Author Archives: Brent Ruth

Revisiting: A Dream Come to Life

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CIPE has long supported the belief that entrepreneurs and private enterprise drive gains in productivity and innovation and are thus crucial to building prosperous societies that deliver opportunity to all. As such, CIPE has devoted significant attention to the development of the next generation of entrepreneurs by supporting business education programs in countries around the globe. Through programs like Tashabos in Afghanistan, Riyadeh in Syria and Turkey, and EmprendeAhora in Peru, tens of thousands of young people interested in starting their own businesses have gained the skills necessary to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

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A Dream Come to Life

Selva Constructor, Karolo’s latest business venture, is an architecture and construction firm based in Tarapoto, Peru.

Selva Constructor, Karolo’s latest business venture, is an architecture and construction firm based in Tarapoto, Peru.

CIPE began working with Peruvian NGO, Instituto Invertir, in 2008, with the belief that developing business and leadership skills in young Peruvians from the country’s diverse regions would help build a culture of entrepreneurship and civic participation – creating alternatives to the limited social and economic opportunities. This, in response to the general populations’ frustration with the shortcomings of the country’s democratic system and an increasingly anti-democratic rhetoric from leaders in certain areas of Peru. The initial vision of what program success would look like has been far exceeded thanks to the initiative of young Peruvians like Karolo Pérez Alvarado.

Long-time CIPE Development Blog readers may recall being introduced to Karolo back in January 2010. As one of the inaugural fellows in the first ever EmprendeAhora (EA) program in 2008, Karolo and his teammates were awarded first prize in the business plan contest for their idea to inject adventure into bio tourism in the San Martín region of Peru.

Having struck up a friendship with Karolo during my visit to Tarapoto, San Martín, naturally we made it official on Facebook. In the years since I have maintained contact from afar and watched as Karolo grew from a young man with a fun business idea into a successful entrepreneur serving as a driving force behind his community’s development, and an inspiration for young entrepreneurs around the country.

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The Debate Over Term Limits in Bolivia is About More Than President Morales

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On February 21, Bolivians will head to the polls to cast a yes or no vote on whether the constitutional two-term limit for presidents and vice presidents should be amended. The outcome will decide whether Bolivia’s current president Evo Morales will be permitted to run for office again if he so chooses.

Recent polling (10/26, 11/4) indicates that the vote will be close, with the intention to vote yes ranging from 46-49 percent and no from 39-45 percent, with 9-11 percent undecided. The current Bolivian constitution, approved in 2009 when Evo Morales was already president, establishes that presidents are limited to two terms (i.e. one reelection). President Morales was first elected in 2005. He was re-elected in 2009 and then was granted permission to run a third time in 2014 on the grounds that he had only served one term under the new constitution.

Why does it matter if citizens in Bolivia vote to approve a constitutional change that would pave the way for President Morales to run for a fourth term?

In an op-ed published in October 28, 2015 in Los Tiempos newspaper, Bolivian economist Roberto Laserna reminds his fellow citizens that the February 21, 2016 referendum only indirectly questions the permanency of president Morales. Ultimately, the vote will weaken legal certainty and stability of the rules of the game – i.e. democracy and rule of law. Read the translated text of the article below.

Brent Ruth is a Program Officer for Latin America & the Caribbean at CIPE.

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Newsflash: Businesswomen Lead in Nicaragua

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The draft Nicaraguan Businesswomen Agenda was presented during REN’s International Women’s Day forum on March 6, 2015. Speakers included Nicaraguan Minister of Industry and Commerce Orlando Solórzano and U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Phyllis Powers.

Empowered Businesswomen.” “Businesswomen Influence the Destinies of Other Women.” These two headlines ran in the March 7, 2015 editions of Nicaragua’s two leading newspapers, La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario.

It is not unusual for Nicaraguan media to publish articles related to women’s empowerment on International Women’s Day. Women are prominent in the Nicaraguan political sphere, thanks in part to gender quotas encompassed in the Gender Equality Law and the revised Electoral Law. Nicaragua now ranks 11th in the world in the proportion of women in parliament, 40 percent – far above most other Latin American countries (and the United States, with 18 percent). International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to highlight these advances.

What’s unusual in the case of the two articles linked above is the inclusion of one word: “Businesswomen.” Here is why.

