Information and news about corruption

Corruption in Indonesia
Corruption in Indonesia is present in all three branches of parliament and private business. According to a study conducted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), less than half of the respondents trust the local government, police and private sector. Transparency International identified decentralized decision-making, ambiguous legislation and a weak judicial system as main sources of corruption in Indonesia. Here are 10 facts about corruption in Indonesia.

10 Facts About Corruption in Indonesia

  1. Forbes named the former President of Indonesia one of “the world’s all-time most corrupt leaders.” Mohamed Suharto was President for 31 years in the 20th century. Throughout his reign, others suspect that he embezzled between $15 and 35 billion.
  2. One out of seven citizens pays a bribe for utilities. Bureaucratic corruption increases the average cost of living, which disproportionally impacts the country’s poor. Bribery costs add an additional fee to fundamental health care, education and sanitation services, thus increasing the overall costs and access to these systems. Further, corruption in Indonesia distorts the distribution of government spending and therefore hinders the development of important public projects such as increasing access to clean water.
  3. Approximately thirty percent of firms have suffered extortion while conducting business in Indonesia. Further, several of these firms (13.6 percent) identify corruption in Indonesia as a major obstacle. For firms often have to pay bribes or give gifts to acquire licenses, permits or contracts in order to conduct business. Corruption in Indonesia is a business norm where companies include gifts in total costs.
  4. In the 2019 elections, Parliament member, Bowo Sidik Pangaroso, attempted to buy votes for reelection. Authorities found more than 400,000 envelopes filled with cash in his basement just weeks before the election. Both vote-buying and candidacy-buying are common forms of corruption in Indonesia. The Charta Politika agency surveyed three constituencies about money politics and found that on average, 49.3 percent of voters supported cash and gratuitous handouts.
  5. Eighty-nine percent of corruption in Indonesia occurs at the local level. After the election of President Suharto, the country started to shift from authoritarian rule towards democracy. Suharto’s first step to democratization was the decentralization of the Indonesian government. However, the lack of accountability for local governments created an environment that fostered corruption. For example, inadequate oversight in the forestry sector cost the government $4 billion per year from illegal logging.
  6. Corruption is expensive. Last year, corruption in Indonesia cost the government $401.45 million. This cost is $55.4 million less than in 2017.
  7. The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranks Indonesia 89. Using Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Indonesia ranked number 89 out of 180 countries with a score of 38/100 in 2018. This is significantly better than its rank and score of 118/180 and 32/100, respectively, in 2012.
  8. Many attribute more recent success in reducing corruption to President Joko Widodo, more commonly known as Jokowi. Indonesia elected Jokowi in 2014 on an anti-corruption platform. He simplified regulations for businesses to attract foreign investment. For instance, Jokowi signed Presidential Decree No. 20/2018 to simplify and accelerate the process of acquiring a work permit for expatriate workers by 34 working days.
  9. Indonesia has an organization dedicated to eliminating government corruption called the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK). This corruption eradication commission formed in 2002 as an independent organization in charge of investigating and prosecuting high-profile corruption cases. In 2016, it reported a 100 percent conviction rate and recovered approximately $35 million in state assets.
  10. The new generation has zero-tolerance for corruption in Indonesia. A group of students in Indonesia held their school accountable for corruption. The school was profiting from money that it received to go towards nonexistent construction projects. When student organizer Darmawan Bakrie and his friends realized the injustice, they established the Save our School campaign. Despite threats and warnings from the school, students and parents worked together and succeeded in holding the school accountable. The local mayor saw the campaign in the news over the course of three months and removed and transferred (but did not fire) the guilty officials from their positions and held them liable for the money they stole.

Corruption in Indonesia holds deep roots in its democracy, but the future looks bright with the Save Our School campaign as just one example. Many participants (58.5 percent) of the CSIS study believe that the Indonesian government is honest in its desire to eliminate corruption.

The central government and anti-corruption organizations work on a day-to-day basis to hold individuals accountable for their actions, but they still have a long way to go. If successful, anti-corruption practices can decrease inequalities, create foreign business opportunities and decrease national poverty levels.

– Haley Myers
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Corruption in HungaryAfter several subsequent electoral successes, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party have been accused of corrupt activity by the European Union and opposition parties in Hungary. Today, Hungary is ranked as 64 out of 180 countries in terms of corruption, ranking it “among the most corrupt Member States” in the EU. In the text below are 10 facts about corruption in Hungary.

