Information and stories about economic growth.

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America
Central America, which includes Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, is a diverse geographical region housing almost 50 million people. With a wealth of natural resources, Central America has the potential for sustainable and rigorous economic growth as it seeks to mitigate political unrest and economic inequality. Within this context, here are 10 facts about economic development in Central America.

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America

  1. Central America is an Agricultural Powerhouse: The backbone of Central America’s economy relies on agricultural exports, such as coffee, bananas and pineapples. For example, agriculture comprises 24 percent of Costa Rica’s total GDP and 17 percent of Panama’s total GDP. In 2001, agriculture employed approximately 34 percent of Honduras.
  2. Central America’s Growing Tourism Industry: Belize and El Salvador contribute to Central America’s robust tourism industry. In Belize, tourism is the most important economic sector in the country next to agriculture. In 2017, El Salvador reported a 23.2 percent annual growth rate from domestic tourism. El Salvador expects to generate $75.5 million from its tourism industry in 2019.
  3. Severe Weather and Foreign Aid: In the wake of Hurricane Nate, Costa Rica alone reported $562 million in damages, severely crippling its agricultural and transportation industries. In response, USAID provided $150,000 to support immediate humanitarian efforts. More recently, in 2018, El Fuego erupted in Guatemala affecting approximately 1.7 million people. World Vision, a non-profit organization, responded by sending 30,000 boxes of medical supplies to affected regions.
  4. Tepid Economic Growth: One of the key 10 facts about economic development in Central America that informs policy-making is an analysis of GDP growth and poverty rates. As a whole, Central America has an average poverty rate of 34.2 percent. Guatemala has the highest rate of 59 percent as of 2014. Mitigating these poverty rates is difficult since GDP growth has slowly decelerated in many Central American countries. In the case of Honduras, declining prices for agricultural exports have left its main industries struggling. People expect Honduras’ GDP to grow with the decline in poverty. The nation’s poverty rate came down to 3.6 percent in 2019, from 4.8 percent in 2017.
  5. Political Uncertainty and Economic Expectations: Since 2018, many Nicaraguans protested the political oppression of their president, Daniel Ortega. They believe he is tamping out political opposition from human rights groups and using the poor to maintain political power. This recent political upheaval has alarmed investors, who have withdrawn an estimated $634 million according to Bloomberg. In this tumultuous climate, the International Monetary Fund believes Nicaragua’s economy could spiral into recession with unemployment climbing to 10 percent.
  6. Underinvestment in Infrastructure: Due to extreme weather and political upheaval, Central America often lacks the infrastructure to mobilize its economy. Central American countries spend only around two percent of their total GDP on transportation and infrastructure. Panama is a testament to the benefits of investing in infrastructure. The revenue generated from the Cobre Panama mine and the Panama canal gave the nation an average GDP growth rate of 5.6 percent over the past five years.
  7. Maintaining Trade Agreements: One way Central American countries have greatly benefited in terms of economic development is through maintaining trade agreements like CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). Between 2006 and 2016, Central America’s total trade with the U.S. increased by 17 percent and with the world, 20 percent.
  8. Grassroots Technology and Collaboration: Grassroots organizations have achieved economic success. For example, The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partnered with Nicaragua and Peru to promote agricultural productivity in its host country of Colombia. The CIAT has 51 active projects in Central America and 15 projects currently in Nicaragua. Such projects include investments in innovative technology that would make the rural family’s crops more resilient and more abundant.
  9. The Future is Technical: Costa Rica has successfully created a robust medical-device manufacturing industry dating back to 1987. It now generates $4 billion in exports for the country. Even more surprising, in 2017, medical device exports surpassed agricultural products for the first time in the nation’s history. Costa Rica boasts quality human resources and manufacturing and houses 96 operating firms in the medical device manufacturing sector.
  10. The Exemplary Success of Panama: Many expect Panama’s GDP to grow at six percent compared to 3.6 percent in 2018 and the country has cut its poverty rate from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent. Panama’s performance comes from investing in industries like mining, transportation and logistics. In order to continue to compete in the global economy, Panama must continue to invest in education. One initiative in the U.S. that is investing in education in Panama is the Environmental Education Through the Transformation of Schools into Eco-friendly and Sustainable Schools program at Johns Hopkins University. Its goal is to educate Panama’s students on how to make their public school system more environmentally friendly.

