Tag Archives: democratic governance

Fixing Tunisia’s Economy Requires Reform, Not More Foreign Investment

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In light of the recent terror attacks in Tunis and Sousse, which have debilitated the tourism industry and sent investors scurrying to reconsider their options and assets in the country, it is more important than ever to look at the intersection between economic growth and transparent democratic institutions in Tunisia.

President Obama and Tunisian President Béji Caïd Essebsi, meeting during Essebsi’s May visit to the United States, published this article about consolidating democratic gains in Tunisia and spurring responsible economic growth. The discourse would benefit from a deeper understanding of the legal and regulatory issues that stifle job growth in that country.

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The New Middle East: An Uncertain Future

Map of Middle East Region

By Bahaa Eddin Al Dahoudi, CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow

What future awaits the Middle East? This question remains pivotal following the outbreak of the Arab revolutions four years ago. It keeps popping up as regional developments arise, especially with the decline of democracy and presence of revolutionary forces in many Arab countries. The region’s resort to military tools is increasing due to the rise of terrorism, violence, and political polarization, a decline of charismatic leaders, and a lack of support for institutional structures and democratic transitions. In a Middle East where “there is no winner,” two vital questions emerge: Is the Arab revolution the reason behind the chaos and collapses? And, what are the future scenarios for this inflamed region?

I would argue that the Arab revolution is not the reason behind the current chaos. Knowing the history of revolutions, it can be understood that the development of a revolution is subject to consecutive waves of ups and downs. Resistance from old patterns against new revolutionary movements seeking a change are to be expected. In other words, what happened in the Arab world was historic but also unavoidable. Regimes that refused to change and reform – and instead accepted the equation of corruption and the status quo— had to fall one day. If it hadn’t happened in 2011, it would have happened another time. Thus, it is not beneficial to simply look back at the past and remember the good old days. Instead, one must look to the future and start preparing for what will come next. Thus, the real question we must ask is: What future awaits us in the Middle East?

What future awaits the Middle East? It is a region where Syria has collapsed, Iraq and Yemen are divided, Libya is shattered, and Egypt and the Gulf countries face huge security, economic, and political challenges. What future awaits countries where oil is the main determinant of the principles and rules of political games? All while international statistics say the region is witnessing explosions in population, rising unemployment rates, and declining quality of health and education services.

Are we about to witness an Islamic Middle East ruled under a Caliphate model? Will there be a democratic Middle East where people will again revolt against dictatorship in hope of creating a change? Or will the Middle East become a sectarian region filled with disputes, conflicts, and divided small states?

There are many outstanding questions and no one can definitively predict the outcomes. Undoubtedly, the years to come will carry more ambiguity in the political, socioeconomic, and cultural spheres in that region. In the meantime, we can continue to support freedom of speech of the people with the hope that the ultimate outcomes reflect the choices of the people of this region.

CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellowship brings talented young professionals with strong research backgrounds to shadow researchers and experts at leading U.S. think tanks for six months. Bahaa Eddin Al Dahoudi is serving at Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).

A Way Forward for a Viable Syria

From left to right: Abdulwahab Alkebsi, Ayman Tabba, Ellen Laipson, and Geneive Abdo discussing the role  of private sector and civil society democrats in reshaping Syria and countering extremism.

From left to right: Abdulwahab Alkebsi, Ayman Tabba, Ellen Laipson, and Geneive Abdo discussing the role of private sector and civil society democrats in reshaping Syria and countering extremism.

“We hear a lot about Syria— we hear the narrative of the Syrian government, we hear the narrative of ISIS, we hear the narrative of some of the opposition groups, but we don’t usually hear from the private sector, about what’s going on.”  

With this introduction, CIPE Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Abdulwahab Alkebsi opened a panel discussion on May 21 co-hosted by CIPE and the Stimson Center entitled “A Way Forward for a Viable Syria: An Insider Perspective from the Private Sector and Civil Society.” The panel featured Chairman on CIPE partner, the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) Ayman Tabbaa, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Stimon Center Ellen Laipson, and Middle East Fellow at the Stimson Center Geneive Abdo. The panelists discussed the role of democrats from the private sector and civil society in reshaping Syria and countering extremism.

