Inter Press Service » Asia-Pacific http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 30 Apr 2016 22:04:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Compensation Hard to Ensurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/compensation-hard-to-ensure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=compensation-hard-to-ensure http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/compensation-hard-to-ensure/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 10:54:07 +0000 Shakhawat Liton http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144914 By Shakhawat Liton
Apr 30 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The dead do not feel anything, but those who survive do. The horrendous experience of the insensitive test after rape. The courtroom insults during trial because a draconian law permits the accused to question the victim’s character. The families suffer no less humiliation as they wait for justice. While nations around the world have overhauled relevant laws with provisions that shield the rape victims, ours still favour the offender instead. Isn’t it time we were a little more sensitive towards the victims of a crime now regarded as a crime against society? In the wake of Tonu murder after suspected rape, The Daily Star tries to shed some light on all these aspects.
Today, we run the third and final instalment of the three-part series.

rape_4__She was gang raped by railway employees at the railway rest room in Kolkata while travelling in India on February 26, 1998.

The incident triggered outrage. Maitree, a network of 42 women’s groups and NGOs in Kolkata, moved to Kolkata High Court seeking compensation for the 27-year old Shefali Begum (name changed to protect her identity).

The Kolkata HC in 1999 gave her 1 million rupees compensation for the humiliation she had undergone. But the Railway Board, which was asked to pay the compensation, challenged the order in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court in January 2000 upheld the HC verdict and said: “Even those who are not citizens of this country and come merely as tourists will be entitled to the protection of their lives in accordance with the constitutional provisions.”

When the apex court ordered for the compensation, the criminal case against the rapists was still on in the lower court.

The judgement was very significant because such a huge amount was never given to a rape victim in India and that too awarded to a foreigner.

In numerous cases, Indian High Courts in different states and the Supreme Court have ordered the state governments concerned to pay compensations to rape victims for their failure to protect their dignity.

In India, the compensation process is independent of the trial process.

In Bangladesh the situation is different than that of countries like the UK and the USA. The government of Bangladesh does not need to pay compensation to a rape victim for its failure to protect the victim’s fundamental rights as a woman.

“As far as I know, there is no such case in which the government has compensated the rape victim,” said advocate Fahmida Akhtar, case manger of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association, an organisation that works for women who have been victims of sexual violence and abuse.

Asked, ZI Khan Panna, a Supreme Court lawyer, says they do not need to pray to the court seeking compensation from the state in sexual violence case as the offenders are made to pay compensation, if necessary.

“The court certainly will order the state to compensate the victims if the situation arises,” he told The Daily Star.

Advocate Fahmida Akhtar says special tribunals dealing with offences against women and children, in some cases, have ordered the accused to compensate their victims.

“But the path to the compensation is long, as the accused filed appeals with the higher courts against the tribunal’s orders. Disposal of the appeals takes a long time,” she told The Daily Star.

Eminent jurist Shahdeen Malik says many countries compensate rape victims. Bangladesh should also take responsibility for compensating the rape victims, he added.

“Jurisprudence in this regard should evolve,” he told The Daily Star referring to the practice in India.

The Supreme Court, in the State vs. Md. Moinul Haque and Others case in 2000, emphasised the need for compensating the victims for their rehabilitation.

It, however, observed that victims of rape should be compensated by giving them half of the property of the rapists should be given to the victims to rehabilitate them.

At present, the Woman and Child Oppression Prevention Act 2000 empowers tribunals set up under this law to hold trial of the sexual crimes against women and children for compensating the victims.

As per the law says, the tribunal may imposes any monetary fine on convicted persons and order the district collector to sell the confiscate the convicted person’s movable and immovable assets and sell them on auction. Then the collector will deposit the money to with the tribunal that will award the money to the victim as compensation.

But the completion of the process may take a long time if the convicted person files an files appeal.

So, there is no scope for a sex crime victim to get any compensation before the conclusion of her case.

PRACTICE IN OTHER COUNTRIES

A rape victim in UK is entitled to get compensation from the government. To provide the compensations to blameless victims of violent crimes including rape, the government has set up Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority–CICA.

People who have been physically or mentally injured can apply to the CICA for compensation ranging from £1,000 to £500,000.

A victim of sexual assault or rape has a right to claim compensation. The CICA in its official website says rape is a horrendous experience to endure and it can have a life long physical and psychological effect on the victim – although compensation will never put things right or reverse what has happened it can still come as invaluable financial help for treatment and counselling should you need it. Claiming compensation can help a rape victim gain back control and closure, it states.

In the United States, rape is generally prosecuted as a crime at the state level. U.S. The principal victim compensation programs for rape victims are found at the state level. However, the most significant victim compensation programs at the state level are funded by the federal Crime Victims Fund, which was established by the federal Victims of Crime Act of 1984.

A rape victim in Hong Kong is also entitled to get compensation from the state under the Criminal and Law Enforcement Injuries Compensation Scheme.

Under the Crime Victim Protection Act, a rape victim in Taiwan, a rape victim and victims of sexual assault crimes and family members of deceased victims get compensation.

INDIAN JUDICIARY SET EXAMPLES

In March, 2014, India’s Supreme Court has ordered the West Bengal government to pay 5 lakh rupees to a tribal woman who was gang-raped in January on orders of village elders.

The judges said the state had failed to protect the victim’s fundamental rights as a woman.

“No compensation can be adequate nor can it be of any respite for the victim but as the State has failed in protecting such serious violation of a victim’s fundamental right, the State is duty bound to provide compensation, which may help in the victim’s rehabilitation,” it stated.

In the Llatest case, in February this year, the Supreme Court directed all states and Union Territories to formulate a uniform scheme to provide compensation to the victims or dependents who have suffered loss as a result of such crime.

“Indisputable, no amount of money can restore the dignity and confidence that the accused took away from the victim. No amount of money can erase the trauma and grief the victim suffers. But this aid can be crucial in the aftermath of the crime,” said a SC bench headed by Justice MY Eqbal.

In this case, the court ordered the Chhattishgarh government to grant a compensation of Rs 8,000 per month compensation to an 18- year old blind girl who was subjected to sexual violence.

The SC also refused to stay the orders of Chhattishgarh High Court in which the convict was sentenced to seven years of rigorous imprisonment.

The trial court awarded him the accused seven year a jail sentence of seven years for raping a 18-year-old the blind and illiterate girl on the false promise of marriage. The order was upheld by the Chhattishgarh High Court.

The apex court said the states should consider and formulate programmes for such victims in the light of the scheme framed in Goa which provides compensation of up to Rs 10 lakh.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Media Ethicshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/media-ethics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=media-ethics http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/media-ethics/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 10:50:24 +0000 Asfiya Aziz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144919 By Asfiya Aziz
Apr 30 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

When young Bisma died in a traffic jam en route to Civil Hospital in Karachi last December, there was a media frenzy. To onlookers it looked like frenzy, devoid of principles – a burgeoning show of power by the media, the right to information overshadowing all other rights. Lately, media debate on similar issues often cross the same boundaries. The gap between what a decent society expects from their media, and what media is able to provide, appears to be widening under the myriad pressures of business and political interests.

Media organisations` business models often appear to determine to what extent basic journalistic skills of accuracy, objectivity and timeliness are stretched or strained.

Step-by-step codes of ethics are often seen as `stifling` and `inadequate` for the mercurial field of 24-hour news reporting. Regardless of business pressures, one must recognise that there is little distinction between the media`s and an individual`s responsibilities.

Both share the same societal responsibilities, and must also share a mutual understanding of ethics. A principle-based approach, therefore, may be a viable alternative framework for journalists to practise in the line of duty. Perhaps we might borrow from other fields to develop an ethics code for journalism.

Bioethics is a subject that devises standards of behaviour when dealing with living beings. One of many theories in this field is Principlism, articulated by T.L. Beauchamp and J.F. Childress in The Principles of Biomedical Ethics. The principles put forward in this book, and currently most practised, include: respect (for individual autonomy); justice; beneficence; and non-maleficence.

For practical purposes, these are rephrased as: be respectful; be fair; be kind (do good); and do no harm. Like medicine, journalism also requires constant (often quick) judgement calls to be made, and therefore needs to develop a set of principles to apply to daily situations.

Analysing the unfortunate case of Bisma from a bioethical standpoint leads us to some interesting observations. The core principles stated here were (in some form) already at work but there still remains a need to formalise such principles, to inculcate them into journalists` decision-making processes.

That day, the principle of `respect` for an individual was absent despite the intention to adhere to it. While the media protested the lack of respect for an average person`s life, they were themselves disrespectful by being invasive; evident in the coverage of her body, and her father`s distress on being pressed to comment seconds after his child had passed away.

Later, commentary shifted to speculations on the family`s economic conditions, some newscasters affecting pity when describing their modest dwelling. They disrespected mourners, zooming in on women struggling to hide their faces from the media glare. The right to information and freedom of the press are poor defences when in conflict with vulnerable parties` rights to respect, privacy and choice.

The principle of `justice` was present, as this story became newsworthy due to a perceived lack of justice and accountability. Whether the media was fair to all parties is, however, a moot point. The coverage drew attention to the state of reporters` skills of maintaining objectivity and taking all parties` positions into account. As surfaced later, some doctors and the administration of Civil Hospital denied there was any obstruction to the hospital that day. Their position was hardly part of the day`s coverage. As journalists demand justice for the people, they still need to remain judicious or `be fair` in their own decision-making. One can also argue that central to the media campaign was the principle of `beneficence`; the media advocating for the individual in particular and the public at large, suffering at the hands of perceived VIP cul-ture. `Non-maleficence` (or `do no harm`) is often a tricky principle to negotiate. The incident had escalated into a full-scale media frenzy forcing the provincial government to do damage control at a time when they were already receiving flak on other issues of governance. The question of media`s intent arises: were they doing this for the benefit of the victim and the public, or to do harm to the government and those VIPs involved? Objective analysis is an essential skill for a journalist if analysis points towards a party`s negligence or incompetence, the journalist bears a responsibility to expose such misdemeanours. However, this still remains a judgement call, which must be guided by the principle of non-maleficence and by examining one`s intent, to determine the limits of reporting.

Perhaps if journalists were to test and adapt bioethical principles in their own practices, and media organisations could reach consensus on the most ef fective and relevant principles in the field, journalism in Pakistan may finally adopt a code of ethics which practitioners could own and uphold.• The writer is a joumalist with a special interest in bioethics.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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West Papuans Turn to Africa for Support in Freedom Bidhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/west-papuans-turn-to-africa-for-support-in-freedom-bid-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=west-papuans-turn-to-africa-for-support-in-freedom-bid-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/west-papuans-turn-to-africa-for-support-in-freedom-bid-2/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 06:30:44 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144913 Former President of Ghana, John Kufuor, voiced his support for West Papuan political aspirations during a meeting with West Papuan indigenous leader, Benny Wenda, at Ghana's 59th Independence celebrations in March this year. Credit: Benny Wenda

Former President of Ghana, John Kufuor, voiced his support for West Papuan political aspirations during a meeting with West Papuan indigenous leader, Benny Wenda, at Ghana's 59th Independence celebrations in March this year. Credit: Benny Wenda

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia, Apr 30 2016 (IPS)

For more than half a century, the indigenous people of West Papua, located on the western side of the island of New Guinea, who are related to the Melanesians of the southwest Pacific Islands, have waged a resistance to governance by Indonesia and a relentless campaign for self-determination.

