CIPE Development Blog http://www.cipe.org/blog Strengthening democracy through private enterprise and market oriented reform Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:07:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Giving Women a Voice in Pakistan’s Media http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/19/giving-women-a-voice-in-pakistans-media/ http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/19/giving-women-a-voice-in-pakistans-media/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:07:13 +0000 http://www.cipe.org/blog/?p=16092 READ MORE]]>
Watch an interview with Tasneem Ahmar conducted by CIPE Program Officer Jennifer Anderson.

It is widely accepted by development experts that women are a largely untapped source of potential around the world. Women constitute approximately 50 percent of the human population and whether talking about political, economic, or social development, they have the ability to contribute vast advancements. However, in many countries around the world, women are excluded from participating in meaningful ways. In Pakistan, CIPE friend and partner Tasneem Ahmar is working through the media to change the perception of women in order to increase their ability to contribute to the nation’s development.

Having been raised in a family of media professionals, Tasneem discovered early on that women were not portrayed the same as men in print and broadcast media, leading to an undervaluing of women as a whole. Using Pakistan’s recent elections as an example, she has described how women candidates were only portrayed as objects with the main topics of discussion focusing around their wardrobe, hairstyles, and accessories rather than meaningful conversation about their stance on the issues. In an effort to change this pattern and change Pakistani perceptions, Tasneem established the Uks Research Center in 1997.  

Uks, which means “reflection” in Urdu, focuses on changing the portrayal of women in the media.  Since the organization’s inception, Uks has worked to train journalists and reporters on how to properly report a story involving women rather than contributing to gender biases. For example, following devastating earthquakes in Pakistan Ahmar noticed that women were typically brought into the narrative only as helpless victims who were crying more often than not. As a result, Uks worked with journalists to portray women as having a strong role in rehabilitation simply by incorporating images and stories of women helping to rebuild affected areas. In addition to workshops and on-desk training, Uks operates as a type of watchdog having established a complaint center to gather reports of biased reporting and holding media groups accountable to the gender sensitive codes of ethics for both print and broadcast media outlets.

Under Tasneem’s direction, Uks also works to empower women directly through training and by providing them with a voice. Working with CIPE, Uks trained a number of female journalists in economic reporting. By equipping these women with the skills to present relevant and interesting stories, Uks helped to incorporate them into the national development dialogue. Ahmar is also an executive producer for a radio show titled, “Give Me My Voice” which regularly convenes women to add a female voice to ongoing conversations. This acts not only as a way for women to participate in the national dialogue, but also offers an opportunity for others to see the value women can bring to the table and hopefully alter their perspectives.

The work that Uks does under the leadership of Tasneem is crucial if lasting change is to be achieved. While other approaches such as establishing quotas for women on parliamentary rosters or in board rooms can be meaningful advancements, they cannot by themselves bring women onto a level playing field. Advocates must also work to change perceptions of women in their local societies. Not only so that others see them as valuable contributors but so that they value themselves as well. As Tasneem put it, “We must give a positive view to women in order to bring out the best in women.”

Frank Stroker is an Assistant Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

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Entrepreneurial Training Programs for Bahraini Youth http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/19/entrepreneurial-training-programs-for-bahraini-youth/ http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/19/entrepreneurial-training-programs-for-bahraini-youth/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:43:33 +0000 http://www.cipe.org/blog/?p=16060 READ MORE]]> Manama-nightview

In Bahrain, young people – those under 25 years of age – make up nearly half of the population. To create enough jobs for Bahrain’s youth, entrepreneurs and aspiring businesspeople will need to equip themselves with the necessary skills that will allow them to thrive in a dynamic global economy. A number of entrepreneurship initiatives have grown up to respond to this need. These include programs offered by Tamkeen, the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bahrain Polytechnic, the University of Bahrain, and the Bahrain Development Bank.

Established in 2006 as part of Bahrain Economic Vision 2030, Tamkeen’s mission is to support Bahrain’s private sector to become the main driver of economic development in the country. Tamkeen’s programs have benefited more than 100,000 Bahrainis, and in 2013 alone, Tamkeen assisted more than 600 startups. Its programs include: a business incubator; the “Mashroo3i” Youth Business Plan Competition for students between ages 16 and 23; and programs for secondary and university students which are offered with INJAZ and AIESEC.

The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry provides a variety of services to entrepreneurs and SMEs in order to promote growth and development, including providing policy and regulatory information and advice so that members can more effectively manage and develop their businesses. The Chamber creates and implements high quality training courses to develop the skills of entrepreneurs, such as the En6leq program, run from its SME Development and Support Center.

