Information and stories about economic growth.

Blue Economy in BangladeshWhether it is through the network cables across the ocean floor on which global communications rely, the oil and gas exploration on the ocean floor or the availability of fishery resources, the ocean has been an integral part of the global economy for a long time. Since the government of Bangladesh resolved its maritime boundary disputes with Myanmar in 2012 and with India in 2014, it has been engaging in research to promote and take advantage of blue economy in Bangladesh.

Four Facts About Blue Economy in Bangladesh

  1. The economy in Bangladesh derives more than $6 billion annually from the ocean with the potential to increase. In the 2014-15 fiscal year, the gross value addition (GVA) of Bangladesh’s ocean economy was around $6.2 billion, which is 3.3 percent of the country’s total GVA. Yet, while settling disputes has given Bangladesh the right to explore resources within 118,813 square kilometers of the Bay of Bengal, the country has not yet seized the opportunity.
  2. Almost 90 percent of Bangladesh’s trade is done by sea. Approximately 17 million people are employed in the fisheries and the agricultural sector with even more people depending on the sea for income, food security and nutrition. So, if realized to its full potential, blue economy could have a major positive impact on the country.
  3. Because of poor initiative in Bangladesh, much of the potential in the 26 sectors identified for a blue economy has not yet been realized. In 2017, the Blue Economy Cell (BEC) was established under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, but that is the extent of the actions taken by the Bangladeshi government. So far, this cell has only held a few meetings.
  4. On October 25, 2018, the Bangladeshi government and the World Bank signed an agreement to finance a $240 million project. “The Sustainable and Marine Fisheries Project will help improve the fisheries management system, necessary infrastructure and value-chain investments and it will encourage the private sector to invest more towards the availability and quality of sea fish.” The project will also assist in reforming policies and regulations for fisheries. Since the fisheries sector is the second largest export earning sector of the country, this project should add more to the initiatives for blue economy in Bangladesh.

Uses of Blue Economy in Bangladesh

  • Marine Biotechnology: The opportunity to apply marine biotechnology in Bangladesh is very promising. Marine organisms can be used as a source of new materials in healthcare, including antibiotics, anti-cancer, bioactive compounds, nutritional supplements and other pharmaceutical drugs.
  • Carbon Sequestration: Bangladesh is blessed with mangrove forests, saltmarsh and seagrass beds. While the carbon stored by these ecosystems still needs to be researched, it could provide carbon trading mechanisms.
  • Oil, Gas & Minerals Mining: There is potential for oil, gas and mineral resources that have yet to be explored within the boundaries of the Bay of Bengal. Managed correctly, these resources could be used to create more jobs, infrastructure and improvements in public service.
  • Policy Reforms: Developing this sector would require different policy scenarios, taking into account the costs and benefits of the different paths that Bangladesh’s blue economy could take. Once that is done, the government could set targets and goals accordingly.
  • Coordinated Planning Process: A coordinated planning process for the sustainable development of blue economy in Bangladesh would need the active participation of ministries and public organizations. At present, the Ministry of Environment and Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism are reviewing or designing policies that could impact some of the sectors under blue economy.

Despite the many challenges ahead, blue economy in Bangladesh could serve as an important path for sustainable development in the country. More research, policy reforms and collaboration among different organizations could help the country realize the true potential of this economy.

Farihah Tasneem
Photo: Flickr

Pros of Immigration

While many view immigration as a cultural crisis, the pros of immigration are significant. Immigration is a point of contention as immigrants change the face of a population and bring their own culture with them. Moreover, immigrants receive criticism if they do not fully integrate, by not speaking the country’s primary language. Some people simply feel there’s no room for immigrants. They fear their jobs will be taken or undercut by the low wages some immigrants are willing to work for.

In spite of these concerns, it is undeniable that immigrants infuse much needed vitality into the economy. They build businesses, create jobs and bring new perspectives. Most importantly, welcoming immigrants supports and promotes an international standard of human rights. Everyone should be able to settle somewhere safe, healthy and stable—especially if their native country is not so.

Below is an immigration case study of sorts, demonstrating the economic benefits of immigration in Japan, the U.S., and Western Europe.

