Author Archives: Guest

Argentina: Observing the Ballotage

Mauricio-Macri-Argentina-Foto-EFE_CYMIMA20151126_0027_13

Mauricio Macri, nuevo presidente de Argentina (Foto EFE)

By Mario Felix Lleonart

Originally published on his blog Cubano Confesante.

I was brought by God’s winds to the epicenter of a democratic battle: the Argentina ballotage (runoff), the second round of an election for the presidency of the Republic between two candidates.

I landed on Sunday, November 15 in Buenos Aires, exactly at the moment of the first presidential debate in the history of Argentina. During an incredibly intense week, for the first time in my forty years I observed the effervescent passion of a nation that today can settle the future of their country through ballot boxes.

Read More…

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.

Read More…

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.

Read More…

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.

Read More…

Could Community-Based Weather Forecasting Help Defuse Conflict?

Tuggeranong_(Isabella_Plains)_Automatic_Weather_Station

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.

Read More…

The Future of a Nation: A One Minute Look at Lebanon

"Corniche beirut" by Varun Shiv Kapur from Berkeley, United States - Corniche. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Corniche beirut” by Varun Shiv Kapur from Berkeley, United States – Corniche. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

By Elie Obeid

Lebanon, it’s that country in the Middle East that you sometimes miss while going through a map. Despite its small size, Lebanon enjoyed quite a reputation in the 1960s and early 1970s as being the Switzerland of the Middle East, and Beirut, its capital, was known as the Paris of the Middle East due to the number of tourists it attracted and its role as a financial and trade hub for the region.

In recent years, however, Lebanon has been suffering from various social, political, economic problems. To discuss all these issues and possible solutions for them would require volumes so we’ll stick to economics this time with a little twist of politics. But before getting into that, how about we take a look at the numbers first.

Read More…

Carrying Crude Oil to Newcastle: The Resource Curse Strikes Again in Nigeria

Source: Newswire NGR

Source: Newswire NGR

By Otito Greg-Obi

On May 20th, 2015 the lights went out in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer. Nigeria suffers from a phenomenon known as the curse of oil which is a subset of a larger issue known as the resource curse. The idea behind the curse of oil is that countries with large oil reserves cannot seem to manage revenues in a way that benefits the majority of the population economically and socially. Some of the symptoms of the curse of oil include lack of economic diversification, revenue volatility, inability to provide public goods and services, corruption, government inefficiency and the Dutch Disease.

As soon as the massive fuel shortage in Nigeria struck, numerous businesses and banks shut down. Power outages also affected common households because neighborhoods are typically powered by individually owned generators due to inconsistent provision of public utilities. As soon as licensed gas stations closed down, black market vendors looking to make a quick Naira (Nigeria’s currency) began selling low quality oil at exorbitant prices. The shortage exemplifies the curse of oil by revealing an inability to provide a crucial public good. Furthermore, the shortage unveils the existence of corruption in black market practices.

Oil importers shut down operations claiming that the government owed them $2 billion. Nigeria’s Minister of Finance Okonjo-Iweala countered that importers misrepresented the debt in an attempt to recover lost revenue from the recent decrease in value of the Naira due to global declining oil prices. The global decrease of oil prices is a perfect example of the volatility that comes with the curse of oil and how it can complicate economic transactions between the governments and oil corporations.

Fortunately, oil suppliers and distributors eventually met with the government for negotiations that put an end to the crisis. The specifics of the negotiations have not been revealed but it appears that the crisis has been averted for now. But as global oil prices continue to decline, economic shocks are imminent. What will the government do to thwart the curse of oil?

Read More…