Tag Archives: economic reform

Enriching the Future: Creating Opportunities for Youth in the Middle East

Doha Forum Picture

Through high-level discussions of democracy, development, and free trade, the 2014 Doha Forum held from May 12 to 14 sought to find solutions to key economic challenges facing the Middle East through international collaboration and entrepreneurship. Among those key challenges is job creation.

Co-hosted by Qatar and UCLA’s Center for Middle East Development, the theme of this year’s forum was “Enriching the Middle East’s Economic Future.” CIPE’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Abdulwahab Alkebsi and a group of CIPE’s partners participated in the forum.

With 30 percent of the Middle East’s population between the ages of 15 and 29, creating employment opportunities for young people remains a top economic priority for the region. CIPE and its partner organizations highlighted the many ways in which the private sector can address this challenge and enrich the Middle East’s economic future.

Read More…

Tunisian Business Leaders Weigh in on Country’s Future

tunisia

Since the revolution, CIPE partner IACE – the Institut arabe des chefs d’entreprises, or Arab Institute of Business Leaders – has reached out to citizens from all walks of life in Tunisia – young entrepreneurs, business leaders, students, policymakers and more – to debate and search for solutions to Tunisia’s persistent economic challenges. To involve even more people in the exchange of knowledge and ideas, IACE just launched a new newsletter to share updates on Tunisia’s economic progress and upcoming events.

Among other features, the newsletter includes a new op-ed, The Second Republic, or the Third Conflict Cycle? The piece makes the urgent and vital point that even with a new Constitution approved and focus on upcoming elections, it is the economy that still matters most.

Read More…

Can Kenya’s Government Replicate Ports Success to Create Jobs?

Mombasa Port. (Photo: Business Daily)

Mombasa Port. (Photo: Business Daily)

By Ben Kiragu

One of the things Kenya’s new government succeeded in doing within its first year was to reduce the number of days it takes to move cargo from the Mombasa port to Malaba from 18 to 8 days — a 56 percent improvement in just 6 months. This is a major achievement which has boosted commercial relations with Uganda and other neighboring landlocked countries, forestalled competition from alternative transit routes, and ultimately reduced the cost of doing business, therefore improving economic growth in the region. How did the government accomplish this?

First of all, the president set up a cabinet subcommittee of Cabinet Secretaries dealing with the Northern Corridor — the transit links connecting Kenya’s landlocked neighbors to the sea — which reported to him during weekly cabinet meetings.  Second, administrative changes were instituted; all agencies involved in the process including KRA, KEPHIS, KEBS and KMA were instructed to work under the authority of the Kenya Ports Authority and relocated to Mombasa port. Also all government agencies were to take orders from KPA and finalize operations in Mombasa without reference to any other authority. Finally, the process of clearing was digitized and weighing bridges were modernized.

What are the lessons learnt from this? There was very clear knowledge, analysis, and understanding of the problems and where the bottle necks lay, therefore solving the problem was undertaken with almost surgical precision. There was very little need for new financial resources or the construction of major physical infrastructure. This is one of the key reasons why most projects in Kenya are delayed, as they wait for budgetary allocations or get into procurement bureaucracy and controversy as we have come to see especially as a result expanded democratic space. Lastly  and probably most important there was clear and dynamic leadership, the president led from the front on this one and delegated to decisive and action-oriented managers. The impact is there for all to see.

Creation of jobs was one of the rallying calls of the Jubilee campaign with 1 million jobs promised per year, but so far no major job creating initiative has borne fruit. The government seems to be waiting for big projects such as the Standard Gauge Railway and the Galana-Kulalu irrigation project to create jobs; one wonders if this will work, as time is clearly not on their side especially given the issues associated with some of these projects. My recommendation: why not replicate the cargo movement magic to prune low-hanging fruits and achieve quick wins in job creation by creating an enabling environment for micro and small enterprises (MSEs)?

Read More…

Entrepreneurship in Egypt and Tunisia After the Arab Spring

24614-small_Amr_Banner

In 2011, both Tunisia and Egypt were rocked by popular protests against economic and political repression that ended in the ouster of their authoritarian governments. Three years later, how much progress have these states made in reforming their economies? And what has happened to the entrepreneurs whose grievances helped fuel these revolutions?

Reforming the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in Post-Revolutionary Egypt and Tunisia, a report from CIPE and Stanford University’s Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), attempts to answer these key questions. With this report, CIPE staff and IACE will engage policymakers and stakeholders in roundtable discussions to formulate policy recommendations in the coming weeks.

Working with CIPE Cairo staff and CIPE partner L’Institut Arabe des Chefs d’Entreprises (IACE) in Tunisia, lead researcher Amr Adly conducted an extensive study of existing literature and over 100 detailed interviews with entrepreneurs in each country to shed light on the obstacles and opportunities that comprise the entrepreneurial ecosystems in these post-revolutionary states.

The survey results paint a small yet detailed portrait of what life is like for the Egyptians and Tunisians trying to make ends meet in countries with increasing unemployment rates, among other worries. Dysfunctional and inaccessible regulatory structures, crony networks solidified by corrupt past regimes, and a lack of access to information for the private sector and policymakers are only a few of the areas for which Adly’s research provides nuance.