Japan

Plagued by an aging population and declining birth rates, immigration provides Japan with a new source of young workers. The Japanese Health Ministry predicts that by 2060, the country’s population will fall to 86.74 million. This is a 40 million decrease since 2010. Currently, 20 percent of Japan’s population is over 65 years old. As a result, this burdens Japan’s shrinking workforce with the funds for their pensions and healthcare. But immigration into Japan ensures the nation’s economy can maintain itself as people retire.

Japan is historically unwelcoming to immigrants, believing peace and harmony to be rooted in homogeneity. As such, the nation’s immigration policy reflects this. Japan only allows a small number of highly skilled workers into the country. This policy has been in place since 1988 to combat labor shortages. However, this is no longer enough to combat Japan’s worsening economy. In 2018, labor shortages in the nation were the highest they had been in 40 years.

However, the pros of immigration in Japan are clear. Without it, Japan faces an incredibly insecure economic future. With no sign of population growth, the nation’s perpetually shrinking workforce will become unable to support its retired citizens. However, immigrants can round out the workforce in Japan. And they can neutralize any economic woes the nation might face in the future by preventing labor shortages.

USA

The cultural and economic contributions immigrants have made to America are vast, overwhelmingly advantageous and long-lasting.

A study done by economists at Harvard, Yale and the London School of Economics found US counties that accepted more immigrants between 1860 and 1920 are doing better today as a result. These counties have significantly higher incomes, higher educational achievement, less poverty and lower unemployment because immigrants provided the low-skilled labor needed to support rapid industrialization. Undeniably, immigrants have always and still continue to increase economic growth in America.

Similarly, immigrants in the U.S. have been integral to innovation and entrepreneurship. Half of all startups in America worth over a billion dollars have been founded by immigrants. Eleven of these startups employ more than 17,000 people in the U.S. Some of these companies, such as Uber and WeWork, have significantly changed American culture. They modify the way Americans live their daily lives. Therefore, the pros of immigration in the U.S. are grounded in the diversity of thought brought by immigrants, necessary to further American innovation and economic growth.

Western Europe

Like Japan, Western Europe is battling an aging population and declining birth rates. Fertility rates are expected to hit zero in the next decade. Consequently, this region may not be able to sustain its expansive social welfare programs as its workforce shrinks and retired populations grow. In Germany, the median age is 47.1 years, the oldest in Western Europe. This is only slightly younger than Japan’s 47.3 years. Besides convincing its native populations to have more children, immigration is their only alternative.

Immigration into Western Europe is an undeniable win for both the immigrants and the host countries. Many new immigrants in Western Europe have escaped unstable regimes, religious persecution, and economic downturn in North African and Middle Eastern countries. Thus, immigrants give the region a younger workforce that is able to sustain the region’s expensive social benefits. In return, Western Europe provides immigrants with jobs, stability, and a safe place to live.

While still a very divisive topic, the pros of immigration lie in its plethora of economic benefits. It is undeniable that immigration has always been the driver of economic growth, despite all of the criticism. Immigration provides immigrants with an alternative to oppressive regimes and other instability, of course. And the pros of immigration for nations absolutely outweigh the cons.

Jillian Baxter
Photo: Pixabay

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in KazakhstanKazakhstan is a fledgling nation striving for prosperity and stability throughout its vast territory. The country established itself as a sovereign nation after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, Kazakhstan’s economy has been on the upswing, but that growth is overwhelmingly based on its vast oil reserves.

As Kazakhstan grows into its own identity, it has been trying to promote prosperity across its many regions. The following top 10 facts about living conditions in Kazakhstan illustrate the ways it is developing as a nation.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Kazakhstan

