. But 92% of his voters would re-elect him. And as only 50% of Americans vote, he can conveniently ignore general public opinion.

It is not the place here to go deeper into American political trends. But Trump is a perfect example to see why a large number of Europeans, or even countries like Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic, are ignoring the decisions of the European Union on migrants, and why populism, xenophobia and nationalism are on the rise everywhere.

Fear has become the tool to get to power.

Historians agree that two main engines of change in history, are greed and fear.

Well, we have been trained, since the collapse of communism, to look to greed as a positive value. Markets (no man or ideas), was the new paradigm. States were an obstacle to a free market. Globalization, it was famously said, would lift all boats, and benefit everybody. In fact, markets without rules was self-destructive, and not all boats were lifted, but only yachts, the bigger the better. The rich became richer, and the poor poorer. The process is so speedy, that ten years ago the richest 528 people had the same wealth of 2.3 billion people. This year, they have become 8, and this number is likely to shrink soon. All statistics are clear, and globalization based on free market is losing some of its shine.

But meanwhile we have lost many codes of communication. In the political debate there is no more reference to social justice, solidarity, participation, equity, the values in the modern constitutions, on which we built international relations. Now the codes are competition, success, profit and individual achievement. During my lectures at schools, I am dismayed to see a materialistic generation, who do not care to vote, to change the world. And the distance between citizens and political institutions is increasing every day. The only voices reminding us of justice and solidarity, and are voices from religious leaders: Pope Bergoglio, the Dalai Lama, Bishop Tutu, and the Grand Mufti Muhammad Hussein, just to name the most prominent. And with media who are now also based on market as the only criteria, those voices are becoming weaker.

After a generation of greed, we are now in a generation of fear. We should notice that, before the great economic crisis of 2009 (provoked by greed: banks have paid until now 280 billion dollars of penalties and fines), xenophobe and populist parties were always minorities (with exception of Le Pen in France). The crisis created fear and uncertainties, and then immigration started to rise, especially after the invasion of Libya in 2001 and Iraq in 2013.We are now in the seventh year of the Syrian drama, which displaced 45% of the population. Merkel is now paying a price for her acceptance of Syrian refugees, and it is interesting to note that two thirds of the votes to Alternative Fur Deutschland, the populist and xenophobe party, comes from former East Germany, that has few refugees but an income, which is nearly 25% lower. Fear, again, has been the engine for change of German history.

Europe was direct lyresponsible for these migrations. A famous cartoonist El Roto from El Pais, has made a cartoon showing bombs flying in the air, and migrant’s boats coming from the sea. “We send them bombs, and they send us migrants”. But there is no recognition of this. Those who escape from hunger and war are now depicted as invaders. Countries who until few years ago, like the Nordic ones, were considered synonymous with civic virtues, and who spent a considerable budget for international cooperation, are now erecting walls and barbed wire. Greed and fear have been so successfully exploited by the new nationalist, populist and xenophobe parties, that now they keep growing at every election, from Austria to the Netherlands, from Czech Republic to Great Britain (where they created Brexit ), and then Germany, and in a few months, Italy. The three horses of apocalypse, which in the thirties were the basis for the Second Wold War: nationalism, populism and xenophobia, are back with growing popular support, and politicians openly riding them.

But what is shocking is that we have now a new element of division: religion, which is widely used against immigrants and should instead unite us. Religion has always been used to get power and legitimacy. Common people never started the wars of religion in Europe but by princes and kings. A few years ago we did commemorate the expulsion first of the Jews, and then of the Moors, from Spain, where they lived in harmony and peace with the Christians, forming a civilization of the three cultures. And a few weeks ago, there was a great march in Warsaw, ignored by the media, with 40.000 people, many coming from all over Europe and the United States. They marched in the name of God, crying death to the Jews and Muslim.

But while Protestant, Catholic, Muslim and Jew religious leaders engage in a positive dialogue for peace and cooperation, a number of self-proclaimed defenders of the faith, are bringing fear, misery and death. And it should be clear that we have no clash of religions. It is a clash of those who use religion for power and legitimacy. And they ride an unrealistic historical dream. To return to a world, which is gone, where mines will reopen, the country will go back to its former glory: a world, that dreams not of a better future, but of a better past. Africa is going to double its population, with 80% of its population under 35 years; while in Europe it will be just 20%. There is no hope for Europe to be viable in a global economy and in a competitive world, without substantial immigration. Yet, to speak about that in the political debate, is now a kiss of death.

In conclusion, I must stress that we face a sad reality, which cannot be ignored any longer, even if it is not politically correct. Ideals have always been used to gain support, even from those who did not believe them. And historians teach us that in modern times humankind has fallen into three traps: In the name of God, to divide and not to dialogue; in the name of the nation, often to rally support and bring citizens to wars; and now, in name of the profit. I think it is time to make new alliances, and launch a great powerful campaign of awareness on the false prophets, with mobilizations of media, civil society and legitimate politicians, to educate citizens that immigration must be regulated, as it is a necessity, with which Europe must live.

We must establish policies, and even after Trumps leaves the global Compact, like he left the Paris Agreement on climate change, he will remain an isolated voice, while citizens will strive for a better world, with no fears, based on common values. We must take an unpopular but vital action for education and participation. It will be unpopular and difficult we know. But if we do not take this road, human beings, who are the only ‘animals’ who do not learn from past mistakes, will again go through blood, misery and destruction.

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Central America Builds Interconnected Clean Energy Corridorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/central-america-builds-interconnected-clean-energy-corridor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-builds-interconnected-clean-energy-corridor http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/central-america-builds-interconnected-clean-energy-corridor/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 21:30:57 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153505 Countries in Central America are working to strengthen their regional electricity infrastructure to boost their exchange of electricity generated from renewable sources, which are cheaper and more environmentally friendly. With the Clean Energy Corridor, a project agreed in 2015 by the governments of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, these countries seek […]

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Workers at an electricity distribution company carry out maintenance work on the grid, on the outskirts of San Salvador. Central American countries, including El Salvador, are promoting an interconnected Clean Energy Corridor. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

Workers at an electricity distribution company carry out maintenance work on the grid, on the outskirts of San Salvador. Central American countries, including El Salvador, are promoting an interconnected Clean Energy Corridor. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR , Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

Countries in Central America are working to strengthen their regional electricity infrastructure to boost their exchange of electricity generated from renewable sources, which are cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

With the Clean Energy Corridor, a project agreed in 2015 by the governments of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, these countries seek to share their surplus electricity from renewable sources, including non-conventional sources, such as wind, geothermal and solar.

To achieve this they will have to gradually modify their energy mixes to depend less and less on thermal power, which is more expensive and has more negative impacts on the planet, since it is based on the burning of fossil fuels."The problem is the stability of the sources. The State can have a 60-MW photovoltaic plant, but if there is variability, it must have a backup in thermal, hydroelectric or other sources allowing it to meet the needs of the market.” -- Werner Vargas

The objective is to inject cleaner energy into the system that interconnects the electricity grids of the countries of the region, with economic and environmental benefits, experts and regional authorities told IPS.

“Each country is doing everything possible to generate energy with clean sources…and if there is surplus energy that is not consumed, it is illogical for it not to be used by other countries that are using thermal power: that’s where the Clean Energy Corridor comes into the picture,” Fernando Díaz, director of electricity at Panama’s Energy Ministry, told IPS.

About 60 percent of electricity in the region is produced from renewable sources, mostly hydroelectric plants.

But Central America is still highly dependent on fossil fuels, says a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

This organisation, based in the United Arab Emirates, promotes the development of renewable energies in the world, and is the main driver of the Corridor project in Central America, following similar efforts in Africa and Southeast Asia.

The Corridor will use a platform already functioning in Central America: a 1,800-km power grid cutting across the isthmus, from Guatemala in the extreme northwest, to Panama in the southeast.

The grid was built to give life to the Regional Electricity Market, created in May 2000, as part of the Central American Integration System (SICA), a mechanism of political and economic complementation established by the presidents of the area in December 1991.

Over 50 percent of the energy traded is supplied by hydroelectric plants, 35 percent by thermal and 15 percent by geothermal, solar and wind, explained René González of Nicaragua, executive director of the Regional Operator Entity (EOR), which administers electricity sales.

It is estimated, he added in a dialogue with IPS in San Salvador, that the proportion of non-conventional renewables could grow to up to 20 percent by 2020.

The Providencia Solar company inaugurated this year the first photovoltaic power plant in El Salvador, in the central department of La Paz. With 320,000 solar panels, it is one of the largest solar installations in Central America, whose countries are making efforts to transition their energy mixes to renewable sources. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

The Providencia Solar company inaugurated this year the first photovoltaic power plant in El Salvador, in the central department of La Paz. With 320,000 solar panels, it is one of the largest solar installations in Central America, whose countries are making efforts to transition their energy mixes to renewable sources. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

The countries of the area as a whole will need an additional seven gigawatts that year, on top of the current level of production, according to a report published in July by IRENA.