The goal of Bahrain Polytechnic is to produce assured, competent and effective graduates able to implement their skills in a practical work place environment. Its Entrepreneurship Orientation Program is a highly participatory five-day program that starts with presentations from Bahraini entrepreneurs outlining their success stories. Sessions are designed to increase student creativity in order to solve technical problems.

The University of Bahrain helps create a culture of youth with entrepreneurial mindsets and helps existing businesses grow their success. The University programs focus on innovation and creative thinking, as well as practical technical skills. The University houses the Business Incubator Center in cooperation with the Bahrain Development Bank.

The mission of the Bahrain Development Bank (BDB) is to promote entrepreneurship and innovation, assisting and promoting self-employment of Bahrainis. The target audience for the BDB’s Entrepreneurship Orientation Program is university students and young working executives. The Entrepreneurship Development Program is a follow-on program, conducted in cooperation with the Bahrain Institute of Entrepreneurship & Technology, which sees students completing a final business plan prior to graduation.

CIPE, in cooperation with the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan and select Bahraini organizations, is offering a trainers’ workshop this December. It marks the start of an effort to introduce entrepreneurial leadership to university students, enhance experiential learning, and prepare graduates to find their way through the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Kim Bettcher is Senior Knowledge Manager at CIPE.

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Bread for the Masses: Economic Empowerment to Achieve Social Justice in Egypt http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/18/bread-for-the-masses-economic-empowerment-to-achieve-social-justice-in-egypt/ http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/18/bread-for-the-masses-economic-empowerment-to-achieve-social-justice-in-egypt/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:02:27 +0000 http://www.cipe.org/blog/?p=16089 READ MORE]]> 800px-The_lion_of_Egyptian_revolution_(Qasr_al-Nil_Bridge)-edit2

This is the third in a three-part series addressing recent findings of the Arab Barometer, whose objectives include the production of scientifically reliable data on the political attitudes of ordinary citizens. Read the previous two posts about the Arab Barometer findings in Iraq and Jordan.

“Bread, Freedom, Social Justice” was the unified chant that filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square in January 2011. Almost four years later, this call for bread,– for dignified livelihoods — remains a driving force for sustainable economic reforms that can open financial opportunities for all citizens, create jobs for the burgeoning youth population, bolster the suffering economy, and ultimately take steps towards achieving social justice in Egypt.

Social justice is a term often used in Egypt’s post-2011 public discourse; unfortunately, however, this discourse noticeably lacks a definition of social justice and its implications for policy. Recognizing this, Egyptian opinion leaders gathered earlier this year at the New Egypt Forum, CIPE’s national-level, multi-stakeholder dialogue, to define social justice based on the existing conceptions of it and to form policy recommendations that would foster an environment for it.

They found that social justice is tied to equal treatment and opportunities under the law, especially with regards to economic opportunities that enable dignified livelihoods. In turn, these Egyptian thought leaders developed a multi-pronged strategy that utilizes economic reforms in the government, state budget, and investment climate as a means towards achieving social justice in Egypt.

The recent findings of the Arab Barometer, which gauges citizens’ politically-relevant attitudes through public opinion research, echo this linkage between social justice and economic reform, which thought leaders at CIPE’s New Egypt Forum highlighted. When presenting the Arab Barometer in late October, co-Principle Investigator Amaney Jamal defined social justice calls for “bread” as symbolizing better economic opportunities, freedoms and the respect of rights, and dignity in the economic and political spheres. The findings revealed that for citizens in the region, social justice is manifested in economic equality and opportunities, dignity through earning a livelihood, transparency, and decreased corruption. In fact, Egyptians’ key concern is their economic situation, with about 85 percent identifying it as one of two main challenges facing Egypt.

In turn, to determine the possible consequences of the economic situation on Egypt’s future, the Arab Barometer asked respondents whether or not they thought about emigrating. A little less than one-quarter said yes; however, the disaggregated data revealed an alarming trend. When disaggregated by age, the data showed that one-third of Egyptians ages 18-29 consider emigrating to seek economic opportunities elsewhere. When disaggregated by protester and non-protestor, the former of which were more likely to be middle-class, well-educated youth, the data revealed that 45 percent of protesters consider emigrating, compared to only 20 percent of non-protesters.

In short, the lack of economic equality and opportunities in Egypt is pushing the youth, who constitute over 30 percent of the population, to consider emigrating in search of an environment conducive to actualizing their potential. And there is no lack of potential among Egyptian youth, with the Middle East and North Africa witnessing the fastest growth of entrepreneurship in the world largely due to its innovative youth population. Additionally, there is no lack of potential among Egyptians and others from the region in general, considering that the median household income of Arab Americans is about $4,500 more than the national median. So, why is it that Egyptians can attain this type of success in the U.S., but not in their homeland?

