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.
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.
Kiev is Ukraine’s political and economic capital. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The Ukrainian government is in the difficult position of trying to overhaul a wide range of economic, judicial, and political institutions, all while fighting a war in the country’s east. The challenges are stark: Ukraine is in the midst of its worst recession since 2009, and the government expects the economy to shrink by 9.5 percent this year, with annual inflation likely to reach 48 percent. Thus it comes as no surprise that many Ukrainian citizens have begun to complain that the government isn’t doing enough, or that the pace of change after the EuroMaidan is too slow.
A policy paper released by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in November 2014, not long after the current government took office, analyzed a range of Ukrainian policies that are slanted against the business community, creating particular challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
While the reform effort since 2014 has been intense, many SME owners are still not satisfied with efforts to ease the regulatory burden, according to the findings of a national survey of over 1,600 SMEs, recently conducted by CIPE as part of the USAID project Supporting Urgent Reforms to Better Ukraine’s Business Environment (SURE) .
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.
Forbes estimates that 90 percent of startup businesses will fail. However, the entrepreneurship ecosystem – that is the enabling environment that is more or less conducive for startups – varies drastically throughout the world.
This year the World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business report rated Serbia and Nicaragua as the 91st and 119th easiest countries for doing business out of 189 countries, respectively. The Global Entrepreneurship Index ranked Serbia as the 78th and Nicaragua as the 87th most entrepreneurial countries out of 130 according to their index. These rankings highlight the progress albeit continued uphill battle entrepreneurs face in operating a business in these countries.
More accurately, the 2015 Female Entrepreneurship Index (FEI) elucidates the unique institutions impacting women in starting and operating a business: a provision for childcare services, work-family conflicts, limitations to freedom to work and travel due to traditional family and religious norms, and equal legal rights, in addition to meeting expectations and gaining access to education, capital, and networks.
In a unique mentorship structure aimed at maximizing the number of beneficiaries of the project, CIPE partners the Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW) and Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) linked successful women entrepreneurs with emerging micro-entrepreneurs for one-year mentorship programs. Though FEI reports a nine percent increase in the number of female entrepreneurs who have participated in some form of post-secondary education, factors such as lack of confidence or practical know-how still prevent young women from actually acting on their business ideas and subsequently making it through the first few years of operation. To account for this in Nicaragua, REN linked each mentor-mentee pair with a female university student studying business at the top universities in Managua. Seeing first-hand how a real business operates and a microenterprise can scale allowed interns to apply the skills learned in their coursework.
This month’s Economic Reform Feature Service articles on the case studies of Serbia and Nicaragua outline the mentorship structure of each respective program and bring to light the power of women-to-women mentorship in building leadership and confidence, considering long term career goals, and creating a nurturing and supportive network to rely on when navigating difficult professional and even personal decisions. Women’s business associations like ABW and REN aren’t waiting for an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs but rather are creating their own.
Stephanie Bandyk is the Program Assistant for Global Programs at CIPE.
“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” – Robert Frank
Do you like to tell stories through photography? Then show us your best work! The first annual Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) Photo Competition is now open for submissions.
Open to participants of all ages, including student, amateur, and professional photographers, the inaugural photo competition will focus on the theme of Entrepreneurship.
CIPE’s long term partner Riinvest Institute for Development Research is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, Riinvest held a conference on May 15 and 16 titled, “Activating the Sources of Economic Growth in Kosovo”. The conference brought together an impressive audience— the President and the Prime Minister of Kosovo*, the Deputy Minister of Finance, the World Bank Country Manager, other high level public officials, academics, business people, NGO leaders, the donor community, and members of the media.
*Kosovo’s newly-elected Prime Minister, Isa Mustafa, is the former President of Riinvest.
Riinvest leaders presented awards to a number of partners, individuals, and organizations who have supported the organization since its inception. CIPE had the honor of being presented the first two awards, one for Executive Director John Sullivan and one for the organization as a whole. CIPE Senior Consultant Carmen Stanila kindly received both awards on behalf of John and the organization.