But despite regular bloodshed and reports of systematic human rights abuses by national security forces, which have taken an estimated half a million West Papuan lives, the international community has remained mostly unwilling to take concerted action in support of their plight.

Now Benny Wenda, a West Papuan independence leader who has lived in exile in the United Kingdom since 2003, is driving a mission to build the support of African states. Following a visit to Senegal in 2010 and two visits to South Africa last year, Wenda was welcomed at the 59th Independence anniversary celebrations in Ghana in March this year.

“There has been widespread attention and further pan-African solidarity for West Papua renewed following my diplomatic visits to these African countries, both at parliamentary and grassroots levels,” Wenda told IPS.

In Ghana, Wenda met with political and church leaders, including former Presidents, Jerry John Rawlings and John Kufuor.

‘We are honoured to fight for your people. We share a similar history. It is no surprise to me that you had support from Ghana at the UN in 1969 and that we accepted West Papuan refugees in the 1980s,’ Jerry John Rawlings said to the Ghanaian media.

The alliance which Wenda is forging is based on a sense of shared historical experience.

“Africa is the motherland to all people and we Melanesians feel this strongly….our affinity primarily lies in our shared ancestral heritage, but also in our recent history because Africa has also suffered the brutalities of colonialism,” Wenda said.

Following decolonisation of the Dutch East Indies, Indonesia gained independence in 1949, but there was disagreement between the Netherlands and Indonesia about the fate of Dutch New Guinea, which the former was preparing for self-determination. A United Nations supervised referendum on its political future, named the ‘Act of Free Choice,’ was held in 1969, but less than 1 per cent of the region’s population was selected to vote by Indonesia, guaranteeing an outcome for integration, rather than independence.

At the time, Ghana and more than a dozen other African states were the only United Nations members to reject the flawed ballot.

During Wenda’s visit to South Africa last February, other leaders, such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Chief Nkosi Zwelivelile ‘Mandla’ Mandela MP, added their solidarity.

‘I’m shocked to learn that West Papua is still not free. I call on the United Nations and all the relevant bodies, please, do what is right, as they know, for West Papua,’ Tutu said in a public statement.

The momentum continued when the Nigeria-based non-government organisation, Pan African Consciousness Renaissance, held a pro-West Papua demonstration outside the Indonesian Embassy in Lagos in April 2015.

Indonesia’s refusal to recognise secessionist aspirations in its far-flung troubled region is often attributed not only to concerns about national unity, but the immense mineral wealth of copper, gold, oil and natural gas which flows to the state from ‘West Papua’, the umbrella term widely used for the two Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Since coming to power in 2014 populist Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, has vowed to increase inclusive development in the region and called on security forces to refrain from abusive measures, but the suffering of West Papuans continues. In May last year, there were reports of 264 activists arrested by police ahead of planned peaceful protests. Twelve Papuans were shot by security forces in Karubaga in the central highlands in July, while in August three people were abducted and tortured by police in the Papuan capital, Jayapura, and two shot dead outside the Catholic Church in Timika.

West Papua’s political fate stands in contrast to that of East Timor at the end of last century. East Timor, a Portuguese colony militarily annexed by Indonesia in 1975, gained Independence in 2002. The positive result of an independence referendum in 1999 was widely accepted and further supported by a multi-national peacekeeping force when ensuing violence instigated by anti-independence forces threatened to derail the process.

But in the political climate of the 1960s, Wenda says “West Papua was effectively handed over to Indonesia to try and appease a Soviet friendly Indonesian government….our fate was left ignored for the sake of cold war politics.” Now Indonesia staunchly defends its right of sovereignty over the provinces.

In the immediate region, West Papua has obtained some support from Pacific Island countries, such as the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu which have voiced concerns about human rights violations at the United Nations.

And last year the Melanesian Spearhead Group, a sub-regional intergovernmental organisation, granted observer status to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua coalition. However, Indonesia, a significant trade partner in the Pacific Islands region, was awarded associate membership, giving it an influential platform within the organisation.

“Luhut Pandjaitan’s [Indonesia’s Presidential Chief of Staff] recent visit to Fiji suggests that Indonesia is continuing its efforts to dissuade Pacific states from supporting West Papua and is willing to allocate significant diplomatic and economic resources to the objective,” Dr Richard Chauvel at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute commented to IPS.

In contrast to Indonesia’s Pacific Island neighbours, Dr Chauvel continued, “African states mostly do not have significant trade, investment, diplomatic and strategic interests with Indonesia and do not have to weigh these interests against support for the West Papuan cause at the UN or elsewhere.”

How influential south-south solidarity by African leaders will be on West Papua’s bid for freedom hinges on whether championing words translate into action. In the meantime, Benny Wenda’s campaign continues.

(End)

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A long, Insulting Walk to Justice for Rape Victims in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-long-insulting-walk-to-justice-for-rape-victims-in-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-long-insulting-walk-to-justice-for-rape-victims-in-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-long-insulting-walk-to-justice-for-rape-victims-in-bangladesh/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 12:32:39 +0000 Tamanna Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144899 Raped, they drown in humiliation while seeking punishment to culprits ]]>

Raped, they drown in humiliation while seeking punishment to culprits

By Tamanna Khan
Apr 29 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The dead do not feel anything, but those who survive do. The horrendous experience of the insensitive two-finger test after rape. The courtroom insults during trial because a draconian law permits the accused to question the victim’s character. The families suffer no less humiliation as they wait for justice. While nations around the world have overhauled relevant laws with provisions that shield the rape victims, ours still favour the offender instead. Isn’t it time we were a little more sensitive towards the victims of a crime now regarded as a crime against society? In the wake of Tonu murder after suspected rape, The Daily Star tries to shed some light on all these aspects.
Today, the first two instalments of a three-part series.

rape_4__Her dark-circled, deep-set eyes gave her a hollow look. The eyes were full of fear and mistrust.

The girl gave sideways glances as she hesitantly walked into the office of the One-stop-Crisis Centre (OCC) at Dhaka Medical College Hospital last month. She looked afraid, and when she noticed a man sitting in the room, she immediately cringed.

She is a rape victim.

For about a week after her rescue, she hardly spoke, OCC officials recall.

Her trauma and fear is shared by another rape survivor, a married woman, who was rescued from a sex racket in India last year.

“It’s not easy to tell even your closest family members what has happened to you,” the woman told The Daily Star recently. Humiliation and shame initially prevented her from telling her husband about the sexual assault when he found her in a shelter home in India months after her rescue. Her husband later came to know about it from others.

But Joya (not her real name), a teen girl, did not need to tell anyone anything. When she was found lying unconscious beside a road by her cousin four years ago, the marks on her body said it all.

“My cousin took me to a hospital. I hardly remember anything as my mind was all confused,” she told this correspondent recently by telephone from a shelter home run by Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA).

The Daily Star is withholding all the victims’ names.

In 2012, Joya was abducted by her stalker who “confined and raped her at gunpoint”. Later, her unconscious body was dumped by a road. When her family tried to seek justice, the alleged rapist and his cronies attacked her house and killed her father.

In between long pauses and painful sighs, she described the difficult path she had been walking to get justice. The first blow came at the police station where there were no women’s cells or woman law enforcers.

“I felt very afraid. I couldn’t trust any one of them. They were all men,” she described her feelings at the police station.

“I didn’t want to talk, I felt groggy… screams went through my head and my heart wrenched. I kept on wondering why no one could hear my cries or see my tears.”

Then came the time for medical examination — the two-finger test — and the girl, now 16, had no idea about its insensitive nature.

For the test, doctors use their index or middle finger to check the condition of the hymen and also to look for injuries on the vaginal wall.

So when a female doctor proceeded to do the test, the girl put up resistance at first. But eventually she had to give in because, as her aunt told her, there was no other way to get justice.

Adding to her ordeal, she had to narrate the sexual assault in details repeatedly not just to the police but also to journalists against her will.

“I felt very bad, embarrassed and hurt. But I told myself I needed to do this for justice,” said the girl, who is now in class nine.

Four years on, the hearing of her case has not started yet.

But for those who have gone through the trial, the court proceedings have been a nightmare: character assassination, insensitive and even vulgar questions, cross-examinations for hours are in the defence lawyers’ arsenal to further traumatise the victim.

Fahmida Akhter Rinky, a lawyer for BNWLA dealing with rape cases at the lower court for six years, spoke about the torment a nine-year-old girl went through during a trial recently.

“The child was only about four years old when she was raped. So the judge was careful and talked with the girl softly but the defence lawyer was shouting at her and accusing her of lying about how she was raped,” said Rinky.

This is despite the medical examination documents and other evidence clearly showing that the girl was raped.

“The child was so embarrassed and ashamed that she shrunk in fear,” said Rinky.

The girl recoiled from the humiliation in the courtroom full of people and kept on looking at Rinky.

“I felt so bad that she had to go through that,” said the lawyer.

Often, defence counsels “decidedly” choose a line of questioning aimed at maligning the victim in efforts to make the crime look like the victim’s fault, said Laily Maksuda Akhter, director of Legal Aid Unit of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad.

To save themselves from all this, especially the two-finger test which law activists vehemently oppose, many rape victims do not report the assault to the police.

“Many victims get so traumatised that they do not want to go through the forensic examination. Children in particular scream, because they fear they would get hurt again,” said Tahmina Haque, psychological counsellor at the OCC.

However, according to Bilkis Begum, coordinator of the OCC, there is no alternative to the two-finger test for women older than nine years. “It is part of any gynecological examination. Injuries cannot be detected without it.”

In many countries, including the UK and the US, doctors use the specula, a medical tool, for the test instead of fingers.

But the main problem lies in the report itself, said Ishita Dutta, project facilitator, SHOKHI, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST). “It is not for the doctors to determine if a victim has been raped or not. But that is what they write down in the reports.”

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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A Tale of Twin Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-tale-of-twin-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-tale-of-twin-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-tale-of-twin-states/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 16:54:10 +0000 I.A. Rehman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144885 By I.A. Rehman
Apr 28 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Pakistani visitors to India, usually beset with anxiety about their country`s future, are sometimes relieved to find a good number of Indians similarly worried about their country.

This is perhaps due to the fact that the twin states face many identical issues, and their people thus try to find solutions in the subcontinent`s shared culture.

For instance, last week in Delhi the discussion at gatherings of left-inclined intellectuals and social activists was dominated by queries as to what will happen to India if the saffron brigade continued to bring all matters under the stamp of Hindutva.

Sparks of resistance were not denied such as the resistance by writers and artists (in renouncing state awards) or the defiance of the Jawaharlal Nehru University student leaders. But generally, the conclusion was that these actions, highly morale-boosting though they were, did not generate the kind of movement for the rejection of humbug that was needed.

One also noticed a receding enthusiasm among optimists. Perhaps most people were more disappointed with the showing of the liberals (who should not be relied upon in any case) than was objectively necessary. But in the end, somebody or the other would cut the discussion short by claiming that India would never go down in the duel with fundamentalism because the traditions of tolerance in its society were so deep-rooted and strong.

One could not help drawing parallels with similar gatherings in Pakistan where those lamenting the uncertainty of civil society (along with the state authorities) see no silver lining on the horizon.

