Tag Archives: economic reform

Democracy that Delivers Podcast #30: Syrian Economic Forum on the Role of the Private Sector in Syria’s Reconstruction

SEF podcast Aug 18 2016

Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) Executive Director Tamman Al Baroudi (left) and SEF Chairman Ayman Tabbaa (right) with podcast co-host Stephen Rosenlund, Senior Program Officer for Middle East and North Africa at CIPE. Tabbaa, Baroudi and Rosenlund called in to the show (via Skype) from Gaziantep, Turkey.

Syrian Economic Forum Chairman Ayman Tabbaa and Executive Director Tamman Al Baroudi discuss the current situation in Syria and the role of the private sector in reconstructing the country. Tabbaa and Baroudi talk about their lives in Syria prior to the revolution, why they had to leave Syria, and their work today providing information and policy options to help with the current economic situation and to plan for the future.

Tabbaa and Baroudi speak candidly about how their lives have changed, dangers they have faced in pursuing their work to help build a future for Syria, and their concerns for Syria’s youth.

The Syrian Economic Forum is an independent think tank that gives voice to the pro-democracy Syrian business community.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #28: CIPE Afghanistan Country Director Mohammed Nasib on Afghanistan’s Challenges and Its Future

CIPE Afghanistan Country Director Mohammed Nasib (left) with guest host Jenny Anderson.

CIPE Afghanistan Country Director Mohammed Nasib (left) with guest host Jenny Anderson.

As foreign forces pull back from Afghanistan, the country faces not only the threat of renewed violence but also deep economic challenges and corruption, which are deeply intertwined with the political instability.

Mohammed Nasib, Country Director for CIPE Afghanistan, and guest host Jenny Anderson, Program Officer for South Asia, discuss the country’s challenges and how CIPE is helping the Afghan private sector play a positive role in Afghanistan’s future.

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Democracy that Delivers Podcast #22: Babak Yektafar on the Economic Situation in Iran and What Drives Regime Policies

Podcast hosts Ken Jaques (right) and Julie Johnson with guest Babak Yektafar (left).

Podcast hosts Ken Jaques (right) and Julie Johnson with guest Babak Yektafar (left).

CIPE’s Iran expert Babak Yektafar discusses the current economic situation in Iran and how the regime controls information and policies to stay in power. Yektafar talks about how the economy has been damaged through mismanagement, Iran’s entrepreneurial youth culture and their hopes for the future, and what the government needs to do to make it easier for Iranians to start and grow businesses. He also discusses the government’s control over the flow of information within the country and explains how an “Expediency Council” works to ensure the regime stays in power.

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What Good is Economics as a Science, if Not Based on Field Studies?

Reem_Abdel_Halim

By Dr. Reem Abdel Haliem

This post originally appeared in Arabic on the CIPE Arabia blog.

I currently work with CIPE partner the Federation of Economic Development Associations (FEDA) on a study to bring Egypt’s informal sector into the formal one. Since there are number of studies on this topic, FEDA chose to focus its study on producing a guide – more of a roadmap – that outlines practical steps to facilitating the informal sector’s formalization.

A series of focus groups based on a robust methodology was a must to achieve sound findings and to draw evidence-based conclusions. Through those focus groups, we formed a logical and comprehensive understanding of the problems that the formal sector faces, so to grasp the disincentives that make the idea of formalizing unattractive to the informal sector. Formal sector operators face these problems almost on a daily basis and with a variety of local and national government authorities. This understanding could not be reached through a typical literature review.

Through my experience in the focus groups and with drafting this roadmap, it became clear to me that with the right field research tools, grasping the on-the-ground reality makes policy recommendations more accurate and relevant to addressing the stakeholders’ needs and, as such, makes these recommendations of higher value to the state and the general public.

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The Tunisian Business Community: Still Working to Keep Tunisia’s Democracy on Track

A forum held by IACE in May 2016. (Photo: Kapitalis.com)

A forum held by IACE in May 2016. (Photo: Kapitalis.com)

By Ali Ayadi, Pam Beecroft, and Brenna Curti

In 2015, Tunisia’s business community, government and civil society worked together to overcome a series of political and security crises that almost derailed their grand democracy experiment, and won a Nobel Prize for their efforts.