Unfortunately the trend towards greater participation of women in the political sphere has been slow to spread to private sector organizations, which are key actors in advocating for policies that improve the business climate. A 2014 review conducted by the Network of Nicaraguan Businesswomen (REN) of the 19 business organizations that form the umbrella private sector association the Superior Council for Private Enterprise (COSEP) found that an average of 16 percent of board members are women. This is the same figure found by a similar study by the International Labor Organization in 2009.

Private sector organizations rarely incentivize women’s participation or provide equal access to information that can lead them to access leadership positions. As a result, there are very few private sector leaders promoting the specific interests and needs of women entrepreneurs in a substantial way.

On top of that, organizations of women entrepreneurs have historically operated based on incipient alliances and limited coordination with one another, resulting in disperse efforts to advocate for public policies that can improve the business environment for women entrepreneurs.

If this is the reality, are La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario’s articles simply fluff pieces scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day?

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When Reality Doesn’t Match the Ranking: Nicaragua’s Gender Gap

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“Everybody loves a ranking,” or so the saying goes. In sports I tend to agree. If you’re not currently following the College Football Playoff rankings (which, since this blog is for a global audience, I imagine a majority of readers are not), you are missing out on something truly exciting. Rankings and indexes seek to be as objective as possible using the information available. With the CFP and other sports rankings, where a significant amount of objective comparison is not possible, there is a lot of room for debate. And that can be part of the fun.

But when it comes to indexes and rankings of more serious themes with real world consequences, they shouldn’t be fun… or funny. During a recent weeklong trip to Nicaragua, the running joke was that the country is the 6th most gender equal country in the world according to the 2014 Global Gender Gap report issued by the World Economic Forum. Spend a day in the shoes of a Nicaraguan woman and you’ll quickly understand why the country’s ranking in this report is not something to be celebrated.

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Why Debates Matter in Latin America

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Political debates offer numerous benefits to voters, but they do not occur in many countries around the world, depriving citizens of an important opportunity to hear candidates explain their position on issues relevant to the country’s development.

Within established democracies like the United States and the United Kingdom, the “debate” about the impact of political debates is in no danger of ceasing anytime soon. Debates are often seen as key moments in political campaigns from the local to the national level — a chance for candidates to present their policy proposals directly to voters. Our country’s long history with radio and televised candidate debates has also provided us with a plethora of research on the impact debates have on voter preference. As this journalist resource on the topic demonstrates, nearly every aspect of political debates – particularly Presidential debates – has been researched, dissected, and analyzed in one form or another. Interestingly enough there is even research on the effect high definition television (HDTV) has on voters’ perceptions of candidates.

While research comes to divergent conclusions on how exactly voters are affected, the benefits of debates to democracy are clear. They force candidates to define specific policy platforms; provide voters with access to information they may not otherwise receive; and create another layer of accountability for public officials.

Throughout its 30 year history, CIPE has worked with the private sector and economic think tanks around the world to enhance the debate of public policies before, during, and after important elections. Over the past five years CIPE and its partners in Latin America and the Caribbean have sought to take advantage of increasing access to radio, television, and the Internet to counter the region’s long history of populist politics in which candidates campaigned heavily on their personality and political connections and very little on actual policy platforms.

In Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, and Paraguay, CIPE supported programs that raised demand for public policy debate during electoral seasons and, in the case of Colombia and Paraguay, actually organized Presidential debates.

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Bringing Youth Entrepreneurship Education to Rural Ecuador

Emprendedores Ecua

Over the course of June and July, nearly 1,000 high school and university students in cities throughout Ecuador learned about business plan development, leadership and communication, market economy, and democracy. However, they did not learn about these topics by reading their textbooks or from listening to a professional consultant or workshop facilitator. Uniquely, the message on the importance of a market economy, democracy, and an entrepreneurial climate came from a group of 45 aspiring young leaders and entrepreneurs. These 45 university students from rural areas of the country are the first participants in the Emprendedores Ecuatorianos (Ecuadorian Entrepreneurs) program organized by the Ecuadorian Institute of Political Economy (IEEP).

The Emprendedores Ecuatorianos program, launched earlier this year with local private sector and CIPE support, is modeled after the successful EmprendeAhora program in Peru. In this its first year, IEEP selected 45 participants based on a lengthy application process. The educational program took place from March to May at the Universidad del Espiritu Santo in Guayaquil and consisted of 100 hours of courses on leadership, business plans, democracy and economy, marketing, and human development.

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