10 Facts About Corruption in Hungary

  1. Orbán, along with the Christian Democratic People’s Party, holds a super-majority of 66 percent in Parliament, which allows them to amend the country’s constitution. To date, several amendments have passed that cement the power of Fidesz. Most notably, changes made to the electoral process reduce the chances of opposition parties winning seats. A new amendment modified the process so that 93 of the 199 seats are awarded proportionally based on the percentage of votes a party receives in the national election. The remaining 106 seats are won by receiving a plurality of votes in a local election, meaning that Fidesz can get 40 percent of the vote and still win the seat. Because opposition parties are divided, it is difficult for them to win these local elections.
  2. In March, the European People’s Party discussed suspending the Fidesz party from its bloc in the European Parliament amidst corruption allegations. This is not the first time that Orbán has been threatened with expulsion. However, no actions were taken at that time.
  3. Hungary regularly engages in unannounced “negotiated procedures,” which allow the government to strike a deal without going through an open competition. This has led some to accuse the government of mishandling EU funds. The 2014-2020 EU budget allocates €28 billion to Hungary, but critics worry that much of it will end up in the hands of Orbán’s family, friends and party loyalists. Adding to their concern, the prime minister’s office has sole authority in determining disbursement of funds. Elios Innovatív, owned by Orbán’s son-in-law István Tiborcz, had won a €40 million contract with the government in 2015. Lőrinc Mészáros, a longtime political ally of Orbán’s, has seen his wealth triple since Orbán’s election. He has become the second richest man in Hungary, owning 203 companies and receiving 83 percent of his companies’ profits from EU funds.
  4. From 2013 to 2019, Hungary’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index dropped from 56 to 87 in the world. The dramatic shift occurred when 476 private media companies simultaneously transferred ownership, without compensation, to the Central European Press and Media Foundation. Allies of the Prime Minister head the company, including István Varga, a former Fidesz member of Parliament, and István Bajkai, Orbán’s personal lawyer.
  5. The Fidesz Party declined to sign an agreement that would allow Central European University (CEU) to remain in Budapest. The university will now be forced to move its campus to Austria. CEU has several anti-corruption research arms, including the Anti-Corruption Research Group and the Center for Integrity in Business and Government. At multiple points, their reports were critical of the Fidesz government and accused it of corrupt activity. For example, one CEU research report wrote that the party engaged in “a constitutional coup d’état against an established democracy.”
  6. Through gerrymandering, Fidesz effectively limits opposition party participation. Gerrymandering ensures victory in what would otherwise be competitive districts. One study found that an opposition party needs to receive around 300,000 more votes than the Fidesz party needs in order to win a majority in the parliament.
  7. A 2016 poll reported that two-thirds of Hungarians regard their government as corrupt with 60 percent believing that corruption in Hungary goes to the top levels of government, including Orbán. This reflects a strong need for change, but the power accumulated through corruption has allowed Fidesz to continue to govern.
  8. Amid growing corruption concerns, an opposition politician named Akos Hadhazy gathered 680,000 signatures demanding that Hungary join the EU’s new anti-corruption arm, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. Hadhazy specifies many of these 10 facts about corruption in Hungary, but he is especially concerned about the use of EU funds. Thus far, Fidesz refuses to join, citing concerns about overreach from Brussels. Hadhazy said, “Now it’s up to EU institutions to increase pressure on the Hungarian government unless they want European taxpayers to finance a regime that openly works against the EU.”
  9. Transparency International Hungary (TIH), an anti-corruption NGO, considers young people to be essential to combating corruption. According to TIH, 90 percent of Hungarians ages 15-29 believe that corruption is present in their politics. However, they also find that only 25 percent of young people believe that reporting government corruption will be taken seriously. TIH hopes to mobilize the youth in their fight against corruption.
  10. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee provides free legal assistance to detainees, victims of police brutality and jailed protestors or activists. The group helped more than 1,400 people in 2018. From 2008 to 2018, it trained more than 4,000 lawyers, judges and states officers. The NGO describes itself as “one of the few remaining voices that publicly oppose attacks on civil society and the further democratic backsliding of Hungary.” Hungarian tax laws allow its citizens to donate 1 percent of their income tax to a nonprofit of their choosing. NGOs, including the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, encourage donations in order to continue their work. Through this, Hungarians may express their support for organizations working to combat corruption in their country.

According to the World Bank, Hungary has a poverty rate of about 15 percent, meaning almost 1.5 million Hungarians live in poverty. These 10 facts about corruption in Hungary threaten academia, the media, NGOs and several democratic institutions. This, in turn, threatens the well-being of Hungarian civil society, which is trying its best to create a more equitable and just Hungary.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Armenia

Armenia, a country nestled in the mountainous region between Asia and Europe, has faced many devastating blows in its colorful past and is, unfortunately, still dealing with the aftermath. Ever since the election of Nikol Pashinyan as Prime Minister in 2018, the country of Armenia has experienced an exorbitant amount of welcome change. However, recovering from years of corruption is not something that can happen overnight or at the hand of just one man.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Armenia