The Corridor is in line with the goals set out in the Central American Sustainable Energy Strategy 2020, agreed by the governments of the region in 2007, which aims to overcome the dependence on fossil fuels and promote renewable sources, Werner Vargas, the executive director of the SICA General Secretariat, told IPS.

“The idea (of the Corridor) is to inject clean energies into the Central American electricity system, but guaranteeing that there is not too much variability,” explained Vargas, at the Secretariat’s headquarters in San Salvador.

Part of the challenge is to operate a system with higher flows of renewable electricity, which is more unstable, as is the case with solar and wind sources, which depend on climate variability.

“The problem is the stability of the sources. The State can have a 60-MW photovoltaic plant, but if there is variability, it must have a backup in thermal, hydroelectric or other sources allowing it to meet the needs of the market, ” added Vargas, who is also from Nicaragua.

The governments of Central America must also develop the necessary regulatory frameworks to adapt the technical processes and purchase and sale of energy from mainly renewable sources.

If national power grids are fed with clean sources, and surpluses reach the regional network, Central American consumers will be able to have cheaper electricity.

“The cost of electricity production is about 70 percent of its total cost, so if you want to reduce the cost of supply to the final consumer you have to reduce the cost of production,” said the EOR’s González.

He added that the corridor would affect production costs, and the regional market is a way to achieve that goal, since it can inject cheaper energy produced in other regions.

In the same vein, “the vision we have in Central and Latin America is to move towards renewable energies, towards corridors, and that is why interregional connections are important,” said Díaz, from Panama’s Energy Ministry.

He mentioned the case of the project of interconnection between Panama and Colombia, which would link the electricity market of that South American country not only with Panama, but by extension with all of Central America, while linking Central America with different parts of South America.

“This way we will have the capacity to capture solar power from the Atacama Desert, in Chile, hydropower from Brazil, and wind power from Uruguay; these are the things we are seeing as a region,” Díaz said.

Another economic benefit derived from greater energy integration in Central America is that the region is more attractive to international investors, seeing it as a bloc, rather than separate countries.

“It is more attractive to invest in larger projects than individually, that is another fundamental reason for the project: it generates conditions to attract investment,” said the EOR’s González.

But despite the economic and environmental advantages of further development of renewable energy sources, some environmentalists argue that the issue is being viewed too much from a technical and economic perspective, without considering some social costs that these projects may entail.

“There are projects where solar collectors are used on large extensions of land that could be devoted to agriculture or used to build houses…it seems that there is only interest in energy and making money quickly,” said Ricardo Navarro, director of the Salvadoran Centre for Appropriate Technology.

Navarro, who is also head of the Salvadoran branch of Friends of the Earth International, told IPS that it is important for the planet to seek to increase the use of renewable energies, but with that same emphasis the governments of the area should engage in energy saving policies.

“How about trying to reduce demand? For example, a tree prevents the sun beating down directly on a building, and thereby reduces the demand for air conditioning; there are also ways to cook food with less electricity,” he said.

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Are Value Chains a Pathway to Nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 08:56:51 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Shantanu Mathur http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153436 Raghav Gaiha is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Shantanu Mathur is Lead Advisor, Programme Management Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, Italy. The views are personal.

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Raghav Gaiha is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Shantanu Mathur is Lead Advisor, Programme Management Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, Italy. The views are personal.

By Raghav Gaiha and Shantanu Mathur
NEW DELHI, Dec 11 2017 (IPS)

Although difficult to ascertain whether it is a trend reversal, two recent FAO reports (2017a, b) show a rise in hunger globally as well as in Africa. The number of undernourished (NoU) in the world suffering from chronic food deprivation began to rise in 2014 –from 775 million people to 777 million in 2015 – and is now estimated to have increased further, to 815 million in 2016. The stagnation of the global average of the proportion of undernourished (PoU) from 2013 to 2015 is the result of two offsetting changes at the regional level: in Sub-Saharan Africa, the share of undernourished people increased, while there was a continued decline in Asia in the same period. However, in 2016, the PoU increased in most regions except Northern Africa, Southern Asia, Eastern Asia, Central America and the Caribbean. The deterioration was most severe in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-Eastern Asia (FAO 2017a,b).

Raghav Gaiha

In 2016, weak commodity prices were partly responsible for a slowdown in economic growth across Sub-Saharan Africa to 1.4 %, its most sluggish pace in more than two decades. With the population growing by about 3 % a year, people on average got poorer last year, and, by implication, more undernourished. The greater frequency and intensity of conflicts and crises further aggravated undernourishment.

Food systems are changing rapidly. Globalization, trade liberalization, and rapid urbanization have led to major shifts in the availability, affordability, and acceptability of different types of food, which has driven a nutrition transition in many countries in the developing world. Food production has become more capital-intensive and supply chains have grown longer as basic ingredients undergo multiple transformations. Expansion of fast food outlets and supermarkets has resulted in dietary shifts. The consumption of low nutritional quality, energy-dense, ultra-processed food and drinks, and fried snacks and sweets has risen dramatically in the past decade.

The concomitant shift to the more market-oriented nature of agricultural policies means that agricultural technology and markets play a more important role in determining food prices and rural incomes, and more food is consumed from the marketplace rather than from own production. The greater market orientation of food production and consumption has increased the bidirectional links between agriculture and nutrition: agriculture still affects nutrition, but food and nutritional demands increasingly affect agriculture. Increasing demands for energy-intensive products exacerbate environmental impacts of food value chains: for example, excessive use of agricultural chemicals to extract more dietary energy from every hectare while contaminating the very food it produces, along with groundwater and the soil; and the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock industries to feed the ever-increasing demand for meat and dairy products (Carletto, 2015).

Shantanu Mathur

Value chain concepts are useful in designing strategies to achieve nutrition goals. Central to this approach is identifying opportunities where chain actors benefit from the marketing of agricultural products with higher nutritional value. However, value chain development focuses on efficiency and economic returns among value chain transactions, and the nutritional content of commodities is often overlooked.

A food value chain involves a series of processes and actors that take a food from its production to consumption and disposal as waste. In a value chain, the emphasis is on the value (usually economic) accrued (and lost) for chain actors at different steps in the chain, and the value produced through the functioning of the whole chain as an interactive unit. A value chain is commodity specific, and thus involves only one particular food that is relevant within a diet.

As value chains are crucial in determining food availability, affordability, quality, and acceptability, they have potential to improve nutrition. What is required is to identify opportunities where value chain actors benefit from supplying the market with agricultural products of higher nutritional value. Value chain development, however, has rarely focused attention on consumers—consumers are simply considered as purchasers driving the ultimate source of demand. In this light, the value chain strategy is likely to be enriched by a stronger consumer focus, and, in particular, a focus on consumer nutrition and health. The empirical evidence on the role of value chains in improving nutrition is, however, scanty and mixed.

Basically, nutrition results from the quality of the overall diet, not just from the nutrient content of an individual food. In value chains, the focus is generally commodity specific, rather than on how to integrate multiple chains to contribute to an enhanced quality of diet. There may be offsetting impacts such that, if one value chain works better and consumption of the associated food increases, consumption of other foods may decline.

On the demand side, the central issue is how to promote consumption of nutritious foods by target populations that may not be able to afford a healthy diet. Similarly, on the supply side, an important concern is the feasibility of targeting the poorest smallholders and informal enterprises along the value chain, particularly, involving women.

An example from Nigeria elucidates the potential of value chains for enhancement of nutritional value and the constraints that must be addressed. Chronic undernutrition is pervasive in Nigeria, with rates of stunting and underweight alarmingly high and little progress over the last decade. There are major disparities in nutrition outcomes between the wealthy and poor, between the north and south, and between urban and rural areas. Micronutrient deficiencies are widespread across social groups. Vitamin A deficiency, for example, is associated with 25% of child and maternal deaths. Together with direct nutrition interventions, it is necessary to improve the functioning of food value chains and provide access to nutrient-dense foods to the urban and rural poor.

Cowpeas make a substantial contribution to the nutrition of poor populations in Nigeria. Cowpea grains contain an average of 24% protein and 62% soluble carbohydrates. They are rich in thiamine, folates and iron, and also contain zinc, potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and calcium, as well as the amino acids lysine and tryptophan. Markets for cowpea products are mainly informal, and the majority of products are produced by small-scale businesses and sold locally. Few formal sector businesses have invested in cowpea products, and there is limited innovation in value-added products. A merit of cowpea foods is that they are readily acceptable to diverse populations, widely available across the country and can be distinguished from less nutritious alternatives. However, affordability and availability of cowpeas is constrained by major supply-side problems. Cowpea prices fluctuate between seasons, due to the susceptibility of grains to degradation and low use of improved storage technologies. Although simple, safe and low-cost technologies are available in the form of improved storage bags, these are not prominent in wholesale and transport stages of the value chain. Besides, existing preservation techniques make use of pesticides that create risks of toxic contamination. Improving use of storage technologies along the value chain, including on-farm facilities, transportation and storage facilities in markets would help alleviate this constraint-especially for smallholders.

