In a recent press conference, Zimbabwe Finance Minister Tendai Biti reported that there was only $217 left in the Zimbabwe government bank accounts. “Last week when we paid civil servants there was $217 [left] in government coffers,” said Biti. He went on to comment that some of the journalists present had healthier financial situations than Zimbabwe.

In an interview with the BBC the following day, Biti commented that the statement was taken out of context. “You journalists are mischievous and malicious – the point I was making was that the Zimbabwean government doesn’t have the funds to finance the election, to finance the referendum,” he said. “To dramatize the point, I simply made a passing reference metaphorically that when we paid civil servants last week on Thursday we were left with $217… but even the following day we had $30 million in our account.” The statement was made to send a message that the government was in a fragile state and unable to finance a referendum on a new constitution and an election. Zimbabwe would need nearly $200 million.

Zimbabwe’s economy had been in steady decline for more than a decade beginning with President Robert Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned farms that further injured the economy. The country had experienced a long history of hyperinflation aimed at addressing the problem of a declining economy. In 2008, inflation had hit 500 billion percent and the country had accrued massive debt. $104 million is now needed to have an election. The national budget for this year is $3.8 billion with a projection of 5% growth in the economy. “The government finances are in a paralysis state at the present moment,” Bitti said. “We are failing to meet our targets.” To address their financial situation, Zimbabwe will be reaching out to the international community for aid.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: Atlantic WireBBCWorld News NBC

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The conflict in Mali is not about terrorism; it is about poverty. Media outlets like to try and make subjects flashy and provocative, so labeling the conflict in Mali solely as a fight with Islamic terrorists makes for better news headlines. The rebellion is bigger than this, and focusing just on these radical Islamists does a disservice to the people of Mali and helps to perpetuate the problem.

The crisis in Mali is rooted in the tensions between a secular movement of ethnic Tuareg people and the central government in Bamako. This particular group of Malian Tuaregs has fought with Bamako for decades, even attempting to establish their own independent state (called “Azawad”). The chief source of the Tuareg animosity toward the government is about a lack of economic opportunity, and lack of assistance from the government for their hardships due to drought and famine. The Tuareg have been marginalized and neglected, so their frustrations have turned more violent.

Tuareg groups have banded together into separatist groups, mainly the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). After the MNLA launched attacks to drive out the Malian army from the northern regions in early 2012, Malian armed forces then overthrew the central government in a coup, angered by Bamako’s failure to suppress the Tuareg rebellion. It was only AFTER this point that radical Islamists were able to co-opt the secular Tuareg rebellion, now turning Mali into a new stage for the “war on terror.” The international impact is the deployment of French and African soldiers into Mali, and their solicitation of added support of American, Canadian and European intelligence, weapons and financing.

“At its core, the current upheaval in Mali—a country that was until very recently one of the most stable African democracies—is not about religious extremism or global terrorism. It is about extreme poverty and an absence of any means to rise above it. Indeed, this could be said about any number of countries that have had vast swaths of territory usurped by militant groups, Islamist or otherwise. We have seen all over the world in recent years that extremism is thriving because large populations of uneducated, poor, frustrated and powerless young men all of a sudden find themselves very powerful once given weapons and a target upon which they can unleash their frustrations,” says journalist Daniel Skallman. He also warns, “If the military forces leading the charge don’t go beyond bombing campaigns and ground assaults—that is, if they don’t stay for the long and arduous haul of helping to rebuild livelihoods after the dust settles—then Mali could very well become Afghanistan 2.0.”

– Mary Purcell

Source: Global Poverty Project

Tourism in Sri Lanka Mount Resort Hotel
The recent developments in the Sri Lankan tourism industry were made with the welfare of the citizens in mind, according to the Sri Lanka government and the Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa. The government wishes to increase tourism to their country to bring in the new revenue and stimulate the economy with outside sources. Other countries have also been using this tactic in order to eradicate poverty.

How does tourism help eradicate poverty? Well, in addition to bringing in money from outside of the country, it also helps the country become more known as a whole and attempts to put the country on the global radar. Rajapaksa says that most of the tourists that have traveled to Sri Lanka enjoy staying in small hotels in the region, which primarily aids small businessmen. This is certainly a positive; rather than giving money to the rich, it helps buffer the country’s inequality and aids those who are actually at risk of poverty. Recently, Rajapaksa opened the Mount Resort Hotel located in Kithulkanda, Meepe. It is a hotel with multiple rooms giving 19 different views of the area. Plus, it is an environment-friendly hotel on a wooded hilltop. The hotel also gives a beautiful view of star observation through a facility provided by the satellite station, Padukka.

The boost to the small businessmen has led to an increase in food production by small-scale entrepreneurs, as well as an increase in the production of clothing and souvenirs that serve to attract foreign visitors. The World Tourism Organisation has predicted that in the next decade, tourism will rise to three times greater than what it is now in Sri Lanka, with tourists coming from countries such as China and Japan.

Overall, tourism has proven to be helping boost the economy of Sri Lanka while it reduces poverty at the same time. This is a model that many other countries with high levels of poverty can replicate in order to help their own economies.

– Corina Balsamo

congressman adam smith

Congressman Adam Smith, a long-time ally for the world’s poor has joined The Borgen Project’s Board of Directors. As Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, Smith is an influential member of the U.S. House of Representatives. With previous posts on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Intelligence Committee, he has traveled to many of the most troubled nations on earth, including Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and throughout Africa. Congressman Adam Smith was first elected to public office at the age of 25 and is only the third person selected to serve as an Honorary Board Member for The Borgen Project.

Congressman Dave Reichert joins Team The Borgen Project
We are proud to announce that Congressman Dave Reichert has joined The Borgen Project’s Board of Directors. Congressman Reichert has been a strong ally for the world’s poor in Congress. In March, he introduced the Newborn, Child and Mother Survival Act and has cosponsored several key bills. Prior to serving in Congress, Reichert was a sheriff and led the Green River Task Force that solved the largest serial murder case in U.S. history.

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Anacortes, Washington
— The hometown of The Borgen Project’s Founder has declared Saturday, December 6th Borgen Project Day. Anacortes is a city of 15,000 people located on Fidalgo Island in the Pacific Northwest. The Mayor and City Council passed a proclamation this month recognizing The Borgen Project‘s work and the role that Anacortes has played in the global movement.