  1. Riddled with dilapidated buildings, Armenia is still recovering from a 1988 earthquake. More than 30 years have passed, and the 517,000 people left homeless have had to live in dorms or single rooms. Many buildings do not have heating or cooling systems, so residents rely on burning wood as their source of heat. Over 50 percent of apartment buildings are due for renovations that will make them more earthquake resistant and energy efficient. Since 2015, Habitat for Humanity has provided housing to 4,323 families who would otherwise be homeless or living in broken-down buildings.
  2. Though there is a vast supply of natural water due to Armenia’s location in a mountainous region, the country has not yet achieved unlimited access to tap water, though about 99 percent of the population now have running water for twenty-one hours a day (formerly it was six hours). Companies like Veolia, which also deals with Armenia’s wastewater treatment, are responsible for the improvements in water accessibility and cleanliness.
  3. Attempts to improve health care brought about the Basic Benefits Package, which Armenia introduced in 1999. Under this package, Armenians are supposed to have access to state-funded health care services. However, the state pays out so little that patients end up having to pay out-of-pocket for services. Due to lack of funding, many people rely on home remedies or wait to see if symptoms pass before seeking out a medical professional.
  4. Educating the population about the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases has also become a priority. In 2004, the Center of Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Infections, along with IntraHealth International, taught a course about the management of STIs for obstetrician-gynecologists and STI specialists. Since 2010, new HIV infections have decreased by 31 percent.
  5. Students have access to free schooling. While instruction is mainly in Armenian, schools teach English as a second language. The main public universities are Yerevan State University and the Yerevan Architecture and Civil Engineering Institute, whereas the American University of Armenia is a private university.
  6. Services for students with special needs are limited, so UNICEF is working to provide an inclusive early childhood education to all children, making sure to train school staff to accommodate those with special needs.
  7. The average monthly salary is 55,000 Dram, which is roughly $115 USD. In March 2018, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia was drafting a new labor law to allow for open communication between employees and employers to discuss working conditions and overtime hours. The new law would also encourage the involvement of trade unions in negotiations.
  8. Armenia is one of many countries who participate in compulsory military service. Armenia drafts Armenian men to the army for two years when they turn 18. However, those pursuing higher education may defer their service until obtaining their Bachelor’s degree, at which point the government would require them to serve for three years. Many students complain that the required military service interrupts their education, making it difficult to return to school after this mandatory hiatus.
  9. Most Armenians welcomed Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan with open arms because he made them feel hopeful about their future. After his election, he pled with his people to join him in protecting their country, “We’re waiting for everybody! This is a new Armenia, where we do not shy away from military service, from where we do not emigrate, where we return – to incur their share of duty and duty for the sake of the future of Armenia.” Because of the trust they had placed in him, 320 citizens returned to serve in the army, 156 of which had previously evaded service.
  10. Upon election, Pashinyan called for the arrest of many corrupt government officials and filled the open positions with members who intend to drive Armenia forward. In addition, the government audited several businesses that had been working closely with the previous Republican Party.

With its history of corruption, Armenia was struggling to thrive in its war against poverty. Bearing in mind that it has only been a year since Pashinyan’s election, one cannot expect instantaneous improvements. However, these 10 facts about living conditions in Armenia point to positive changes in the future of its people.

– Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Corruption in AfghanistanAfghanistan is currently one of the poorest countries in the world with nearly 40 percent of the Afghan population living in poverty. Afghanistan is also one of the most politically corrupt countries in the world. In 2018, The anti-corruption organization Transparency International ranked Afghanistan an index score of 16/100 for its high levels of corruption. Over the past several decades, political corruption in Afghanistan has destabilized the country and contributed to its poverty problem.

USAID has always believed that political corruption and poverty are an interlinked problem because political corruption has a tendency to aggravate the symptoms of poverty in countries with struggling economic growth and political transition. Conversely, the social and economic inequalities that are found in impoverished countries are known to create systemic corruption.

The Scope of Contemporary Corruption in Afghanistan

The destabilizing effects of political corruption on Afghanistan cannot be underestimated. According to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a U.S. government agency tasked with the reconstruction of Afghanistan, corruption has been a major obstacle in the political, economic and cultural reconstruction of Afghanistan. The Asia Foundation has identified more than 70 forms of corruption currently within Afghanistan that cross a wide range of institutions, including international aid and public administration.

Two of the most common forms of corruption in Afghanistan are nepotism and bribery. Many of the basic public services provided by the government are only obtainable through the payment of bribes, which has caused severe distress to Afghan citizens. Afghanistan’s economic growth has been severely damaged by the reliance on bribes to pay for public services. Nepotism and patronage have made it difficult for honest people without connections to rise within the political system and have given impunity to corrupt officials.