So the challenges are creating incentives for businesses to focus better on nutritional foods and conditions enabling smallholders to integrate better into these chains.

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Coping with Foreign Direct Investmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/coping-foreign-direct-investment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coping-foreign-direct-investment http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/coping-foreign-direct-investment/#respond Tue, 21 Nov 2017 19:26:04 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153137 Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney University and the University of New South Wales (Australia). He held senior United Nations positions during 2008-2016 in Bangkok and New York.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) can make important contributions to sustainable development, particularly when projects are aligned with national and regional sustainable development strategies. Credit: Ed McKenna/ IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 2017 (IPS)

Foreign direct investment (FDI) is increasingly touted as the elixir for economic growth. While not against FDI, the mid-2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) for financing development also cautioned that it “is concentrated in a few sectors in many developing countries and often bypasses countries most in need, and international capital flows are often short-term oriented”.

FDI flows
UNCTAD’s 2017 World Investment Report (WIR) shows that FDI flows have remained the largest and has provided less volatile of all external financial flows to developing economies, despite declining by 14% in 2016. FDI flows to the least developed countries and ‘structurally weak’ economies remain low and volatile.

FDI inflows add to funds for investment, while providing foreign exchange for importing machinery and other needed inputs. FDI can enhance growth and structural transformation through various channels, notably via technological spill-overs, linkages and competition. Transnational corporations (TNCs) may also provide access to export markets and specialized expertise.

However, none of these beneficial growth-enhancing effects can be taken for granted as much depends on type of FDI. For instance, mergers and acquisitions (M&As) do not add new capacities or capabilities while typically concentrating market power, whereas green-field investments tend to be more beneficial. FDI in capital-intensive mining has limited linkage or employment effects.

Technological capacities and capabilities
Technological spill-overs occur when host country firms learn superior technology or management practices from TNCs. But intellectual property rights and other restrictions may effectively impede technology transfer.

Or the quality of human resources in the host country may be too poor to effectively use, let alone transfer technology introduced by foreign firms. Learning effects can be constrained by limited linkages or interactions between local suppliers and foreign affiliates.

Linkages between TNCs and local firms are also more likely in countries with strict local content requirements. But purely export oriented TNCs, especially in export processing zones (EPZs), are likely to have fewer and weaker linkages with local industry.

Foreign entry may reduce firm concentration in a national market, thereby increasing competition, which may force local firms to reduce organizational inefficiencies to stay competitive. But if host country firms are not yet internationally competitive, FDI may decimate local firms, giving market power and lucrative rents to foreign firms.

Contrasting experiences
The South Korean government has long been cautious towards FDI. The share of FDI in gross capital formation was less than 2% during 1965-1984. The government did not depend on FDI for technology transfer, and preferred to ‘purchase and unbundle’ technology, encouraging ‘reverse engineering’. It favoured strict local content requirements, licensing, technical cooperation and joint ventures over wholly-owned FDI.

In contrast, post-colonial Malaysia has never been hostile to any kind of FDI. After FDI-led import-substituting industrialization petered out by the mid-1960s, export-orientation from the early 1970s generated hundreds of thousands of jobs for women. Electronics in Malaysia has been more than 80% FDI since the 1970s, with little scope for knowledge spill-overs and interactions with local firms. Although lacking many mature industries, Malaysia has been experiencing premature deindustrialization since the 1997-1998 Asian financial crises.

China and India
From the 1980s, China has been pro-active in encouraging both import-substituting and export-oriented FDI. However, it soon imposed strict requirements regarding local content, foreign exchange earnings, technology transfer as well as research and development, besides favouring joint ventures and cooperatives.

Solely foreign-owned enterprises were not permitted unless they brought advanced technology or exported most of their output. China only relaxed these restrictions in 2001 to comply with WTO entrance requirements. Nevertheless, it still prefers TNCs that bring advanced technology and boost exports, and green-field FDI over M&As.

Thus, more than 80% of FDI in China involves green-field investments, mostly in manufacturing, constituting 70% of total FDI in 2001. China has strictly controlled FDI inflows into services, only allowing FDI in real estate recently.

Although long cautious of FDI, India has recently changed its policies, seeking FDI to boost Indian manufacturing and create jobs. Thus, the current government has promised to “put more and more FDI proposals on automatic route instead of government route”.

Despite sharp rising FDI inflows, the share of FDI in manufacturing declined from 48% to 29% between October 2014 and September 2016, with few green-field investments. Newly incorporated companies’ share of inflows was 2.7% overall, and 1.6% for manufacturing, with the bulk of FDI going to M&As.

Policy lessons
FDI policies need to be well complemented by effective industrial policies including efforts to enhance human resource development and technological capabilities through public investments in education, training and R&D.

Thus, South Korea industrialized rapidly without much FDI thanks to its well-educated workforce and efforts to enhance technological capabilities from 1966. Korean manufacturing developed with protection and other official support (e.g., subsidized credit from state-owned banks and government-guaranteed private firm borrowings from abroad) subject to strict performance criteria (e.g., export targets).

Indeed, FDI can make important contributions “to sustainable development, particularly when projects are aligned with national and regional sustainable development strategies. Government policies can strengthen positive spillovers …, such as know-how and technology, including through establishing linkages with domestic suppliers, as well as encouraging the integration of local enterprises… into regional and global value chains”.

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Belgian City of Mechelen Embraces Integrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/belgian-city-mechelen-embraces-integration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=belgian-city-mechelen-embraces-integration http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/belgian-city-mechelen-embraces-integration/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 20:10:45 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153111 Many of the suspects in European terrorist attacks have come from marginalized communities in Belgium. In the face of radicalization, the city of Mechelen has successfully embraced integration. Adrian Breda reports. Mechelen is halfway between Brussels and Antwerp. The city center is characterized by gabled Renaissance houses, carefully restored, while the marketplace is dominated by […]

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Mechelen city.

By International Organization for Migration
MECHELEN, Belgium, Nov 20 2017 (IOM)

Many of the suspects in European terrorist attacks have come from marginalized communities in Belgium. In the face of radicalization, the city of Mechelen has successfully embraced integration. Adrian Breda reports.

Mechelen is halfway between Brussels and Antwerp. The city center is characterized by gabled Renaissance houses, carefully restored, while the marketplace is dominated by the Gothic cathedral on one side and the town hall, also Gothic, on the other. This is where the mayor of Mechelen, Bart Somers, has been waging his fight against extremism and radicalization since 2001. It’s a fight he can never conclusively win, but that doesn’t deter him.

Somers has a firm handshake. The 53-year-old is used to pressing the flesh. He’s not only the mayor of Mechelen but also the parliamentary party leader of the Flemish liberals and the former premier of the region of Flanders.

Somers describes his politics as having two strands, or “legs.”

“The ‘right’ leg is security. We’ve invested very heavily in the police,” he says. “There’s also no other city in Belgium with so much CCTV surveillance.”

The “left” leg is his concept for integration: “We can’t allow a social group to cut itself off or become isolated. All of us living here are Mecheleners, regardless of whether we were born here or in Morocco. We’re not a flower-power city, either, though.”

Island of happiness?

A comparison with the other cities in the region indicates that Somers’ course is the right one. The attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris was carried out by terrorists from Brussels, one of the attackers on the Ramblas in Barcelona was active as an imam in Vilvoorde, not far from Mechelen, and just last year nine members of a terrorist cell were arrested in Antwerp.

Mechelen has no such problems. The city is seen internationally as an exemplary model of the successful integration of immigrants in general and refugees in particular. There are no Islamist radicals here; none of the city’s 86,000 inhabitants have gone to Iraq or Syria to fight.

By way of comparison, 28 have traveled there from Vilvoorde, which is only half the size, while 200 have gone from Brussels. This is despite the fact that social conditions in Mechelen could be seen as very challenging: One in two children has an immigrant background. Twenty percent of the population is Muslim. People from 138 different countries live in the city.

Mechelen’s central marketplace is dominated by the city’s Gothic town hall.

In the 1990s Mechelen was still referred to as a “blot” on the Belgian landscape. It boasted numerous negative records: dirtiest city, city with the highest crime rate, bastion of the right-wing extremist party Vlaams Belang. Today, Mechelen is dubbed “The Pearl of Flanders,” and Vlaams Belang got less than 9 percent of the vote in the last election. The city is clean, safe and one of the fastest-growing in the country. How was this turnaround achieved?

Step one: Learn the language

Somers believes the teaching concept of “incentives and demands” can also be applied to social coexistence. “If someone feels they’re being taken seriously, they will make an effort,” he says.

One place where they’re making an effort is the Busleyden vocational school, an unassuming functional building right next to the cathedral. Eighty percent of students there have an immigrant background. They include 20 refugees, who have been divided up into three classes and are learning not only Flemish but also on how to get along in Belgian society. How do men and women behave towards each other in Belgium? What are the names of the country’s towns and cities? How do you ask for directions?

