Sri Lankan election officials carry ballot boxes under police guard. (Photo: VOA News)
While it is hard to identify all of the issues that drove Sri Lankans during the country’s recent – and for many observers, surprising – elections, a cry for change was evident. Voters had clearly grown tired of corruption, cronyism, and authoritarianism, and there have been widespread calls for investigations into a range of alleged human rights abuses.
On January 8, in an unexpected turn of events, 15 million Sri Lankans, representing a 75 percent voter turnout, went to the polls and ousted incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in favor of Maithripala Sirisena, Rajapaksa’s former Health Minister who shocked many by declaring his intent to run for office. Rajapaksa, who was South Asia’s longest-serving political head of state, in office since 2005, had turned increasingly authoritarian. He called these elections two years early, seeking a third term. It seems unlikely that he anticipated the defection of Sirisena and a number of other parliamentarians.
A Burmese man checks his mobile phone.(Photo: Flickr)
Since 2011, Burma has slowly been transitioning into a fledgling democracy from a reclusive military dictatorship. Some positive steps have taken place – multi-party elections have been held and more than 3,000 political prisoners have been freed. Yet as the U.S. deputy national security adviser stated recently, “[p]arts of the reform effort have stalled, parts have moved forward and parts, we’ve seen, have even moved backward, so it’s a mixed picture.”
The biggest test for Burma’s democratic transition is the upcoming general elections taking place in November. For citizens to make informed decisions and to hold future leaders accountable, they must be empowered with knowledge. The potential political leaders also must be educated about how to govern, as well as find ways to communicate and engage with their constituents. And technology, more specifically mobile phones, will have a large role to play for both groups.
In early November, the World Bank published its annual “Doing Business Report,” which assesses government regulations that support or constrain business activity across 189 countries. This year, Afghanistan again ranked near the bottom, down one spot from last year, in the 183rd position. The full report on Afghanistan can be found here.
There is no disputing that Afghanistan is a difficult place to do business, yet as has been noted in the past on the CIPE blog, there are inherent limitations to what the Doing Business rankings measure. We frequently point out that these indicators reflect the “laws on the books,” or the formal economic environment, but do not address the so-called implementation gap between those laws and practice. There have been cases in which countries introduce reforms specifically to move up the rankings, but surveys of entrepreneurs reveal that business continues “as usual,” as these new laws do not work in reality, either because of a lack of political will or low public administration capacity. In addition, political stability and democratic legitimacy are not captured in the Doing Business rankings. Egypt was a “top reformer” prior to 2010, but the events in Tahrir Square were to a great extent fueled by economic woes.
In order to get a more comprehensive view of a country’s economic environment, it is useful to consider public opinion and understand attitudes towards state institutions and processes. In the case of Afghanistan, the Asia Foundation’s annual Survey of the Afghan People is one such tool. This year’s report is especially meaningful given the country’s post-election mood, and its implications for public confidence in the country’s economic environment.
“The year 2015 offers a unique opportunity for global leaders and people to end poverty, transform the world to better meet human needs and the necessities of economic transformation, while protecting our environment, ensuring peace and realizing human rights. We are at a historic crossroads, and the directions we take will determine whether we will succeed or fail on our promises,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in the synthesis report on the post-2015 agenda.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are rooted in an agreement reached during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, otherwise known as Rio+20, and the adoption of the outcome document, “The Future We Want.” As a cornerstone for the post-2015 development agenda, the 17 SDGs begin where unfinished work of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) left off, with aspirations of poverty eradication, inclusion, human rights, equality, and sustainability.
The Center for International Private Enterprise together with Creative Associates International recently held a forum with Pauline Baker of the Fund for Peace, Tony Pipa of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), J.W. Wright of Creative Associates, and Amb. James Michel, author of “Shaping the New Development Agenda” (available in full or abridged versions), which guided the conversation.
A recent World Bank report suggests that the country will not meet the Millennium Development Goals of universal primary education by 2015. The report ranks Pakistan 113th out of 120 countries in the “Education for All Index.” With seven million out-of-school kids, the challenge is snowballing with each passing year.
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.