World’s Largest Democracy Goes to the Polls

Indian voters show their ID cards. (Photo: PressTV)

For the next five weeks, over 814 million voters in India will choose representatives for India’s lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha. Given the many corruption scandals involving the current ruling party, coupled with slow economic growth and high unemployment rate, many observers say that Indians voters are hoping for change and a new leadership.

This general election, which is the largest vote ever held in India, is important because the party that wins the most seats will govern the country  for the next five years and also choose the prime minister.

As a background, India’s electoral system is quite complex: it is a multiparty system with more than 50 regional parties and two major national parties. Given that local contexts and challenges are vastly different between the regions, many analysts are having difficulty predicting the outcomes.

Moreover, this elections is logistically challenging: the Election Commission of India has sent more than 10 million polling officials and security officers to carry out the elections at a staggering 930,00 polling stations.

The results are scheduled to be announced on May 16. From a viewpoint of a democratic exercise, and to set an example in a region where democracy is difficult to achieve, it will be interesting to see the results both in terms of who wins and how the logistics pan out.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

A Different Kind of ‘Smart’ City

mathare-slum

Mathare slum in Nairobi, Kenya — one of the biggest in Africa. (Photo: IRIN)

Naledi Modisaatsone is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Urban Institute

The concept of “smart cities” has become synonymous with developed countries. When people talk about smart cities they often mean high-tech urban innovators in North America, Western Europe or East Asia. Africa is not featured on the list.

This situation, however, has been changing following the recognition that smart city thinking is not necessarily about being high tech, but rather about cities that efficiently drive sustainable economic growth, competitiveness, prosperity and a better life for their citizens.

A report by Deloitte  defines a smart city as “when investments in human and social capital, traditional (transport) and modern information and communications technology ICT infrastructure fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources”. In that way Africa is right at the heart of the conversation.

The UN Habitat Global Activities Report 2013 states that in 2009, Africa’s total population for the first time exceeded one billion of which 395 million (or almost 40 per cent) lived in urban areas. Around 2027, Africa’s demographic growth will start to slow down and it will take 24 years to add the next 500 million, reaching the two billion mark around 2050, of which about 60 per cent will be living in cities. Africa should prepare for a total population increase of about 60 per cent between 2010 and 2050, with the urban population tripling to 1.23 billion during this period.

These demographic shifts will present policy makers in Africa with unprecedented challenges in handling of urbanization given that infrastructure networks and public services are already overwhelmed.  African cities wishing to uplift their populations into the 21st century are going to have to start focusing today on what the city of tomorrow will look like.

How will  Africa position its cities as drivers of sustainable growth using technology?

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Overcoming the Collective Action Problem: How to Encourage Businesses to Fight Against Corruption

Without a strong compliance program, many smaller Russian firms could be locked out of lucrative contracts with big multinationals.

Without a strong compliance program, many smaller Russian firms could be locked out of lucrative contracts with big multinationals.

By Henry Nelson

In countries with weak rule of law, anti-corruption efforts suffer from a collective action problem: because bribery and corruption are endemic and occur frequently, individual small business owners hesitate to reform because they fear that doing so will reduce their competitiveness.

If a small or medium-sized enterpise (SME) begins to eschew bribery, it might be incapable of securing contracts that require paying a bribe, for example. The threat of short-term loss of business is serious for SMEs and can deter companies from pursuing anti-corruption compliance.

Furthermore, the collective action problem effects the general business environment. Without a strong, coordinated voice on the importance of compliance, corruption continues to be seen as “business as usual” and the consensus continues to be that bribery is a necessary component of conducting business.

This collective action problem is pervasive and continues to pose issues for CIPE and its many global partners. It is difficult to implement reforms when SMEs fear that the reforms will hurt their business.

Earlier this month, CIPE’s Washington office hosted a delegation of CIPE Russia officers and regional CIPE partners for a discussion on value-chain anti-corruption efforts in Russia. The discussion yielded plenty of interesting information on CIPE Russia’s plan to work with regional Russian chambers of commerce in order to educate local SMEs about international anti-corruption laws like the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and UK Bribery Act.