If you drop in on these lessons, the first thing you notice is how empty the classroom seems. It could easily fit 35 students – but there are only eight students and one teacher, because the number of participants is limited to 12 per class. The aim is for the refugees to be able to join regular school classes as quickly as possible. Four out of five students manage it after one year – even though some have never even seen the inside of a school before.

Furthermore, on their first day every refugee is assigned a “buddy” who helps him or her get to grips with their new environment. “This is very important for the refugees, because that way they step outside their existing communities,” Somers explains.

Last year, Mechelen was the only municipality in Belgium to volunteer to take 250 refugees. “The government said we didn’t have to take anyone because there are already so many migrants living here. But we did it anyway. Just 15 years ago, we couldn’t have done that; the people of Mechelen would have killed me.”

Somers: ‘If someone feels they’re being taken seriously, they will make an effort’.

Mechelen’s ‘ghetto schools’

“I like Mechelen a lot,” says 15-year-old Rafig, who fled to Belgium from Afghanistan 18 months ago. “The only thing that bothers me is that I can’t attend ordinary lessons yet.” In the past Rafig would probably have been sent to one of Mechelen’s migrant “ghetto schools” as soon as his Flemish improved. These days there are no more “ghetto schools,” because Mayor Somers fought for a better mix of students.

“Initially, parents were concerned because the children at these schools often didn’t speak Flemish very well, and as a result the quality of the lessons wasn’t very high,” he says. “We persuaded a few hundred middle-class families to send their children to one of these schools. And in return we, the municipality, guaranteed that the teaching would improve. That’s good for the children, too, of course, because they’re already living in tomorrow’s reality: diversity.”

Somers’ initiative has also gone down well in Mechelen; he’s been re-elected three times since 2001.

Investing in the future

The mayor sees the cost of the integration program as an investment in the future. He’s financing this investment by making savings in other areas. “You just have to make good decisions and implement them systematically,” he says.

Somers has reduced staff costs in the municipal budget from 65 to 39 percent, in part through redundancies. But the investment is paying off. The mean local income is rising faster than average, and Mechelen is the only Belgian city where the poverty rate is falling.

This upswing is contributing to the fact that more and more high-income families are moving to Mechelen, and the tax income is having a noticeable effect on the city coffers. This in turn benefits all those who live in Mechelen – regardless of whether they’ve been there for a few days or since birth.

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Trying to Make Immigration an Option Rather than a Need in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/trying-make-immigration-option-rather-need-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trying-make-immigration-option-rather-need-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/trying-make-immigration-option-rather-need-latin-america/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 16:16:25 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152477 This article forms part of the IPS coverage for World Food Day, celebrated on October 16.

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In Vega Central, the biggest fruit and vegetable market in Santiago, the stands of Peruvian migrants, 300,000 of whom live in Chile, offer typical produce and meals from that country. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

In Vega Central, the biggest fruit and vegetable market in Santiago, the stands of Peruvian migrants, 300,000 of whom live in Chile, offer typical produce and meals from that country. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

The aim is for migration to become just one option among others for the rural population of Latin America, says Brazilian expert Luiz Carlos Beduschi, referring to an issue that causes concern in the region due to its impact on food security.

The theme this year of World Food Day, celebrated Oct. 16, is “Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development”, promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

“If living conditions improve in rural areas, people can use more autonomous strategies that can turn the decision of whether or not to migrate into just one more option among other alternatives,” Beduschi, policy officer in FAO’s regional office in Santiago, Chile, told IPS.

The Brazilian academic added that “the tendency to migrate increases or declines” depending on the specific characteristics and circumstances of the potential migrants.

He mentioned, for example, individual circumstances, such as “the search for independence among the young,” and family circumstances, because “among families with members in other countries, the tendency to migrate is stronger.”

Other reasons arise from where people live. With regard to this point, Beduschi explained that “in areas with greater economic opportunities and lower crime rates, better public services, etc, the tendency to migrate is weaker.

“In more remote areas with poorer quality land, where people don’t have savings or cash allowing them to migrate, social protection policies are even more necessary,” he said.

Migration in context

Some 30 million people from Latin America and the Caribbean live outside their home countries, equivalent to four percent of the total population of the region, according to Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) statistics, which are based on the latest national census information from the different countries. Of that total, some 20 million live in the United States and 11 million of them are undocumented.

Central America and southern Mexico account for the largest number of migrants from the region – 9.7 percent of the total population of this subregion known as “Mesoamerica” – and Mexico represents 40 percent of the region’s total migration, with approximately 12 million Mexicans living abroad, mainly in the United States.

The International Migration Report 2016, prepared by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, reported that migrants from Latin America are getting younger: between 2010 and 2015, the median age of immigrants from this region declined from 40 to 36 years.

One significant fact is that around 5.5 million young people between the ages of 15 and 29 are immigrants in the United States, equivalent to 25 percent of the Latin American immigrant population in that country. Another is that 49.4 percent of Latin American immigrants in the United States are women.

Another phenomenon that ECLAC emphasises is that so far this century, inter-regional migration in Latin America has grown at an annual average of 3.5 percent, with more than eight million Latin American immigrants living in other nations in the region, 63 percent in countries that border their own.

Poverty and climate, factors that drive migration

For Víctor Hugo Lagos, a lawyer with the Jesuit Service for Migrants that operates in three Chilean cities, poverty is the main factor driving immigration today.

“Poverty is a factor that makes people decide to leave their home countries and seek opportunities elsewhere. And poverty has different causes, such as a lack of access to education or jobs,” he told IPS.

Jorge Martínez with the Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Centre (CELADE) said that in this region, rural migration to urban areas has declined.

“That was an issue in previous decades, which accompanied broad social and economic changes – migration driven by a lack of opportunities, by modernisation in agriculture, and the simultaneous draw of urban areas,” he told IPS at CELADE headquarters in Santiago.

He added that most of the migrants from Latin America come from urban areas, with a few exceptions, such as Mexico, where migration is still leading to the depopulation of rural areas.

“One factor that can have a potentially heavy influence is natural disasters/climate change, which requires a new assessment of the consequences of mobility, affecting the most disadvantaged and the least resilient,” he warned.

In 2015, more than 19 million people worldwide were displaced within their countries as a result of natural disasters, according to FAO.

Between 2008 and 2015, an average of 26.4 million people a year were displaced by natural catastrophes.

Lagos lamented that “at the level of international law (natural disasters) have not been recognised as grounds for granting refugee status in another country,” because “practice shows that today the environment is one of the main factors leading people to leave their countries.

“One classic example is Haiti, which is not only a country steeped in poverty and whose leaders have shown a high level of corruption, but which has also been plagued by different natural disasters,” he said.

Beduschi, meanwhile, stressed that the projects, programmes and policies supported by FAO seek to strengthen the decision-making autonomy of rural families, including the decision of whether or not to migrate.

The idea is “to change the future of migration, investing in food security and agriculture.

“What we are trying to do in FAO, with a broad, diverse set of partners, is to eradicate rural hunger and poverty, improve nutrition, make better use of natural resources, and strengthen people’s livelihoods,” he said.

“International cooperation is not aimed at reducing the number of migrants, but at helping to make migration a safe, orderly and regular process,” he added. “The idea is also for people and families to decide to migrate, not as the only option for their development, but as one option in a broaders range of opportunities.”
Beduschi said “conflicts over ownership and use of natural resources are also related to migration flows,” as are aspects such as “changes in climate conditions and the exhaustion of natural resources.”

He said that “expanding access to assets and services is part of the response to build up resilience in rural areas, as is promoting more environment-friendly production methods.”

According to FAO, investing in sustainable food production and rural development systems helps to address the main global challenges in feeding the growing global population, protecting the climate, and tackling some of the fundamental causes of migration and displacement.

It adds that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be reached without putting an end to hunger and without achieving agriculture and food production systems that respect the climate and are sustainable and resilient.

Of 129 countries monitored by FAO, 72 reached the goal of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger, by 2015, although the U.N. agency issued an alert that in 2016 the fight against malnutrition suffered a setback.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After Panama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Global Companies Give Africa a Second Lookhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/global-companies-give-africa-second-look/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-companies-give-africa-second-look http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/global-companies-give-africa-second-look/#respond Tue, 26 Sep 2017 15:27:40 +0000 Zipporah Musau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152247 When travelling abroad for work and looking for accommodation, Joe Eyango, a Cameroonian living in the US, considers two factors: convenient transportation from the airport and around the city and reliable Internet access. He is a university professor and wants to be able to jet in, hit the ground running, make his presentation and zoom […]

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BMW South Africa announces the production of its one-millionth BMW 3 Series sedan at its manufacturing plant in Rosslyn, Pretoria in South Africa. Credit: BMW Group

By Zipporah Musau, Africa Renewal*
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 26 2017 (IPS)

When travelling abroad for work and looking for accommodation, Joe Eyango, a Cameroonian living in the US, considers two factors: convenient transportation from the airport and around the city and reliable Internet access. He is a university professor and wants to be able to jet in, hit the ground running, make his presentation and zoom off to another destination in a day or two.