Afghan Awareness and Perceptions of Corruption

Unfortunately, many Afghans believe certain forms of corruption are inevitable and, in certain cases, a legitimate form of political life. When surveyed in 2012, at least 30 percent believed that most forms of bribery were acceptable. This type of attitude towards political corruption can make efforts to reduce or eradicate corruption more difficult.

Nevertheless, the Afghan people have not been completely culturally ingrained with political corruption, and there are many who still criticize corruption in Afghanistan. Most Afghans have consistently stated in several polls that corruption is a serious problem that their country is facing. A study from the Asia Foundation has shown that most Afghans believe that political corruption was more severe during and after Karzai then it had been under several past regimes.

Anti-Corruption Efforts

In 2014, President Ashraf Ghani was elected into executive office in Afghanistan. He has shown a remarkable commitment to developing and implementing strategies to decrease corruption and stabilize the country. Following his election in 2014, his first course of action was to not only dismiss several corrupt heads and directors of certain departments but also charge them with corruption, marking a major change from his predecessor Karzai.

In 2017, Afghanistan’s National Strategy for Combating Corruption (Anti-Corruption Strategy) was adopted by Afghanistan’s High Council and was developed under the supervision of President Ghani. The Strategy consists of 6 pillars outlining the course of action to be taken against corruption. This strategy was based on a comprehensive analysis of the causes and drivers of corruption and provides realistic goals that make it relatively easy to implement. Some of the pillars are designed to address nepotism (pillar 3) and money tracking (pillar 5).

The Ghani administration introduced new legislation in 2017 and 2018 to reduce and prevent corruption. The laws have been limited to a certain extent due to extenuating circumstances; however, they have had a certain level of success. The most notable success in the prosecution of corruption with this new legislation has been the adoption of a new Penal Code. This new Penal Code was the first to incorporate financial and corruption laws into its criminal provisions, making it a major achievement for the Afghanistan legal system.

Corruption Is Declining

While corruption is still pervasive in Afghanistan, these efforts have demonstrated some progress. Within the Transparency International Index, Afghanistan’s CPI score has steadily grown from 11 in 2015 to 16 in 2018, which is one of the largest increases any country has experienced in this amount of time. The introduction of new legislation and the adoption of the Anti-Corruption Strategy can provide a solid foundation to stabilize Afghanistan and reform its political system from corruption.

The government, under Ghani, has already taken the first steps in decreasing the significant level of corruption in Afghanistan throughout the country by implementing these strategies and laws. While progress may be slow, it appears that under President Ghani, Afghanistan may be on its way to political stabilization, allowing it to provide better public services and alleviate poverty within the country.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

Failed statesA country is considered a ‘failed state’ when it cannot control its territory and population as well as when fails to secure its borders. A failed state has barely functioning executive, legislative and judicial institutions, which in turn, breeds corruption since the honest economic activity is not rewarded by the state. Here are 10 facts about failed states.

10 Facts About Failed States

  1. Throughout history, civil wars, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations have led to states losing the capacity to regulate and control themselves. When a state loses the capacity to implement policies throughout the country, when it cannot establish public order and equity, and when the government cannot assure the independence of institutions, instability and insecurity reign.

  2. North Korea is often called the ‘hermit kingdom’ due to its isolated nature. The country frequently receives low scores on its legitimacy of state. Aid organizations estimate that around 2 million people have died from food shortages since the mid-1990s. Part of this can be traced back to the economic institutions that prohibit people from owning property as the state collectively owns most land and capital.

  3. Another sign of a faile state is forced labor. In Uzbekistan, students are forced to pick cotton, one of Uzbekistan’s biggest exports. In September, while teachers are relegated to the role of labor recruiters. The children are given quotas of between 20 and 60 kilograms, which varies according to their age. Thus, the children are unable to break out of the cycle of poverty due to their lack of learning.

  4. Syria can be considered a failed state as it is experiencing a civil war that has claimed 100,000 lives and has no end in sight. The country receives an extremely low score for security apparatus, according to Foreign Policy magazine’s annual metric data.

  5. Egypt’s elite is monopolizing the economy to block the entry of new competitors. Under Hosni Mubarak, the military and government own large portions of the economy. According to some estimates, they collectively own up to 40 percent. Even after liberalization, the economy was privatized into the hands of Mubarak’s friends and sons’ companies. Big businesses put a stranglehold on the economy while Mubarak’s family accumulated an estimated $70 billion fortune.

  6. In most failed states, it is typical for the regime and its leaders to prey on its constituents. The regime tends to be motivated by ethnic or intercommunal hostility or even the insecurities of the elite, which lead to the victimization of their citizens or a subset demographic which is deemed ‘hostile.’ This is the case in Mobutu Seke Soso’s Zaire, where the ruling elite oppress and extort the majority of citizens while expressing preferential treatment for a specific sect or clan.