Central America has positioned itself well for future economic prosperity based on this brief analysis of 10 facts about economic development in Central America. In order to accelerate Central America’s path of economic growth, World Vision has run a program in Guatemala since the 1970s that provides sponsorships, education, health and protective rights to children. Other organizations, like CIAT, have more than 60 programs in the Central American regions.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

good news about sub-saharan africaFor many Americans, the face of global poverty is sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa consists of 48 countries in southern, central and eastern Africa. Four years ago, the majority of people living in poverty were in sub-Saharan Africa, but a great deal of progress has been made in the fight against global poverty in recent decades. The effects of that progress can be seen as clearly in sub-Saharan Africa. Twenty years ago, much of sub-Saharan Africa was gripped by extreme poverty and nearly non-existent economic growth. However, there has been significant poverty reduction and economic growth recently, thanks in part to poverty reduction initiatives throughout the region. These ten facts describe the good news about sub-Saharan Africa.

10 Pieces of Good News About Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. In 2013, 42.6 percent of sub-Saharan Africans were affected by severe poverty. By 2016, this percentage dropped to 35.2 percent. This represents a decrease in poverty rates of over 5 percent in three years.
  2. Since the 1990s, quality of life in sub-Saharan Africa has improved. Infant mortality is lower and chronic malnutrition is 6 percent less likely. Adult literacy rates have increased by 4 percent as well.
  3. African children are more likely to survive common diseases. In addition, more treatment options are available for HIV and life expectancy has increased by almost twenty years.
  4. Throughout the 1990s, sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP growth remained below 3 percent. The region’s economic growth was above 2.5 percent in 2017 and remained above 3 percent for most of the past decade. Even 2016, sub-Saharan Africa’s lowest year of GDP growth during the 21st century, was better than 1993, its lowest year of GDP growth during the 1990s.
  5. The sub-Saharan African economy was predicted to grow at a faster pace in 2019 than the economies of more affluent regions. For example, Kenya’s economy was predicted to grow by 5.8 percent. Overall regional growth was predicted to be higher than 3 percent.
  6. Economic growth is expected to continue rising after an economic downturn in 2015, with an expected average growth of 3.7  percent in 2020.
  7. In 1999, many sub-Saharan African countries adopted poverty reduction policies modeled on the 1999 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). PRSP programs include cash transfers, subsidies and public works programs. PRSP programs significantly increased economic growth where they were implemented.
  8. From 1990 to 2012, GDP in PRSP countries increased from 0.82 percent to 5.12 percent. GDP in sub-Saharan Africa (including both PRSP and non-PRSP countries) increased from 4.61 percent to 5.21 percent from 2000 to 2012. PRSP greatly stimulated economic growth.
  9. By 2013, 80 percent of primary school age children in Africa were enrolled in school. Secondary school enrollment rates also increased. This means that as education improves, poverty will decrease.
  10. In 1990, industry comprised about 21.9 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP. In 2012, industry comprised about 24.6 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP. In the west, the economic transition from a predominantly agricultural economy to a more industrial economy was an indicator of economic growth. A gradual shift away from an economy that relies solely on agriculture is good news for the people of sub-Saharan Africa.

Poverty is still present in sub-Saharan Africa, but the numbers show how much progress has been made. Further, they show that there is plenty of good news about sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa does not have to be the face of global poverty because of the region’s economic growth and poverty reduction.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

Industrialization of the Ivory CoastAlthough the Ivory Coast has a high poverty rate of 46 percent, its gross domestic product growth rate ranked number 10 out of 224 countries. High GDP growth implies increased productivity, which also leads to industrialization. The Industrial Revolution caused productivity to skyrocket along with mass industrialization and thus brought the poverty rate down. The industrialization of the Ivory Coast might be the key to eliminating the high poverty rate.