Eyango has been to various countries in Africa for business and work but has reasons for preferring South Africa. “South Africa has a lot to offer compared with other African countries. The road system is good, there is adequate electricity and reliable Internet connection, which is necessary for work and business,” Eyango told Africa Renewal in an interview.

Recently, having been invited to present a conference paper on a tight schedule, Eyango flew into Johannesburg from Amsterdam, spent less than 30 minutes in customs at the O. R. Tambo International Airport, took a taxi and was at his hotel in less than an hour since arrival.

South Africa attracts many professionals and big multinationals. It’s currently home to more than 75% of all top global companies in Africa.

“Where these big companies choose to invest depends on whether the environment is right for business. Investors are interested in relatively stable countries, good infrastructure, reliable communication, electricity and labour,” says Dr. John Mbaku, a researcher at Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution and also a professor of economics at Weber State University, US.

Some of the global companies with a presence in South Africa include luxury car manufacturers BMW, the Standard Bank Group, Barclays Bank, Vodafone (one of the world’s largest communication companies), Volkswagen, and General Electric. There is also FirstRand, Sasol, Sanlam, and MTN Group.

In an earlier interview with South African officials on why they’d chosen the country as an investment destination, Sam Ahmed, then the managing director of Britannia Industries, an India-based manufacturer of biscuits, snacks and confectionery, said his organization had been looking for a country that would give it access to the entire African market while keeping its costs low.

“In South Africa you have first-world infrastructure and third-world cost,” Ahmed said. The company’s production costs in South Africa were much lower than in Southeast Asia, the company headquarters.

Big businesses are also attracted to countries where the legal system works, so they can be assured of justice should legal issues arise. South Africa’s judiciary has been hailed for its sound judgements and independence from political machinations relative to other African countries.

Another attraction for big businesses is human resources. The efficiency and smooth operation of these large companies depend on the calibre of its labour force. Despite many years of apartheid, according to Mbaku, South Africa provides its citizens with relatively good quality education the multinationals are looking for in their labour force.

However, despite its successes, South Africa continues to grapple with a high crime rate (especially in urban areas), graft accusations and the political uncertainty that businesses loathe.

Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, the secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN body that deals with trade, investment and development issues, acknowledges that South Africa has the oldest and most developed market economy in the whole of Africa for historical reasons: the market grew out of a strong mining and industrial base and the financial industry.

However, according to Kituyi, things are now changing and other African countries are also attracting big investors. “It’s true South Africa has had a head start, but in net terms, there is faster growth in alternative centres for both manufacturing and service delivery than in South Africa. Today, the financial services industry is growing faster in Morocco than in South Africa,” Kituyi told Africa Renewal in an interview.

He notes that some multinational enterprises operating out of South Africa have relocated substantially. “We recently saw the opening of the Volvo truck-manufacturing plant in Mombasa. And similarly, we have seen many other services, particularly IT-based services and telecommunications, growing in new nodes like Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda.”

Fringe benefits
So why should African governments want to encourage global companies to set up shop in their countries? Driven by insufficient funds, African governments are increasingly turning to private-sector companies for a much-needed boost. Foreign investments provide capital to finance industries, boost infrastructure and productivity, provide social amenities and create jobs, all of which can help a country reach its economic potential. And as countries rush to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, funding is key.

In Africa, governments and industry are gradually forming public-private partnerships (PPPs) in which companies provide capital while governments ensure an environment conducive to business. In the last 10 years, the continent has welcomed PPPs for projects in infrastructure, electricity, health and telecommunications.

Lenders like the African Development Bank are urging African countries to improve business environments by “creating the necessary legal and regulatory framework for PPPs, and to facilitate networking and sharing of experience among regulatory agencies and other similar organizations.”

Tread carefully
However, even as PPPs begin to change the face of Africa, there is need for countries to tread carefully and to learn from failed PPPs when signing up for such partnerships. “Ask yourselves, does the state have the capacity to forge ahead with these partnerships? This is necessary to avoid bad debt,” says Kituyi, adding that governments should not let private companies drive the agenda.

This word of caution is echoed by the Brookings Institution’s Mbaku, who is advising African governments to ensure that PPPs work to their advantage: “If you have a weak or corrupt leadership, you may not have the power or the skills required to negotiate a favourable partnership. You will end up with a PPP that is not really a partnership.”

Mbaku gives the example of oil companies that have been operating in Africa for more than 20 years yet still depend on expatriate labour instead of employing locals. Such companies are reluctant to transfer skills, knowledge and technology to the locals.

Another problem with PPPs is the imbalance of power. “If you are a government engaged in a PPP on a development project, there is inequality in power. The multinational has capital, skilled manpower and [an] external market. The government has no power over these,” says Mbaku.

Despite the challenges, however, PPPs will continue playing a major role in the development of poor countries. For African countries to attract multinationals and other big investors to partner with, their governments need to put their house in order—improve infrastructure, communication, security and the legal system, and fight corruption.

*(Africa Renewal, published by the UN’s Department of Public Information)

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Africa Moves Towards Third Industrial Development Decadehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-moves-towards-third-industrial-development-decade/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-moves-towards-third-industrial-development-decade http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-moves-towards-third-industrial-development-decade/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 10:52:54 +0000 Amina Mohammed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152199 Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy UN Secretary-General, speaking at the High-Level Event on African Industrialization

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Technical training in Bouaké, Côte d'Ivoire. Credit: UN Photo/Abdul Fatai

By Amina J. Mohammed
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 22 2017 (IPS)

Since the turn of the century, much of Africa has achieved impressive economic growth. Sixteen African countries were among the world’s top 30 fastest growing nations. Last year, the 10 fastest growing African economies posted GDP growth rates exceeding 5 per cent.

On the flip side, continued commodity-dependence – coupled with fluctuations in commodity prices – makes African economies vulnerable and hampers their ability to create decent jobs and effectively tackle poverty.

Hence the need for African countries to take further action to advance inclusive and sustainable industrial development. This is the reason behind the proclamation by the General Assembly last year of the third Industrial Development Decade for Africa. The Decade represents a global initiative in support of African industrialization.

Through it, the international community acknowledges the important link between industrialization and development, and takes note of Africa being the least industrialized, poorest and the most vulnerable continent, in spite of its immense economic and social potential.

The Decade is not an isolated undertaking, but complements other key development initiatives, such as the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, and various bilateral, regional and multilateral initiatives.

There are many requirements needed to make industrialization efforts bear positive outcomes.
Reliable financing is vital, and Africa and its development partners need to mobilize and prudently deploy the necessary funds.

Countries also need to design and implement comprehensive industrial policies, promote industrial entrepreneurship, advance innovation and technology, enhance energy efficiency, and promote climate change resilience.

Fund mobilization for the Decade needs to build on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which recognizes the importance of industrial development as a critical source or economic growth, economic diversification, and value addition.

It also highlights several key avenues for financing development initiatives. Equally important is the need to effectively leverage markets through regional integration.

Greater regional integration has the potential to support industrialization by increasing intra-African trade and intra-African investments, through the free movement of capital.

Our goal must be to provide jobs and opportunities, particularly for Africa’s growing population of youth. Industrialization can and must also be a tool for women’s empowerment and gender equality.
For this we must invest in appropriate vocational and skills training and closing the digital divide.

No single country or institution is fully equipped to tackle the challenges of African industrial development on its own. The implementation of the third Industrial Development Decade for Africa requires concerted efforts from a wide range of stakeholders.

Apart from intra-African partnerships, Africa needs to leverage the full potential of its development partners through appropriate bilateral, regional, inter-regional, and multilateral arrangements.

South-South, North-South and triangular co-operation are all necessary. The United Nations system is a key partner, along with the public and private sectors, financial institutions, civil society organizations, academia.

The Programme for Country Partnership approach by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization should be leveraged to explore funding opportunities and to devise concrete projects.
It provides a strong platform for multi-stakeholder partnership to support inclusive and sustainable industrial development.

It will help build partnerships with various stakeholders, including Development Finance Institutions and the private sector, to mobilize resources on a larger scale to achieve greater development impact. To that end, pilot programmes have already been initiated in Ethiopia and Senegal.

As we deliberate on the practical aspects to guide the implementation of third Industrial Development Decade for Africa, I appeal to all partner institutions to use their influence and expertise to promote industrialization and inclusive sustainable development that will benefit all the nations and people of Africa.

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A Trump Doctrine of Hypocrisyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/trump-doctrine-hypocrisy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-doctrine-hypocrisy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/trump-doctrine-hypocrisy/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 19:38:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152169 In his first address on the global stage of the General Assembly, United States’ President Donald Trump touted an “America First” approach at the very institution that is meant to inspire collaboration between nations. During his 45-minute speech, President Trump praised national sovereignty, referencing the concept a whopping 21 times. “Our government’s first duty is […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

In his first address on the global stage of the General Assembly, United States’ President Donald Trump touted an “America First” approach at the very institution that is meant to inspire collaboration between nations.