  7. Failed states can often be identified by weak infrastructure. As the rulers or ruling class becomes more and more corrupt, there are often fewer capital resources available for road crews, equipment and raw materials. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, refurbishing navigational aids along aerial waterways was not prioritized.

  8. In order to have a successful economy, a country must have a strong, centralized nation-state. Without this, it becomes exceedingly difficult to provide law and order as mechanisms to solve disputes and provide basic public goods. Somalia exemplifies this failure to exercise control over territories beyond its capital. This can be attributed to the traditional social structure in Somalia where clans made decisions according to the adult males as opposed to adhering to a central authority figure. This persisted in the colonial era and into the modern day with Mohammed Siad Barre’s dictatorship failing to change it.

  9. An economy based on extreme extraction breeds political instability as it incentivizes the non-elites to depose the ruling class and take over. In Sierra Leone, Siaka Stevens and his All People’s Congress (APC) party ran the country from 1967 to 1985 as a dictatorship until he handed control to his protege Joseph Momoh. This invited would-be strongmen such as Foday Sankoh to plunge the country into a vicious civil war in 1991. He was only interested in power in order to steal diamonds. The government revenue went from 15 percent of national income to essentially zero in 1991.

  10. Corruption flourishes on a governmental, nationwide level. Examples include benefitting from anything that can be put to fake tender (medical supplies, bridges, roads, textbooks), wasteful construction projects and licenses for non-existent activities. The corrupt ruling elites mostly invest their ill-gotten money overseas, which worsens the economic situation domestically. Military officers too are guilty of profiting off these corrupt regimes.

In an earlier era where the world was less connected and globalized, it might have been possible to isolate the effects of a failed state from the others. However, in the connected state of today’s global economy and political system, the failures of one state poses grave threats to the security of others. These 10 facts about failed states shed a little more light on sign to look out for when identifying states that have failed or are going in that direction.

Maneesha Khalae

Photo: Flickr

New law hopes to attract new business to Angola
The future is bright for business in Angola. A new president and a new law are set to open the doors for foreign investment and more opportunities for the people in the country.

The country recently passed a new Private Investment Law. This Angola business law is set to attract lucrative businesses to the nation.

Angola Business Law

The unanimously passed Private Investment Law opens Angola’s doors to foreign investment that had previously been impeded by difficult requirements and country’s bad reputation.

The old law mandated that any foreign investor that partners with a local company or natural person has to have at least a 35 percent stake in the proposed business or investment. This requirement was intended to help Angolans partner with foreigners but turned out to be a restrictive factor for carrying out investments in the country.

To help aid international business, the new Angola business law removes the minimum amount of investment. Foreigners can now invest in Angola without paying in the hefty $1 million minimum, which was also one big barrier. The law also requires that foreign investors hire Angolan workers and provide a discrimination-free environment with good salaries, job training and a healthy environment.

The Work Behind the Law

The new Angola business law is all part of President Joao Lourenco’s plan for developing the country as an economic miracle.

After being elected and ousting former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power for nearly four decades, Lourenco promised to attract foreign investment. In recent years, the country has struggled due to its lack of a diversified economy. The country heavily relies on selling crude oil externally, as oil accounts for more than 90 percent of all exports.

Ever since a decrease in oil prices, Angola has struggled to remain competitive. The new law makes business more open to foreigners and will ideally attract new businesses that can hire Angolans and bring capital to Angola’s economy.

The Fight Against Corruption

Lourenco ran his campaign on the promise of fighting corruption within Angola’s government, but he is also very committed to helping business thrive in his country.

“We are very committed to removing a major obstacle to doing business in Angola, which is the so-called phenomenon of corruption,” he told in an interview with Euronews. “So, this is a struggle that is difficult, it will take some time but we are prepared to face this giant problem of corruption and we are sure that we will win.”

By opening his country for foreign business and tackling barriers, he encourages large corruptions and wealthy investors to consider Angola.

Chairman and CEO of ABO Capital, Zandre Campos, is particularly encouraged by the law. He stated that the future is bright for Angola’s economy and its investment opportunities. All of the elements included in the law can greatly contribute to the growth of businesses, research, and trade, which is crucial for the country.

The world should watch Angola in the coming months to see if this law attracts foreign business and helps the nation build its economy. If nothing else, parliament’s nonpartisan stand and President Lourenco’s work thus far are very encouraging for the country.

With the new Angola business law, the future looks bright for Angola’s economy and workers.

– Sarah Stanley

Photo: Flickr

South Africa corruptionSouth African corruption is widespread, affecting educational sectors and police, and non-enforcement of anti-corruption laws. Corruption disadvantages citizens and hurts the poor in particular. Some efforts are being made to fight corruption as a few perpetrators are currently being prosecuted and a new government is vowing to fight corruption. In the text below, 10 facts about corruption in this country are presented.