Who are the entrepreneurs that can withstand such an unstable environment? The majority of respondents in both countries affirmed that they do not trust formal contract enforcement, managed to start their business largely through self-financing due to a lack of access to loans, and endure high transaction costs as a result of inadequate institutions. They are men and women, younger and older, more or less educated, formally registered or informally operating, risking bankruptcy and/or jail time for a failed venture, running joint or solo endeavors—and they are all citizens for whom their government is not working.

Read More…

Redefining the Role of the Business Community in Pakistan

pakistan shadow budget

“To realize sheer benefits of the GSP Plus status the government should take rationalized steps to minimize the cost of doing business as lack of resources and huge export of raw material is indicating further increase in cost of doing business in the future” – Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Suhail Bin Rashid.

Historically, business associations were heavily politicized in Pakistan, preventing them from becoming a unified voice for economic reforms in the country. Recently, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry, an apex body of business associations in Pakistan, unveiled its first-ever “shadow budget,” consisting of suggestions related to Pakistan’s 2014-15 Federal Budget. This is a major turnaround.

After six years of support from CIPE Pakistan’s multifaceted capacity building efforts, business associations are now becoming a strong national voice for economic revival plans and mapping government accountability. This was a long process, started in 2009 when CIPE partner Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry organized its first All-Pakistan Chamber Presidents’ Conference.

Initially, the response was weak, but as the effort continued, business associations realized its importance. Since then, the annual conference has become an important venue for bringing the business community from across Pakistan together to discuss pressing economic issues and propose reforms to provide level playing field for businesses to grow. At the 6th Presidents’ Conference, participants not only discussed key areas for the revival of economy but made their thinking more public.

As the Federal Budget 2014-15 is in its preparation phase, for the first time, business leaders decided to collectively present their own budget proposals to the government. While taking the lead, Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry arranged the first ever All Pakistan Chamber Presidents Pre-Budget Conference in first week of February 2014 to come up with suggestions regarding the federal budget.

In April 2014, Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry invited all Chamber Presidents to a second All-Pakistan Pre-Budget conference where the Chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue, Tariq Bajwa, participated at the conference and listened the issues of business community.

CIPE engaged business associations and motivated them to speak on issues of economic importance and role of private sector in economic policy reforms. As a result, now all Chambers are able to turn the tables by raising their voice unanimously to issue specific policy proposals.

There is still a long way to go, but CIPE`s efforts of bringing business community together as part of a single platform has started paying dividends.

Hammad Siddiqui is Deputy Country Director for CIPE Pakistan. Muhammad Talib Uz Zaman is a Program Officer for CIPE Pakistan.

Venezuela’s Steady Decline

store-empty-shelves

To anyone who has traveled frequently to Venezuela, the deterioration of the country is palpable. By day, people fear driving and getting stuck in traffic because motorcycle thugs will tap on their window, show a gun, and demand the handover of cell phones and cash. By night it is worse: going out on the town could involve robbery, kidnapping, and risk of death, so the streets are empty on Friday and Saturday nights in a city that previously boasted an active nightlife.

Shopping is another sad tale — commercial malls show a lack of maintenance, and stores have little merchandise. The common refrain you hear everywhere is “no hay,” or “there aren’t any.” You hear that when asking for anything from cell phones to toilet paper. You hear it in restaurants, too, where chefs somehow manage to figure out how to cook without basic staples such as cooking oil or flour.

If you can even get an airline ticket to Venezuela—international carriers are prevented from taking their profits out of the country, so they are curtailing flights—you will find prices depend entirely on the exchange rate you are able to obtain. If you change money at official rates you will pay $25 for a sandwich and a cup of coffee. If you are lucky enough to obtain the parallel exchange rate—which is running upwards of 10 ten times the official rate—the same meal will cost you $2.50.

How do Venezuelans cope with living this way? There are significant segments of society that still support the government of Nicolás Maduro despite its inability or unwillingness to tackle the huge economic problems the country faces, and which they have mostly caused.  As the economy worsens, however, it seems unlikely that even the poorest segments of Venezuelan society who supported Hugo Chavez and now Maduro will continue to provide that support.

Read More…

Which Countries Are Ready to Deal with Change?

change-readiness-index

Every day on the news we hear about challenges that countries face, ranging from domestic crises to natural disasters. At the same time, we learn about opportunities for advancement created by new technologies and global markets. How ready are countries to absorb negative shocks and capitalize on positive changes? This is the question that KPMG, in cooperation with Oxford Economics, seeks to address through the 2013 Change Readiness Index (CRI).

The index, this year in its second and expanded edition, assesses the ability of 90 countries around the world – from Australia to Afghanistan – to manage change and cultivate opportunity. Based on the analysis of secondary data and primary surveys of over 500 country experts, the index looks at three key elements: enterprise capability, government capability, and people & civil society capability. This data is also accompanied by several case studies that put CRI to the test, looking for instance at the varied capacity of countries to respond to major earthquakes (Haiti, Chile, and Japan).

Read More…