The Current Economy of the Ivory Coast

Rising prices of cocoa in 2018 and increased crop production marked a positive turn for the Ivory Coast since at least two-thirds of its population works in the agricultural industry. The Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest producer of cocoa. Although the amount of cocoa in the market surprised even analysts, the Ivory Coast must still transition from agriculture into manufacturing and service industries. This follows the same pattern of evolution that the U.S. and Japan took as they were industrialized. The transitional period will be long and gradual as industrialization is a major change to an economy.

To sustain one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, the government is investing more than $7 billion in infrastructure between 2018 and 2023. Most of the investment was directed to the capital and major port city Abidjan. “We want to be an emerging country but to achieve that, we will need high-quality infrastructure to support the economy,” states Amede Koffi Kouakou, Minister of Economic Infrastructure. Kouakou explains work must be done to fix the roads damaged by floods. A train network and bridges to Abidjan are other investments currently underway. The roads are in poor condition. However, an infrastructure boom is a sign that the country is prepared to become an emerging economy.

The Benefits of Industrialization

Japan presents an industrialization success story. From the 1880s to 1970, Japan grew rapidly and became a powerful economic leader by the 1980s. Japan is now highly developed and is the third-largest economy in terms of nominal GDP, just behind the European Union and the United States. The process of becoming one of the most powerful economies took enormous effort and focused on infrastructures, such as building roads, schools and hospitals. Japan decreased its poverty rate from an unusually high number, the exact figure is unknown, to 16 percent as of 2013. In comparison, the U.S. has a poverty rate of about 15 percent. Ultimately, the progress Japan made originated with industrialization.

Job creation would be a major benefit of the industrialization of the Ivory Coast. Poor farmers flock to jobs and receive training. In turn, they become a valuable asset to companies and the particular industry. Another benefit is the advancement in farming equipment and machinery. These advancements will increase productivity and improve the quality of crops. This results in a more automated agricultural industry where machines do the arduous work and leave extra income to buy products and services.

“In developed countries, economic growth is driven by industrialization underpinned by strong manufacturing. We need to engage African leaders and policymakers to promote industrialization on the continent if we are to accelerate Africa’s transition into a middle-income continent,” states Joseph Mungarulire, director-general of the National Industrial Research and Development Agency in Rwanda. Mungarulire explains that Africa is mostly supported by agriculture, not industry, which leads to slow industrialization and high poverty.

A Pre-Requisite for Industrialization

Industrialization of the Ivory Coast must begin with a strong, stable government that welcomes private investment whether abroad or within its borders. Thankfully, China sees opportunity in investing in Africa. By 2018, China had invested more than $60 billion in Africa. Part of this investment is for building railroads, a simple but life-changing idea that brings jobs and people, just as it did in the U.S. from the 1830s to 1860s. The industrialization of the Ivory Coast, along with investments by the public and private sector, might be the solution to reduce poverty in the country.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Diamonds in BotswanaBotswana, located in southern Africa, has a population of 2 million. The country has achieved an impressive record of economic development and poverty reduction over the last half-century. In 1950, Botswana’s GDP per capita was $1,344. Today, it is $15,015, making Botswana a middle-income country. As the second-largest exporter of diamonds, the prudent economic management of diamonds in Botswana is responsible for much of this growth.

The Resource Curse

Paradoxically, many countries that discover large domestic reserves of natural commodities like petroleum, gold or rare-earth metals experience economic stagnation or decline. A recent paper by the International Monetary Fund explains that this trend often occurs because of commodity-dependence. When a country is heavily dependent on just one commodity export and the price of that commodity declines, there is no other revenue stream to salvage the economy. However, Botswana is a standing reproach to this trend. Judicious fiscal policy has allowed Botswana to reap the rewards of their vast diamond reserves while avoiding many potential setbacks.