10 Facts about South African Corruption

  1. The inspiration for the fight against corruption comes from the past and past policies in particular. The policies of Nelson Mandela can serve as great examples, as he instituted corruption investigation programs, starting from sports such as rugby all the way up to the government. Additionally, in 2001 Mandela warned of the growing corruption in the post-apartheid government and urged South Africa’s African National Congress to watch for racism and corruption in its own ranks.
  2. Citizens care about stopping corruption. In South Africa, the proportion of people who think that tackling corruption should be a national priority almost doubled between 2006 and 2011, from 14 percent to 26 percent, respectively. This indicates that the South African people want reform and changes within their government.
  3. Bribes are not the main problem but diverting public funds to the private sector is. While bribery between individuals is not as common as in other countries, the major sort of South African corruption occurs with the usage of funds and tax dollars in the private sector. This means that while corruption is often harder to identify, the source of the problem can be found and divergence of funds stopped by using already existing anti-corruption forces.
  4. Former President Jacob Zuma is currently being investigated. Although Zuma is not yet being persecuted for bribery and corruption, in August 2018, a public investigation of the top tier of the president’s government started. According to the State of Capture report released by South Africa’s anti-graft body, the Gupta business family may have used their money to influence Zuma’s choice of minister.
  5. The Gupta family is suspected of offering millions for certain appointments. In 2015, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas was offered about $41 million by businessman Ajay Gupta as an incentive to become finance minister.
  6. The Gupta family has had their assets seized. The Guptas consist of three Indian brothers who built a business empire using their ties to President Jacob Zuma and his allies. Recently, they had over $21 million at their Johannesburg residence seized after an investigation into corruption in a dairy farming operation. This money was intended as an aid for poor dairy farmers, but instead, the money went to one of the Gupta brothers and some of their associates. This is the first big result of the investigation in corruption and shows that it is possible to expect real charges and consequences for the actions of criminal offenders.
  7. Corruption stems from post-apartheid conditions. After dismantling the racially segregated apartheid system in the 1990s, hopes were alive that opportunity would increase and corruption decrease. The ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), has instead been accused in many cases of corruption.
  8. Many watchdog organizations are taking action in South African corruption. For people living in South Africa, several organizations provide protection. The Public Protector allows anyone to report corruption and carries out the investigation into constitutional violations. Additionally, the Open Democracy Advice Centre advocates for legislation that would increase government transparency.
  9. Education programs can be implemented. In addition to the organizations fighting corruption, current leaders are looking towards the future. In the past, black Africans have been disadvantaged in schooling and corruption has begun at the lowest level, but as new generations emerge, the focus must be on creating a new culture of responsibility for the people.
  10. The new president has vowed to clean up corruption. In his State of the Union of February 2018, the newly elected President Cyril Ramaphosa promised to “turn the tide of corruption” within South Africa. While he has kept some previous appointees from Zuma’s government, his term indicates steps towards improving the corruption in South Africa.

While the struggles against corruption in South Africa are far from finished, the future promises changes. With citizens who care about ending corruption and holding officials responsible for their actions, South Africans have a great opportunity to improve the quality of life in their country.

– Grace Gay
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in KazakhstanKazakhstan, a country of 18 million inhabitants located between Russia and China, has been battling poverty since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The following top 10 facts about poverty in Kazakhstan show that despite the country’s independent economy being so young, there is a lot to be hopeful for about the future of the Kazakh economy.

This hope, in turn, leads to more programs and opportunities that help to alleviate poverty; however, Kazakhstan’s economic infrastructure still remains a somewhat volatile environment — despite booming energy and agricultural industries — due to corruption and over-dependence on global energy markets.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Kazakhstan