Now it is the economy that needs an intervention. Instead of transforming and growing, it has been sliding backward. The Tunisian dinar is losing value, public debt is mounting, inflation continues to rise, and unemployment grows daily. Corruption and cronyism are rampant, spreading injustice and slowing growth even more.

As Tunisians lose faith in their leaders, discontent is fueling new social unrest. Violence and terrorism have added new layers of economic woes, virtually wiping out tourism and resulting in $4 billion for economic recovery being diverted to cover national security needs.

It is no exaggeration to say that Tunisia’s democratic future hinges on fixing all this. For one thing, if citizens are worried about basic survival, they cannot focus on elections and civic groups and all those other things that keep leaders accountable and democracy vibrant. For another, Tunisia needs the spirit of enterprise itself – economic dreams, hard work, innovation, and entrepreneurship – to create the prosperity citizens need.

That is why CIPE’s long-time partner, the Arab Institute for Business Leaders (IACE, in French) has joined with one of the Nobel prize winners, the Tunisian Union for Industry, Commerce and Crafts (UTICA), as well as the Tunisian Union for Agriculture and Fisheries (UTAP) and the government, to get Tunisia’s economy back on track. With CIPE support, they have launched a “National Business Agenda” (NBA) – a CIPE process that helps the private sector consult local businesses, identify economic priorities and advocate government to improve the economy through reforms.

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Debate on Taxation in Pakistan: Reforms Move to the Next Level

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Karachi Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Pakistan’s overall tax-to-GDP ratio has been hovering around 10 per cent for the past decade, which is approximately five per cent lower than the average of comparable economies. Despite a large tax base available in all provinces, they collectively contribute only seven per cent in overall revenues.

Federal revenues are low, and government coffers are emptied by debt servicing, high defense spending, and power subsidies, resulting in government institutions without adequate budgets to operate. Without tax reform, Pakistan’s civilian government and its ability to govern remains weak and ineffective. Moreover, Pakistan remains on the brink financial crisis.

Since the passage of a constitutional amendment in 2010 aimed at rolling back the excessive power the central government had built up over years of military rule, the provincial administrations have been entrusted with greater revenue mobilization responsibilities. The amendment was intended to bring education, health, and other basic government services closer to the people and help develop areas that were historically ignored by Islamabad, and was viewed as an important first step in a series of reforms to create a responsive and accountable democratic Pakistan.

However, empowering provinces without the proper mechanisms in place for implementation, and conflict resolution, and without strengthening revenue raising capability at the provincial level, has resulted in greater duplication of bureaucratic structures and processes at central and provincial levels, leading to more wasteful spending and higher budget deficits. Moreover, government services that are now to be provided by the provincial governments are often not provided at all, as provincial governments themselves appear confused or reluctant to take on service delivery and financial responsibilities.

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CIPE Arabia: Expert Interview with Dr. Ahmed Fikry Abdel Wahab

Ahmed_Fikry_Abdel_WahabThis post originally appeared at CIPE-Arabia in Arabic.

In a brief interview with CIPE-Arabia, Dr. Ahmed Fikry Abdel Wahab shared some of his thoughts on the pervasive informal sector in Egypt.  His concerns center on the potentially negative consequences a large informal sector has on competitiveness, market values, and norms and quality of products.  Abdel Wahab explained that while one might not necessarily describe the competition between the formal and informal sector as dishonest, it could easily be described as unfair.

Unlike informal businesses, formal enterprises have higher costs, which are reflected in the pricing of their products.  In order to be able to compete, some enterprises compromise on the quality of their products thereby creating negative impacts on the industry and the overall market, as well as undermining consumer rights and the competiveness of the Egyptian products in the global market.  He acknowledged that informal businesses suffer from marginalization, lack of access to credit, and meager opportunities for training, advancement and business relations. Abdel Wahab also noted problems faced by informal enterprises in terms of limited market size, attributing this issue to the quality of their products, which are often not fit for export because they do not meet the minimal quality standards.  As a result, all these factors create unfair conditions with consequences for both sectors as they generate unhealthy competition, negatively impact the market, and undermine the foundations of industry and its values and norms.

Following is a summary of the main points raised by Abdel Wahab during the discussion.

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