Botswana’s Fiscal Prudence

Due to its capital intensive nature, the employment potential of mining is Botswana has always been limited. While diamonds make up 40 percent of Botswana’s GDP and 90 percent of Botswana’s exports, diamonds in Botswana only account for four percent of employment. As a result, the government has had to find ways to distribute the wealth generated from diamond exports across the country’s population.

Botswana has been lauded for the effective management of its diamond supply. In particular, the country has employed two strategies to ensure that its diamond exports promote sustainable, egalitarian economic growth: decoupling expenditure and revenue and investing in economic diversification.

First, Botswana has chosen not to automatically increase government spending during economic booms. Instead, when diamond prices rise and government revenue increases, Botswana often saves cash to cushion the blow during price shocks. This long-term economic mindset has prevented recessions. For example, the World Bank writes that when diamond revenues fell in 1981, Botswana used a rainy day fund to avoid any drastic decrease in government expenditure.

Botswana uses six-year National Development Plans to outline their expenditure levels. These plans involve feasibility checks to make sure that investment projects are sustainable even if government revenue falls. Once the National Development Plan has been approved, no additional projects can be added without a majority vote from parliament. These mechanisms work toward assuring that Botswana has enough reserve cash if its diamond reserves falter.

Economic Diversification

The second strategy Botswana uses to grow its economy is diversification into sectors other than diamond mining. A variegated economy is less vulnerable to commodity price shocks. Botswana has invested much of its earnings from diamond exports into incentive structures that encourage manufacturing and agriculture. In 2005, Botswana created the Business and Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) tasked with identifying barriers to diversification and crafting responsive action plans. As a result of this focus, the Botswanan economy has continued to grow even when global diamond prices fall. What is more, manufacturing today comprises 14 percent of Botswanan GDP and is more diversified than it was at independence. Even though Botswana has relied on diamonds for the last few decades, manufacturing growth in Botswana outpaced the sub-Saharan African average from 1970 to 1996.

Botswana’s Progress

Good governance has propelled Botswana from a low-income to a middle-income country. In 1985, 59 percent of the population was living in poverty. Today, that percentage has dropped to 19 percent. In 1966, 60 percent of Botswana’s government expenditure came from foreign aid. Today, only three percent of expenditure comes from foreign aid. As Botswana continues to aim for economic diversification and prudent fiscal management, they stand as an impressive example of the impact that judicious economic policy can have on a vulnerable population.

– Abraham Rohrig
Photo: Flickr

Coding in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is primarily an agricultural country, with more than 80 percent of its citizens living in rural areas. More than 108.4 million people call Ethiopia home, making it Africa’s second-largest nation in terms of population. However, other production areas have become major players in Ethiopia’s economy. As of 2017, Ethiopia had an estimated gross domestic product of $200.6 billion with the main product coming from other sources than agriculture.

Today, 1.2 million Ethiopians have access to fixed telephone lines, while 62.6 million own cell phones. The country broadcasts six public TV stations and 10 public radio shows nationally. 2016 data showed that over 15 million Ethiopians have internet access. While 15 percent of the population may not seem significant, it is a sharp increase in comparison to the mere one percent of the population with Internet access just two years prior.

Coding in Ethiopia: One Girl’s Success Story

Despite its technologically-limited environment, young tech-savvy Ethiopians are beginning to forge their own destiny and pave the way for further technological improvements. One such pioneer is teenager Betelhem Dessie. At only 19, Dessie has spent the last three years traveling Ethiopia and teaching more than 20,000 young people how to code and patenting a few new software programs along the way.