  1. Kazakhstan has a large agriculture market and is the sixth largest wheat producer in the world. The agriculture industry employs nearly 18 percent of the nation’s working population but only yields between 5-7 percent of their GDP. Nearly 80 percent of cultivation is done with machinery near the end of its lifecycle — local production of tractors, combines and other farm machinery are mostly non-existent, causing a large tab for importing expensive farming equipment mostly from Russia. This low return on investment (ROI) for Kazakh farmers leaves little to pay a significant percentage of its workforce; this lack can then leaves employees in the agricultural industry near or below the poverty line.
  2. Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Agriculture launched a $158 million initiative to establish cooperatives to support small to medium-sized farms. These coops aim to help offset the low ROI for small, rural farmers by helping with buying new machinery, storage and transport products, veterinary services and other business costs.
  3. Kazakhstan is the world’s third largest producer of oil. Oil sales account for roughly a quarter of Kazakhstan’s GDP and about 60 percent of its total exports. The nation also has massive reserves of natural gas, coal and uranium. Astana, Kazakhstan was host city to EXPO 2017 for Future Energies. Due to Kazakhstan’s over-dependence on sales of oil and material reserves, its economy is still largely at the mercy of worldwide energy prices. The sharp decline of oil prices in 2014 had such a widespread effect on the Kazakh economy that its currency — tenge — was devalued by 23 percent by 2015.
  4. Chevron invested $36.8 billion for an expansion to Kazakhstan’s Tengiz oil field. The massive Kashagan field also began production in October 2016 after years of delays and $55 billion in development costs. Kazakhstan had a 10.5 percent increase in oil production in 2017, helping the economy climb back after the spike in oil prices in 2014.
  5. The poverty rate in Kazakhstan is actually quite low. Those living below the $1.90/day rate in Kazakhstan was estimated to be 2.6 percent in 2016, and the unemployment rate was estimated to be 5 percent in 2017, according to the CIA World Fact Book. These numbers, though promising, are quite deceptive. Kazakhstan’s annual income per capita in 2017 was only $3,010, which equals about $8.25 per day.
  6. Corruption is rampant in Kazakhstan. Companies cite corruption as being the number one constraint for doing business in Kazakhstan, according to a 2016 GAN Business Anti-Corruption report. Earlier this year, former Kazakh Economy Minister, Kuandyk Bishimbayev, was sentenced to 10 years on corruption charges. This comes just three years after a case was brought against 21 Kazakh public officials on corruption-related charges.
  7. Kazakhstan suffers from a complex form of regional poverty disparity. Since Kazakhstan is quite young, the government is still underdeveloped in rural areas. The U.N. is working with Kazakhstan to address this phenomenon. Developing infrastructure and education opportunities in poor, rural areas is just a few examples of how they are addressing the problem.
  8. Kazakhstan has achieved nearly 100 percent literacy rate. Kazakhstan has an estimated 99.8 percent literacy rate and a school life expectancy (the total number of years a student can expect to go to school) of 15 years — from primary schools to tertiary educations (such as universities) and trade schools. Kazakhstan currently has a $67 million loan from the World Bank Group for modernizing education. The objectives of this loan are to improve curricular standards, increase learning outcomes in rural and disadvantaged schools and increase citizen engagement.
  9. The World Economic Forum ranked Kazakhstan 57th out of 144 countries in its 2017 Global Competitiveness Rankings. This ranking represents a falling of four spots from the previous report. The cause of this decline in ranking, and the “most problematic factors for doing business” with Kazakhstan, according to the report, include lack of access to funding, corruption and an inadequately educated workforce.
  10. Kazakhstan has a thriving NGO sector. One such NGO is Wonder Foundation, based out of the U.K. Wonder is a charity dedicated to helping girls, women and their families access education and support needed to defeat poverty. The organization is currently working on helping young women gain access to skills, educations and rights in Almaty and the surrounding area.

A Young, But Mighty Nation 

These top 10 facts about poverty in Kazakhstan prove that poverty is not an insurmountable problem for the Central Asian state. The country’s GDP is steadily climbing while the nation works to be a major player in the oil and raw materials markets.

Kazakhstan also works to diversify their trading portfolio, enacting state programs to bolster secondary industries in the country and improve working and living conditions for their residents.

Economic sustainability is a slow and steady process, and Kazakhstan is heading in the right direction. At just 27 years old, these top 10 facts about poverty in Kazakhstan are indicative of a young country that has the potential to be at the forefront of world oil and agriculture markets and, someday, a significant participant in the global economy.

– Nicholas Hodges
Photo: Flickr


Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Despite its abundance of valuable natural resources, including copper and oil, as well as a picturesque landscape that once drew wealthy tourists from around the world, The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been plagued by political instability, leaving the Congolese people struggling to survive. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in The Democratic Republic of Congo