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The Impact of the Property Rights Regime on Small Business in Kenya

New "malls" in downtown Nairobi offer opportunities for small business. But are their property rights being  respected?

New “malls” in downtown Nairobi offer opportunities for small business. But are their property rights being respected?

By David Owiro

Over the past few years, residents of Nairobi’s central business district (CDB) have noticed an interesting phenomenon. The previously large commercial premises on the main streets and avenues have been subdivided, converting them to mall-type premises that allow for subletting to many micro, small, and medium businesses. This phenomenon is, however, not unique to the CBD. This model, I’m made to understand, was borrowed from India, where mostly fabric traders sell their wares under one roof. The concept has spread to Eastleigh estate in Nairobi and can also be observed in some of the major towns in Kenya.

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) carried out a qualitative survey of small businesses who operate in such mall-type commercial premises in Nairobi’s CBD to determine the impact of the property rights regime on their businesses, and the findings point to a deeper policy problem. In spite of the recent property rights reforms brought about by the new constitution, the study found poor enforcement of property rights, agency coordination problems, and low awareness levels among small businesses, leading to exploitation, abuse of tenant rights, and a hostile business environment.

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News from the Free Enterprise and Democracy Network

FEDN

Free Enterprise and Democracy Network (FEDN) members have been providing technical assistance in democratic transitions and sharing their experiences in economic reform. Here are some highlights of their activities.

In December, former Finance Minister of the Philippines and Chairman of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia Dr. Jesus Estanislao held roundtable discussions with five political parties as part of a joint project with the International Republican Institute to enhance political parties’ capacity to develop economic platforms. Dr. Estanislao shared his experience with the Philippines’ democratic and economic transition, as well as the country’s approach to decentralization.

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The Future of Crowdfunding Around the World

global-crowdfunding-day

This Saturday, April 5, marked the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Jumpstart Our Business Startup Act (JOBS Act), which paved the way for “equity crowdfunding” in the United States.

This year, the crowdfunding community celebrated that anniversary as Global Crowdfunding Day. While rules are still being drafted to make equity crowdfunding a reality in U.S., the broader crowdfunding world has already grown by leaps and bounds since that act was signed into law.

Simply put, crowdfunding allows anyone to invest in making an idea a reality — whether it’s a new product, a business, a book, movie, album, or video game, or a charitable project. By harnessing the power of the Internet and social media, crowdfunding platforms let people with innovative ideas harness donations as small as $1 from thousands or tens of thousands of people around the world who share their enthusiasm.

Someday, equity crowdfunding will allow these contributors to earn a return on their investment when they invest in a project like Oculus Rift, which was recently bought by Facebook for $2 billion. In the meantime, however, there is no shortage of creative ideas and potential in the crowdfunding community.

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Is Local Government in Libya the Solution?

Heavily armed vehicles belonging to the military council of the self-declared autonomous region of Cyrenaica, which are deployed to protect oil ports, drive past at a checkpoint, near the east of the city of Sirte March 14, 2014. Former Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan has fled to Europe after parliament voted him out of office on Tuesday over his failure to stop rebels exporting oil independently in a brazen challenge to the nation's fragile unity. The standoff over control of oil exports threatens to deepen dangerous regional and tribal faultlines in Libya where rival militias with powerbases in the east and west back competing political factions in the transitional government. Picture taken March 14, 2014.  REUTERS/Stringer (LIBYA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS ENERGY) - RTR3H6EP

Mahmoud Bader is CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). This post also appeared on The Atlantic Council blog.

As Libya faces numerous challenges with the existence of federalists and militia groups, the question of decentralization grows in urgency. Libyans need to bolster local government in an effort to leave their past behind and meet their everyday needs, but lack the adequate legal and constitutional framework to ensure better governance. As Libya struggles to fill the remaining seats in the Constitutional Committee, it must also consider the language it plans to adopt to protect the decentralization process.

The move towards local governance emerged during the 2011 revolution when local councils arose to handle city affairs, an arrangement that continues today. Libyans welcomed the change. With the former regime centralized in Tripoli, citizens traveled inordinate distances from all over the country to complete tasks that they could have handled in their own cities, including basic bureaucratic services like stamps and signatures that could easily have been provided in other cities.

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