Does this mean that India and Pakistan both are condemned to suffer for a long time at the hands of people who are equipped with mantras that cannot be spurned without inviting the charge of sacrilege? That said, it is impossible not to find the judiciary challenging the executive or the legislature for transgressing its authority. Last time, it was a former Supreme Court judge taking parliament to task for amending the law so that an 18-year-oldcould be hanged.

This time it was Uttarakhand High Court in a fiery mood in the case of the dissolution of the state government by the president. The president can be an exalted person but he can also go terribly wrong, the court said.

The crisis arose when nine of the chief minister`s supporters joined the BJP opposition and the president accepted the establishment`s view that the government had broken down. Now the BJP was eagerly waiting for an invitation to form the state government. Whatever the final outcome, the BJP will be blamed for manipulating the fall of the state government.

For Pakistani students of politics, there is nothing surprising in this story. In the early years of independence, the ruling parties in both India and Pakistan were extremely unwilling to allow any opposition party to form a state-province government, but one thought the process had ended in India after an Andhra chief minister flew into the capital with all his supporters in the assembly and compelled the centre to take back the orders of his sacking. In Pakistan, the process continued somewhat longer and was overshadowed by frequent sacking of the National Assembly by all-powerful presidents.

With regard to judiciary-executive ties, it is not clear if India is now following Pakistan`s example or whether Pakistan was earlier copying an Indian pattern.

Although Pakistani chief justices in distress might have shed tears in private, there is no record of their breaking down before the political authority. But it must be said for Chief Justice T.S. Thakur that he was pleading the cause of justice and not seeking a personal favour.

One hopes, however, that his tearful plea does not embolden the sarkar to the extent of filling the courts with Modi loyalists. Justice Thakur could have a better bargain with the executive by holding firm as the head of his brother judges.

The Delhi state government`s decision to prohibit fee increases by private educational institutions should not fail to remind the people of Punjab of a similar step taken by their provincial government sometime ago.

The reasons advanced by the educational institutions on both sides are the same: mounting expenditures on teachers, rent and extracurricular facilities. The parents complain of their inability to pay fees they consider exorbitant but they are unlikely to win their case in either Delhi or Lahore.

Although the Indian government earned credit for forcing the private institutions to give relief to poor students, the patrons of private schools are likely to surrender to the argument that they cannot wish to have for their kids anything less than the best. The neo-liberal stalwarts are unlikely to cow before parents who admit to being less affluent.

It is not possible to be in Delhi and not be caught by surprise at the expansion of the metro train network or the odd-even scheme to restrict traffic that has increased the gains of operators of public transport.

The privileged car owners make no secret of their tactic to beat the system by having two cars for each user, one for odd number days and the other to be plied on even number days.

What makes Delhi a lively place despite the heat and shortage of water is the pace at which cultural activities continue.

It was good to see the tomb of Abdul Rahim Khan-i -Khana, the son of Bairam Khan who had secured the throne for the child-king Al Journalists in the doghouse: Pakistan enjoys the dubious distinction of being among the most dangerous places for journalists. In Sri Lanka, before the change of government, journalists were commonly meted out unsavoury treatment. Now Bangladesh too has taken to targeting journalists rather indiscriminately.

But what has happened to the democratic government of Nepal that Kanak Mani Dixit has been jailed? He is not afraid of making enemies, if he is being punished for that, but he must be respected as a leading exponent of the South Asian identity.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Democracy Under Constructionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/democracy-under-construction/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=democracy-under-construction http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/democracy-under-construction/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:49:45 +0000 Amitava Kar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144883 Cartoon: The New York Times

Cartoon: The New York Times

By Amitava Kar
Apr 28 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society,” said Mark Twain. In fewer places than Myanmar has the saying held truer where clothed men—uniformed to be more precise—have had all the influence for more than 50 years.

That’s changing with Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy winning a decisive majority in the November 2015 elections. She is sending a clear message to the generals: civilians are going to call the shots from now on and she will be in charge.

Barred from becoming president by the military-drafted 2008 constitution “for the good of the mother country”, she assumed three key positions in the government to fortify her leadership—“State Counsellor”, foreign minister and minister in the president’s office. The combination of jobs will allow her to oversee the president’s office, shape foreign policy and coordinate decision-making between the executive branch and the parliament.

Things have started moving. As “State Counsellor”, she bypassed the military-controlled Ministry of Home Affairs and used legal processes to release students who had been jailed last year for protesting the new education reform law. In her first meeting as foreign minister with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, she made it clear that Beijing would have to pursue its interests in Myanmar with her rather than through the Army, as had been the case in the past.

Military members of the parliament denounced the moves as “democratic bullying”. At a parade last month, Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, reminded citizens that “the Army ensures the stability of the country” and “has to be present in a leading role in national politics”. The four-star general, despite reaching the retirement age of 60, will see his term extended for another five years, according to Wall Street Journal. He is in no hurry for the Army to step back from politics.

Suu Kyi cannot send the generals, who kept her under house arrest for 15 years, back to the barracks overnight. They still control three important ministries—home affairs, defence and border affairs. The first allows them to control the state’s administrative apparatus, right down to the grassroots level. Through these centres of power, it dominates the National Defence and Security Council which can dissolve parliament and impose martial law. Amending the constitution remains impossible as it requires a majority exceeding 75 percent in the parliament. Since the army has 25 percent seats reserved by law, it holds a perpetual veto.

The task ahead is daunting. In most key human development indicators, her country sits at the bottom of the pit in Southeast Asia. The new government inherits high inflation, large budget and current-account deficits, an unstable exchange rate and institutions ossified by decades of corruption and authoritarian rule. FDI rose to over USD 8 billion during the last fiscal year, but much of that money remains concentrated in the country’s jade, oil and gas industries—tied to former generals. And as the country opens up further, it is the urban “elites” and big corporations under the control of armed forces that are likely to benefit most from increased liquidity while people in rural and ethnically segregated live in extreme poverty, without basic physical or financial infrastructure.

Other priorities include reaching lasting peace with ethnic minorities along the country’s borders some of whom have been fighting the central government for decades and put an end to laws that have been used to stifle dissent. Most important of all is to redress the vicious persecution of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingyas who have been made stateless by a 1982 law and have been languishing in squalid camps or confined to their villages while thousands more have fled the country, many into the hands of human traffickers. Suu Kyi has to find a way to quash the Anti-Islamic sentiment violently stirred-up among the near 70 percent Bamar population in part by the 969 movement initiated by radical Buddhist monk Wirathu.

Myanmar’s new government will also have to tackle land rights: confusing and poorly enforced laws leave rural farmers vulnerable to confiscation. The NLD’s election manifesto promised land reform, but it is easier promised than delivered as it will have to confront the still-powerful Army on the matter.

As of right now, Myanmar has the world’s goodwill and potential abounds. Washington wants to seize the opportunity to pull the Army away from China’s ambit and towards itself at a time when it is looking for new partners in the Indo-Pacific region to bolster its “pivot” strategy. The country has abundant natural resources and is wedged between the massive markets of China, India and Southeast Asia. A lot of expatriate Burmese are returning home, bringing in ideas, enthusiasm and skills with them. Foreign investment, especially in telecoms and energy, is pouring in. Many believe it can reclaim its title as the world’s leading rice exporter.

The low-hanging fruits of Suu Kyi’s victory have been picked. Further change will rest on deeper, structural changes that will take much longer. “People expect that the NLD will solve all their problems,” said Bo Bo Oo, an MP who spent 20 years in jail for supplying medicine to students. “But it will take at least ten years before we see real change.”

The writer is a member of the editorial team of The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Pakistani Deporteeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/pakistani-deportees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistani-deportees http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/pakistani-deportees/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:34:01 +0000 Arif Azad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144882 By Arif Azad
Apr 28 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

In March 2016, the EU signed a far-reaching deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into their union, which has spiked since September 2015. The hastily crafted deal, criticised by the UN for its disregard for human rights safeguards, requires Turkey to accept all migrants currently stranded in Greece, in return for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the EU, and a hefty sum of six billion euros.

Earlier, the EU had expanded its monetary and expert support to Greece to ease its burden of hosting migrants. As part of this new deal, Greece has begun expelling migrants to Turkey, which in turn has begun housing refugees on its soil, and is preparing to expel most non-Syrian refugees. As a consequence of this policy, Pakistani migrants in Greece are at the front of the expulsion queue.

On April 4, Greece shipped around 200 migrants to Turkey, including 111 Pakistanis.

Ninety-seven deportees (mostly Pakistanis) were also expelled via land route, according to Greek police. Given the Turkish parliament`s position on the status of Pakistani migrants, our government must be prepared to receive and repatriate a new wave of migrants returning to their (apparent) home country.

This issue has been brewing for years and has been on the policy radar of EU officials who have quietly intimated the Pakistani government of the possibility of impending deportations from their territory. Last December, our government returned over 30 out of 50 deportees who arrived in Pakistan due to lack of proper documentation, the interior ministry claiming that the EU is dumping non-Pakistani deportees on our soil. The EU`s migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, visited to resolve the issue. Yet the crisis has worsened.

The issue of Pakistani migrants in Greece, mostly without papers according to Greek authorities, has been in the spotlight since the Greek financial crisis. Greece has attracted Pakistan migrants since the 1970s; in one study by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, Pakistani migrants number 40,000-50,000, although of ficial figures put the number at 15,478. The estimated 40,000-50,000 include migrants without residency documents.

Irrespective of their status, the Pakistani migrant community constitutes the largest Asian community in Greece; they have suffered the worst racist abuse and attacks in recent years, as documented in reports by various human rights groups.

The atmosphere of hostility has resulted in a huge spike in administrative expulsions by the Greek government, which peaked at 5,135 in 2012, according to Greek police.This is a huge jump from 2011, where the figure stood at 1,293 administrative expulsions.

Another category of voluntary returns includes another 6,445 migrants, according to combined figures of the International Organisation of Migration and the Greek police. Again, this represents a massive spike from 715 in 2011. Worryingly, before the deportation itself, most of these Pakistani migrants are detained in detention centres in degrading conditions. In some of these, the migrants have taken to hunger strikes to protest their conditions.

Yet this huge number of forced and voluntary repatriation has barely raised any policy ripples in Pakistan. With the new draconian EU-Turkey deal being hastily put into effect with little regard for human rights safeguards, the number of Pakistani deportees is set to rise exponentially especially given Pakistan`s agreement with Turkey to take back all the deportees and repatriate them. Yet this is not the only stream of depor-tees coming Pakistan`s way; the EU, too, is oiling up its deportation machinery.

Given growing hostility to newly arriving migrants in Europe, EU immigration policies are stiffening. One of the policy responses to the migrant issue involves voluntary or forced repatriation of failed applicants, to ease domestic opposition to growing migrant populations.

That means the rate ofasylum refusal is set to grow across the EU, resulting in a greater drive towards deportation and repatriation. With an acceptance rate of 10-50pc for Pakistani applicants, the refused applicants will be put on a fast-track deportation schedule. This will swell the already growing concourse of Pakistan deportees, bringing with it its own set of rehabilitation challenges.

Yet it seems that the Pakistani government is not fully tuned into the scale of the crisis which is slowly brewing in foreign lands but heading for its borders. The response requires energetic planning to address a range of rehabilitation, policy and human rights challenges. Not much is forthcoming on this front. The sooner this multifaceted challenge is faced head-on, the better it is for the desperate and exhausted deportees.

