Tag Archives: reform

Riinvest Institute Celebrates 20 year Anniversary

Riinvest 20th Anniversary 2

CIPE’s long term partner Riinvest Institute for Development Research is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, Riinvest held a conference on May 15 and 16 titled, “Activating the Sources of Economic Growth in Kosovo”. The conference brought together an impressive audience— the President and the Prime Minister of Kosovo*, the Deputy Minister of Finance, the World Bank Country Manager, other high level public officials, academics, business people, NGO leaders, the donor community, and members of the media.

*Kosovo’s newly-elected Prime Minister, Isa Mustafa, is the former President of Riinvest.

Riinvest leaders presented awards to a number of partners, individuals, and organizations who have supported the organization since its inception. CIPE had the honor of being presented the first two awards, one for Executive Director John Sullivan and one for the organization as a whole. CIPE Senior Consultant Carmen Stanila kindly received both awards on behalf of John and the organization.

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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).

Maximum Wage in Egypt: Who Pays the Bill?

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Photo: Muhammad Mansour

Hiba Safi is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

This post originally appeared on the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy blog

Over the course of the past several months, a revolt has taken place in Egypt’s banking sector. Seeking better opportunities and higher salaries in private sector banking jobs, hundreds of banking officials have resigned in protest since July 2014 legislation placed a cap on salaries for employees in Egypt’s public sector. While most public servants had little cause for concern, the law also applies to those working in state-owned companies. Suddenly executives at Egypt’s many state-owned banks would earn a maximum monthly wage of 42,000 Egyptian pounds (roughly US$6,000)—a mere fraction of their earning potential.

Former Minister of Finance Samir Radwan has spoken out against the implementation of a maximum wage, stressing that such an approach deprives public servants of their rights and does not meet demands for social justice. On February 17, a Cairo administrative court sided with workers from the Housing and Development Bank and the Export Development Bank of Egypt, ruling the maximum wage law to be unconstitutional. Tasked with fulfilling revolutionary calls for social justice and repairing an Egyptian economy on the ropes since the January 2011 uprising, President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi’s decision to cap a maximum wage at “no more than the president earns” aims to promote equality and social justice, halt the growth of income inequality, and bolster the middle class. But the actual impact of a maximum wage merits more consideration: Should there be a maximum wage in Egypt? Would the economy really be better off after capping earnings, particularly given the landscape of public and private ownership of many key sectors in the Egyptian economy?

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Politics – a Family Business?

President Benigno Aquino III with "Team PNoy" candidates (Photo: Yahoo)

President Benigno Aquino III with “Team PNoy” candidates (Photo: Yahoo)

The recent mid-term elections in the Philippines brought both change and continuity. At stake were 12 of the 24 senate seats, 229 district seats in the House of Representatives, and more than 18,000 local posts, including mayors and governors. President Benigno S. Aquino III and his political allies, Team PNoy, gained important wins, notably in the Senate. This augurs well for the advancement of the President’s anti-corruption and economic growth program of the “straight path” or “tuwid na daan.” Many credit these policies for the March upgrade of the country’s sovereign borrower rating to an investment grade by Fitch for the first time in history. But is the top-level commitment to make government more effective through good governance and economic reforms enough to affect change on the ground? The peculiar kind of continuity in Philippine politics poses that question.

The election results indicate that, as in the past, the biggest winners were the political dynasties and their often questionable tactics involving “guns, goons, gold, and glitter” to mobilize voters. There were, however, some significant upsets by candidates who ran on a good governance platform and won against entrenched political dynasties. Leni Robredo’s win of the congressional seat in Naga City ended the 35 year reign of the Villafuertes family, and Rolen Paulino’s mayoral win against Anne Marie Gordon in Olongapo City ended the quarter-century rule of the Gordon family. But many other dynasties still continue to dominate.

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The Serbian Experience in Transition

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One of the most famous opening lines in all of literature comes from the great Russian novel Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” With that, Tolstoy encapsulates a simple truth: dysfunction takes myriad forms. That’s not to say that one cannot learn from another’s experience. Indeed, some of the most important lessons can come from those who have already tried and failed. Experience is singular, but patterns can illuminate.

It is in that same spirit that Boris Begović writes the latest Economic Reform Feature Service article, which offers Serbia’s lessons in democratic transition to countries currently in flux. Dr. Begović, a longtime CIPE partner who was a chief economic adviser to the federal government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for 15 months during 2000-2002, examines the approaches that worked for Serbia—and those that didn’t. Read the full text of The Serbian Experience in Transition.

Stop Tinkering and Start Integrating

Chicago_Downtown_Aerial_View

We continue to suffer profound institutional gaps on the local, national and international levels – especially in the areas of property rights, access to credit and effective governance. I attended the CIPE Democracy that Delivers for Entrepreneurs conference in Chicago on April 9-10 and shared views with thought leaders from Egypt, Kenya, Lebanon, Pakistan, the Philippines and Venezuela. While it may seem that citizens in such developing economies suffer more from institutional paralysis, the pain felt by the local start-up dealing with banks, bureaucracy and back room deals is just as real and just as prevalent on the south and west sides of Chicago.

Organizations decline when leaders and workers focus on function rather than mission. Across the wide spectrum of our global community, too many have lost sight of the core principles that make democracy work, including the right to associate economically, the right to own and finance property, and the right to have government work for everyone, not just the connected elite. The only way to dislodge this entrenched bureaucracy is to make noise – to make our voices heard. We have to demand that government at every level stop tinkering with half-measures and start integrating new thought, new technologies, and the next generation into our institutions.

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How Does Inclusive Economic Growth Support Democratic Participation?

Participants at the workshop on economic and social inclusion, with moderator Jean Rogers (center). (Photo: Staff)

Social and economic inclusion have become priority themes in ensuring that democracy delivers for all. On October 16, CIPE organized a workshop on economic inclusion at the Lima Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy to explore possible routes to inclusion and the implications for giving a voice to excluded populations.

The first presenter, Selima Ahmad, founder of the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that in Bangladesh entrepreneurship has given women a voice. Women entrepreneurs have gained the ability to make decisions within the family, and men are even joining their wives’ businesses. The women’s chamber advocated successfully for women entrepreneurs to be able to get loans without collateral. Members of the chamber who have done well now create jobs and provide help to other micro entrepreneurs.

In Peru, entrepreneurship provides the only route to move up in life for many who lack formal education. Daniel Cordova, president of Instituto Invertir, described the EmprendeAhora program, which educates young Peruvians under age 25 on democratic and market concepts. This program engages youth by addressing their personal and professional interests. The key to the success of the program is giving them a concrete, entrepreneurial activity, such as starting a business or a non-governmental organization.

Osama Mourad from Egypt, CEO of Arab Finance, noted that the Arab people protested for the sake of their freedom and dignity. However, an economically empowered citizen is a citizen who cares about the future of his country. The revolution in Egypt made people feel empowered to determine their own future and to start businesses. Key issues for them are access to capital—which can be provided effectively through cooperative associations; reform of bankruptcy laws; and non-financial services.

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