Donald J. Trump. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

During his 45-minute speech, President Trump praised national sovereignty, referencing the concept a whopping 21 times.

“Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens — to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values,” he told world leaders.

“As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.”

But in a global world that relies on each other on issues such as economic growth and environmental protection, can a “me first” approach work?

Peace Action’s Senior Director of Policy and Political Affairs Paul Kawika Martin says no.

“To say one country first over the other certainly is not going to deal with these issues,” he told IPS.

Though the President highlighted the need to work together to confront those who threaten the world with “chaos, turmoil, and terror,” his actions seem to imply otherwise.

Starting with withdrawing from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement to tackle global emissions to threatening funding cuts to not only the UN but also to its own State Department which handles diplomacy and foreign assistance, the U.S. seems to be far from working together with the international community.

As Trump received applause upon speaking of the benefits of the U.S.’ programs in advancing global health and women’s empowerment, he has also sought to eliminate such programs including the gender equality development assistance account ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues and has already withdrawn all funds to the UN’s Population Fund.

“Talk is cheap when you don’t fund the efforts you tout,” said Oxfam America’s President Abby Maxman.

“Mr. Trump continues on a path that will cost America its global influence and leadership,” she continued.

Martin echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “We talk about working together but we don’t seem to do the things that you need to do to work together, which is making sure you have the right diplomacy, supporting the UN, and supporting other international fora.”

He particularly pointed the U.S.’ refusal to participate and sign the new nuclear ban treaty.

Adopted in July, the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons is now open for signature and will enter into force 90 days after 50 countries have ratified it.

Brazilian President Michel Temer was the first to sign the treaty.

However, the world’s nine nuclear-armed states including the U.S. boycotted the negotiations and announced they do not ever intend to become party to the document.

Instead, President Trump used his address to lambast both North Korea and Iran for their alleged pursuits of nuclear weapons and make war-inciting claims.

“We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said.

“It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future.”

Martin noted that no country would act kindly to threats of annihilation.

Such threats have instead only served to increase tensions.

Since Trump threatened “fire and fury” on 8 August, North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests.

The President continued to say that the Iran Deal is the “worst” and most “one-sided” agreements, threatening to withdraw from it.

As nuclear tensions continue escalate, Trump’s threats of war and unwillingness to cooperate gives security to none, particularly not Americans.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein criticized the President for his remarks and noted the hypocrisy in using the UN stage of peace and global cooperation to threaten war.

“He missed an opportunity to present any positive actions the U.N. could take with respect to North Korea…By suggesting he would revisit and possibly cancel the Iran nuclear agreement, he greatly escalated the danger we face from both Iran and North Korea,” she said.

“He aims to unify the world through tactics of intimidation, but in reality he only further isolates the United States.”

Martin highlighted the importance of diplomacy rather than intimidation.

“Diplomacy is the hardest thing. It is harder to get together at a table and work on a deal but that’s what needs to be done.”

President Trump did express his support for the UN and its work, citing former President Harry Truman who helped build the UN and made the U.S. the first nation to join the organization.

He referred to Truman’s Marshall Plan which helped restore post-World War II Europe, but still went on to urge nations to “embrace their sovereignty.”

However, it was Truman that spoke of a “security for all” approach during a conference which established the UN Charter in 1945.

He urged delegates to use this “instrument for peace and security” but warned nations against using “selfishly,” stating: “If any nation would keep security for itself, it must be ready and willing to share security with all. This is the price which each nation will have to pay for world peace.”

“Out of this conflict have come powerful military nations, now fully trained and equipped for war. But they have no right to dominate the world. It is rather the duty of these powerful nations to assume the responsibility for leadership toward a world of peace.

That is why we have here resolved that power and strength shall be used not to wage war, but to keep the world at peace, and free from the fear of war.”

Truman’s collective action approach helped prevent another devastating world war.

However, President Trump’s non-cooperation and combative words signal a darker future in global affairs.

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

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

Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

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

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

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Transformative Power of Literacy in Today’s Digitalized Societyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/transformative-power-literacy-todays-digitalized-society/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=transformative-power-literacy-todays-digitalized-society http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/transformative-power-literacy-todays-digitalized-society/#respond Fri, 08 Sep 2017 05:25:14 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151976 Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Sep 8 2017 (IPS)

The vision of a literate world has guided the United Nations in its efforts to eliminate illiteracy worldwide. According to UNESCO, the world literacy rate now stands at 91% up from 79% in 1980. In the Arab region, the literacy rate is currently at 86%; a 22% increase from 1980 where the literacy rate stood at 64%. Although world society has witnessed significant progress in eradicating illiteracy, approximately 750 million adults and 264 million children worldwide are still considered as illiterate. Thus, the cloud of world illiteracy overshadows the geography of world poverty. Nonetheless, the Sustainable Development Goals have translated the vision of a literate world into a concrete action-plan: Sustainable Development Goal 4.6 calls upon all member States of the United Nations to ensure that youth, both men and women, “achieve literacy and numeracy” by 2030. In the words of formerSecretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

“Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”

The 2017 World Literacy Day addresses a subject that is even more important today owing to the digitalization of our societies. This year’s theme “Literacy in a digital world” explores the transformative power of communication and information technology in addressing illiteracy. In my previous role as the Minister of Education of the United Arab Emirates, numerous initiatives and projects were implemented to empower youth through enhancing literacy in the age of information. The vision was to enable youth to read, reflect and think as the first step towards building a society for the future. Eliminating illiteracy is an investment in educating humanity and in promoting a sustainable future. Access to technology is a prerequisite for a knowledge-based society.

The introduction of digital technologies – against the backdrop of globalization – has brought peoples closer as communication and exchange of information have become seamless. We are more connected than ever. In a heartbeat, we can buy our favourite book on the Internet, read articles on Kindle or even read newspapers on the airplane. The teaching environments in today’s modern classrooms have been transformed, thanksto the Internet. Students now have access to the latest information technology to increase their learning capabilities and gain knowledge through electronic means. Inevitably, digitalization has simplified access to information and knowledge and contributed to the alleviation of literacy at a faster rate than was the case in the past.

Digitalization has also facilitated the emergence of a new concept commonly referred to as digital literacy. Cornell University in the United States defines the latter as “the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet.” It has transformed our traditional understanding of literacy – the ability to read and write – to also include the capability of effectively using technological devices to communicate and access information.

Inevitably, youth – at an early stage of their lives – are not adequately equipped with the required skills to critically analyze or question the validity of information available on the Internet. In this regard, youth are becoming vulnerable to the growing and alarming increase in self-radicalization that occurs through the use of Internet and social media. Online propaganda and ideological inspiration from sources controlled by right-wing and terrorist groups are increasingly exposing youth to heinous ideologies. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime have repeatedly warned against the phenomenon of Internet radicalization requiring “a proactive and coordinated response from Member States.” In world society’s attempts to address illiteracy, the ability to learn and to write needs also to include critical thinking so as to avoid self-radicalization which is emerging as a major social ill.

We must respond to the rise of Internet radicalism that is emerging as an invisible force inciting youth to join violent and radical groups whether in the Middle East or in Europe. Supportive settings and safe learning environments fostering social inclusion, open-mindedness and equal citizenship rights are important prerequisites in creating conditions protecting youth from falling prey to misguided ideologies. Critical thinking needs to be integrated in pedagogical teaching methodologies targeted towards youth. Literacy is not a static concept, it evolves in line with the developments of society. Strengthening digital literacy and critical thinking among youth is an investment in the future and one of the solutions to promote enlightenment, cope with radicalization in today’s digital age and realize the vision of a world that both prospers and is at peace with itself.

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Soy Changes Map of Brazil, Set to Become World’s Leading Producerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 17:22:11 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151713 “Our wealth lies in the climate, not in the land,” said Antonio Galván, president of the Rural Union of Sinop, a municipality created just 37 years ago, which has prospered due to the continued expansion of soy in Brazil. Sinop, population 133,000, is the biggest city in northern Mato Grosso, a state in west- central […]

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The soybean harvest this year in Brazil will hit record levels and reaffirm that the country is about to displace the United States as the world’s top producer of soy. Credit: Embrapa

The soybean harvest this year in Brazil will hit record levels and reaffirm that the country is about to displace the United States as the world’s top producer of soy. Credit: Embrapa

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 17 2017 (IPS)

“Our wealth lies in the climate, not in the land,” said Antonio Galván, president of the Rural Union of Sinop, a municipality created just 37 years ago, which has prospered due to the continued expansion of soy in Brazil.

Sinop, population 133,000, is the biggest city in northern Mato Grosso, a state in west- central Brazil which has experienced a major expansion of the agricultural frontier since the 1970s, and is currently the leading national producer of soy, accounting for 27 per cent of Brazil’s production.