  1. Kazakhstan is the world’s ninth largest nation. Kazakhstan is vast and at 1,052,090 sq. miles, it is the world’s largest landlocked country. Kazakhstan is also one of only two landlocked countries that reach across two continents, Asia and Europe. Most of the land (77.4 percent) is agricultural. The standard of living in Kazakhstan depends largely on the region. The level of poverty varies widely between states or oblasts. Access to quality housing, education and medical services also vary by oblast.
  2. Kazakhstan’s government is actively working toward reducing inequality and increasing economic opportunities through programs like the Kazakhstan 2050 strategy.
  3. Kazakhstan’s leadership is changing. Since gaining independence in 1991, Nursultan Nazarbayev has been Kazakhstan’s president. Nazarbayev announced his resignation on March 19, 2019, on national television. Kassym-Jormat Tokayev, the chairman of the Kazakh Senate, will serve as interim president until the election in 2020. Nazarbayev, an autocrat, will continue to wield a high level of influence over the government. Nazarbayev’s daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, will become the new speaker of the Senate.
  4. Most of the population live in urban areas. The rest of the population lives throughout a vast territory. A majority of Kazakhstan’s population (57.4 percent) live in urban centers in the far northern and southern regions of the country, especially in the cities of Almaty and Astana (the capital). Astana has unique and opulent architecture, a memorial to the heavy concentration of oil money in urban centers. The center of the country has a very low population density. The rural areas of Kazakhstan are more likely to have more poverty and less benefit from economic growth.
  5. Kazakhstan’s economy is based heavily on oil production and its economy is over-reliant on oil production. The primary producers are the Tengiz field and the colossal Kashagan field, which just started producing in 2016. The vast reserves of oil in Kazakhstan have helped the country enjoy relatively consistent economic growth since claiming independence.
  6. Kazakhstan is trying to diversify its economy with railroad manufacturing. Kazakhstan is attempting to spend its oil wealth on new industries to offset its heavy dependence on oil. The premier industry is railroad manufacturing. The state-owned railroad empire, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ), is aggressively expanding with $3.1 billion invested in 2013. Kazakhstan hopes to become a global leader in railroad production. The industry employed one in every 54 people in 2013.
  7. Kazakhstan is Central Asia’s breadbasket. Agriculture in Kazakhstan is less than 5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) but employs almost one-fifth of its population. As the world’s seventh largest wheat exporter, Kazakhstan is crucial to food security throughout the region. Droughts in Kazakhstan can be devastating, reducing harvests sixfold.
  8. The state owns and controls most of the broadcast media companies in Kazakhstan. The Kazakh government owns almost all of the radio and TV networks. Cellular telephone and internet usage are on the rise, including a vast 4G network.
  9. Overall, Kazakhstan has a low number of people below the poverty line. Only 2.6 percent of the entire population is below the internationally standardized poverty line. However, poverty is still a problem, especially in certain regions. Poor housing conditions affected 28 percent of the population, low education rates affected 11 percent and low consumption affected 15 percent.
  10. Kazakhstan has relied on Russia as a trade partner but is trying to diversify. Kazakhstan exports 78 percent of its oil production. Historically, Kazakhstan has relied on Russia to distribute its oil throughout Europe. More recently it has been trying to grow new trade partnerships, especially with China to counteract over-reliance on Russia.

The above top 10 facts about living conditions in Kazakhstan depict both the struggles and the successes of a young nation. With the help of international partners like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Kazakhstan can continue to manage its economic growth and address regional disparities.

– Peter S. Mayer
Photo: Flickr

Worker Remittances and Poverty in the Arab World
The Arab world has one of the highest proportions of migrant to local workers in the world, with over 32 million migrant workers in the Arab states in 2015 alone. In addition, the region has one of the largest diasporas in the world. This means that many skilled workers are emigrating to wealthier countries and sending money home via remittances. But what do remittances in the Arab World mean for the region and its inhabitants?

Brain Drain vs. Gain

In Lebanon and Jordan, unskilled labor is provided by growing numbers of refugees and foreign workers, totaling over five million in 2015. However, as more foreign workers enter the country, growing numbers of high-skilled Lebanese and Jordanian nationals are emigrating. This often occurs when opportunities are limited, when unemployment is high and economic growth slows. The phenomenon is dubbed ‘brain drain’ as opposed to ‘brain gain’, whereby an increasing stock of human capital boosts economies. A drain occurs while poor countries lose their most high-skilled workers and wealthier countries in turn gain these educated professionals.