Tabbaa spoke of SEF’s role as the first independent economic think tank in Syria working to change the trajectory of the conflict and rebuild a better Syria for the future. “We have to go back to the roots of this conflict,” he told the audience. Under the regime of Bashar Al Assad, citizens are oppressed and disenfranchised— they lack opportunity for meaningful political and economic participation. But after four years of war, people are wondering what it means to be a Syrian anymore. It is crucial, in this context, to redefine the social contract and the relationship between the citizen and state. As a think tank, SEF is playing a leading role in doing so.

“…after four years of war, people are wondering what it means to be a Syrian anymore.”

Syrians are looking for democratic alternatives to the forces tearing the country apart. Every day we see news about atrocities and violence in Syria. Much of the media focuses on sectarian violence and ISIS-created mayhem. But, even with the chaos and human suffering, Tabbaa offered signs of hope through examples of SEF’s work during the conflict.

He spoke about the recent memorandum of understanding (MOU) that SEF signed with the Ministry in Local Administration of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG). SEF has a network of liaisons inside Syria who provide the SIG and Local Councils with economic data, analysis, and recommendations. Providing this on-the-ground information to decision-makers supports improvement of local governance and enhances the democratic legitimacy of the Councils

Another SEF project helps Syrian youth develop solutions to the challenges in their communities through civic education. SEF has provided 600 young Syrian high school graduates with training in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills. The course offers an alternative to the regime’s propaganda and the empty promises of extremist ideology.

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Afghanistan National Business Agenda Outlines Priorities for Economic Policy Reform

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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.

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A Ray of Hope on Health Care from an Unlikely Source

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Health care professionals in Egypt conduct a stakeholder analysis to help spell out governance principles for Egyptian hospitals.

A hip replacement in the United States, paid for out-of-pocket (i.e., without health insurance), would cost anywhere from $11,000 to $125,000, depending on what hospital you go to, according to a 2013 survey of 100 hospitals featured on National Public Radio.  And that was among the hospitals that, when asked, could actually produce a quote – 40 of the 100 hospitals surveyed couldn’t quote a price at all.

Those fortunate enough to have insurance don’t need to worry about price-shopping.  When I go to my primary care physician, I pay a $20 co-pay.  (Under our previous insurance, provided by my wife’s former employer, it was $10.  Why the difference?  Who knows?)  I have no idea how much my insurance company pays the doctor.  I suppose I could find out, but… honestly?  There’s really no compelling reason for me to do so.  It’s $20 no matter who I see.

And it turns out that, even if there were more incentive for me to price-shop, more expensive hospitals aren’t necessarily better hospitals, according to a 2014 study.

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Kenya’s Democratic Experiment in Devolution

A member of one of Kenya's new county assemblies sets up an office in an open-air market outside of Nairobi. (Photo: VOA News)

A member of one of Kenya’s new county assemblies sets up an office in an open-air market outside of Nairobi. (Photo: VOA News)

One way to improve democratic governance is to devolve more responsibilities to local and regional governments — but only if those governments have the capacity take on such responsibilities and a willingness to listen to input from their constituents. This is the challenge Kenya faces as it implements the devolution outlined in its new constitution.

On April 9th, Chief Executive Officer of CIPE partner in Kenya Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Kwame Owino gave a presentation at the National Endowment for Democracy on the status of the country’s constitutional reforms. Owino explained the contentious transition that has been occurring in Kenya since the March 2013 elections, which transferred some key powers from the central government to 47 newly-created counties.

Owino cited many roadblocks in the way of quick, successful decentralization, including power struggles between newly-established governors and county senators, a highly centralized government bureaucracy reluctant in some cases to relinquish power after an institutional life of 50 years, and an economy weakened by poor policies and widespread corruption.

To address the uncertainty regarding the strength of the devolution movement, Owino stated that accountability was the answer, arguing that Kenyan civil society organizations had a place as “protectors of devolution,” and that they must put pressure on the government to stay the course of decentralization. For devolution to succeed, the constitution needs to be followed exactly, and not be avoided or ignored as it is in many instances to maintain some of the employment and power institutionalized in the old bureaucracy.  

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Linking Growth and Governance for Inclusive Development and Effective International Cooperation

FSmarch31Academics and development practitioners have long sought out commonalities of sustainable economic growth in different economies around the world. While there is no one formula for achieving economic growth and stability, inclusive growth and accountable governance have been central components of progress. Effective governance, while not traditionally thought of as part of an international development agenda, has come to be seen as an essential component of international economic development.

In the latest Economic Reform Feature Service article, consultant James Michel explores the complex relationship between good governance and economic development around the world. He looks at the ways in which academics and practical experience shape these two intertwined factors of development.

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