The writer is a development consultant and policy analyst.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Opinion: Increasing Productivity Key to Revive Growth and Support Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacifichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-increasing-productivity-key-to-revive-growth-and-support-sustainable-development-in-asia-and-the-pacific/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-increasing-productivity-key-to-revive-growth-and-support-sustainable-development-in-asia-and-the-pacific http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-increasing-productivity-key-to-revive-growth-and-support-sustainable-development-in-asia-and-the-pacific/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 12:37:28 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144870 The author is an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP. She has been the UN’s Sherpa for the G20 and previously served as Governor of the Central Bank of Pakistan and Vice President of the MENA Region of the World Bank. The full Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2016 may be downloaded free of charge at http://www.unescap.org/publications/economic-and-social-survey-asia-pacific.]]> Shamshad Akhtar

Shamshad Akhtar

By Shamshad Akhtar
BANGKOK, Thailand , Apr 28 2016 (IPS)

The Asia-Pacific region’s successful achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development needs to be driven by broad-based productivity gains and rebalancing of economies towards domestic and regional demand. This is the main message of the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2016, published today by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Such a strategy will not only underpin the revival of robust and resilient economic growth, but also improve the quality of growth by making it more inclusive and sustainable.

How should Asia-Pacific policymakers go about implementing such a strategy? Approaches by developing Asia-Pacific economies that are tilted more towards reliance on export-led economic recovery will be ineffective under the current circumstances. Despite extraordinary measures, global aggregate demand remains weak and China’s economic expansion is moderating. The impact of further loosening of monetary policy is also likely to remain muted, and is not advisable. The key reason is a confluence of macroeconomic risks that are clouding the economic outlook, such as low commodity prices affecting resource-dependent economies, volatility in exchange rates, as well as growing private household and corporate debt, the impact of which is likely to be complicated by the ambiguous path of interest rate increases to be pursued by the United States.

The contribution of export-led economic growth to overall development of economies, supported by low interest rates and rising private debt, seems to have plateaued, with economic growth in developing Asia-Pacific economies in 2016 and 2017 forecast to marginally increase to 4.8% and 5% respectively from an estimated 4.6% in 2015. This is considerably below the average of 9.4% in the pre-crisis period of 2005-2007.

Along with the economic slowdown, progress in poverty reduction is slowing, inequalities are rising and prospects of decent employment are weakening. At the same time, rapid urbanization and a rising middle class are posing complex economic, social, and environmental and governance challenges. Such conditions can undermine the significant development successes of the region in recent decades, making it more difficult to deal with the unfinished development agenda, such as lifting 639 million people out of poverty. Had inequality not increased, approximately 200 million more people could have been lifted out of poverty in the three most populous countries of the region alone.

To overcome these challenges, revive the region’s economic dynamism and effectively pursue the 2030 Agenda, policymakers are advised to use all available policy levers, including countercyclical fiscal policy and supportive social protection measures, which critically calls for raising domestic resources. Such interventions would not only support domestic demand but also strengthen the foundations for future productivity-led growth by targeting areas such as: labour quality, including knowledge, skills, and health of the workforce; innovation through trade, investment and R&D; adequate infrastructure in transport, energy and ICT; and access to finance, especially by SMEs.

Fiscal measures, underpinning such initiatives, should be accompanied by sustained reforms towards efficient and fair tax systems which deliver the necessary revenues for the required investment in sustainable development

Sustained increases in domestic demand will also require steady growth in real wages. This requires linking labour productivity more closely to wage levels. Strengthening the enabling environment for collective bargaining is one necessary component in the policy arsenal of governments, with the enforcement of minimum wages as another important policy tool.

After increasing significantly over the last few decades, productivity growth has declined in recent years. This is worrying not only because wage growth has lagged behind productivity growth, but also because wage growth ultimately depends on productivity growth. Specifically, compared to the period 2000-2007, annual growth of total factor productivity has declined by more than 65% in developing countries of the region, averaging only 0.96% per year between 2008 and 2014; labour productivity growth has declined by 30%, reaching just 3.9% in 2013.

The recently-adopted Sustainable Development Goals provide an entry point to strengthen productivity. For instance, raising agricultural productivity and thus lifting rural households income must be the center of the focus to end poverty (Goal 1), to end hunger and achieve food security (Goal 2). This is because agriculture accounts for one in four workers in the region and more than half of the region’s people live in rural areas. Efforts to eradicate poverty and increase agricultural productivity would also foster development of the rural sector and encourage industrialization (Goal 9).

Higher levels of productivity in agriculture will also free-up labour, which would be available to work in the non-agricultural sector. It is therefore imperative to consider a broader development strategy that moves towards full and productive employment (Goal 8) to accommodate the “agricultural push” of labour. This will require mechanisms to provide, particularly those with low skills, access to quality education and lifelong learning (Goal 4).The need to provide quality education cannot be overemphasized in view of the skills bias of modern technology, which reduces the pace of absorption of unskilled labour released from the agricultural sector.

Thus, whereas the Goals will contribute to strengthening productivity, importantly, strengthening productivity will also contribute to the success of a number of the Goals, creating a virtuous cycle between sustainable development, productivity and economic growth.

(End)

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In sight but out of mindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/in-sight-but-out-of-mind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=in-sight-but-out-of-mind http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/in-sight-but-out-of-mind/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 11:02:53 +0000 Upashana Salam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144868 By Upashana Salam
Apr 28 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

This year Bangladesh exceeded all expectations, achieving a GDP rate of over 7 percent. With higher growth, the issue of labour rights is also gaining prominence in our national discourse, with more and more emphasis being given on workplace safety and wellbeing. Those amongst us who are educated are becoming more and more aware of our rights in our workplace, as we unhesitatingly demand for better pay, better facilities, a better life, really. And why shouldn’t we? This is our right as promised by our Constitution and by our state. But there still remains a large portion of our workforce, over 80 percent to be precise, who are not warranted recognition by any of our state apparatuses. When we talk proudly of progress and development, we tend to take for granted that only those who fall under a formalised structure deserve acknowledgement and thereby can demand their rights under the law. We choose to ignore more than half of Bangladesh’s population who, despite their indispensible contribution, are regarded as expendable, replaceable, and thus, undeserving of formal rights or protection.

world_day_for_safety_In Asia, the informal economy accounts for 78.2 percent of total employment. It’s ironic that in a world which still depends on informal employment to run their economies, those working in this sector continue to be treated as necessary but unacknowledged and invisible clogs of society. There is a not-so-subtle disdain for those who make our beds or build our homes; we choose to ignore that as human beings they too might have the same concerns and needs as the rest of us. Most people enter the informal economy because they have no other means to sustain themselves, with no education, skills or capital to participate in the formal workforce. But this does not mean that the risks associated with their work is only theirs to accept; the employment of workers in the informal economy, including housemaids, agricultural labourers, construction workers, day labourers, fishermen, vegetable vendors, etc, might be self-managed but the services they provide is universal.

While those working in the informal economy are not even recognised as ‘workers’ in the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006, the Informal Sector Survey 2010 by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics asserted that the informal sector was the major source of employment in the country, amounting for 89 percent of the total jobs. As self-managed employment is socially unrecognised as work, it becomes easier for workers to be exploited. Thus, you hear of the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rakib Hawladar, whose former employer killed him in an inexplicably violent manner when he switched jobs. You regularly read stories of construction workers falling to their deaths, due to the lack of safety gears or adequate protection. How many times have you looked up a building to see a person dangling from a scaffolding, with nothing but a rope as a measure of safety? Every time I look up at them, I am overpowered by a sense of dread, and am forced to look away after a few minutes when I start feeling dizzy; but these people continue doing their work in the only way they know how to – with confidence galore and little attention to the risk that they are putting themselves in.

Accidents and deaths on site go largely unreported; in the rare occasions that the death of a worker is reported, there is no follow-up from the police, government, media or their own families who, in their struggle to make ends meet with one less earning member, are unwilling to demand compensation that they will not get or go to the court where their voices will be muffled.

A report published by the Asian Development Bank stated that unlike employees working under a formalised structure, workers with irregular employment don’t have any specified working hours, as they often have to work an average of 54 hours a week “with non-commensurate compensation.” Workplace safety is practically unheard of in the informal economy, and there’s no question of holidays, sick days or downtime. Brick kiln and construction workers have scarce drinking water and no toilet facilities to speak of. With wages being disbursed on a daily basis and no bargaining power with employers, they rarely take days off even when they suffer from ailments resulting from having to work long hours in intense heat. Let’s not talk about education or training opportunities, which cannot even be regarded as luxuries in a sector that is not officially recognised by the law.

Given the dearth of official data, it is difficult to even ascertain the particular health problems faced by people working in the informal economy. However, according to a report titled ‘Health Vulnerabilities of Informal workers’ by the Rockefeller Foundation, there is increased risks of malnutrition, physical and psychological disorder, respiratory trouble, heart attack, etc, due to the nature of their work, where they are forced to endure excessive labour, and an unhealthy work environment. More than a million workers who work in the brick kilns of the country, which produce over 12 million bricks a year, often suffer from skin diseases and are susceptible to bronchial infections. As per the report, workers often take drugs “to boost their physical and mental energy” when their body no longer supports their need to earn a livelihood. Rickshaw pullers, for example, are addicted to various drugs as these help them deal with the intense temperament of their work.

Article 15 of Bangladesh’s Constitution ensures guaranteed employment, work with reasonable wage, recreation and leisure for all workers, while Article 20 argues that employment should be a right for every citizen, insisting that workers should be “treated with justice.” Moreover, Article 10 prohibits social exploitation of any worker. However, in this case, there seems to be a clear divide in the treatment of those who are considered “actual workers” and the unrecognised millions who simple cannot be brought under a structure, thereby making it impossible to ensure them the same rights reserved for everyone else. Equality, once more, becomes a tool to bandy around when talking about the achievements of our country and its legal apparatus.

In fact, the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy 2015, one of the few measures taken to prevent the exploitation of a segment of the workers of the informal economy, is still to be implemented, even though a draft of the policy has already been approved by the cabinet.

There is an urgent need to change our perception toward informal workers, which can help bring a shift in the way they are treated in law and policy. We need to introduce a feasible wage structure, which runs parallel with their working hours and is in sync with their work environment. Moreover, experts have also stressed the need for a pension/insurance scheme, something that has already been undertaken by the Government of Delhi in September 2013 for the informal workers of India. As suggested by lawyer Kawsar Mahmood in a piece he wrote for the Dhaka Law Review, this will offer security for workers in the informal economy during their sickness or after they retire from work. “On registration, workers will be saving a portion of their income per month or per annum in a provident fund where the government will equally contribute,” he writes.

As human beings, we have the right to demand better pay, better working conditions and fair treatment from our employers. It’ll be a shame if this right continues to be reserved for some of us, while the majority are left stumbling, persisting through life as nameless, faceless beings.

The writer is a member of the editorial team, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Choose Humanity: Make the Impossible Choice Possible!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/choose-humanity-make-the-impossible-choice-possible/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=choose-humanity-make-the-impossible-choice-possible http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/choose-humanity-make-the-impossible-choice-possible/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 15:03:47 +0000 Herve Verhoosel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144850 Herve Verhoosel is the Spokesperson of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), to be hosted in Istanbul on May 23-24. He was previously leading the Roll Back Malaria office at the UN in New York and was also Head of External Relations, Advocacy and Communication. In this Op-Ed Verhoosel introduces this major event, the first ever of its kind, which will bring together governments, humanitarian organizations, people affected by humanitarian crises and new partners including the private sector to propose solutions.]]>

Herve Verhoosel is the Spokesperson of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), to be hosted in Istanbul on May 23-24. He was previously leading the Roll Back Malaria office at the UN in New York and was also Head of External Relations, Advocacy and Communication. In this Op-Ed Verhoosel introduces this major event, the first ever of its kind, which will bring together governments, humanitarian organizations, people affected by humanitarian crises and new partners including the private sector to propose solutions.