On her website, Dessie recounts some of the major milestones she’s achieved as it relates to coding in Ethiopia:

  • 2006 – she got her first computer
  • 2011- she presented her projects to government officials at age 11
  • 2013-she co-founded a company, EBAGD, whose goals were to modernize Ethiopia’s education sector by converting Ethiopian textbooks into audio and visual materials for the students.
  • 2014-Dessie started the “codeacademy” of Bahir Dar University and taught in the STEM center at the university.

United States Collaboration

Her impressive accomplishments continue today. More recently, Dessie has teamed up with the “Girls Can Code” initiative—a U.S. Embassy implemented a project that focuses on encouraging girls to study STEM. According to Dessie, “Girls Can Code” will “empower and inspire young girls to increase their performance and pursue STEM education.”

In 2016, Dessie helped train 40 girls from public and governmental schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia how to code over the course of nine months. During those nine months, Dessie helped her students develop a number of programs and projects. One major project was a website where students can, according to Dessie, “practice the previous National examinations like SAT prep sites would do.” This allows students to take practice tests “anywhere, anytime.” In 2018, UNESCO expanded a similar project by the same name to include all 10 regions in Ghana, helping to make technology accessible to more Africans than ever before.

With the continuation of programs like “Girls Can Code” and the ambition of young coders everywhere, access to technology will give girls opportunities to participate in STEM, thereby closing the technology gender gap in developing countries. Increased STEM participation will only serve to aid struggling nations in becoming globally competitive by boosting their education systems and helping them become more connected to the world in the 21st century.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

What You Need to Know about Fair Trade
Imagine being in the local supermarket, perhaps in the coffee aisle. There is an abundance of options, from decaf to french vanilla and everything in between. Some of the choices have a special seal marked “Fairtrade.” But what does that mean? Here are the facts to know about Fair Trade.

What is Fair Trade?

One fact to know about Fair Trade is the difference between Fair Trade and Fairtrade. Fair Trade is a set of social, economic and environmental standards for companies and the farmers and workers who grow the food millions enjoy each day. Fairtrade, on the other hand, is a trademarked labeling initiative that certifies a product has met the agreed Fair Trade criteria.

For farmers and workers, standards include the protection of workers’ rights and the environment. For companies, they include the payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium. This premium can be used to invest in business or community projects of the community’s choice.

How does Fair Trade combat poverty?

The Fair Trade argument is that the poor are being paid less than fair prices for their products in the free market trading system. The Fairtrade foundation states that its goal is to “empower marginalized producers to become economically stable and self-sufficient and to promote sustainable development, gender equality, and environmental protection.”

Offering decent prices for products can help support jobs and improve living conditions for producers, their families and the local businesses they buy from. It can also divert young men from involvement in militias. The intention is that this will ultimately decrease conflict levels in impoverished nations.

While not all poor states are volatile, data indicates that violent conflict contributes to poverty in a number of ways. It can cause damage to infrastructure, break up communities and contribute to increased unemployment and forced displacement of peoples.

Additionally, free trade boosts economic sectors, thereby creating more jobs and a source of stable increased wages. As developed countries move their operations into developing countries, new opportunities open for local workers. An increase in the general standard of living reduces hunger and increases food production. Overall, a higher income makes education more accessible, increases literacy, increases life expectancy and reduces infant mortality rates.

Fair Trade focuses on the exchange between individuals and companies. Fair Trade supply chains utilize direct partnerships that take into account the needs of individual communities. Often times, cross border supply chains strengthen ties between two or more nations. By bringing people together in mutually beneficial trade pacts and policies, Free Trade can contribute to a sense of peace in war-torn areas. Through cultural exchange, there is a rare absence of marginalization in this type of commerce.

What are the disadvantages to know about Fair Trade practices?

Although the Fair Trade movement has good intentions, it also has a few disadvantages.

Fairtrade targets farmers and producers who are financially secure enough to pay certification, inspection and marketing fees, which are necessary to ensure compliance with government regulations. Thus, the poorest farmers who would benefit most from Fairtrade certification are often excluded.