“We have 14 to 15 million hectares of land available to expand soybean crops by 150 per cent in Mato Grosso, with no need to deforest,” Galván told IPS from Sinop.

For this reason, “it is a natural tendency,” he said, for Brazil to soon overtake the United States as the world’s leading producer of soy, as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predict, in the report “2017-2026 Agricultural Outlook”.

More or less regular rainfall from October to May is the main factor for the growth of agriculture in northern Mato Grosso, explained Galván.

Besides soy, which is planted at the start of the rainy season and harvested about four months later, other crops are also planted, but at the end of the rainy season – generally cotton and maize, of which Mato Grosso has also become the biggest producer in the country in the past four years.

State-owned lands, divided between the “Cerrado” ecoregion – the Brazilian savannah – and the Amazon forest, used to be undervalued for their low fertility, until they became the new agricultural frontier.

Galván, originally from the far south of Brazil, moved to Sinop in 1986, when land was still cheap. “Soybean was just starting in Sinop when I came, the local economy was only based on livestock and logging,” he recalled.

That year, Mato Grosso produced 1.9 million tons of soybean. But by 2016 the state’s soy crop reached 26.03 million tons, and this year it is expected to increase between 11 and 12 per cent, according to the Agriculture Ministry’s National Supply Agency.

Many of the migrants from southern Brazil who founded and settled in Sinop did not share that prosperity reflected in one of the highest human development rates in Brazil’s hinterland. “They went bankrupt and returned to their places of origin,” defeated by the harsh living conditions and lack of transport at the beginning, lamented Galván.

The city’s name comes from the initials (in Portuguese) of the company that “colonised” the area, the Real Estate Company of Northeastern Paraná (a southern state), buying lands, building the first houses and streets, and attracting families to an illusory El Dorado.

 Complex of soy and maize storehouses and processing plants in Lucas Rio Verde, in the heart of the state of Mato Grosso, the country’s main producer of soy, maize and cotton, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


Complex of soy and maize storehouses and processing plants in Lucas Rio Verde, in the heart of the state of Mato Grosso, the country’s main producer of soy, maize and cotton, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This is how Brazil’s Amazon region was populated, with the 1964-1985 military dictatorship promoting internal migration, which expanded the deforestation and provoked land conflicts, massacres of indigenous people and malaria epidemics.

The production of soy also expanded from south to northwest, although more slowly.

Soy began to be grown in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state, in 1914, because it had the most temperate climate, the only one suitable at the time. The expansion began in 1970, when national output was just 1.5 million tons.

In a decade production rose tenfold, and it more than doubled again in the 1990s, advancing towards the north until Mato Grosso took the lead in production in 2000.

While production stagnated in the south, in Mato Grosso it tripled so far this century, and expanded to previously inconceivable areas, such as the Northeast, including the semi-arid parts, and the humid northern Amazon region.

Soy became the main national agricultural product, representing half of the production of cereals, pulses and oilseeds, and the largest export revenues: 25 billion dollars in 2016. The rural map and economy of Brazil changed radically in the process.

“The main obstacles for the expansion of soy are infrastructure and logistics. On the large agricultural estates technology continues to improve while productivity grows, with yields approaching the U.S. average of 3,730 kilos per hectare,” said Alexandre Cattelan, head of Technology Transfer in Embrapa Soy.

Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), created in 1973 by the Agriculture Ministry, is a complex of 47 specialised units, including Embrapa Soy, scattered around the country.

It played a decisive role in the adaptation of soy to Brazil’s tropical climate, with increasing productivity. Output, using new seeds and techniques, increased 6.17 times, while the cultivated area grew 3.82 times since 1980.

“We have the land and know-how to overtake the U.S., but we lack proper roads, ports, railways and sufficient storage facilities,” Cattelan told IPS. This year, because of a record harvest, the storehouses are full and there is no space for the maize that is now being harvested.

Highway BR163, which crosses the most productive area in Mato Grosso and runs to the river ports in the Amazon, is the shortest way for exporting locally produced soy and maize. But it still has an unpaved 100-km stretch and is impassable during the rainy season.

Adequate seeds and the use of lime, fertilisers and micronutrients to improve the soil helped to expand the crop to the Cerrado savannah region, said Cattelan, an agronomist who has a PhD in soil microbiology.

Direct seeding, which excludes plowing of the earth and involves covering it with straw, the inoculation of bacteria which fix nitrogen in the soil, reduce costs and environmental damage, such as the contamination of the water table, he said.

A bottleneck for the production of soy could be a slowdown in the consumption of protein in China, from a 7.9 per cent increase in the last decade to a 2.3 per cent increase over the next decade, according to the FAO and OECD report.

The report also projects a lower level of growth of per capita consumption of food in the countries of the developing South, from 1.1 per cent against the previous 3.1 per cent, and the stabilisation of the use of vegetable oils for making biodiesel.

Moreover, the expansion of soy generates controversy, especially because of the intense use of genetically modified seeds and agrochemicals, sald Alice Thuault, associate director of the non-governmental Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV), which operates in northern Mato Grosso.

In 2011, a study identified toxic agrochemicals in the breastmilk of many women in Lucas do Rio Verde, a municipality next to Sinop.

The production of soy also drives the deforestation of the Amazon forest, although in a much lower proportion than livestock production, which “occupies 50 to 70 per cent of the recently deforested areas,” Thuault told IPS.

Furthermore, soybean growers, mostly producers with large extensions of land, dominate local politics and rule according to their interests, to the detriment of family farmers, the environment and public health. Former Mato Grosso governor Blairo Maggi is currently Brazil’s agriculture minister.

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Leadership Failure Perpetuates Stagnationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/leadership-failure-perpetuates-stagnation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=leadership-failure-perpetuates-stagnation http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/leadership-failure-perpetuates-stagnation/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 16:33:34 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151629 Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Growing income inequality in most countries before the Great Recession has only made things worse, by reducing consumer demand and household savings, and increasing credit for consumption and asset purchases. Credit: IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR , Aug 9 2017 (IPS)

What kind of leadership does the world need now? US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s leadership was undoubtedly extraordinary. His New Deal flew in the face of the contemporary economic orthodoxy, begun even before Keynes’ General Theory was published in 1936.

Roosevelt’s legacy also includes creating the United Nations in 1945, after acknowledging the failure of the League of Nations to prevent the Second World War. He also insisted on ‘inclusive multilateralism’ – which Churchill opposed, preferring a bilateral US-UK deal instead – by convening the 1944 United Nations Conference on Monetary and Financial Affairs at Bretton Woods with many developing countries and the Soviet Union.

The international financial institutions created at Bretton Woods were set up to ensure, not only international monetary and financial stability, but also the conditions for sustained growth, employment generation, post-war reconstruction and post-colonial development.

Debt bogey
In resisting painfully obvious measures, the current favourite bogey is public debt. Debt has been the pretext for the ongoing fiscal austerity in Europe, which effectively reversed earlier recovery efforts in 2009. With private sector demand weak, budgetary austerity is slowing, not accelerating recovery.

Much has been made of sovereign debt on both sides of the north Atlantic and in Japan. In fact, US debt interest payments come to only 1.4 percent of annual output, while Japan’s very high debt-GDP ratio is not considered a serious problem as its debt is largely domestically held. And, as is now well known, the major problems of European debt are due to the specific problems of different national economies integrated sub-optimally into the Eurozone.

The international community has, so far, failed to develop effective and equitable debt workout, including restructuring arrangements, despite the clearly dysfunctional and problematic international consequences of past sovereign debt crises. The failure to agree to sovereign debt workout arrangements will continue to prevent timely debt workouts when needed, thus effectively impeding recovery as well.

Meanwhile, earlier international, including US tolerance of the Argentine debt workout of a decade and a half ago had given hope of making progress on this front. However, this has now been undermined by the Macri government’s recent concession, on worse terms and conditions than previously negotiated, to ‘vulture capitalists’.

Golden cages of the mind
Most major deficits now are due to the collapse of tax revenues following the growth downturn and costly financial bailouts. Slower growth means less revenue, and a faster downward spiral. While insisting on fiscal deficit reduction, financial markets also recognize the adverse growth implications of such ‘fiscal consolidation’.

Many policymakers are now insisting on immediate actions to rectify various imbalances, pointing not only to fiscal deficits, but also to trade and bank imbalances. While these undoubtedly need to be addressed in the longer term, prioritizing them now effectively blocks stronger, sustained recovery efforts.

Recent recessionary financial crises have been caused by bursting credit and asset bubbles. Recessions have also been deliberately induced by public policy, such as the US Fed raising real interest rates from 1980. Internationally, this contributed not only to sovereign debt and fiscal crises, but also to protracted stagnation outside East Asia, including Latin America’s ‘lost decade’ and Africa’s ‘quarter century retreat’.

Yet another distraction is exaggerating the threat of inflation. Much recent inflation in many countries has been due to higher international commodity, especially fuel and food prices. Domestic deflationary policies in response only slowed growth while failing to stem imported inflation. In any case, the collapse of most commodity prices since 2014 has rendered this bogey irrelevant.

