Democracy that Delivers Podcast #17: Atlas Corps Fellow Gigi Raffo on What Life is Like for Regular Citizens and Business Owners in Venezuela

Podcast host Julie Johnson (center) and guest host John Zemko with guest Gigi Raffo.

Atlas Corps fellow and social media manager at Venezuelan think tank CEDICE, Gigi Raffo (@GianninaRaffo), talks about the everyday hardships experienced by citizens in her country, the challenges facing the private sector, and how she and others are trying to make changes and build hope for the future. Raffo also talks about adjusting to the freedoms and choices offered in the U.S. and what she is learning here that will inform her work when she goes home.

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Russia’s Rent-Seeking Downward Spiral

It is clear that if we do not start taking action today, including by carrying out structural reforms, we could end up going into a lengthy period of economic stagnation tomorrow. Our economy is still based primarily on natural resources rather than on manufacturing. Our economic system has changed little in essence. Where does most of our money come from? From oil, gas, metals and other raw materials.

– Vladimir Putin, Annual Address to the Federal Assembly, April 3, 2001

Fifteen years later, the Russian economy envisioned by that progressive speech by Putin in April 2001 seems to be a distant memory. Russia’s economy, and budget, are still largely dependent upon the sale of oil and the majority of Russian industry is still based on extractive industries. The modern vision of Russia in that speech, one deeply embedded into the international system, where property rights are protected by the undiscriminating rule of law, has been replaced by a cynical “managed” system of crony capitalism where profits are skimmed off by insiders while Russia has isolated itself by its actions on the international stage.

Since 2001, record-setting commodity prices have supported increased social benefits, military spending, and infrastructure investments, each of which has supported corruption schemes where insiders profit off of the state’s largess (see the cost of the Sochi Olympics as Exhibit A). High commodity prices also allowed the Russian government to slowly smother individual rights and free speech at home and, largely through key investments in media, buy the country a larger voice in affairs abroad.

Rather than pulling away from a resource-based economy, Russia’s entire economy appears to now be moving in near perfect correlation with energy prices (see chart below).

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #16: USAID’s “Innovation Evangelist” Alexis Bonnell on How Innovation is Changing International Development

Alexis Bonnell (@alexisbonnell) from USAID’s Global Development Lab (@GlobalDevLab) talks about how innovation is changing the way development work is done around the world, harnessing 21st century technology to create more development impact, and how some of the most effective innovation tools can be both simple and inexpensive. Bonnell also talks about what it takes to have a successful career in international development today. Learn more at www.globalinnovationexchange.org.

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Global Enterprise Registration: A Window on Starting a Business

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In many countries the procedures to register a business can be confusing, costly, and discouraging. Although the Doing Business index has recorded increased efficiencies over the years, registering a business can still be a daunting process, especially for smaller firms and firms located outside major cities. In Brazilian cities, for example, it takes on average 129 days to start a business, according to a study by Endeavor.

The new site Global Enterprise Registration aims to bring greater awareness and transparency to registration processes and to simplify the registration experience for entrepreneurs. A project of UNCTAD, Global Enterprise Registration combines access to information portals, which provide instructions and forms, and online single windows, which consolidate applications and payments for mandatory registrations. In addition, the site’s user feedback tool shows where governments can improve the user experience.

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Remembering Ronald Coase’s Legacy: Remarks by Oliver Williamson

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As the Economist once chided, “the economics profession was slow to recognize Ronald Coase’s genius. He first expounded his thinking about the firm in a lecture in Dundee in 1932, when he was just 21 years old. Nobody much listened. He published ‘The Nature of the Firm’ five years later. It went largely unread.” Today Coase is revered as a leader in the field of New Institutional Economics (NIE) and a pioneer in exploring transaction cost,  a concept that transformed the field of economics.

This month’s Economic Reform Feature Service article draws from remarks by Nobel Laureate Oliver Williamson at “The Next Generation of Discovery: Research and Policy Change Inspired by Ronald Coase,” a celebration of Coase’s and relevant theorists’ work co-hosted by CIPE and the Ronald Coase Institute.

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How Do We Support Corporate Compliance in a Democratizing Global Marketplace?

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Writing on Medium, CIPE’s acting Executive Director Andrew Wilson asks: with technological change and trade deals making it easier than ever to enter the global marketplace, how can we ensure robust compliance with anti-corruption, labor, environmental, and corporate governance standards?

Read the story on Medium and follow CIPE for more stories like this one.

Democracy that Delivers Podcast #15: Business Development Expert Toki Mabogunje on How Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Are Faring in Nigeria Today

Podcast hosts Ken Jaques and Julie Johnson with guest Toki Mabogunje (right)

Podcast hosts Ken Jaques and Julie Johnson with guest Toki Mabogunje (right)

Business development consultant Toki Mabogunje (Twitter: @tmc_nig) talks about the current business climate in Nigeria, how the new government is tackling economic, security, and corruption challenges – and the private sector response – and how Nigerian entrepreneurs find ways to thrive in even the most difficult circumstances. Mabogunje also talks about how her American school education still shapes the way she approaches issues today. Visit her website.

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