  1. Since acquiring the presidency following his father’s assassination in 2001, Joseph Kabila has followed the recent trend in accumulating wealth for himself and his constituents while ignoring the desperation the majority of his country endures. Nearly 50 percent of the DRC’s wealth belongs to the top 20 percent of its citizens while the bottom 20 percent has only 5-6 percent of the wealth.
  2. Almost 65 percent of people living in the DRC fall below the poverty line. This number has been decreasing in recent years; however, it still places the country near the very bottom of the list of wealthy nations.
  3. While the DRC has been trending towards urbanization in recent decades, more than 60 percent of the Congolese people still reside in small, tribal communities that have been regularly targeted by armed rebel militias. Raids by these militias have forced residents from their homes for fear of their lives, leaving many to seek refuge in displacement camps, such as The Mugunga III camp in the North Kivu province, whose lack of security has made it a target for militias to raid in search of resources.
  4. The DRC has one of the highest birthrates in the world with an average of 6.6 children per mother, which has led to an increasing shortage of food. Roughly 70 percent of the Congolese people lack adequate access to food and 23 percent of children are malnourished. Groups like Actions Against Hunger are working to provide food, household items and healthcare to displaced populations in the north.
  5. The infant mortality rate in the DRC is one of the highest in the world due to a lack of accessibility to hospitals and doctors. Because so many people are without health care, the infants who do survive often go unvaccinated until later in life. However, in recent years, these trends have shown improvement with the infant mortality rate dropping from 15 percent to 10 percent and vaccination rates increasing from 31 percent to 45 percent for children under 24 months of age.
  6. Despite Kabila’s efforts to block foreign aid to the DRC for fear that it will deter investors from putting money into his country’s industries, The U.N. has not slowed down in its effort to provide support. In April of 2018, The U.N. held a donor conference with the goal of raising 1.7 billion dollars to provide food, shelter and medical attention to the Congolese people.
  7. In October of 2017, The United Nations placed the DRC on its Level 3 emergency list, the highest recognition of crisis, due to unacceptable living conditions that roughly 4.5 million Congolese people have had to endure.
  8. Despite malaria being one of the DRC’s most prominent health crises, constituting nearly 20 percent of deaths for children under five years of age, groups such as The World Health Organization are working to promote prevention, education and treatment to combat malaria and other diseases.
  9. Life expectancy in the DRC is 48 years for men and 52 for women. Comparatively, life expectancy in the U.S. is 76 years for men and 81 for women. The top causes of death include treatable conditions such as malaria, respiratory infection and diarrheal diseases.
  10. Due to increasing pressure from the Congolese people, foreign aid groups and leaders of other countries threatening sanctions against the DRC, the Congolese government has increased its health budget by nearly five percent from 2011 to 2015.

Despite these top 10 facts about living conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo revealing a history plagued by political corruption, disease and a lack of accessibility to basic resources, the DRC currently finds itself in a transitional period that could begin to reverse much of the damage that has been done.

Kabila announced in August 2018 that he will no longer seek reelection and will relinquish his presidency at the close of his term. This opens the door for a leader whose intentions lie not in personal gain, but rather in rebuilding the DRC’s economy, providing health care, access to basic resources to the people and restoring the country to a position of growth and stability.

– Rob Lee
Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Human Rights in Iran
In March 2018, the U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.S. Mission in Geneva restated their concerns about the state of human rights in Iran, such as the rigorously restricted rights of both expression and freedom that are enforced by Iranian authorities. People are arrested and imprisoned for expressing different beliefs and the punishments for crimes include floggings and amputations. Iranian authorities have refused to allow U.N. specialists to get involved. These facts about human rights in Iran explore some of the recent and ongoing issues in the country.

Facts About Human Rights in Iran

  1. In the presidential elections of May 2017, President Hassan Rouhani was elected for a second term. However, he was elected due to a discriminatory election process that included the disqualification of candidates based on their gender, religion or political opinions.
  2. The first large-scale anti-establishment protest since 2009 happened at the end of December 2017. Many Iranians protested against the ongoing poverty, corruption and political restrictions in their country.
  3. In 2016, 203 people were executed by law enforcement by October. Different human rights groups also say that the number may be higher, stating that more than 437 people were killed because the majority of executions occurred during the second part of the year.
  4. The U.S. imposed its first injunction on Iran for violations of human rights in 2010. As a result, 10 different Iranian administrators were given financial constraints and were banned from traveling to the U.S.
  5. The United Nations Children’s Rights Committee stated in March 2016 that flogging continued to be used as a lawful punishment for boys and girls who had been sentenced for crimes. Despite amendments to Iran’s penal code, children were still being executed in 2016.
  6. Another fact about human rights in Iran is that there have been continuing restrictions on media and obstructions of foreign television stations. In addition, Iranian authorities have banned 152 journalists from making any financial transactions.
  7. Iranian authorities continue to restrict medical care for prisoners. These prisoners are forced to live in horrible conditions, including overcrowding, little to no hot water, insect infestations and poor food quality.
  8. Different intelligence organizations in Iran continuously monitor citizens’ activity on social media websites like Twitter and Facebook. Multiple civilians active on social media have been arrested for comments made on the platforms.
  9. Women in Iran face heavy discrimination in personal matters like child custody, marriage and divorce. A law that is still in place today is that women need a male guardian’s permission to get married, even if the woman is an adult.
  10. Trials in Iran continue to be unfair, including prejudices against Iranians with dual citizenship. These citizens and foreigners endure lengthy prison sentences, unfair trials and capricious arrests.

These facts about human rights in Iran shed light on the maltreatment Iranian people have to endure. President Rouhani has been in office for three years, and though he based his campaign on improving human rights conditions, the situation remains the same in Iran.

– Alyssa Hannam
Photo: Flickr