Remittances in the Arab World

These expatriates commonly work to improve their own living situations while also helping to support their friends and families. This is where remittances come into play. As defined by the Migration Data Portal, remittances are financial or in-kind transfers made by migrants to friends and relatives in their communities of origin. Remittances often exceed official development aid.  They are also frequently more effective in alleviating poverty. In 2014 alone, the Arab states remitted more than $109 billion, largely from the United States followed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

There is no denying that remittances can be a strong driving force for the socioeconomic stability of many Arab countries. But not all the influences are positive. Some experts argue that remittances can actually hurt the development of recipient countries. Their arguments cite potential negative effects of labor mobility and over-reliance on remittances. They emphasize that this can create dependency which undermines recipients’ incentive to find work. All this means an overall slowing of economic growth and a perpetuation of current socioeconomic status.

The Force of the Diaspora

The link between remittances in the Arab world and poverty is clear. Brain drain perpetuates and high amounts of remittance inflow and outflow persist if living conditions remain unchanged. Policymakers are therefore focusing efforts on enticing emigrants to return to their countries of origin. By strengthening ties with migrant networks, and implementing strategies like entrepreneurial start-up incentives and talent plans, the initial negative effects of brain drain could be curbed.

Overall, though brain drain and remittances can seem to hurt development in the short-term, if policies can draw high-skilled workers back, contributions to long-term economic development can erase these negative aspects altogether. Young populations that have emigrated to more developed countries acquire education and valuable experience that is essential to promote entrepreneurship in their home countries. Moreover, their experiences in advanced democracies can bolster their contribution to improved governance in their countries of origin. The Arab world’s greatest untapped potential is its diaspora, and it could be the key to a more prosperous future, if only it can be harnessed.

Natalie Marie Abdou
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in Mauritius
Mauritius, the island nation in the Indian Ocean, has undergone a financial transformation since the early 2000s, promoted by the government in order to catalyze the economy of the country. This has impacted credit access in Mauritius in a big way. Since 2000, the country has experienced losses connected to its truncated access to EU sugar and textile markets and is facing steeper competition from China and other East Asian exports.

Mauritius Economy Compared to Other Countries

This loss of preferential treatment and high budget deficit spells a slight struggle for Mauritius to retain its middle-income standing. Currently, the country ranks 65th in the world on the Human Development Index, and in 2014, it was the second highest country in Africa on the development list. Mauritius’ Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is at $9,770 and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that the country performs better than the average compared with other sub-Saharan African and middle-income countries as far as information ability, involvement of the trade community, advance rulings, appeal procedures and internal border agency cooperation.

By continuing to focus on the area of governance and impartiality, Mauritius can increase its trade volumes and lower trade costs. A strengthened customs system and transparent ethics policy could be the final stretch to reach the Prime Minister’s dream of a high-income country.

Government Initiatives

The Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth, has predicted a revamping of the economy and expresses hope for Mauritius moving into the future. Key reforms introduced in the 2018/2019 budget helped bring Mauritius its present position. The Minister also touched on the government’s dedication to raising the country to high-income level country, thereby funneling benefits to every citizen. Already this commitment can be seen in the growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and financial services, estimated to continue at 4.1 percent in 2019.

The government introduced changes to the legislative system in order to prevent money laundering and corrupt business. In his speech, the Prime Minister assured that the country is conducting a national risk assessment of terrorism financing.

Credit Access in Mauritius

A report from the Global Findex as of 2017 records 68.5 percent of Mauritians making or receiving digital payments, as well as 48.3 percent using credit or debit cards. The percentage of adults above the age of 15 who borrowed from a financial institution in Mauritius was at 22.9 percent, much higher than the sub-Saharan average of 8.4 percent, in comparison. Outstanding housing loans are increasing in availability as well, and almost 90 percent of adults were able to obtain access to financial institution accounts, banks or otherwise.

Enjoying past growth of upwards of 6 percent in the 1990s and continued economic performance, Mauritius is still dealing with the changes in the EU Sugar Protocol and falling sugar prices. As of 2006, the government incentivized seafood production in order to shift toward exporting fish instead of sugar, as well as a list of Integrated Resort Schemes offering luxury villas to foreigners. Diversifying the market and leveling the competition will surely launch Mauritius ahead in the economic playing field. The GDP by sector reveals the sugar sector operates at a modest 4.3 percent in 2007, led by government services at 15 percent, wholesale at 11, finance and real estate at 14.2 and many other diverse trade sectors.