Egypt’s high barriers to market entry and business growth inhibit its well-educated, innovative youth and general population from actualizing their potential and contributing to Egypt’s economic growth in  the way necessary to achieve social justice. More inclusive economic policies would go a long way in empowering all Egyptians to benefit from equal financial opportunities, to create sustainable jobs for their communities, to bolster their country’s economy, and ultimately to fulfill the unified call for “Bread, Freedom, Social Justice.”

AnnaMaria E. Shaker is a Program Assistant for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE.

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Street Politics Aren’t Enough: Careful Economic Reform Will Foster Democracy and Stability in Jordan http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/17/street-politics-arent-enough-careful-economic-reform-will-foster-democracy-and-stability-in-jordan/ http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/17/street-politics-arent-enough-careful-economic-reform-will-foster-democracy-and-stability-in-jordan/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:19:25 +0000 http://www.cipe.org/blog/?p=16085 READ MORE]]> Jordanians protest over food prices in 2011. Source: The Guardian.

Jordanians protest over food prices in 2011.
Source: The Guardian.

This blog is the second in a three-part series addressing recent findings of the Arab Barometer, whose objectives include the production of scientifically reliable data on the political attitudes of ordinary citizens. Read the first part, about Iraq, here.

By James Stricker

In Jordan, economic factors have played an important role in political stability since 2011. Jordanians as a whole consider economic rights to be a core component of democracy.  This is demonstrated by the fact that most public protests began as a response to economic grievances. The trend corresponds strongly with the Arab Barometer’s recent MENA opinion poll results: throughout the region, Arabs are at least as concerned with securing their economic rights as they are with securing political rights.

As the Arab Spring gained momentum in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen, a number of protests sprang up throughout Jordan in 2011. However, the most prevalent slogans were not against the regime itself, nor were they about securing more political rights.  Instead, Jordanians who took to the streets voiced their frustrations with price inflation and corruption.

Samir Rifai, the Jordanian Prime Minister at the time, was the initial target in the first waves of protest. Angry crowds accused him of corruption and criticized his recent amendments to the national election law. In reaction to these demonstrations, Rifai raised subsidies on cooking fuel, rice, and livestock.  Although these subsidies were largely unsustainable for the Jordanian government, which ran a $2 billion deficit in 2011, they managed to stave off further escalation of the protests by reducing financial strain on the average Jordanian.  Sporadic protests continued  throughout 2011, but did not reach their peak until late 2012 when many demonstrators publicly called for King Abdullah to step down—a demand that had been largely absent up until this point.

So why did it take almost two years after the beginning of the “Arab Spring” for the demonstrations to reach this level of severity? It’s the economy, stupid!  In late 2012, the Jordanian government had just sharply reduced its fuel subsidies as a precondition to receive a $2 billion IMF loan crucial to keeping its struggling economy afloat.

Since then, subsidies have become even more of a burden due to the influx of refugees fleeing the instability in Iraq and Syria. Currently, at least 600,000 Syrian refugees reside in Jordan — a country with a population of about 6.7 million. This, combined with many thousands of Iraqi refugees from the last decade, has caused a dramatic increase in demand for staple goods and public services such as education and healthcare, which are open to most refugees and visitors.  In turn, this has made them much more costly for Jordan’s government to fund.  Additionally, periodic sabotage of the Arab Oil Pipeline in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has interrupted Jordan’s supply of natural gas, adding to the increased costs of fuel, and consequently fuel subsidies.

No doubt the Jordanian government recognizes the danger of continuing these subsidies for much longer, but it is clear that continued cutbacks could result in more intense protests and potentially in instability. This phenomenon is visible in the Arab Barometer’s survey results as well; when asked about what they consider to be the most important features of democracy, respondents throughout the Middle East and North Africa were split evenly between political considerations (i.e. “the opportunity to change the government through elections”) and economic factors (i.e. “providing basic items to every individual,” or “eliminating financial and administrative corruption”).  Jordan’s protest behavior corresponds with these results, with economic strain serving as the impetus for almost every major demonstration since 2011.

Although the deluge of refugees has put financial strain on Jordanian citizens, its causes may also be making them more willing to tolerate the resulting impact on their standard of living.  Two trends in the Arab Barometer’s recent results demonstrate this. First, the number of Jordanians who believe that “democracy is appropriate for [their] country” decreased from 62 percent in 2011 to 57 percent in 2013 (although a majority continued to believe that democracy is, in theory, the best form of government).