Fairtrade minimum prices and wages ensure fair payment of farmers. However, farmers for non-certified products are left at a considerable disadvantage. When prices fall in the world market, it is the non-Fairtrade certified farmers who suffer. That being said, prices in stores are not monitored by the Fairtrade Foundation. Thus, the producers receive only a small piece of the revenue from retail mark-ups.

Conversely, research conducted by various groups such as CODER, the Natural Resource Institute and Brazilian based BSD Consulting has shown positive impacts of Fair Trade practices around the globe. In Colombia for instance, a 2014 study by CODER assessed the impact of Fairtrade for banana farmers in small producer organizations and workers on plantations. The study concluded that Fairtrade, with the support of other organizations, contributed to a revival of the banana sector in Colombia and increased respect for human and labor rights. Other studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of Fairtrade on worker empowerment in Ecuadorian flower plantations and the benefits of Fairtrade orange juice for Brazilian smallholder farmers.

Here are the facts to know about Fair Trade that can help consumers make informed decisions in their daily lives. Many everyday food items like coffee, chocolate, fruit and nuts offer Fairtrade certified options in local grocery stores. Change is already happening in the Congo where Fairtrade certified gourmet coffee is sourced from war-torn regions. Companies such as Tropical Wholefoods have begun to sell Fairtrade certified dried apricots from northern Pakistan. Just an extra minute in the grocery aisle and a few extra cents to choose Fairtrade can make a big difference.

-GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Rural Poverty in ChinaSince the 1980s, China has experienced rapid economic growth and increased average income, a far cry from rural poverty. After opening up to international trade and foreign direct investment, the East Asian nation has grown to become one of the world’s largest economic superpowers with a nominal gross domestic product of $12.01 trillion, second only to the United States.

Though China’s rapid development has benefited its citizens who live in highly industrialized urban centers along the eastern coast, it has simultaneously left many rural and agricultural communities behind. These rural communities have little food, limited access to clean water and insufficient means to dig themselves out of poverty. However, rural poverty in China is something that the Chinese government is actively working to combat.

Hannah Adkins, a university student who recently studied abroad in China, commented on the poverty disparity between its rural and urban communities. “Though ecotourism, for example, is a growing industry in China due to the country’s natural beauty and expansive landscape, rural communities have a difficult time jumping on those opportunities. They simply do not have enough expendable money to put toward money-making industries like ecotourism, meaning that they must receive help from the government or NGOs. Otherwise, these poor rural people will be stuck in cyclical rural poverty,” Adkins told The Borgen Project.

When most people think of China, they undoubtedly think of the nation’s rise to economic prowess and its many industrial centers. However, China is an enormous country geographically, consisting of 3.7 million square miles of land area. Many, though, are unaware of its impoverished rural people who live in its expansive central and western provinces. Here are 10 facts about rural poverty in China.