Unfortunately, drastic adjustments meant one-third of employees for the sugar sector were redundant. The lost sugar income has still not been completely replaced, but the government is focused on diversification and increasing exports in the coming years.

In addition to experiencing an incredible 195 percent wealth growth from 2007 to 2017, credit access in Mauritius continues to increase due to strong ownership rights, a resilient economy, and ease of investment. Hopefully, the country’s example spearheads a movement throughout Asia for easier credit access and stable banks and economy.

– Hannah Peterson
Photo: Flickr

Rideshare in Africa
Many African countries are moving toward urbanization. Residents are discovering that mobility is being limited by the overcrowding of roads and the lack of public transit. However, rideshare in Africa has quickly gained footing, bringing with it a new set of possibilities for the economies of the cities they serve.

Benefits For the People

Despite many countries in Africa boasting some of the fastest growing economies in the world, it is still home to 11 of the 20 countries with the highest unemployment rates. With the rapid growth of rideshare, there is an equally rapid need for drivers, providing jobs to tens of thousands of Africans in many of the continent’s major cities. Uber, an American-based company that has been servicing Africa since 2013, providing hundreds of thousands of people with rides.

Rideshare in Africa also alleviates some of the biggest transportation hindrances people in dense cities face. While Africa has quickly seen a surge of residents owning and regularly using technology such as smartphones, many still do not own personal vehicles. For those who do, the underdeveloped infrastructures of many African cities, most of which were not designed to hold the numbers they now contain, make driving difficult and impractical. Companies like SafeBoda, which started in Uganda but hopes to service various regions throughout Africa, are deploying “boda-bodas” (motorcycle taxies) instead of cars, allowing citizens to move about the city centers more easily and work in places previously out of reach.

Benefits For the Economy

Currently, almost 40 percent of Africans live in cities, and this number is expected to grow to 50 percent by 2030 and 60 percent by 2050. With this increase in population, there is a corresponding increase in demand for transportation that does not require a personal vehicle. Rideshare companies have set out to fill this demand, bringing with them foreign and domestic investors who see rideshare as growing in popularity among the people, bringing economic potential.

While Uber remains the top rideshare service throughout Africa due to its worldwide brand recognition and its ability to keep rates low, many African-based companies have been able to use their local knowledge to compete with the larger foreign companies. Kenyan-based rideshare company Mondo Ride, for example, understands that overcrowding in the city streets means that passengers taking rideshare cars would only add to the problem. Therefore, they offer the option for boda-bodas or tuk-tuks (three-wheeled motorbikes) in many of the cities they serve. This allows them to compete with giants like Uber, thereby bringing more investment into their city as they grow in popularity.

The Future of Rideshare in Africa

As rideshare in Africa takes off, it faces two battles that will shape the futures of both rideshare itself and the cities in which they operate: market competition and government regulation.

While local rideshare companies have the advantage of regional familiarity over the giants like Uber, the larger companies’ ability to lower prices threatens to make smaller African-based companies obsolete. In many African cities, there have been protests by these smaller companies, claiming that Uber is creating a monopoly over the industry, mitigating the positive economic effects of healthy competition.

 As rideshare continues to grow in Africa, local governments are struggling to regulate the industry. Ghana became the first to create formal documentation detailing Uber’s presence in its cities, but other countries have not been able to keep up with the high rate of growth this industry has seen.

Regardless of any frustrations with market competition or difficulties in regulation, rideshare in Africa is quickly becoming the norm. It is a sign not only that Africa is embracing technology but also that it is excelling in doing so. As rideshare companies and local governments begin to understand their local markets, residents will be better able to enjoy the benefits and the economic opportunities will continue to grow.

– Rob Lee
Photo: The Africa Report

Ethiopian PM Turns to Privatization to Further Economic Growth

In a move atypical of his political alignment with the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced in June 2018 that the government will begin procedures to implement privatization in Ethiopia of various state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in telecommunications, energy and transportation.

