Outcry Against Corruption Helps Drive a Change of Leadership in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan election officials carry ballot boxes under police guard. (Photo: VOA News)

Sri Lankan election officials carry ballot boxes under police guard. (Photo: VOA News)

While it is hard to identify all of the issues that drove Sri Lankans during the country’s recent – and for many observers, surprising – elections, a cry for change was evident. Voters had clearly grown tired of corruption, cronyism, and authoritarianism, and there have been widespread calls for investigations into a range of alleged human rights abuses.

On January 8, in an unexpected turn of events, 15 million Sri Lankans, representing a 75 percent voter turnout, went to the polls and ousted incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in favor of Maithripala Sirisena, Rajapaksa’s former Health Minister who shocked many by declaring his intent to run for office. Rajapaksa, who was South Asia’s longest-serving political head of state, in office since 2005, had turned increasingly authoritarian. He called these elections two years early, seeking a third term. It seems unlikely that he anticipated the defection of Sirisena and a number of other parliamentarians.

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Technology and Democracy in Burma

A Burmese man checks his mobile phone.(Photo: Flickr)

A Burmese man checks his mobile phone.(Photo: Flickr)

Since 2011, Burma has slowly been transitioning into a fledgling democracy from a reclusive military dictatorship. Some positive steps have taken place – multi-party elections have been held and more than 3,000 political prisoners have been freed. Yet as the U.S. deputy national security adviser stated recently, “[p]arts of the reform effort have stalled, parts have moved forward and parts, we’ve seen, have even moved backward, so it’s a mixed picture.”

The biggest test for Burma’s democratic transition is the upcoming general elections taking place in November. For citizens to make informed decisions and to hold future leaders accountable, they must be empowered with knowledge. The potential political leaders also must be educated about how to govern, as well as find ways to communicate and engage with their constituents. And technology, more specifically mobile phones, will have a large role to play for both groups.

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Beyond “Doing Business”: The Economic Implications of Public Opinion in Afghanistan

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In early November, the World Bank published its annual “Doing Business Report,” which assesses government regulations that support or constrain business activity across 189 countries. This year, Afghanistan again ranked near the bottom, down one spot from last year, in the 183rd position. The full report on Afghanistan can be found here.

There is no disputing that Afghanistan is a difficult place to do business, yet as has been noted in the past on the CIPE blog, there are inherent limitations to what the Doing Business rankings measure. We frequently point out that these indicators reflect the “laws on the books,” or the formal economic environment, but do not address the so-called implementation gap between those laws and practice. There have been cases in which countries introduce reforms specifically to move up the rankings, but surveys of entrepreneurs reveal that business continues “as usual,” as these new laws do not work in reality, either because of a lack of political will or low public administration capacity. In addition, political stability and democratic legitimacy are not captured in the Doing Business rankings. Egypt was a “top reformer” prior to 2010, but the events in Tahrir Square were to a great extent fueled by economic woes.

In order to get a more comprehensive view of a country’s economic environment, it is useful to consider public opinion and understand attitudes towards state institutions and processes. In the case of Afghanistan, the Asia Foundation’s annual Survey of the Afghan People is one such tool. This year’s report is especially meaningful given the country’s post-election mood, and its implications for public confidence in the country’s economic environment.

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2015 and Beyond: Considering the New Development Agenda

“The year 2015 offers a unique opportunity for global leaders and people to end poverty, transform the world to better meet human needs and the necessities of economic transformation, while protecting our environment, ensuring peace and realizing human rights. We are at a historic crossroads, and the directions we take will determine whether we will succeed or fail on our promises,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in the synthesis report on the post-2015 agenda.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are rooted in an agreement reached during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, otherwise known as Rio+20, and the adoption of the outcome document, “The Future We Want.” As a cornerstone for the post-2015 development agenda, the 17 SDGs begin where unfinished work of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) left off, with aspirations of poverty eradication, inclusion, human rights, equality, and sustainability.

The Center for International Private Enterprise together with Creative Associates International recently held a forum with Pauline Baker of the Fund for Peace, Tony Pipa of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), J.W. Wright of Creative Associates, and Amb. James Michel, author of “Shaping the New Development Agenda” (available in full or abridged versions), which guided the conversation.

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Stakeholder Trust: A Proposal for a Global Business Ethics Principle

dowden-nicholsThis article originally appeared on the Russian International Affairs Council blog.

By Patricia E. Dowden and Philip M. Nichols

What standards should businesses observe in their own countries, or abroad? Businesses now have resources and influence that rival or surpass those of governments and certainly of ordinary people.[1] The choices businesses make can profoundly influence the lives of every person on the planet. Businesses, governments, and people now recognize that businesses must do much more than merely obey the law. Yet discerning and agreeing on globally appropriate rules for business behavior has been a formidable and contentious discussion among business leaders and academics.

While acknowledging all of the contentiousness, we now offer a modest proposal for a unifying global business ethics principle:

A basic duty of every organization is to earn stakeholder trust.

This principle is meant to replace a more familiar but flawed imperative: that the basic duty of each business leader is to “maximize shareholder value.” [2] Such a duty has never been explicitly written into corporate law, yet is often practiced by CEOs as a way of avoiding dissatisfied shareholders and being replaced by a similarly dissatisfied Board of Directors. But a single-minded focus on profitability – especially very short-term profitability – has serious limitations and risks to the ongoing enterprise; we will explain why earning and maintaining stakeholder trust – including shareholders — can not only serve businesses’ bottom line over time, but also make the market economies where they operate much more sustainable.

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How Pakistan’s Education System Holds Back Economic Growth and Democracy

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A recent World Bank report suggests that the country will not meet the Millennium Development Goals of universal primary education by 2015. The report ranks Pakistan 113th out of 120 countries in the “Education for All Index.” With seven million out-of-school kids, the challenge is snowballing with each passing year.

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“Betrayed” – The Search for Inclusion in Development

betrayedWhy have China and Ghana achieved impressive growth and poverty reduction while Nigeria has seen an increase in poverty even as its economy grew to be the largest in Africa? The answer to this question lies in the relationships between the poor and elites, and specifically in patterns of social inclusion and exclusion. That is the conclusion reached by Seth Kaplan in his book Betrayed: Politics, Power, and Prosperity, based on a study of scholarly literature and personal observations in developing countries. Without a doubt, inclusion presents a fundamental challenge of development, and Kaplan has dug down to frame the core of the problem.

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