10 Facts About Rural Poverty in China

  1. China’s rural population makes up roughly 42 percent of the nation’s total population, meaning more than 580 million Chinese citizens live in rural areas.
  2. According to the CIA World Factbook, approximately 3.3 percent of China’s population lives below the poverty line.
  3. Based on a report by the Wall Street Journal, upward of 90 to 99 percent of China’s impoverished population either lives in or comes from rural areas, such as the nation’s mountainous villages and arid landscapes.
  4. Only 63.7 percent of China’s rural population has regular access to improved sanitation facilities, compared to 86.6 percent of its urban population. This is just one example of the rural-urban disparity that results in rural poverty in China.
  5. The combined income of households in China’s eastern coastal regions, where a large majority of the country’s urban centers are located, is more than 2.5 times that of inland regions’ households. This disparity is another contributing factor to the issue of rural poverty in China.
  6. In an effort to improve its rural and long-distance infrastructure, China introduced a 2014 plan called the Pledged Supplementary Lending program. The program works with the Agricultural Development Bank of China “to better support rural infrastructure and development projects in funding to improve residents’ living conditions in rural areas.”
  7. Much of China’s rural population relies on agriculture as a source of sustenance, as well as income. However, approximately 40 percent of land in China has fallen victim to land degradation in the form of salinization, desertification or soil erosion. This makes it so that farmers and landowners do not have nearly as much access to fertile and farmable land, thus contributing to the rural poverty in China.
  8. On top of China’s land degradation, the country has about 19 percent polluted land. As a result, the contamination of food and water has become increasingly common due to the excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers, as well as other pollutants.
  9. The International Fund for Agricultural Development’s projections estimate more than 12 million rural Chinese citizens will move to urban centers annually over the course of the next 10 years. Though this continued urbanization will decrease the amount of crop production in agricultural communities, it will also place poor families in urban centers with more job opportunities and more sufficient living conditions, thus potentially aiding the issue of rural poverty in China.
  10. Though rural poverty in China is still a problematic issue, the Chinese government has put forth a plan to eliminate all poverty in China by 2020. President Xi Jinping’s 13th Five-Year Plan aims to identify, register and assist every impoverished Chinese citizen, especially those in rural areas, in order to guide them out of poverty and lower the overall poverty rate. This is just one of the ways by which China plans to decrease its poverty issue in the coming years.

While rural poverty in China is a paramount issue, there are movements to make improvements. China’s Pledged Supplementary Lending program and President Xi Jinping’s 13th Five-Year Plan will be sure to improve rural living conditions and help Chinese people in need.

– Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in SerbiaFormerly a part of Yugoslavia, Serbia is a small landlocked country located in southeastern Europe between Macedonia and Hungary. Serbia has an extremely tense history with its neighboring countries as a result of the breaking up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Today, Serbia is quite different. Here are the top ten facts about living conditions in Serbia.

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Serbia

  1. Pollution: Serbia is currently subject to environmental issues in the form of pollution. The capital city of Belgrade is particularly susceptible to air pollution. Water pollution is also an issue throughout Serbia as industrial waste from the cities is known to eventually flow into the Danube. Management of all kinds of waste — domestic, industrial and hazardous — has been poor.
  2. Ethnic diversity: More than 80 percent of the population of Serbia identifies as Serb, with the main minorities being Hungarian and Bosnian Muslims. The Roma people also make up a small minority, along with other people from neighboring countries. Serbians essentially speak the same language as Croats, Bosniaks and Montenegrins, but with slight variations in dialect.
  3. Economy: Serbia’s economy saw huge growth between 2001 and 2008 because of domestic consumerism. However, because of the rapidness of the growth, the economy experienced instability and both internal and external imbalances. The economy has steadily increased since, and as of 2018 is projected to continue in surplus.
  4. Power: Serbia has no nuclear power stations. Instead, they use hydroelectric power and coal as their main energy sources. The largest coal-burning stations are located in Belgrade, and much of the hydroelectric power comes from the Djerdap dam.
  5. Population: With a population of just over seven million, the most heavily populated area of Serbia is the capital city of Belgrade wherein more than one million people live. Despite the large population, the unemployment rate among Serbian youth ages 15–24 is 29.7 percent, which is quite high. As a result, many young Serbians go to other countries to find work.
  6. Trade: Serbia’s main trading partners are Italy and Germany; however, Russia, Switzerland, China and Hungary are also partnered with Serbia. Many countries are not interested in trading with Serbia because of its infrastructure decline. Additionally, Serbia faces problems with corruption that leave potential trading partners skeptical.
  7. Health Care: Healthcare is provided to pregnant women, babies and children up to 15 years of age. Also, students up to the age of 26 are allotted healthcare. All Serbian citizens are granted treatments for diseases and mental illnesses. Yet, one-fifth of the population remains without healthcare.
  8. Family culture: Serbia is a staunchly patriarchal society, as was instilled under the Ottoman rule and can still be seen today. Family loyalty is very important in Serbian culture. Nepotism is a common problem in workspaces and perpetuates the patriarchal motifs.
  9. Leisure: Belgrade and another city, Novi Sad, are the cultural hubs of Serbia, offering extensive nightlife as well as other cultural hotspots. Various cafes, sporting events and galleries are open across the cities to give those living there — especially the youth — plenty to do. The countryside also has a lot to offer with its abundance of places to go if one wanted to experience traditional Serbian life.
  10. Housing: Housing in Serbia has been a problem since the period of civil unrest and throughout the 1990s; hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless. Although Western nations sent aid, only part of the problem was alleviated. Currently, housing is particularly a problem for young people in urban areas.