By Herve Verhoosel
UN, New York, Apr 27 2016 (IPS)

We have arrived at the point of no return. At this very moment the world is witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since World War Two. We are experiencing a human catastrophe on a titanic scale: 125 million in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades.

Herve Verhoosel

Herve Verhoosel

More than $20 billion is needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts. Unless immediate action is taken, 62 percent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all of us- could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030. Time and time again we heard that our world is at a tipping point. Today these words are truer than ever before.

The situation has hit home. We are slowly understanding that none of us is immune to the ripple effects of armed conflicts and natural disasters. We’re coming face to face with refugees from war-torn nations and witnessing first-hand the consequences of global warming in our own backyards. We see it, we live it, and we can no longer deny it.

These are desperate times. With so much at stake, we have only one choice to make: humanity. Now is the time to stand together and reverse the rising trend of humanitarian needs. Now is the time to create clear, actionable goals for change to be implemented within the next three years that are grounded in our common humanity, the one value that unites us all.

This is why the United Nations Secretary-General is calling on world leaders to reinforce our collective responsibility to guard humanity by attending the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit.

From May 23rd to the 24th, our leaders are being asked to come together in Istanbul, Turkey, to agree on a core set of actions that will chart a course for real change. This foundation for change was not born overnight. It was a direct result of three years of consultations with more than 23,000 people in 153 countries.

On the basis of the consultation process, the United Nations Secretary-General launched his report for the World Humanitarian Summit titled “One Humanity, Shared responsibility. As a roadmap to guide the Summit, the report outlines a clear vision for global leadership to take swift and collective action toward strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and crisis relief.

Aptly referred to as an “Agenda for Humanity,” the report lays out ground-breaking changes to the humanitarian system that, once put into action, will promptly help to alleviate suffering, reduce risk and lessen vulnerability on a global scale.

The Agenda is also linked to the Sustainable Development Goals, which specifically maps out a timeline for the future and health of our world. Imagine the end of poverty, inequality and civil war by 2030. Is it possible? Undoubtedly so. Most importantly, the Secretary-General has called for measurable progress within the next three years following the Summit.

As such, the Summit is not an endpoint, but a kick-off towards making a real difference in the lives of millions of women, men and children. It’s an unprecedented opportunity for global leaders to mobilize the political will to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. So, how to take action?

The Agenda specifies five core responsibilities that the international community must shoulder if we expect to end our shared humanitarian crises. These core responsibilities offer a framework for unified and concentrated action to Summit attendees, leadership and the public at large. Once implemented, change will inevitably follow.

1. Prevent and End Conflict: Political leaders (including the UN Security Council) must resolve to not only manage crises, but also to prevent them. They must analyse conflict risks and utilize all political and economic means necessary to prevent conflict and find solutions, working with their communities – youth, women and faith-based groups – to find the ones that work.

The Summit presents a unique opportunity to gain political momentum and commitment from leaders to promote and invest in conflict prevention and mediation in order to reduce the impacts of conflicts, which generate 80 percent of humanitarian needs.

2. Respect Rules of War: Most states have signed and implemented international humanitarian and human rights laws, but, sadly, few are respected or monitored. Unless violators are held accountable each time they break these laws, civilians will continue to make up the vast majority of those killed in conflict – roughly 90 percent. Hospitals, schools and homes will continue to be obliterated and aid workers will continue to be barred access from injured parties.

The Summit allows a forum for which leadership can promote the protection of civilians and respect for basic human rights.

3. Leave No One Behind: Imagine being forcibly displaced from your home, being stateless or targeted because of your race, religion or nationality. Now, imagine that development programs are put in place for the world’s poorest; world leaders are working to diminish displacement; women and girls are empowered and protected; and all children – whether in conflict zones or not – are able to attend school. Imagine a world that refuses to leave you behind. This world could become our reality.

At the Summit, the Secretary-General will call on world leaders to commit to reducing internal displacement by 50 percent before 2030.

4. Working Differently to End Need: While sudden natural disasters often take us by surprise, many crises we respond to are predictable. It is time to commit to a better way of working hand-in-hand with local systems and development partners to meet the basic needs of at-risk communities and help them prepare for and become less vulnerable to disaster and catastrophe. Both better data collection on crisis risk and the call to act early are needed and required to reduce risk and vulnerability on a global scale.

The Summit will provide the necessary platform for commitment to new ways of working together toward a common goal – humanity.

5. Invest in Humanity:
If we really want to act on our responsibility toward vulnerable people, we need to invest in them politically and financially, by supporting collective goals rather than individual projects. This means increasing funding not only to responses, but also to crisis preparedness, peacebuilding and mediation efforts.

It also means being more creative about how we fund national non-governmental organizations – using loans, grants, bonds and insurance systems in addition to working with investment banks, credit card companies and Islamic social finance mechanisms.

It requires donors to be more flexible in the way they finance crises (i.e., longer-term funding) and aid agencies to be as efficient and transparent as possible about how they are spending money.

Our world is at a tipping point. The World Humanitarian Summit and its Agenda for Humanity are more necessary today than ever before. We, as global citizens, must urge our leaders to come together at the Summit and commit to the necessary action to reduce human suffering. Humanity must be the ultimate choice.

Join us at http://www.ImpossibleChoices.org and find more information on the Summit at https://www.worldhumanitariansummit.org.
@WHSummit
@herveverhoosel
#ShareHumanity

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Accountability Moveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/accountability-moves/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=accountability-moves http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/accountability-moves/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 16:52:30 +0000 Huma Yusuf http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144821 By Huma Yusuf
Apr 25 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Behold Pakistan`s latest sporting craze: the game of accountability one-upmanship.

One Sharif called for `across-the-board accountability` and was reported to have removed a number of military officers on corruption charges; the other Sharif vowed to resign from his prime ministerial post if investigations into the leaked Panama Papers prove wrongdoing on the part of his family.

Opposition parties are gradually coordinating calls for the Supreme Court to establish a credible inquiry commission. If one is set up as the PM has suggested, one can expect the courts to take the lead in summoning politiclans from across the spectrum to account for their sins. Multidirectional corruption allegations used to be a sign in Pakistan of coups to come. There`s a throwback to this in Jamaat-iIslami leader Sirajul Haq`s decision to label corruption as `economic terrorism`. The word choice may appear to imply that the solution lies in military intervention.

The military set the stage of the JI chief`s coinage by linking the fight against corruption with winning the battle against terrorism, shifting the focus away from the violent ideologies of extremist groups to the venality of the political class.

This shift has already materialised in Sindh where paramilitary operations aimed at rooting out terrorist groups instead targeted PPP and MQM members suspected of engaging in corrupt activities, including involvement in organised crime and terrorism.

But Pakistan is meant to have outgrown its coup phase. Why would the military need to move in that direction when it has already consolidated power over the government and judiciary under the auspices of the National Action Plan and the Protection of Pakistan Act? Military courts and apex committees provide the security establishment with covert sway over the civilian sphere, saving it the trouble of overt rule. So why the renewed interest in accountability? Some of it may have to do with the evolving internal and regional security situation. While fending off corruption allegations, politicians have little time left to push back against establishment strategies in the region or mobilise civilian lawenforcement agencies to carry out counterterrorism operations, thereby winning back some oversight over domestic security.

As the fighting stage of Zarb-i-Azb draws to a close, the natural and sensible progression would be for the military to cede control to civilian authorities and empower the government to implement anti-terrorism regulation and deradicalisation initiatives.

A spotlight on the corruption of government institutions and the police in particular would boost an argument in favour of indefinite involvement by the security establishment. It would also prevent disagreementssuch as the recent one over counterterrorism operations in Punjab from gaining traction.

More broadly, the country is preparing to reap the benefits of the improved security situation through economic revival, starting with foreign investment under the auspices of CPEC. Increased accountability pressure at this juncture will help ensure that planned mega projects are not delayed or sullied by concerns about kickbacks or other corruption.

But all players in this game must remain cautious. The taint of corruption is indiscriminate and hard to wipe off. The military is already facing questions about its reticence regarding the removal of some officers allegedly involved in corrupt activities as well as reports that they continue to receive pensions and other benefits. Mounting corruption allegations are known to be a deterrent for effective governance and project implementation.

The fear of being retroactively investigated on corruption charges makes officials tasked with implementing projects reluctant to sign off on any decision. Ironically, political gamesaimed at taking control of projects may ultimately lead to slower implementation as corruption allegations fly in all directions.

This does not mean that Pakistan`s institutions civilian and military alike should not be pushed to increase transparency and accountability. Genuine anti-cor-ruption efforts are urgently required, not least to end the vicious political cycle of accusations and counter-accusations so that everyone can get on with good governance. But to truly effect change, anti-corruption initiatives will have to move beyond targeting individuals to improving institutions. Judicial inquiries may help weed out a few individuals who have engaged in heinous corruption. But they will not fix the system that enshrines a lack of transparency.

The time has come to talk about policies and institutional reforms that would genuinely lead to greater accountability financial disclosure systems; transparency around budget allocations and spending for all institutions, including the military; opening the accounts of all government-linked corporate entities for scrutiny; improving corporate governance requirements; better regulating asset declarations; and more.

Without a systemic approach, an anti-corruption drive will be little more than a game with no winners.

The writer is a freelance joumalist. huma.yusuf@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Cold-Blooded Lechery and Hushed Silence!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/cold-blooded-lechery-and-hushed-silence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cold-blooded-lechery-and-hushed-silence http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/cold-blooded-lechery-and-hushed-silence/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 06:31:20 +0000 Shah Husain Imam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144812 By Shah Husain Imam
Apr 25 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The photograph of a toddler in a Chinese street, published on an online portal, waving a steel pipe at an urban management force working to clear up pavements would itself have made news. But there was so much more to it with the infant actually shouting: ‘Don’t touch my grandma, go away’, to the appreciating, if somewhat amused, glance of onlookers.

toddler_It highlighted a child’s courage, his concern and love for a near and dear one standing up to a goliath-like adversary to defend his grandmother’s dignity against a perceived use of force.

Where a toddler could bravely resist what in his eyes looked like an imposition on his grandmother, you have a mob of grownups at Hatia in Noakhali and Sonagazi in Feni as silent, abetting bystanders to the reported stripping of two women of their clothes in broad daylight and being tortured mercilessly.

The victims are Shahana, 32, of Hatia and Wahida Khatun, 68, of Sonagazi in Feni a beneficiary of Adarshagram Ashrayan project at Chardarbesh union. The first woman failing to pay ‘subscription’ (toll) to Hatia pourashava was disrobed in public and beaten black and blue, allegedly by local thana dalal (collaborator) and Jubo League cadre Shahjahan. Her husband too, was detained briefly, for not complying with their extortionist demands. At one stage, when Shahana was carrying three and a half lakh taka out of sale proceeds from a plot of land, her purse and necklace would be snatched away.