Second, Jordanians tended to feel less secure, both in terms of economy and safety, in 2013 than in 2011.  Although they are disillusioned with their declining economic well-being, Jordanians may be unwilling to risk the fate of other Arab states, such as Syria, that have been embroiled in civil conflict in the years following the initial uprisings. The bloody civil war in Syria and ISIS threats to invade may be why protests against the Jordanian government have not escalated to their late-2012 severity a second time. In other words, the violence and unrest in Jordan’s neighbors may be discouraging Jordanians from resorting to revolutionary behavior out of fear of a breakdown of social order and security.

The data show that Jordanians have not lost faith in the virtues of democracy, but may simply be wary of the effects of revolutionary regime change on their well-being and safety. Democratic empowerment coupled with economic reform is the key for Jordanians to secure their rights and ownership stake in society. By fostering democratic values and seeking a greater voice in decision-making, civil society organizations representing the private sector can help usher in genuine economic liberalization and development over time.

CIPE works with its partner in Jordan, the Young Entrepreneurs Association (YEA), in keeping up the reform pressure through a constructive dialogue and to seize reform opportunities to widen the space for democratic actors and institutions. YEA realized that to achieve meaningful and comprehensive reform that would improve the environment for SMEs in Jordan, the process would have to be private sector-led. With CIPE’s support, YEA developed and published a national Small and Medium Business Agenda (SMBA) that proposes policy recommendations that would improve the business environment for entrepreneurs and SME owners. The pillars of the SMBA are: innovation, access to capital, entrepreneurship education and training, enhancing exports, government procurement, and tax incentives.

Through a grassroots outreach and consensus building campaign, YEA engaged a diverse group of private sector actors from across the country in a deliberative process of prioritizing the numerous recommendations contained in the SMBA, identifying the most pressing challenges to SME development in their communities. CIPE is currently supporting YEA to form a private sector coalition to advocate for the government to adopt the SMBA reforms. It is essential that independent voices from the private sector and civil society, such as YEA and its coalition partners, continue to represent average Jordanians in the policymaking process in order to bring about real reform.

James Stricker was an intern for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE.

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Iraq: Where Everything Else Divides, the Economy Can Unite http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/16/iraq-where-everything-else-divides-the-economy-can-unite/ http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/16/iraq-where-everything-else-divides-the-economy-can-unite/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 14:42:20 +0000 http://www.cipe.org/blog/?p=16081 READ MORE]]> afrobarometer-iraqThis blog is the first in a three-part series addressing recent findings of the Arab Barometer, whose objectives include the production of scientifically reliable data on the political attitudes of ordinary citizens.

For Iraq, bombing ISIS out of existence is impossible and counterintuitive. Job creation that drives balanced economic growth, on the other hand, is not only feasible but badly needed. The policy narratives may be slowly shifting away from a security focus towards a holistic reform that prioritizes job creation. Academics, development experts, and even the U.S. President are beginning to realize that providing economic outlets for Iraqis, particularly potential militants, to put food on the table and send their children to school might be the long-term silver bullet.

This should not be a difficult message to sell: economic opportunity – not martyrdom, not anti-Western ideology, not even the Syrian Civil War – is far and away the most important issue for all Arabs whether they are for, against, or undecided about ISIS. Below is an analysis of three recent opinion polls showing that, whereas much remains to divide the Iraqi people, job creation continues to unite them and should be the thrust of coalition-building and reconstruction efforts emanating from Baghdad and Washington.

The Western media’s treatment of Iraq typically frames the current chaos there in terms of the sectarian differences between the Arab Sunnis, Arab Shia, and Sunni Kurds. The latest survey data from the Arab Barometer (AB), which conducted waves of public opinion polls in February/March of 2011 and again in June 2013, confirms that sectarian tensions are contributing to the complicated political and security crises. But if the Arab Barometer findings highlight issues that divide Iraqis, they also illuminate the one issue that also unites them: the economy.

And it is no small issue. Rather, and in spite of all the attention that politics and conflict gets, the number one concern for Iraqis of every sect is and has always been jobs. Opinion data from the internationally renowned Zogby polls also reveals that Iraqis, like all Arabs, are concerned more with their economic situation than they are with democracy, freedom of speech, or even security. It’s still the economy, stupid!