Already one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Ethiopia hopes to continue this trend by selling shares in some of the country’s most profitable and promising industries. In this announcement, Ahmed proposed that privatization of these booming enterprises will aim to increase foreign direct investment (FDI), lessen the unemployment rate and reduce poverty.

Ethiopia’s Recent Improvements

The second largest country in Africa and home to more than 100 million people, Ethiopia has been experiencing tremendous economic growth in recent years. Unemployment has dropped from more than 26 percent in 1999 to less than 17 percent in 2015. The poverty rate has decreased from nearly 46 percent in 1995 to less than 30 percent in 2010.

While Ahmed has only been in office since April of 2018, his vows to reform Ethiopia economically and socially have surprised many. Since their coming to power in 1991, the EPRDF’s has had a history of complete state-ownership of the majority of the industry. The state, however, will remain in control of the majority of shares in the industries being opened up to foreign investment.

His promises of calming social tension and revamping the economy have been met with some skepticism, but Ahmed fervently retains that his intentions are to restore Ethiopia to a place of social stability, economic prosperity and peace. Ahmed has even gone as far as to reach out to Ethiopia’s long-term enemy, Eritrea, to find common ground.

The Prime Minister’s Plans

Although the government has yet to release detailed plans as to how they intend to implement privatization in Ethiopia, they have been working with consulting agencies abroad such as PwC and McKinsey to determine a practical and sustainable way to carry out an economic overhaul of such magnitude.

Among the SOEs the government plans to privatize, the introduction of Ethiopian Airlines to the private sector, in particular, represents a key component in Ahmed’s economic plan; Ethiopia will experience a shift from an agrarian society to a modern, competitive, industrial society. As the country’s national flag carrier and a symbol of state pride, Ethiopian Airlines has garnered an intake of hard currency (currency unlikely to be affected by inflation) three times that of coffee, a long-standing staple of Ethiopia’s economy.

Increasing Foreign Investment

The privatization of Ethiopian Airlines also indicates Ahmed’s desire to transform Ethiopia into a major air travel hub, similar to Emirates’ position in the United Arab Emirates. This will serve as a way to bring in foreign investors and to present Ethiopia as a modern contender in the world economy. By selling shares of Ethiopian Airlines and other rapidly-growing SOEs such as Ethio Telecom, Ethiopian Electric Power and Railway Corporation, Ahmed hopes to draw foreign investment since Ethiopia has experienced an alarming shortage of foreign exchange in recent years.

While privatization in Ethiopia is sure to be a slow transition, and the government will most likely remain majority shareholders in the enterprises they are selling, the country appears to be heading in a positive direction. Between 2004 and 2014, Ethiopia averaged annual economic growth of 10.9 percent and is projected to grow another 8.7 percent in the next two years.

With a goal of reaching lower-middle income national status by 2025 and a government promising major social and economic reform, Ethiopia has established itself as a nation in the midst of a true revival. Hopefully, Ahmed’s plan of privatization in Ethiopia will prove to be a positive step for the country’s future economic growth.

Rob Lee

Photo: Flickr

Qatar Airways
On June 4, 2017, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with its Gulf neighbor, Qatar, over the latter’s supposed support for terrorism abroad, as well as its close relationship with the Shi’a power of Iran.

BBC reported that the diplomatic crisis not only rocked Qatar’s stock market that lost about 10 percent of its market value in the first four weeks but also stunted the expansion of specific airline company- Qatar Airways. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath, Qatar Airways canceled flights to 18 regional cities and changed flight paths to other destinations due to airspace limitations.

The Impact of Qatar Airways on the Country

The crisis showed the importance of Qatar Airways as both an economic engine of its home country and a transporter of food and other vital resources. Since its founding in 1994, Qatar Airways has spurred its country’s economy, both directly and indirectly, in the following three ways described in detail below.

Economic Engine

Doha’s Hamad International Airport connects Qatar with 150 destinations. To power its massive global operation, Qatar employs 40,000 professionals and as of 2016, it was the fastest growing airline in the world.

As Qatar’s only national airline, Qatar Airways also handles shipments of goods. The diplomatic crisis of 2017, for example, increased prices of elementary goods because Qatar Air Cargo had to take longer routes around restricted airspace.

