Author Archives: Guest

Could Armenia Be One of the Biggest Beneficiaries of the Iran Nuclear Deal?

Iran-Armenia border crossing. (Photo: Press TV)

Iran-Armenia border crossing. (Photo: Press TV)

By Ann Mette Sander Nielsen

The much-analyzed nuclear deal with Iran to lift international sanctions is, if approved, expected to have a substantial impact on the Iranian economy by enabling the country to increase its oil and gas exports and by creating new possibilities for foreign direct investment (FDI). Many observers hope that the deal will allow for increased interaction with multinational companies and could help build more constructive relations between Iran and the international community.

However, one aspect of the story has not been widely covered: how the nuclear deal could have a massive economic and social impact on the region at large, including Central Asia and South Caucasus. One country which could make considerable gains from the nuclear deal is Armenia, which shares a border with Iran.

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How Bitcoin Could Cut the Cost of Remittances and Aid

Photo: Erich Hersman, Flickr

Photo: Eric Hersman, Flickr

By Mary Beliveau

Those wishing to send aid, remittances, and investment overseas face exchange rate manipulation and inflated fees when using traditional money transfer services. One emerging alternative to using these services is to transfer Bitcoin internationally. Bitcoin is alluring because financial institutions do not manage its online trade. The transfer of Bitcoin is therefore much less costly than transferring traditional currencies because it bypasses bank fees and regulation.

Several organizations are already beginning to trade and transfer Bitcoin across international borders, and profitable businesses have developed plans to facilitate these trades. Although hesitant investors remain wary of Bitcoin, optimists see the potential to make a big splash in the way $167 billion of foreign aid and $436 billion of global remittances are transferred to the developing world.

Bank-less money transfers are swiftly becoming the norm in the developing world, where less than fifty percent of adults own a bank account. Hassle-free mobile money services such as Kenya’s M-Pesa, Vodacom Tanzania and MTN Uganda are used in lieu of credit and debit cards in these areas. However, the benefits of convenience and low cost mobile transfers are largely limited to domestic transactions.

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Shock Therapy Isn’t Enough to Jumpstart Ukraine’s Economy

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By Ann Mette Sander Nielsen

The high level of economic development in Poland today is often accredited to the rapid implementation of liberal free market policies, or “shock therapy”, in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of Communism in Poland.

The architect behind economic shock therapy was the former Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier of Poland Leszek Balcerowicz, who earlier this year was invited by Ukraine’s President Poroshenko to design a similar economic reform policy for Ukraine, implying that Ukraine could emulate the success story of Poland.

However, Poland’s positive transition does not provide a comprehensive blueprint for Ukraine, as other social and institutional factors were imperative in ensuring the economic growth of Poland.

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Guatemalan Youth Fed Up with Spectating Become Protagonists in their Country’s Future

Presentaci+¦n de Colectivo en UVG

By Dara Sanford

In the past few months, Guatemala has been hit by a wave of protests aimed at the government, focusing primarily on corruption endemic in the country. Thousands of Guatemalans, a majority of whom are Millennials, have taken to the streets to show they are fed up with corruption and that they want their government to do more in terms of responding to their needs.

One organization working on helping the Guatemalan youth demand more from the government through protests and various other channels is Cincoen5 (Five in 5). Cincoen5 is a collective of six organizations that work together to improve development in Guatemala focusing on five key areas: education, security, nutrition, infrastructure, and employment. The collective has a specific interest in helping youth become more politically active.

Since its creation in 2013, Cincoen5 has created and shared a long-term development plan for Guatemala, held multiple meetings around the country, including universities, and has remained an active participant in social mobilizations.

In this interview, we had the opportunity to talk to Walter Corzo, whose organization Jovenes Contra la Violencia (Youth Against Violence) is a member of the collective, about the current situation youth in Guatemala are facing, the work of Cincoen5, and what the collective is planning for the future.

Q: First, what are some of the challenges the youth in Guatemala are facing right now and how can increased participation in the political process help alleviate some of these challenges?

A: There is a big call for change. This is because the young people don’t see their needs being acknowledged by the government. What we are doing right now is putting a lot of pressure on the system, but government is resistant to making changes. In Guatemala, 50 percent of people live in poverty, and that is a huge problem.

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Protest Movement Electrifies Armenian Civil Society

(Photo: BBC)

(Photo: BBC)

By Ann Mette Sander Nielsen

The Electric Yerevan protests began on June 19, when protesters gathered on the street to express their discontent with the local power company, the Electric Networks of Armenia (ENA) and its planned 14 percent increase in electricity tariffs from August, the third price raise within the past two years, which would result in a more than 60 percent overall increase in electricity tariffs.

Public discontent was further aggravated by a report revealing evidence of gross corruption and mismanagement at the utility. The report exposed the extravagant lifestyle of the ENA management and revealed that the ENA has accumulated debt by overpaying suppliers and contractors.

On June 23, four days after the start of the protests, roughly 2,000 protesters gathered on Baghramyan Avenue to express their grievances with the ENA management. They were blocked by police forces, and in response the protesters sat down and spent the night there. They were forcibly dispersed by police water cannons and around 250 people were detained.

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Good Governance in Pakistan is Crucial for Greater Trade

Despite new export opportunities, Pakistan's textile factories are shutting down due to energy shortages. (Photo: Dawn)

Despite new export opportunities, Pakistan’s textile factories are shutting down due to energy shortages. (Photo: Dawn)

Huma Sattar was a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Heritage Foundation

Successive governments in Pakistan have shown profound interest in increasing trade with the rest of the world by pursuing various trade and investment agreements. From a significant Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China signed in 2006 which will soon enter its second phase, to a trade and transit agreement with Afghanistan, as well as several free or preferential trade agreements with Malaysia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka, Pakistan is also negotiating possibilities of trade agreements and cooperation with Turkey, Thailand, and the ASEAN region. The country is also part of the regional trade agreement South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) together with India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, and other South Asian countries. Though the agreement is not yet fully operational, it is a source of much discourse and tremendous unrealized potential for all countries involved.

Pakistan’s trade has increased overall, going from $24 billion in 2003 to $72 billion in 2014, and opening Pakistan’s markets may be a positive indicator of some improvements in Pakistan’s economy.  From importing primarily oil and fuel products, Pakistan is now also importing machinery, electrical and electronic equipment, and industrial inputs. The industrial sector, particularly large scale manufacturing, witnessed a growth of about five percent in fiscal year 2014.

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Could Community-Based Weather Forecasting Help Defuse Conflict?


Weather stations like this one in Australia provide information that is vital to agrarian economies. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

By Gracie Cook

While religious, sectarian, and geopolitical divisions in the world’s hotspots often make headlines, an even more basic driver of conflict is often overlooked: the weather.

In agrarian or water-scarce societies, changes in weather patterns lay the groundwork for resource conflicts between ethnic and religious groups, while severe weather events like drought can exacerbate existing social, economic, and political tensions, often boiling over into violence. While poor governance in conflict-afflicted societies too often turns bad weather into catastrophe, a greater role for the private sector in dealing with weather-related problems might just help prevent future outbreaks of violence.

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