According to the 2011 Arab Barometer, government approval among Sunnis as well as Shiite Iraqis was 3.95 out of 10. AB Steering Committee Member Amaney Jamal argues that these perceptions are directly related to the devastating economic situation faced by all Iraqis, 80 percent of whom answered that their household income barely or did not adequately cover their expenses. In fact, the Zogby poll conducted six months after the first Arab Barometer survey demonstrates that both Shiites and Sunnis believed they were worse off in 2011 than in 2003; the most noteworthy areas of deterioration were economic development, employment, and security.

Public perception of the government could have become more positive in the two years following the first wave of polls– at least among Shia – if the government had managed to chip away at this 80 percent figure. [1] Instead, 2013 data reveals a much less engaged electorate, only 35 percent of whom said they approved of the government. This comes as no shock given the failure to improve the economy: power outages remain rampant, unemployment has declined only marginally if at all, and the largest international oil companies have left because of the regime’s hostile business policies.

Furthermore, Iraqis’ belief that democracy is the best form of government dropped by 9 points between 2011 and 2013. This, again, is due to the failure of democracy to yield economic improvement. Thirty-five percent of Iraqis pointed to economic factors like the elimination of corruption or narrowing the gap between rich and poor as the most important component of democracy. When asked what the second most important aspect of democracy was, 43 percent listed an economic characteristic like transparency or government provision of basic needs like food, housing, and clothing. Other factors that received mention were freedom to criticize the government and equal rights between citizens, though none of these was as highly rated as economic considerations. The declining belief in democracy, therefore, should be understood as a judgment of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s version of “democracy” and the dismal economic picture rather than the concept of self-rule in general.

Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, and Christians may differ on who they want to lead them, how much Islam should be a part of politics, and whether or not they trust the security services, but citizens of every city and sect agree that the government has failed because economic improvement is not being realized. If their number one concern unites them, the issues that divide should certainly not be the focus of domestic, regional, or international efforts. Rather, regional politics and international efforts should be working to improve the economy first and foremost.

Sarah Ali is a Program Assistant for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE.

[1] When Nouri al – Maliki took office, he initiated regular payments to Iraqi Shi`a whose sons, brothers, fathers, etc. had been found in mass graves as a result of Saddam’s aggression against the sect. These payments have affected a large contingent of the 20+ million Iraqi Shi`a, yet still the economic grievances are so great as to cause such high levels of dissatisfaction with the government.

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Who Will Reap the Benefits of China’s Growing Presence in Africa? http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/15/who-will-reap-the-benefits-of-chinas-growing-presence-in-africa/ http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/15/who-will-reap-the-benefits-of-chinas-growing-presence-in-africa/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 15:16:44 +0000 http://www.cipe.org/blog/?p=16078 READ MORE]]> Source: Business Insider

Source: Business Insider

By Brian Jackson

Recently, there have been many articles in the media outlining both the positive and negative implications of China’s growing investment in Africa. On one hand, many accuse China of promoting another period of colonization and exploitation on the continent and preventing Africa from becoming economically independent. Yet on the other hand, some praise the investments for rejuvenating African industries and infrastructure.

With such conflicting interpretations, many are left wondering how to view all of this. Is Chinese involvement in Africa a good thing, or bad thing? Will it lead to more economic and democratic opportunities for the continent and people, or the opposite?

In a Bloomberg story on Chinese arms sales to South Sudan, Ilya Gridneff outlines how the Chinese government recently canceled a $38 million contract between the Chinese arms corporation Norinco and the government of South Sudan, which has been embroiled in conflict. Chinese officials said it was “inappropriate to implement” the contract at the current time, with the country in the midst of a delicate peace process.

Although, it is worthy to note that the arms contract was signed before the country broke out in civil war, the perception of a Chinese firm fueling the conflict puts China’s government in a difficult situation, as it also maintains major investments in South Sudanese resources. When news of the arms shipment became public, NGOs argued that the weapons would help prolong a conflict that has already harmed China’s other, larger investments in South Sudanese oil.

While deeper economic ties have created opportunities for both China and its African partners, they also put pressure on the Chinese government to police the behavior of Chinese firms involved in conflict-prone areas.

China’s heavy investment in expanding Africa’s railways has also raised questions. One major project, the East Africa Railway, is seen as a historic event that will link the countries of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. While there is a great need for such infrastructure projects in the region, with China financing 90 percent of the railway, there are concerns that most of the jobs will go to Chinese rather than African workers – and much of the money will return to Chinese firms in the form of massive procurements of rail cars and equipment, since the countries involved have agreed to build to Chinese railway standards. Similar concerns have arisen in other railway and infrastructure projects as well.

Yet, although this event seems great, a question that remains to be known is what will the effect of this railway be? Will it enhance economic growth and supply local jobs? Will it in some way promote democracy?