Market vs recovery
Strident recent calls for structural reforms mainly target labour markets, rather than product markets. Labour market liberalization in such circumstances not only undermines worker protections, but is also likely to diminish real incomes, aggregate demand and, hence, recovery prospects. Nevertheless, these have become today’s priorities, detracting from the urgent need to coordinate and implement strong and sustained efforts to raise and sustain growth and job creation.

Meanwhile, cuts in social and welfare spending are only making things worse – as employment and consumer demand fall further. In recent decades, profits and rents have risen at the expense of wages, but also with much more accruing to finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) compared to other sectors.

The outrageous increases in financial executive remuneration in recent years, which cannot be attributed to increased productivity by any stretch of the imagination, have exacerbated problems of financial sector short-termism. Regulations are urgently needed to limit short-termism, including the ability of corporations to reap greater profits in the short-term while worsening risk exposure in the longer term, thus exacerbating systemic macro-financial vulnerability.

Growing income inequality in most countries before the Great Recession has only made things worse, by reducing consumer demand and household savings, and increasing credit for consumption and asset purchases – instead of augmenting investments in new economic capacities and capabilities.

Reform bias
Current policy is justified in terms of ‘pro-market’ – effectively pro-cyclical – choices when counter-cyclical efforts, institutions and instruments are sorely needed instead. Unfortunately, global leadership today seems held to ransom by financial interests, and associated media, ideology and ‘oligarchs’ whose political influence enables them to secure more rents and pay less taxes in what must truly be the most vicious of circles.

John Hobson – the English liberal economist in the tradition of John Stuart Mill – noted that ‘economic imperialism’ emerged from the inherent tendency for economic power to concentrate and the related influence of oligopolistic rentiers on public policy. Selective state interventions to bail out and protect such interests nationally and internationally, while not subjecting them to regulation in the national interest, must surely remind us of the dangers of powerful, but unaccountable oligarchies in a systemically unstable market economy and politically volatile societies.

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Central America Fights Climate Change with Minimal Foreign Aidhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/central-america-fights-climate-change-minimal-foreign-aid/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-fights-climate-change-minimal-foreign-aid http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/central-america-fights-climate-change-minimal-foreign-aid/#respond Mon, 31 Jul 2017 07:05:54 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151490 Despite the fact that Central America is one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change, it has half-empty coffers when it comes to funding efforts against the phenomenon, in part because it receives mere crumbs in foreign aid to face the impacts of the rise in temperatures. According to a study released in June, […]

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China Seeks to Export Its Green Finance Model to the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/china-seeks-export-green-finance-model-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=china-seeks-export-green-finance-model-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/china-seeks-export-green-finance-model-world/#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 03:05:44 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151431 Hand in hand with UN Environment and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) disembarked in the Argentine capital to prompt this country to adopt and promote the agenda of so-called green finance, which supports clean or sustainable development projects and combats climate change. The PBOC, which as China’s central bank […]

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Ma Jun, chief economist at the People’s Bank of China, together with Rubén Mercado, from the United Nations’ Development Programme (UNDP) in Argentina. The high-ranking Chinese official promoted Beijing’s green finance while in Buenos Aires. Credit: UNDP

Ma Jun, chief economist at the People’s Bank of China, together with Rubén Mercado, from the United Nations’ Development Programme (UNDP) in Argentina. The high-ranking Chinese official promoted Beijing’s green finance while in Buenos Aires. Credit: UNDP

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jul 26 2017 (IPS)

Hand in hand with UN Environment and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) disembarked in the Argentine capital to prompt this country to adopt and promote the agenda of so-called green finance, which supports clean or sustainable development projects and combats climate change.

The PBOC, which as China’s central bank regulates the country’s financial activity and monitors its monetary activity, has been particularly interested in Argentina, because next year it will preside over the Group of 20 (G20) industrialised and emerging economies.

In 2018, Buenos Aires will become the first Latin American city to organise a summit of the G20 forum, in which the major global powers discuss issues on the global agenda.

“China started to develop strategies to promote green finance international collaboration in the G20 framework in 2016, the year when it took over the presidency. And Germany took over this year the presidency and decided to continue. We are looking forward to Argentina to continue with this topic of green finance in 2018,” said Ma Jun, chief economist at the PBoC, in a meeting with a small group of reporters at the UNDP offices in Buenos Aires. “Once the companies begin to release the environmental information, we’ll see that money will begin to change direction. Some of the money which is invested in the polluting sector will be redirected to the green companies. And that costs governments zero. It’s only a requirement for the companies to disclose their environmental information.” -- Ma Jun

Ma, a distinguished economist who has worked at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Deutsche Bank, was the keynote speaker at the International Symposium on Green Finance, held Jul. 20-21 at IDB headquarters in Buenos Aires.

At that event, he told representatives of the public sector and private companies from a number of countries that over the past three years China has been making an important effort for its financial system to underpin a change in the development model, putting aside polluting industries and supporting projects that respect the environment and use resources more efficiently.

Ma, a high-ranking PBoC official since 2014, surprised participants in the Symposium stating that in 2015, China decided to change its development model because of the enormous environmental impact it had, which is reflected in the estimate he quoted: that “a million people a year die in China due to pollution-related diseases.“

He said four trillion yuan – approximately 600 billion dollars – will be needed to finance investments in environmentally sustainable projects over the next few years in China.

Simon Zadek, co-director of the UN Environment Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System, concurred with Ma.

He explained that the UN agency he co-heads promotes the “mobilisation of private capital towards undertakings compatible with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the commitments made in the Paris Agreement on climate change, by the financial markets, banks, investment funds and insurance companies.“

He added that “many countries have taken steps in that direction and China is one of the most inspiring, most ambitious at an internal level and most active in promoting international cooperation.“

“Financial markets and capital should take environmental and climate issues into account now, not tomorrow. We are hoping for Argentina’s leadership next year on this matter and we are ready to collaborate if it decides to do so,“ said the UN Environment official.

The Symposium was held a few days after this year’s G20 summit, which was hosted Jul. 7-8 by Hamburg, Germany.

During the summit the discrepancy became evident between the rest of the heads of government and U.S. President Donald Trump, who does not believe in climate change and withdrew his country from the Paris Agreement, which in December 2015 set commitments for all governments to reduce global warming.

In Hamburg, a meeting was held by the Green Finance Study Group (GFSG), created in 2016, the year China presided over the G20, and which is headed by Ma and Michael Sheren, senior advisor to the Bank of England, with UN Environment acting as its secretariat.

There are two main issues that the GFSG currently promotes for the financial industry to consider when deciding on the financing of infrastructure or productive projects: setting up an environmental risk analysis and using publicly available environmental data.

“PBoC, the largest Chinese bank, has verified that to invest too much in the polluting sector is not beneficial. The costs are higher and the profits lower, because lots of policies are more and more restrictive in the polluting sector,” Ma said, noting that the bank began to carry out environmental risk analysis two years ago.

For the chief economist, “the other focus is to allow financial markets to distinguish who is green and who is brown,” referring to the predominant model of development, based on draining natural resources and not preserving ecosystems.

“Once the companies begin to release the environmental information, we’ll see that money will begin to change direction. Some of the money which is invested in the polluting sector will be redirected to the green companies. And that costs governments zero. It’s only a requirement for the companies to disclose their environmental information,” added Ma.

An important part of the initiative is the promotion of the emission of so-called green bonds, to finance projects of renewable energy, energy saving, treatment of wastewater or solid waste, the construction of green buildings that emit less pollutants and reduce their energy consumption, and green transport.

But the promotion of green finance does not foresee the arrival of special funds for that purpose to countries of the developing South.

In fact, the “greening of the financial system“ mainly depends on the private sector, especially where the state has limited fiscal capacity, according to the conclusions of the G20’s GFSG.

For Rubén Mercado, UNDP economist in Argentina, governments can facilitate undertakings that are beneficial to the environment by changing policies, without the need for spending additional funds.

“The key issue is that of relative prices. In Argentina we have subsidised fossil fuels for years. Perhaps we would not even have to subsidise renewable forms of energy, but simply reduce our subsidies for fossil fuels so that the other sources can be developed,“ he said.

Ma took a similar approach, pointing out that “You don´t need to spend money, you just need to eliminate the subsidies” that are traditionally granted to fossil fuel producers, which hamper investments in clean energies.

In the Symposium in Buenos Aires a study was released about the economies of Germany, China and India, which revealed that in the last year they have invested in renewable energies just 0.7, 0.4 and 0.1 per cent of GDP, respectively.

“The massive demand for green financing simply cannot be met by the public sector or the fiscal system,” said Ma.

“In a country like China, 90 percent is being covered by the private sector. Globally, my feeling is that in the OECD countries the fiscal capacity is probably higher. Maybe more than 10 percent could be provided by governments,” he said.

“But in other economies with weaker fiscal capacity, the rate should be even lower than in China.”

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