Trade and Tourism

By branding itself as a world-famous stopover destination, Qatar Airways has influenced Doha’s and country’s tourism increase, spurring economic growth in the process. Ever since 2015, passengers transiting through Doha can participate in the airline’s Discover Qatar, which allows passengers to visit landmarks, including museums, beaches and shopping malls, in Qatar.

These excursions do not only promote Doha’s visibility on the world stage, but also bring foreign money to Qatar’s businesses. Discover Qatar has numbers to back its success. In November 2017, the program hosted 80 leading trade partners. According to Gulf Times, the delegation of trade partners visited the Katara Cultural Village, the Museum of Islamic Art and the stadiums that will host the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar’s emergence as a trade center has prompted its national airline to ease visa restrictions. In Sept. 2016, Qatar Airways worked with the Ministry of Interior to expedite the process for receiving visas, creating an online platform for issuing e-visas. Later in 2017, Qatar launched a free, 96-hour transit visa and extended a visa waiver policy to more than 80 countries. These visa initiatives resulted in an increase of 40,000 visitors in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Charity

The airline has funneled its profits to charitable purposes, both inside Qatar and globally. In 2013, Qatar Airways partnered with Educate a Child, a program that provides primary education to out-of-school children. During the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Qatar Airways partnered with Qatar Charity to deliver toys for 800 orphans in the Children’s Living Center in the Reyhanli province of Hatay, Turkey.

While booking their itineraries on Qatar Airways’ website, travelers have the option of making donations to educational organizations, with donation sizes ranging from $1 to $50. In November 2014, Qatar Airways raised approximately $700,000 to Educate a Child.

Nevertheless, critics worry that Qatar’s subsidization of its national carrier stifles competition. In the decade preceding January 2015, CNBC estimated that the three Middle Eastern carriers: Qatar Airways, Emirates Airlines and Etihad received more than $40 billion in subsidies from their state governments.

The nagging question is whether these subsidies are sustainable in the long run and if the Qatari government will always have money to invest in its airline’s success.

The status quo gives a reason for optimism, with the 2022 Qatar World Cup and Qatar Airways’ aggressive expansion into new markets showing the Gulf state’s promise for the future.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

Identification closes the gender gap
Empowering women has long been acknowledged as a key ingredient in reducing poverty and improving economic development. The United Nations (U.N.) has set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and gender equality underlies almost all of them. More specifically, the fifth SDG is set to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. As the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes, these goals are interdependent, meaning gender equality is essential not only to the economic prosperity of the communities but for other important issues like health and sustainability as well.

Even today, gender inequality persists worldwide, depriving women of basic human rights and equal opportunities. In poverty-stricken communities around the world, an estimated 90 percent sustain long-standing social practices that devalue women.

Need for Identification

Breaking these modes will require great efforts. Both legal and cultural strides need to change in order to counter deeply ingrained discrimination throughout societies. Studies by the U.N. and UNHCR found that women in conflict and poverty affected regions do not have adequate identification documents. These documents are necessary for achieving the benefits of civic and public life.

Access to identification closes the gender gap in the developing world, but a lack of awareness around the documents prevents women from obtaining them in some cases. Many believe that identification cards are only necessary for exceptional circumstances when in reality they are needed to make the most of social programs and civil rights.

Having personal identification cards in the developing world acts as an important stepping stone. In having the ability to access decisive services and claim entitlements as citizens, women are able to increase their voice and agency through civic participation, access to finances and voting. In assisting women’s social engagement, identification closes the gender gap.

Example of Myanmar

All factors of the country development are intertwined. Women’s documentation is often essential to the peace process in some countries. Resolving the issue of land rights, for example, is crucial to the current conflict in Myanmar, and gender inclusion in the peace process is fundamental to reaching a genuine peace accord. The laws in this country allow women to register and co-register for the property even if they are not head of the household.

While progressive laws have been enacted, there lies a major gap between the law and the reality that women face. Cultural conventions exclude women from participating in land governing let alone a peace accord, making it essential that their names are registered to partake in community meetings. The decisions affect both women and men, making identification an important transition step in transforming cultural norms in poverty and conflict-stricken regions.