When the video was put online it went viral and the police registered the case four days after the incident. And they said Shahjahan was not a thana dalal and that the police was getting a move on to arrest him.

The second victim Wahida Khatun’s fault, was to cultivate some vegetables in front of her room allotted under a shelter project. She was stripped, tied with her clothes to a tree by a goon named Sabuj, 38, in broad daylight.

Let’s pinpoint the core issues of such rabid-dog-like behaviour assaulting the dignity of women. Far from being macho, it represents the worst abomination of a woman’s person. And, are they not our mothers, sisters and daughters? This has happened in the rural outback where the reach of the law’s long arm stops short or is laid back or compromised by patently unequal power relations in the countryside. Why would that be so when the urban-rural line is fast disappearing through women’s empowerment in the garment sector, their local government representation and the women workers overseas sending in money to their relatives at home?

Here is an issue with trafficking behind which is a push factor of young women’s sense of insecurity in the country making them look for jobs abroad. And they sometimes land from the frying pan to the fire. Also, they become vulnerable to illegal trafficking such as the recovery of 250 women from the India-Bangladesh border has recently pointed to.

Hated as the women’s tormentors are the onlookers of atrocious scenes are equally to blame. The community did not raise a single finger or voice of protest, little realising that a single grunt of protest could have broken into a crescendo of resistance against the rowdies, freezing them on their tracks. Instead, they were watching as though a circus, leery-eyed at the baring of the women’s body. Rampant exposure to pornography and the culture of video-recording induced incidents for blackmailing are having all sorts of unsavoury consequences. This is why even governments in the liberal West are working to find remedies to a breakdown of old world family and social values.

Why must a majority be so afraid of a tiny minority of the wickedest? To explain this in terms of the thugs living off scare-mongering, notorious credentials, impunities from offences committed earlier on as though they are beyond and above law, is being pedestrian. For it amounts to abdication of the government’s responsibility and authority on the one hand and that of the community at large on the other.

In one of the human chains seeking justice to Tonu after a full month of simulated mystery surrounding her case, a placard read jarringly but insightfully “When alive we are a ‘commodity’ and when raped and murdered we become sisters”.

This sarcastic line is a razor-sharp pointer to a societal hypocrisy. We are casual with the living, dropping all our guards but chest-beating in delirium about the brutal end of a woman. To compound the burden of our unfinished agenda, a new brutality keeps kicking up the previous one into the long grass.

Let it not be lost on us that the sensitisation campaigns are mistimed in the aftermath, rather in the prelude to a pernicious occurrence when we would be in with a chance of preempting it. An infinitely less costly option that. In spite of the vociferous aftermath do we see any remission in the phallic fever?

There are two ways to be ahead of the problems: One, we have special units or task forces comprising law enforcers particularly women police, teachers, religious leaders, politicians, local body and NGO representatives to attend to the brewing and emerging issues of women’s or any vulnerable groups’ safety and security. The second option that could be a silver bullet is setting up communication help lines to hear out problems and arranging timely law enforcement intervention. The community policing by young Turks, with a small retainer allowance, could do the rest of the magic.

The writer is an Associate Editor, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Ecosystem Conservation Gives Hope to a Vulnerable Communityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 05:55:24 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144803 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/ecosystem-conservation-gives-hope-to-a-vulnerable-community/feed/ 0 What Can Be Done for Victims Still Fighting for Survival?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/what-can-be-done-for-victims-still-fighting-for-survival/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-can-be-done-for-victims-still-fighting-for-survival http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/what-can-be-done-for-victims-still-fighting-for-survival/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:35:55 +0000 Sheikh Nazmul and John Richards http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144793 By Sheikh Nazmul Huda, Desdemona Khan, Labin Rahman and John Richards
Apr 24 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Three years have elapsed since the collapse of Rana Plaza, Savar, on a fine morning of April 24, 2013. The disaster, one of the deadliest in the world’s industrial history in two centuries, claimed the lives of 1,135 men and women and injured another 2,500, nearly 200 of whom severe enough to keep them hospitalised for months.

Photo: rahul-talukder

Photo: rahul-talukder

In the months following the accident, we, along with other colleagues, surveyed many such survivors with serious injuries. The victims were in the prime of their lives, their mean age being only 26. Two thirds were female and they were much younger than their male counterparts. Over 60 percent of the victims were married and 12 percent were either widows or divorcees.

Currently, we are following up with another survey, contacting as many as possible of those we had met in the summer of 2013. As may be apprehended, given the severity of the disaster, many survivors now face grave difficulties. It is encapsulated by Jorina’s bitter comment : “I think it would have been better if they had cut off my legs. These legs are now the bane of my life. I am completely unable to walk and they are heavy. I can’t move about as I wish to. All the time I have to use a wheelchair.” She comes from Naogaon, a northern district. There was nobody to look after her. “My daughter and son-in-law stay with me. I have two grand-daughters too, but there is not enough room for all of us to stay together in a one-room house. So I live on the verandah, I have to also sleep there.”

Soon after the collapse, the United Nations reviewed Dhaka’s capacity for undertaking a major rescue operation and offered to help out. The Bangladesh Government expressed their confidence in managing the situation and refused their offer. A large number of deeply motivated but untrained volunteers played a key role in medical evacuation and rescue operations there. The Army, the fire service and other national agencies were also active part of these efforts.

Though the rescue operations continued for more than two weeks, almost three fourths of our respondents, fortunately, got rescued on the first day, namely on April 24, 2013. A good 10 percent were rescued on the second day and on the third day another 10 percent of our respondents were dragged out of the debris. According to our data, more than one-third of the victims were found unconscious on rescue. As many as 30 percent of the injured had fractures of one or more limbs.

Approximately 20 percent had spinal or head injury. One-fifth of the seriously injured required amputation of one or more limbs.

Hospitals and clinics in the neighbourhood proved the best; these institutions, coming out of everywhere, provided critical services to the survivors. Enam Medical College Hospital, Savar, has been the most common destination of the injured. Approximately half were directly taken to this non-governmental establishment. Less than 20 percent were taken to CMH (Combined Military Hospital) Savar, devoted exclusively to the armed services of the nation otherwise. After four weeks of the tragedy, we encountered many victims being transferred to CRP (Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed), Savar, one of the best centres in Bangladesh for treatment of spinal injuries.

Approximately one fourth of the seriously injured suffered spinal injuries. Initial medical assessments diagnosed nearly half of these downright. However, only three were referred to CRP for initial treatment. Despite close reach and access to CRP, some complicated cases were sent to smaller hospitals where neither requisite skills nor logistics for advanced care of spinal fractures and other complications were handy. Spinal injuries, for instance, need immediate immobilisation for minimising neurological and other kinds of damage. In many cases that did not happen. The victims often had other injuries (like bleeding, soft tissue infections, fractured limb etc.) that could be handled in multi-disciplinary hospitals. Nevertheless, immediate mobilisation after the rescue could perhaps have prevented paralysis in some cases. Optimal emergency treatment requires effective triage (a process for quick assessment of the type or the urgency of medical problems) where many cases are brought in for treatment. It seems the triage at the site of Rana Plaza could have been better.

Immediate medical care was provided generously by hospitals, community organisations and people in general. This is less evident in terms of long-term care, however. Three years into the catastrophe, we encountered many victims in need of physical and occupational therapy. Others are experiencing post-trauma stress disorder and stand in need of psychiatric help. Many are not gainfully employed anymore. Most have returned to their native villages, taking with them the trauma and consequences of the catastrophe.

Among the survivors we recently met, was a woman, whose arm was amputated from her shoulder. While under treatment she became pregnant. Her baby is now less than three years old and it is very difficult for the mother to take care of her child with only one arm. Once, while taking the baby for vaccination, the baby fell and was injured. No one in the hospital had counselled her on the techniques of managing with one arm only. This case serves to illustrate the importance of addressing the long-term needs of survivors.

What is missing is a systematic initiative for their long-term rehabilitation and wellbeing. It’s a shared responsibility no one can ignore. The garments industry, state health services, NGOs and, not least, civil society itself, can neither deny nor evade their call of duty.

The writers are members of a research collective directed by Prof. John Richards, School of Public Policy, Simon Fraser University, Canada.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Will the IMF Facility Be a Turning Point in the Economy?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-imf-facility-be-a-turning-point-in-the-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-the-imf-facility-be-a-turning-point-in-the-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-imf-facility-be-a-turning-point-in-the-economy/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:10:41 +0000 Editor Sunday Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144789 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
Apr 24 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

The IMF Extended Fund Facility (EFF) of US$ 1.5 billion with an agreement on an economic program supported by the IMF is now imminent. This could be a turning point in the economic fortunes of the country. The IMF facility would replenish the reserves, add confidence in the economy and have a salutary effect on capital inflows.

In as much as the loan is vital for getting the country out of the current critical balance of payments crisis, the commitment to the suggested economic reform program is essential to stabilise the economy and lay the foundation for a high trajectory of economic growth. The suggested corrective measures by ensuring fiscal discipline and prudent fiscal and monetary policies could get the country out of the current crisis, restore economic stability and provide the conditions for rapid economic growth.

Econ-Cartoon3-300x186IMF statement
The IMF statement of April 11th points towards the IMF granting a facility of US$ 1.5 billion with agreement on an economic program supported by the IMF. While the IMF agreement on the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) is not a fait accompli, the tenor and thrust of the statement leaves little doubt that it will be granted after the on going Annual Spring Meetings of the IMF Board and the discussions that are currently taking place in Washington D.C. between the IMF and the Sri Lankan authorities.

Economic recovery
The loan facility and the concomitant economic reform program could usher an economic recovery. The government must however have the political resolve to implement the associated economic reforms that are vital to strengthen the fiscal position, foreign exchange reserves and balance of payments.

Objectives
The broad objectives of the proposed economic program, according to the IMF, is to achieve “high and sustained levels of inclusive economic growth, restore discipline to macroeconomic and financial policies, and rebuild fiscal and reserve buffers.” The IMF identifies the key objectives underlying the reform agenda as improving revenue administration and tax policy; strengthening public financial management; reform of state enterprises; and structural reforms to enable a more outward-looking economy, deepen foreign exchange markets, and strengthen financial sector supervision.

Tax reform
One of the weakest features of the Sri Lankan economy is the low collection of government revenue. The revenue to GDP ratio has declined over the years from around 20 per cent of GDP to only 12 per cent, despite average annual GDP growth of around 7 per cent in recent years. This tax to GDP ratio is too low for the country’s level of per capita income. Countries with similar per capita incomes gather more than 20 per cent of GDP as revenue.

The low revenue collection results in high fiscal deficits and accumulation of public debt and leaves inadequate fiscal space for education, health and infrastructure development. The foreign funded high cost of infrastructure development in 2010-2014 has been the main reason for doubling of foreign indebtedness.

The reduction of the fiscal deficit is vital for economic stability. The IMF economic reform program lays considerable emphasis on fiscal consolidation. Its objective is “A durable reduction of the fiscal deficit and public debt through a growth-friendly emphasis on revenue generation.”

The cabinet has, according to the IMF statement, decided to reduce the 2016 fiscal deficit to 5.4 per cent of GDP. Although this is inadequate, it may be a realistic target. The government should take steps to achieve a fiscal deficit of 3.5 per cent of GDP in 2020 as targeted in the Prime Minister’s Economic Policy Statement of November 2015.