All in all, it remains to be seen how growing Chinese involvement in Africa will play out. There are many questions yet to be answered, and they depend largely on the outcome of these projects and events. Although China is providing many infrastructure opportunities, the majority of Chinese investment in Africa is soft loans, or projects that may not have a lasting effect on the population. For example, unlike aid from Western countries, Chinese investment has no requirements for government reform or anti-corruption efforts. Hence there are no regulations on how the aid and investment should be handled.

Time will tell what impact these investments have, especially if Chinese companies themselves run into the same governance and corruption obstacles that hinder local firms.

Brian Jackson is a Communications Intern at CIPE.

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Afghanistan National Business Agenda Outlines Priorities for Economic Policy Reform http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/12/afghanistan-national-business-agenda-outlines-priorities-for-economic-policy-reform/ http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/12/afghanistan-national-business-agenda-outlines-priorities-for-economic-policy-reform/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 16:14:13 +0000 http://www.cipe.org/blog/?p=16076 READ MORE]]> PBA-nangarhar

Afghanistan’s image in the news media is often shaped by negative stories focused on security and political challenges. What is often not highlighted are a number of successes, achieved over the past several years, in shaping the country’s economic policy and democratic governance. These reforms have improved the business enabling environment and made a positive difference in the lives of small business owners whose livelihoods depend on a predictable and efficient regulatory environment.

Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world and one of the most difficult places to do business. The World Bank’s 2015 Doing Business data places Afghanistan at 183 on the list of 189 countries ranked on ease of doing business globally. It also ranks the country near the bottom of the list on indicators such as getting electricity (141), registering property (183), trading across borders (184) and enforcing contracts (183). On measures such as paying taxes (79), getting credit (89) and resolving insolvency (159), Afghanistan doesn’t fare much better.

Since 2005, CIPE has worked with the business community to build their capacity and engage with the government in order to improve the business enabling environment in Afghanistan. In 2011, CIPE partnered with the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), the national apex chamber, and a coalition of 10 other sectoral Afghan business associations, including two women’s associations, to prepare and release a national business agenda. The 2011 NBA unified the business community to advocate for market-oriented reform and allowed the private sector for the first time to have a voice in the national policymaking process. The NBA contained a number of recommendations including reforming tax and tariff policy, improvements in infrastructure, access to land and credit, and trade facilitation, among others.

The most significant improvements in the business climate achieved by CIPE’s partners focus on governance, infrastructure, and security of industrial parks; reducing the cost of business licenses; reforming and modernizing the customs regime; and reducing certain tariffs. CIPE’s contribution transcends the actual reforms enacted and extends to establishing a process and mechanism for policy reform. CIPE and its partners have improved the business climate and strengthened democratic governance by helping build a more open, transparent, diversified, and prosperous economy in Afghanistan.

Read about the NBA process, recommendations and results.

Teodora Mihaylova is Research Coordinator at CIPE.

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An Historic Agreement: Public-Private Partnership to Safeguard Yemen’s Future http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/11/an-historic-agreement-public-private-partnership-to-safeguard-yemens-future/ http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/11/an-historic-agreement-public-private-partnership-to-safeguard-yemens-future/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 21:33:01 +0000 http://www.cipe.org/blog/?p=16073 The stakes are high in Yemen’s ongoing political transition, but recently the Yemeni government and private sector took steps to ensure that this transition will lead to greater security and opportunity for all Yemenis.

Yemen’s recent history has been marked by popular demand for better governance and a more democratic policymaking process. This demand has been seen from the 2011 popular uprisings, to political demonstrations, grassroots activism, and widespread participation in the National Dialogue Conference. Meanwhile, the price of ignoring these demands and of failing to listen to sensible recommendations for improving governance, security, and the economy has been illustrated by ongoing instability throughout the country.

On November 18, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of Yemen and the Yemeni private sector was signed, establishing a public-private partnership to foster an enabling environment for business creation and youth employment, a step that is unprecedented in that country. This event marked an important step toward inclusive governance and effective policymaking in Yemen. Such cooperation between the government and non-governmental sectors like the business community is vital to ensuring that Yemeni citizens can participate in the democratic process, which is necessary to promote inclusive economic development, security, and employment, and to reduce violence and extremism.

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yemen_signing

The stakes are high in Yemen’s ongoing political transition, but recently the Yemeni government and private sector took steps to ensure that this transition will lead to greater security and opportunity for all Yemenis.