Problems with Women Identification

In 2012, four out of every 10 infants born worldwide were not registered with civil governments or authorities. Globally, 750 million children lack identification. A 2013 UNICEF survey found that there is no major disparity between the birth registration of boys and girls.

Evidence suggests that adult women, however, face gender-specific barriers to getting identification documents. Women must provide proof of marriage, additional family signatures and conduct many other steps in the process to obtain identification that men simply do not have to deal with. Unmarried women especially face discrimination as, without a male counterpart or marriage certificate, obtaining identification documents (IDs) is often impossible. IDs are also optional for women, although essential to accessing civic opportunities and required for men.

Increasing access to identification closes the gender gap by helping international organizations better plan and target gender inequality in poverty. The incompleteness of civil registration for women has generated holes in statistics and data for organizations like the World Bank to measure the progress of women in the developing world.

Changing Cultural Barriers

Equality is fundamental to building strong societies. Having active members at every level of a community makes the plight of poverty that much easier to conquer. Gender equality is no different. Ensuring that more than half of the population can do its part must remain at the foremost of poverty reduction endeavors.

While the legal framework with these notions in mind has changed for the better, an uphill battle in the mindset of the communities is much needed. Obtaining identification is the first step in employing available programs and in realizing the agency needed to transform the cultural barriers that devalue women.

– Joseph Ventura
Photo: Flickr

How Abolishing Birth Limits in China Improves the Economy
As government officials convene in Shaanxi to discuss abolishing the birth limit in China, they are also beginning to understand just how the one-child limit has affected the economy, for better or for worse. Over the past three years, the Chinese government has worked towards eliminating the one-child limit and repurposing it to a two-child limit. However, in a recent reversal for the Communist Party, Chinese government officials are currently drafting ways to in fact increase childbirth and population growth, thereby abolishing birth limits in China.

The One-Child Policy in China

When Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping proposed the one-child limit in 1979, he catalyzed a series of unintended social and economic implications. At the time, China was facing major food and housing shortages. Due to its exponentially growing population, hundreds of thousands of people were entering a state near poverty.  To combat these shortages, the one-child limit was placed on the people of China. Suddenly, China’s annual population growth rate dropped to a mere 0.6 percent.

Since 1980, China has been a global hub for economic expansion. In fact, decades of China’s economic boom have lifted hundreds of millions out of abject poverty and sent over 100 million men and women to college. However, recent studies attribute the economic boom not to the stagnant population growth rate, but rather to reform policies that loosened state control over the economy.

Consequences of Limited Population Growth

In fact, fertility rates have decreased to 2.1 in China, partially due to the birth limit and partially due to socioeconomic and cultural transformations, such as later marriage, postponing childbirth to pursue careers, longer birth intervals and fewer births. Researchers suggest that these transformations are not localized to China since countries that had similar fertility rates to China in the 1970s experienced the same decrease in fertility without a strict birth control policy.

The 1980 one-child limit was intended to be a temporary measure to alleviate economic pressures at the time. However, it lasted for decades, shaping an entire generation of people. Perhaps the most tangible effect is that of the aging workforce. China’s level of productivity, measured in output per hours, is at its lowest level since 1999. According to the International Monetary Fund, the number of people in their prime working age (ages 15 to 59) will decrease by almost 200 million over the next three decades. Because the labor force is dwindling, this can pose major pressures in economic and social development.

Changing Policy

Despite the negative impact of the one-child limit, Chinese officials are trying to reverse the effects by lifting strict birth control measures and abolishing birth limits in China. Just in the past three years, ever since the passage of the “two-child” policy, China has seen the percentage of families with two children increase from 36 percent to 51 percent. The National Health Commission claims that the “two-child” policy is working, as it encourages families to not be bound to just having one child.

Additionally, local governments are taking several steps to promote childbirth as the state governments work on policies such as education and housing subsidies and investments in clinics and preschools. These initiatives, coupled with officials’ proposal of abolishing birth limits in China, will help facilitate a better working economy for China.

– Shefali Kumar
Photo: Flickr