Strategy
The IMF strategy to increase revenue consists of broadening the tax base by reducing tax exemptions and introduction of a new Inland Revenue Act. The medium term revenue effort will be based on further reform of tax and expenditure policies, modernizing revenue administration and public financial management by implementation of key IT systems.

Pragmatic tax measures
Tax exemptions, tax avoidance and tax evasion are widespread endemic features. An effective tax system must take into account the inefficiency and corruption that prevails. The IMF proposals are essentially medium term and based on the assumption of an effective administration. New tax measures should be unavoidable and certain of collection such as withholding taxes and license fees. Otherwise the good intentions of curtailing tax evasion and tax avoidance would remain a delusion. Tax exemptions are easier to remove if the government is determined to not permit discretionary exemptions.

State enterprises
The other important economic reform that has been mooted is “a clear strategy to define and address outstanding obligations of state enterprises”. The colossal losses of state enterprises have been a heavy burden on the public finances. The reform of these enterprises is vital to redeeming the public finances. Drastic reforms, including the privatisation or part privatisation of some state owned enterprises are imperative. Will the government have the political will and courage to implement a privatisation program as was done by Chandrika Bandaranaike‘s government.

Reserves
The IMF loan facility will strengthen the country’s diminished reserves and add considerable international confidence in the Sri Lankan economy. The enhanced international confidence in the Sri Lankan economy would stem capital outflows and reduce the cost of international borrowing. As the Governor of the Central Bank, Arjuna Mahendran has stated “Depending on the success of the Extended Fund Facility with the IMF on which discussions are currently underway in Washington D.C. other global lending agencies will look at us much more favourably in the coming months.” He also said that the People’s Bank of China has given authorization to issue bonds in China in renminbi the official Chinese currency and that all these would enable the raising of US$ 3 billion at lower interest rates quite easy.

Concluding reflections
The expected IMF facility of US$ 1.5 billion will replenish the reserves and add confidence in the economy. This would have a beneficial impact on capital inflows. The corrective measures by the IMF of ensuring fiscal discipline and prudent fiscal and monetary policies are essential to get out of the crisis and restore economic stability and create conditions for higher investment and rapid growth.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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Panorama of Perfidy in the Panama Papershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/panorama-of-perfidy-in-the-panama-papers-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=panorama-of-perfidy-in-the-panama-papers-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/panorama-of-perfidy-in-the-panama-papers-2/#comments Sat, 23 Apr 2016 06:47:31 +0000 Mohammad Badrul Ahsan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144787 panama_papers_0__

By Mohammad Badrul Ahsan
Apr 23 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Ever since the Panama Papers hit the fan, the leak has been working like a series of introductions at a high-profile gathering. It’s putting a bunch of names to a bunch of faces, men and women leading a double life because of their money. It also shows that these folks have something in common with the squirrels. The rodents hide their nuts, and they hide their assets.

Don’t forget that the squirrel hoarding has a purpose for it. The animals collect and store nuts so that they will have food to last through the winter. But their thriftiness has social benefits. The nuts they bury result in trees growing in many new places.

What’s the purpose of hiding money? The simple truth is that anything that can’t be revealed is concealed. And two things are simultaneously concealed when it comes to money. Money and its source are like fire and smoke. If one is visible, the other can’t vanish.

Thus the overriding purpose of creating the shadow network of shell companies and tax havens is to create a conduit for dirty money. Offshore banking, as it appears now, is a huge Mephistophelean enterprise to provide forward linkage to kleptocracy. Capitalism needs it to accommodate greed for the same reason nuclear plants look for disposal sites to dump radioactive waste.

But it’s shocking to see how the world has been shocked by the scandal. Politicians were stealing. Dealers were dealing. Wheelers were wheeling. Banks were billing. And all that time those who know knew already that all of those things were happening. Yet the reaction of the world has been as if it was expected that all these seismic waves shouldn’t have shaken the ground.

Whether capitalism invented hypocrisy or hypocrisy invented capitalism calls for a separate discussion. But these two wheels balance the bi-cycle of modern life relentlessly pedaling itself to create more wealth. And if the president of this country and the prime minister of that country have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, it only confirms how a runaway system has been running.

It belies the basic principle of double entry bookkeeping. Take the example of the billions of taka that evaporated in this country after stock market manipulation, bank swindling and other forms of embezzlement. While we know how much has been debited, who knows where all that money has been credited? Who knows how much of that missing money has washed up on which shores?

Not to say the Panama Papers can track that missing money for us, but the scandal should shake us out of our pretentious slumber. Some of the stolen money exists around us, flaunted in the lifestyle of crooks and thieves hiding behind their fabulous masks. That flaunting has a hierarchy of its own starting with the baseline perps. Office clerks, police constables and linemen for various utility services like to have their palms greased in their quest for a solvent life.

Then it gradually goes up the totem pole of greed, climbing from necessity to luxury like mercury does in barometer. At the top of the pecking order are those who aren’t satisfied with extravagance alone. They want to steal enough to guarantee the same high life for their future generations.

Thus Panama, the Cayman Islands, the Virgin Islands and similar destinations are sanctuaries for sick money like leper colonies are for lepers. These are the places where capitalism hides its excesses outside national boundaries devoted to the care of dubious money like orphanages are to illegitimate children. These are the exotic places where toxic money takes vacation to get away from the monotony of scrutiny and suspicion at home.

In the ultimate analysis though, these tax havens are boutique shops compared to department stores for financial irregularities. How about those countries which, on the whole, are allowing foreign citizens to invest money in their economies and buy second homes? What about the Swiss banks which until recently refused to divulge the names of people who kept black money in their accounts? What about other places like Beirut, the Bahamas, Uruguay and Lichtenstein, which have taken the Swiss model to heart? Even in the United States, places like Delaware and Nevada have loose regulations and low taxes so that people can hide their activities and assets behind a corporate façade.

The Panama Papers are going to do no more than summer cleaning. It will prepare the ground for new names, new law firms and new destinations for newly stolen money, perhaps to precipitate another scandal umpteen years later. The wave of indignations triggered by the scandal is keeping us busy upstream, while nothing changes at source.

Capitalism and hypocrisy are intimately built on each other. That relationship persists because we’re hopelessly reluctant to tell the face from the façade.

The writer is the Editor of weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.
Email: badrul151@yahoo.com

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Poverty Puzzleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/poverty-puzzles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poverty-puzzles http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/poverty-puzzles/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 16:35:45 +0000 Faisal Bari http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144779 By Faisal Bari
Apr 22 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Whichever way you parse the data we have it shows that poverty headcount in Pakistan over the last decade and a half to two decades has decreased substantially. Initially, it was thought the data was not good enough, that it had been manipulated and so on, but even after multiple rounds of national surveys, the same trends are evident. And though the actual percentage of the poor may vary with the method one uses, the trend of falling poverty remains invariant. There must be something to this trend.

Poverty headcount, by the old line, has reduced to below 10pc in recent surveys. It is common practice, when poverty headcount goes below 10pc odd, to rebase the poverty line so that it gives some meaningful numbers. Social policy, if it has to work with less than 10pc odd of the population, is not as effective and/or useful. When all sorts of analyses confirmed that Pakistan`s poverty headcount had indeed gone below 10pc, the ministries of finance and planning, with help from the World Bank, decided to rebase the poverty line. This rebasing was announced a few weeks back.

According to the new poverty line and numbers, poverty headcount is around 29pc of the population.

At the same time, the perception in the country is that poverty, if it has not gone up, has not decreased. How does one square this circle? There are other puzzles here too. While the poverty reduction trend seems to be robust, malnutrition and stunting incidence, especially in children, seem to be on the increase.

If the population is able to meet their basic caloric needs, as well as purchase other necessities, why are malnutrition and stunting incidence increasing? Are people choosing to eat and feed their children poorly? Why would that be the case? There are some systematic changes in buying patterns in terms of a shift from non-processed food to processed food, an increase in meat consumption compared to lentil consumption, but these do not explain the malnutrition increase phenomenon.This is a very important puzzle to resolve.

Infant mortality and maternal mortality numbers have also been, more or less, stagnating over the same period. If poverty has come down, why is itnot translatinginto better health and longevity outcomes for people? One possible explanation here is that health outcomes are not only tied to the income level of a household but to availability of good quality public goods: water and sanitation facilities, healthcare facilities, and environmental conditions. Even if the income of a household increases, they might still be drinking poor quality water or using pits for waste water disposal and/or living in an environment where solid waste is not collected from the streets.

We know that a lot of Pakistani children suffer from diarrhoea and have worms in their digestive tracts and one major reason for both of the above is the fecal-to-oral route. We also know that drinking water quality, across the country, has been deteriorating. So, stagnation in health outcomes might have to do with lack of provision of needed public goods. And it might not be possible, now, to move on infant and maternal mortality and health outcome issues without major investments in public goods provision.

An even more interesting issue is that we do not really know why poverty has come down in Pakistan. What have been the determinants of reducing poverty and what has been driving it? It is definitely not tied to GDP growth in Pakistan.

Over the last 15 odd years only two to three were reasonable-to-high GDP growth years (2004-2007).

In other years, growth rates have been quite poor.

But poverty, even over slow-growth years, has continued to decline. At the same time, we have also seen increases in inequality in Pakistan. And the government has not been very active on the redistributive side as well. so, if the economy is not growing fast, and there is no redistribution of existing resources happening, how is poverty coming down?There are a couple of promising hypotheses here. Some researchers think remittance flows have been increasing substantially and they might explain the reduction in poverty. This, to me, does not sound too promising an explanation.

Remittance numbers are not that large, but more importantly, remittance flows are unevenly distributed across Pakistan andit should be possible, through careful analysis, to see if higher poverty reduction has been achieved in areas where remittance flows have been larger.

Some researchers think that it is growth of the informal economy, over the last decade and a half, that explains the reduction in poverty. Our GDP series does not capture the informal economy very well.

So, if there has been growth in the informal economy, it is possible to see reductions in poverty without seeing a significant connection with GDP growth rates. We need much more detailed micro level work here to see if growth in the informal sector is indeed what is driving the reduction in poverty.

Poverty has reduced but we do not understand why and we do not understand the movement, or lack thereof, in correlates. Why has inequality increased? How come poverty reduction and GDP growth rates are not related? Why has malnutrition increased even as poverty has come down? Why are we not seeing reductions in infant and maternal mortality and why are health outcomes not improving? What other investments, in public goods, are needed to move correlates in a desirable direction? It is time the poverty debate in Pakistan moves beyond the numbers issue. We need to understand the dynamics of poverty and poverty reduction better. This is imperative for designing effective social-sector policies.

The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives and an associate professor of economics at Lums, Lahore.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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No Turning Back in the Global Fight Against Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/no-turning-back-in-the-global-fight-against-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-turning-back-in-the-global-fight-against-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/no-turning-back-in-the-global-fight-against-climate-change/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 06:38:06 +0000 Marcia Bernicat http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144772 Photo: Ambreblends

Photo: Ambreblends

By Marcia Bernicat
Apr 22 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

As people around the globe observe Earth Day today, world leaders are making history at the United Nations in New York. Over 100 countries will sign the Paris Agreement on climate change, representing their commitment to join it formally. This marks a turning point in the story of our planet and may set a record for the largest number of signers to an international agreement in a single day. Moreover, last month, President Obama announced with President Xi Jinping that our two countries will sign the Paris Agreement today and formally join this year. We are confident other countries will do so too, with the intention of bringing this historic and ambitious agreement into force as quickly as possible.