Yemen’s recent history has been marked by popular demand for better governance and a more democratic policymaking process. This demand has been seen from the 2011 popular uprisings, to political demonstrations, grassroots activism, and widespread participation in the National Dialogue Conference. Meanwhile, the price of ignoring these demands and of failing to listen to sensible recommendations for improving governance, security, and the economy has been illustrated by ongoing instability throughout the country.

On November 18, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of Yemen and the Yemeni private sector was signed, establishing a public-private partnership to foster an enabling environment for business creation and youth employment, a step that is unprecedented in that country. This event marked an important step toward inclusive governance and effective policymaking in Yemen. Such cooperation between the government and non-governmental sectors like the business community is vital to ensuring that Yemeni citizens can participate in the democratic process, which is necessary to promote inclusive economic development, security, and employment, and to reduce violence and extremism.

The MoU was signed at an official ceremony at CIPE Headquarters in Washington, DC, and aimed to promote inclusive economic development that will create jobs and foster peace. The document was signed by Dr. Mohammed Al-Maitami, Yemeni Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, representing the Yemeni government; and Mohammed Abdo Saeed Anam, Chairperson of the Yemeni Federation of Chambers of Commerce, representing the private sector. It outlined a formal dialogue mechanism between government and private sector, the creation of a Joint Committee on Small and Medium Enterprises and private sector engagement in value chain development. It also calls for reforms to reduce corruption, protect private property, and provide the requirements of a suitable investment environment for the private sector that is attractive for local and foreign investment.

The MOU focused on six substantive interventions to be undertaken by the Yemeni Government and private sector, including: (1) private sector feedback on the initial draft of the new constitution; (2) establishing a joint government-private sector economic and social council to promote private sector participation in policy-making; (3) commencing a public-private dialogue process at the national and local levels, to begin in 2015; (4) implementing a comprehensive strategy (outlined in the MOU) to support small and medium enterprises; (5) developing and beginning to implement a joint government-private sector reform plan by mid-2015; and establishing reformed, “model” police stations in several cities, starting in the first quarter of 2015.

The signing of the MoU took place following an event that CIPE co-hosted with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It was an unprecedented roundtable of high-level representatives of the Yemeni government, political parties, the private sector, and the international community addressed the issue of the private sector engagement in Yemen’s economic growth and sustainable development. During the event, discussions revolved around the need for establishing mechanisms for a robust public-private partnership to address Yemen’s most pressing issues, such as slow economic growth, massive unemployment, widespread poverty, and the lack of security.

This roundtable was held in conjunction with Yemen being selected by the World Bank and the United Nations to undertake a Millennium Development Goals Acceleration Framework exercise to identify fast-track solutions for poverty reduction in Yemen by improving rural livelihoods and creating employment for women and youth. The findings of that exercise were presented to the Chief Executive Board meeting, which brings together the executive heads of 29 UN System programs and specialized agencies, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and which is being held this year in Washington, DC from November 20-21.

Yemen stands at a crossroads in its transition to democracy. This transition has overcome many obstacles, but many challenges lie ahead as well. Further progress requires comprehensive reforms of state institutions and public participation in the policymaking process. Although Yemen’s future is uncertain, the political transition provides a historic opportunity for political, economic, and social reform, and the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding represents an important step toward ensuring the success of Yemen’s transition.

In the upcoming months, CIPE and the UNDP will work with Yemen’s private sector, government and civil society to support the public-private partnership outlined in the MOU. As part of that effort, CIPE, the UNDP, and the Yemeni government will co-host a conference in February as a follow up to the November event to outline plans for implementing the provisions of the MOU.

Matthew Godwin is a Program Assistant for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE.

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Realizing OGP Objectives http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/10/realizing-ogp-objectives/ http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/10/realizing-ogp-objectives/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 20:43:04 +0000 http://www.cipe.org/blog/?p=16064 READ MORE]]> OGP_logo_-_print_layers

The Open Government Partnership has an ambitious agenda to advance transparency and accountability in government, which it seeks to advance through voluntary commitments, citizen engagement, and progress monitoring reports. It has garnered many adherents since it was launched by eight countries in 2011, and its members have already implemented numerous practical reforms.

At the OGP Americas Regional Meeting in Costa Rica, we had the opportunity to take stock of accomplishments and learn from practitioners about what makes the partnership work and how to sustain it. I was struck by the scale of the effort in several countries despite their resource constraints, as well as the concerns voiced by civil society for the integrity of overall reform.

The first lesson I absorbed from the Americas meeting was that transparency reforms must not only be concrete, they must be tangible. Process improvements in governance must be wedded to socially relevant outcomes in order to credibly serve citizens. As one panelist put it, “OGP cannot remain in a bubble.”

