Candidates for Governor of Nakuru, Dr. Francis Kirangi and Lawrence Bomet engage in KAM-hosted economic debates.
While the recent presidential debates in Kenya are being hailed as a success, a newly-created political office could have a decidedly more powerful influence on the lives of Kenya’s 40 million residents: County Governors.
In order to learn about the platforms of candidates for these new positions and ensure that issues critical to the private sector are addressed, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), with CIPE support, is running a series of gubernatorial debates focusing on economic issues.
Examples of some of the informal legal documents used by “extralegal” businesses in the Arab world. (Source: ILD)
On December 17, 2010, police expropriated the equipment and goods of a fruit seller in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. Because of his informal status, the fruit seller had no option of appeal or avenue for official protest. He also had no collateral to secure a loan to buy new equipment, let alone grow his business. With no means of supporting his family of seven, the man now world famous for lighting the first spark of the Arab Spring, Mohammed Bouazizi, committed suicide by self immolation.
Bouazizi’s tragedy stemmed from an affront to his dignity, an absence of justice, and economic disenfranchisement. He was not alone. As the following months unfolded, it became clear just how many businesspersons and citizens across the region shared these same grievances when hundreds of thousands took to the streets to demand political and economic freedom.
Since then over two years have passed and Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans have experienced the unprecedented democratic elections and the chance to choose their own leaders. But free and fair elections, even at their best, are only half the battle.
The Arab Spring uprisings brought about unprecedented opportunity for change and reform to the Middle East and North Africa region. Since then, much has happened: new governments have come to power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. However, with this change numerous challenges have confronted political transitions across the region as nations strive to build institutions, erect new political and legal frameworks, and lay the foundations for economic prosperity. In Yemen, security threats and humanitarian crises have frequently overshadowed the National Dialogue process, which, though marred by challenges such as sectarianism, security threats, and humanitarian concerns, shows great promise for helping to build a better Yemen.
The importance of economic reform was highlighted at an event sponsored by CIPE on January 25, 2013, entitled “Yemen’s Ongoing National Dialogue: Moving Forward” featuring Amat Al Alim Alsoswa, Former Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) & Former Minister of Human Rights for Yemen. Alsoswa emphasized that a successful democratic transition and security in Yemen will only be sustained if Yemeni citizens enjoy greater access to economic opportunities.
The presidential inauguration in Venezuela has come and gone and President Chavez was a no-show, still presumably recuperating from a post-operative respiratory infection after his fourth surgery to “remove malignant cells” from his pelvic area. In reality, little is officially known about his actual medical condition and whether he will ever be able to return and reclaim the presidency. He has not been seen in public since December 11.
Until Wednesday’s decision by the Venezuelan Supreme Court, the lack of information about what would happen on inauguration day left Venezuelans unsettled. Police and military were in the streets of Caracas to fend off any disturbances that might occur.
Unsurprisingly, the court ruled in favor of viewing the inauguration as a formality and saw no legal obstacle to Chavez continuing as head of state for an unspecified period of time. The decision provoked an outcry from opposition forces that claimed a rupture in constitutional democracy in the country. However, former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles accepted the decision calmly, claiming that the opposition “can’t be seen as trying to gain via a technicality what we have yet to achieve via the vote.”
In Serbia, an inflexible and outdated labor code has been a major inhibitor for the competitiveness of domestic companies and, in turn, the Serbian economy as a whole. Reform of this legislation was the focus of a recent event hosted by CIPE partners the Serbian Association of Managers (SAM) and the Center for Liberal Democratic Studies (CLDS) in Belgrade.
The event gathered close to 100 participants from government, private sector, civil society, and media to discuss the key barriers and recommendations for possible solutions for improving labor legislation and reducing red tape.
Moving from a dictatorship to a democracy was not easy for the Philippines. It was a long and painful process due to corruption, doubt, financial issues, distrust of the government, and the absence of rule of law.
More than two decades after the “People Power” movement ousted the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, the Philippines continues to make progress. In the latest Corruption Perceptions Index report for 2012, the country moved up 24 points (to 105th out of 176) from its rank in 2011 (129th out of 183) — a tremendous leap compared to rank improvements in previous years.
CIPE recently had the honor to invite Dr. Jesus Estanislao to speak about economic reform during the Philippines’ transition to democracy. With his professional background and personal experience helping to guide the transition, Dr. Estanislao offers a unique perspective on economic reform and institution building in the Philippines.
Since 1995, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index has been putting corruption on the map by scoring the level of public sector corruption in countries around the world. What can we learn from this report — aside from the fact that corruption remains a widespread problem requiring urgent attention?
The top and bottom countries in this year’s index are no surprise: once again, Denmark, New Zealand, and Finland are tied at the top of the list of cleanest countries, while Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia share the bottom spot as most corrupt. It is interesting to note the geographic, cultural, and economic diversity of the world’s least corrupt countries. They include some of the wealthiest nations, such as Switzerland and Luxembourg; middle-income countries like Uruguay and Chile; small countries like Iceland and Barbados; and large, diverse societies like the United States.
One thing the least corrupt countries have in common: all but one of the countries in the top 20 is a democracy and is currently rated “Free” by Freedom House; Singapore and the territory of Hong Kong, also in the top 20, are rated “Partly Free.” Thirteen of the top 20 also sit in the top 20 on the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking. The bottom-ranked countries on the transparency index are also considered by Freedom House to be the world’s most undemocratic, and, not coincidentally, are difficult places to do business.
Of course, few observers expected Denmark or North Korea to switch positions this year. But the failure of countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen to improve may be more more worrying. In 2011, popular revolts sparked by high levels of corruption (among other factors) led to a change of leadership in each these countries. The mandate for their new, post-Arab Spring regimes was clear: fighting corruption should be a top priority.