A greener future is already in sight. Leaders of countries and cities are adapting and innovating away from fossil fuels and business owners are investing in a clean energy economy. The United States is moving forward in its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. We are doing this through the strongest fuel economy standards in our history, through our twenty-fold increase in solar generation since 2009, and through proposed rules on everything from energy conservation standards for appliances to reduction in emissions of methane-rich gas from municipal solid waste landfills.

My home state, New Jersey, has undertaken ambitious programmes tackling climate change and promoting renewable energy. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has introduced the Sustainable Jersey programme to aid cities and towns in going green, saving money, and taking the steps necessary to ensure long-term quality of life. Sustainable Jersey provides guidance and financial incentives in support of the programme. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ Clean Energy Programme encourages homeowners, businesses, and municipalities to incorporate clean energy into their lives. The Clean Energy Programme has received the 2016 Sustained Excellence Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for 15 years of success in promoting clean energy use.

While we are taking significant climate action domestically, the United States is also focused on international cooperation to address this global challenge. Our $500 million contribution last month to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – the first tranche of the $3 billion U.S. pledge to the GCF – will help developing countries reduce carbon emissions and prepare for climate impacts, while also advancing our commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – another major landmark agreement the world came together around last year.

One of the most successful environmental agreements of all time is the Montreal Protocol, which is phasing out ozone depleting substances globally. It set the ozone layer on a path to recovery and prevented tens of millions of cases of skin cancer among other health, environmental, and economic benefits. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – which replace many of the ozone-depleting substances – do not harm the ozone layer, but they are greenhouse gases that in some cases can be thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. The United States is working with partners to adopt an HFC phase-down amendment to the Montreal Protocol this year that could avoid half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of the century.

We also need international cooperation to change how we transport ourselves and goods. The aviation sector represents two percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The International Civil Aviation Organisation is aiming to achieve carbon neutral growth for international aviation by 2020. The United States is committed to reaching an agreement on a global market-based measure that will help move the airline sector toward this ambitious goal.

Bangladesh, located at the confluence of the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, and the Meghna rivers, is uniquely vulnerable to climate change. The 600 kilometre coastal zone faces considerable challenges: flooding, erosion, rising sea levels, and cyclonic storm surges. Bangladesh has risen to this challenge. From the establishment of the Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan of 2009 and Climate Change Trust Fund to the continued dedication of over six percent of the annual budget to climate change adaptation, Bangladesh has been on the leading edge of environmental policy. For all of these reasons, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was awarded the United Nations’ Champion of the Earth award for Policy Leadership last September.

This Earth Day – with the signing of the Paris Agreement – is truly a cause for hope. It is also a reminder of our shared commitment to combat climate change. We must all seize upon the momentum from Paris to build a clean energy future for ourselves and our children and grandchildren.

The writer is the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Coat Liningshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/coat-linings/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coat-linings http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/coat-linings/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 17:11:26 +0000 F.S. Aijazuddin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144762 By F. S. Aijazuddin
Apr 21 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Is nothing sacred anymore? Has privacy lost its sanctity? Why cannot our prime minister go to London for an urgent medical check-up, drop in on his tailors Scabal in Savile Row for a fitting, and then treat himself and his acolyte ministers to a lunch at Churchill Hotel, without also being photographed by amateur paparazzi on their ubiguitous mobiles? Now that Swiss bank counters and Panamanian desktops have been converted into unscreened confessionals, is nothing secret or sacrosanct? One`s sympathies reach out to our nouveau-riche rulers. They thought they had buried their money long enough for it to acquire the patina of `old money`. (`Old money` is what a ruler makes in his/her first administration.) As aspiring arrivistas, they felt that they had finally `arrived`. However, our elected Noriegas have found themselves sharing the predicament of the wife of the general-industrialist whose automotive companies were nationalised by Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in January 1972. `Life is so unfair, she moaned. `Just when we thought we had made it into the 22 families, Bhutto goes and does this to us.

She had a point. In the game of politics of the time, Bhutto`s nationalisation constituted foul play. Perversely, it was not the assailant but the victim who was sent off the field. In today`s matches, the spoilsport is accountability. It is the asp coiled in a basket of figs.

Our leaders amass wealth not as a precautionary nest egg, as an insurance against a predictably insecure future. They do it to provide their future generations with a financial security they themselves never enjoyed. It is a fact that no president or prime minister of Pakistan has ever left office poorer than when he or she entered it, with the possible exception of our 15th prime minister Shaukat Aziz who did not become rich.

He came rich. He was heard to boast that he did not need to be corrupt: as a former Citibanker, he had enough money to last three generations.

Should the public be surprised therefore that leaders when elected and their scavenger minions when unleashed should see governance not as a responsibility but as an opportunity? Greed whets an appetite; the fear of accountability should 1(ill it. But it doesn`t.

Our law libraries in Pakistan have no shelves lef t to accommodate the tomes of legislation passed to hold the corrupt accountable. Our courts are clogged with corruption cases that suppurate and decompose but never die, and are left unburied. NAB has become a watchdog-turned-leech, sucking diseased blood, bloated beyond original purpose. Files containing crucial evidence ofpursuable cases have vanished. Our sovereign parliament has misplaced its dentures.

Is corruption, as the historian Edward Gibbon would have us believe, `the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty`? In our case, yes. Democracy in Pakistan is not so much a vote-for-all as a free-for-all.

Today, it would seem that the media in Pakistan is the last spokesman of the public`s conscience. Television channels scour tirelessly for information of illicit transactions.

TV anchors itch for an opportunity to catch and expose wrongdoers. Newshounds sniff like inquisitive foxes, ferreting out stories that cower, hidden in warrens, afraid of discovery. Today`s media is the hunter, the corrupt its prime quarry.

`The press is a sort of wild animal in our midst restless, gigantic, always seeking new ways to use its strength,` Zechariah Chafee, a commentator, once wrote. What he said 70 years ago is as valid today even to the applicabilityofthe tellingnextsentence:`The sovereign press for the most part acknowledges accountability to no one except its owners and publishers.

At a LitFest recently, during a discussion on the social responsibility of the media, a view was expressed that nowhere in the world is the press anything other than an aggregation of powerfulcommercial interests. Stories sell newspapers and airtime, their aftermath does not.

Media moguls prefer surgery to post-op care.

Traditionally, the media has always had three discrete roles: it can hold a mirror to society, it can be its voice, and it can (and should) act as its conscience. And it is in this latter capacity that the Pakistani media has attained what some might argue is a belated maturity.

The voice of our media has shifted from a shrill alto to a deeper bass. Having added timbre to its voice, has it also developed muscles to match? Disgruntled Pakistanis would like to believe it has. The targets of the Panama leaks know that it has not, perhaps never will. Hell will freeze over before Pakistan becomes another Iceland where a tainted prime minister resigns rather than continue in of fice.

Our politicians are made of sterner stuff.

They will not be besmirched by such inky allegations. Their Savile Row suits are lined with Teflon.

The writer is an author. www.fsaijazuddin.pk

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Healthcare solutions that are smarthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/healthcare-solutions-that-are-smart/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=healthcare-solutions-that-are-smart http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/healthcare-solutions-that-are-smart/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 16:35:31 +0000 Bjorn Lomborg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144761 Photo: www.tbalert.org

Photo: www.tbalert.org

By Bjørn Lomborg
Apr 21 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Every hour, tuberculosis kills nine Bangladeshis. Another seven die each hour from arsenic in drinking water. Simple and cheap solutions are available to avoid almost all these deaths.

Bangladesh has made incredible progress over recent years on many health indicators. But the country continues to face great challenges, like tuberculosis (TB) and arsenic, two of the biggest killers. Many other grave health issues remain too, including factors that threaten mothers and their children.

Bangladesh Priorities can help identify the smartest solutions to national health challenges, as well as many other development issues.

TB kills 80,000 Bangladeshis each year, constituting about nine percent of all deaths. New research by Anna Vasssall, a senior lecturer in health economics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, outlines a cost-effective TB treatment strategy using community health clinics.

There are well-established ways to treat TB at low cost. Standard drugs for TB treatment and follow-up through community clinics cost Tk. 7,850 per patient. By treating one person for TB, you also prevent that person from infecting others, which makes treatment an even better investment. In total, each taka spent will do Tk. 21 of good.

Some strains of TB, however, are so-called “multi-drug resistant,” meaning that traditional treatments are not effective. Nationally, there are about 4,700 cases of this type of TB each year. The World Health Organization (WHO) is piloting a “Bangladesh regimen” trial in the country that shortens treatment time for these strains from 24 months to just nine months. But because multi-drug resistant TB is up to 45 times more expensive to treat, each taka spent will do just Tk. 3 of good. This shows that it can be much more effective to help the larger group of people who can be treated with conventional methods.

Even though 98 percent of Bangladeshis have access to either piped water or a well, 25 percent of households’ water sources contain arsenic levels that exceed the WHO guideline. New research investigates three water supply options that can largely prevent arsenic exposure: deep tube wells, rainwater harvesting, and pond sand filters. These options would cost between Tk. 1,250 to 1,850 annually per affected household and avert virtually all deaths related to arsenic. It would do about Tk. 7 of good per taka spent. Focusing efforts on the 20 percent worst affected, however, can do even more good—up to Tk.17 in benefits for each taka spent. And because much progress has already been made toward improving sanitation and hygiene, it turns out further investments in these areas would not be nearly as cost-effective as preventing arsenic exposure.

Another pressing health concern is child and maternal mortality. Even though Bangladesh has greatly reduced these deaths, the progress has been uneven. According to the World Bank, the mortality rates are nearly twice as high for infants and young children in the poorest 20 percent of the population compared to those in the richest 20 percent.

New research by Jahangir A.M. Khan, senior lecturer in health economics at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and Sayem Ahmed, research investigator at The International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, looks first at making births safer. Getting more women to deliver in medical facilities, which only half do now, could help.

It would cost an estimated Tk. 6,000 per delivery but is not practical for everyone, particularly in remote areas. The experts estimate that total spending of Tk. 8.94 billion (Tk. 894 crore) could move 80 percent of currently unattended births, or 1.5 million deliveries, into medical facilities. This would avert an estimated 3,260 maternal deaths and 34,467 neonatal deaths. Overall, each taka spent would do Tk. 8 of good.

An even more effective option is for community health workers to visit mothers at home both before and after birth. This option is very cheap – just Tk. 850 over the course of a pregnancy. Nearly 750,000 pregnant women could be targeted, and in all, homecare visits could save lives of more than 8,900 infants. Benefits for each taka of spending would be an impressive Tk. 27.

Lastly, the experts look at vaccinations. While 85 percent of children aged 12-23 months are fully immunised, that figure is just 51 percent for children in remote rural areas and just 43 percent for those in urban slums. Vaccinations cost Tk. 1,400-1,900 per child and could save more than 4,100 lives each year. Each taka spent immunising children would do Tk. 10 of good.

These new studies suggest some of the smartest solutions for the health challenges that still plague the country. Would these strategies be some of your top priorities for Bangladesh? Let us hear from you at https://copenhagen.fbapp.io/healthpriorities. We want to continue the conversation about how to do the most good for every taka spent.

The writer is president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, ranking the smartest solutions to the world’s biggest problems by cost-benefit. He was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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