A second, related lesson was that governance reformers should open their doors to other stakeholders as a means to bolster legitimacy and build broader awareness of their efforts. Until a wider range of citizens become aware of OGP in their countries and feel that their interests are taken into account, OGP will not acquire a sustainable base of support. Greater outreach and pluralism in OGP conversations are much needed to build momentum for the open governance movement.

In the spirit of multi-stakeholder dialogue in Costa Rica, the Private Sector Council for OGP, co-chaired by CIPE Deputy Director Andrew Wilson, organized a discussion on public-private partnerships. The panelists, who did not shy from tough issues of human rights and corruption, shared examples of engaging the private sector to solve particular governance challenges. Felipe Gonzalez, President of the Center for the Studies of Institutional Governance at IPADE Business School, shared how entrepreneurs supported judicial reform in Mexican cities. Rodolfo Piza, of the law firm Arias & Muñoz, discussed his experience in procurement reform. Martin Tisné, of Omidyar Network, explained several distinct ways to engage the private sector in OGP and the value of a good process to structure private sector engagement.

Summing up the discussion, Josemaria Valdepenas, Chief Technology Officer for Microsoft Latin America and the Caribbean, appealed to government and the private sector to keep a citizen-centric mindset. The two sectors, he said, must find a common set of goals and metrics for any partnership. Although technology will be a key enabler, the driving motivation behind transparency reforms should be building better, more efficient governments and greater democracy between citizens, governments, and the private sector.

As next steps toward expanding private sector engagement, the Private Sector Council will seek both pragmatic and relevant opportunities to demonstrate the value of partnerships across sectors. The Council’s focus will be at the country level, in places where sufficient demand is expressed by public, private, and civic stakeholders for joint work on implementing national commitments. We came away from Costa Rica encouraged that Latin America could offer good opportunities to model new modes of cooperation on issues that really matter to citizens.

Kim Bettcher is Senior Knowledge Manager at CIPE.

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How the Trade Facilitation Agreement Fights Corruption at the Border http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/09/how-the-trade-facilitation-agreement-fights-corruption-at-the-border/ http://www.cipe.org/blog/2014/12/09/how-the-trade-facilitation-agreement-fights-corruption-at-the-border/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 20:06:42 +0000 http://www.cipe.org/blog/?p=16062 READ MORE]]> Moving goods across borders is a source of corruption around the world.

The process of moving goods across borders is a major source of corruption around the world.

As the world commemorates International Anti-Corruption Day, renewed progress in the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) provides a reason for optimism in the fight against corruption.

Reached during last year’s World Trade Organization (WTO) accord in Bali, the TFA creates binding commitments across 159(+) WTO members to expedite movement, release and clearance of goods, improve cooperation on customs matters, and moreover, help developing countries effectively meet these obligations.

The TFA is also a potentially invaluable tool for tackling corruption as the simplification of customs procedures can greatly reduce opportunities for corruption. As the World Bank’s Customs Modernization Handbook sets forth, customs procedures are a key source of corruption, as officials and workers seek bribes in order to move goods in and out of the country.

Given the formidable barrier that corruption poses for both developed and developing countries, one may question how explicitly this agreement will challenge corruption, and what this will look like in terms of activities creating outcomes. In an Economic Reform Feature Service article released by CIPE today, Laura B. Sherman, senior legal adviser at Transparency International USA, breaks the larger TFA into its individual components and addresses in practical terms how each will translate into activities that prevent corruption.

Sherman’s analysis provides an easily followed roadmap that bridges any disconnect between the negotiated agreement and clear actionable steps that can be taken. This breakdown adds a useful analytical component to CIPE’s anti-corruption work. In working comprehensively across sectors to identify, inform, and support both the private sector and civil society in countries such as Ukraine, Kenya, Indonesia, and Thailand, CIPE is helping to overcome corrupt practices by providing the and knowledge sharing crucial for tackling corrupt practices.

The OECD estimates that for every one percent reduction in global trade costs, global incomes rise by $40 billion – and that the new WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement can cut trade costs by almost 14.5 percent for low-income countries and 10 percent for high-income countries. Additionally, corruption has been estimated to cost 5 percent of global GDP per year (US$2.6 trillion, World Economic Forum) with the cost of paid bribes alone estimated to be over US$1 trillion per year.  (World Bank). These numbers serve not only to encourage adoption of the Agreement, but stand as a testament to the important role the private sector and international trade community must play in ridding the world of corruption.

Read the whole article here.

Stephanie Bandyk is a Program Assistant for Global Programs at CIPE.

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