Though Serbia is a beautiful country and its tourism rates have risen in recent years, the country still harbors a lot of tension because of its past conflicts. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Serbia showcase that while the country has made great strides and developments, there is still room for improvement.

Emily Cormier
Photo: Flickr

top 10 facts about living conditions in azerbaijanAzerbaijan is a country of 9.8 million people situated between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is bordered by the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian Sea. A former part of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan is roughly the size of Maine. Below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Azerbaijan.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Azerbaijan

  1. A Trading Economics report from 2008 shows that only 2.5 percent of the population lives on two dollars per day, while the top 10 percent of the population hold a quarter of the country’s wealth.
  2. Falling oil prices devastated Azerbaijan’s economy in 2015 when the national GDP fell from $75.244 billion in 2014 to $53.074 billion in 2015. The GDP fell even further in 2016 to $37.868 billion. The economy has begun to recover, but the GDP lingers just above half of the pre-economic shock levels.
  3. As the economy recovers, Azerbaijan hit an average record-high income per month in 2019. In March of this year, the average income was 577.60 AZN per month, roughly $399. This is a stark contrast from the record-low income per month just a decade ago, when the United States recession affected the world economy. In April 2008, the average wages were 242.70 AZN per month or $142.
  4. During this recession, food inflation rose to a peak of 18.27 percent. To offset the public’s inability to purchase food, the government raised pensions and wages, which is a move that many economists believed would further increase inflation, however, food inflation currently sits at around two percent.
  5. A majority of the population live in urban areas; 55 percent of citizens reside in cities.
  6. 100 percent of the country reports having access to electricity, both in rural and urban areas. The goal of the government has been to meet and maintain access to electricity for the entire population, but they have struggled to achieve their goal. Access has sat at or over 95 percent for the last three decades but has fluctuated.
  7. 78 percent of the population has access to the internet, although sweeping reforms in Azerbaijan’s government have given authorities the right to widely ban content. In recent years, many journalists were detained and sentenced to up to 10 years for their internet activity.
  8. Access to clean water was traditionally an issue for the people of Azerbaijan. In the early 1990s, only 68.8 percent of the population had access to clean water. Today, nearly 90 percent of people have access to clean water in their households. This improvement was made using many different public projects including sanitation plants installed along the river, and the collection and processing of rainwater.
  9. The fertility rate is low with just under two live births per woman in 2016, compared to near six live births per woman in the early 1960s. Programs that promoted birth control and educated women on pregnancy helped the fertility rate to decline. Another aiding factor was the increase in healthcare that allowed more children to live into adulthood, so families did not need to have as many children to ensure their family’s growth.
  10. The life expectancy at birth for the population of Azerbaijan is 72.8 years. Women have a life expectancy of over 76 years, while men have a life expectancy of 70 years.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Azerbaijan suggest that the country is recovering from a difficult economic era. While there is less devastating poverty in recent years, the economic downturn of 2015 and 2016 shows that Azerbaijan is a country that needs to take steps in stabilizing the economy, investing further in its citizens and broadening its markets if the country wants to completely remove itself from poverty and carry its people into a brighter future. Azerbaijan has reduced the amount of poverty among their citizens, but they still have more to accomplish.

– Kathryn Moffet
Photo: Flickr

Blue Economy in Bangladesh

Whether 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