10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica
The island country of Jamaica, in the Caribbean Sea, is making improvements in its public health care systems to increase life expectancy. Once ran by an unstable and politically corrupt government, Jamaica handed the keys to Sir Patrick Allen in 2016. Under a new regime, the government promises to take public health care more seriously. “The government is committed to working assiduously during the first year of administration to tackle these issues,” said Allen in an interview.

The administration is shifting its focus to partnership and community mobilization to protect the health of Jamaicans. The country has implemented a new 10-year plan focusing on expanding health care access through infrastructure development. The new motto of building a partnership for prosperity has influenced positive change, but many Jamaicans still struggle or are unable to attain proper health care. The expenses have put many families in a state of poverty. Rural areas will have unequal access to incoming health care benefits. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Jamaica

  1. According to the CIA World Factbook, Jamaicans’ life expectancy rate from birth is currently 74.5 years, ranking the country 123rd in the world. Males live an average of 72.7 years while females live an average of 76.5 years. Overall, life expectancy has risen since the turn of the century. In 1960, the life expectancy rate from birth was only 64 years which means there was a 10-year increase as of 2019.
  2. Improvements in public health care and life expectancy have led to a decrease in infant mortality rates. In the year 2000, 14.6 infants died per 1,000 births. In 2019, 11.6 infants have died per 1,000 births. The decline is about three children in the last 19 years and is still decreasing.
  3. Enhancements in clean drinking water have also led to increased life expectancy in Jamaica. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, access to sanitary water has improved 97.5 percent for urban populations and 89.4 percent for rural populations. This leaves just 2.5 percent of the urban and 10.6 percent of the rural populations needing improvements in water.
  4. The HIV and AIDS epidemic has also seen a decrease in cases, leading to improved life expectancy. The virus has affected the entire Caribbean for many years, but health improvements lowered the number of cases each year. As of 2017, only 1.8 percent of the island of Jamaica has contracted the HIV virus with 1,500 deaths. This is a decrease from 56 percent in 2004.
  5. In 2016, Jamaica became the latest Caribbean country to have the Zika virus. Mosquito bites transmit the virus and it can pass from person to person through sex, blood transfusions or pregnancies. The government has lowered the number of cases as of 2019 but is also putting together a precautionary plan for citizens and travelers including what kind of repellents to use, places to avoid and how to protect children.
  6. Prosperity through partnership, mobilization and urbanization is the goal of the 2016 Jamaica government. Within two years, the government has brought urbanization to 55.7 percent, averaging a 0.82 percent rate of change each year. This is an encouraging number, but one that Sir Patrick Allen will look to increase in order to urbanize at a more rapid pace.
  7. Environmental issues within the country have halted some improvements. Hurricanes frequently hit the island, especially between July and December. Heavy rates of deforestation, water pollution by industrial waste, oil spills, land erosion, damage to coral reefs and air pollution are all pressing issues that influence mortality. The government has prioritized these issues through plans to expand partnerships with richer countries, hoping they will provide relief to damaged parts of Jamaica.
  8. Education has increased rapidly in Jamaica, providing children the opportunity to grow into productive members of society, which increases their life expectancy. More children are starting school between the ages of two and three. The country provides preschool, primary school and high school, and offers further educational choices. With improvements in education, the literacy rate of Jamaica has climbed to an astonishing 89 percent overall.
  9. The World Food Program has been working diligently in Jamaica to improve nourishment. Thanks to its efforts, obesity in the country dropped to under 20 percent in 2018. This is a significant improvement from the 5 percent decrease in 2016. Only 2.2 percent of children under the age of 5 are underweight.
  10. Sanitation facilities have seen a rapid improvement. In 79.9 percent of urban areas and 84.1 percent of rural areas, the country has made sanitation improvements to schools, hospitals, houses, parks and local bathrooms. A total of 18.2 percent of the area still needs improvement in those areas to aid life expectancy.

The upcoming years will continue to be of high importance for the new government, but Jamaica has much to celebrate. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica show that the country has made improvements to increase life expectancy. It still requires more work, especially as it continues to implement its 10-year program.

– Aaron Templin
Photo: Pixabay

Facts about Poverty in GazaThe Gaza Strip, a highly controversial tract of land, borders both Israel and Egypt. Gaza Strip’s population of 1.8 million, living in an area about the size of Detroit, endures severe hardships. Gaza has a poverty rate of 53 percent. An ongoing conflict with Israel and political instability are the chief reasons for Gaza’s extreme poverty rate. Below are seven facts about poverty in Gaza.

7 Facts about Poverty in Gaza

  1. The Gaza Strip is governed by Hamas, a militant fundamentalist organization.
    Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip since it orchestrated a coup d’état in 2007  Both the United States and the European Union label Hamas as a terrorist organization, This is due to its explicit acts of violence against Israel and its citizens. Meanwhile, the Hamas government has developed robust social and welfare programs in the Gaza Strip. Spending is between $50-70 million annually.
  2. Hamas instituted a blockade of Gaza, resulting in poverty complications.
    The next among these facts about poverty in Gaza is about its blockade. Since Hamas came to power, Israel and Egypt have enforced a land, air and sea blockade of Gaza, citing security concerns. The blockade has contributed to a struggling economy, a lack of clean drinking water, inadequate housing and severe food insecurity. According to the United Nations, “the blockade has undermined the living conditions in the coastal enclave and fragmented… its economic and social fabric.”
  3. Gaza’s GDP is declining.
    In a 2018 report, the World Bank described Gaza’s economy as in “free-fall.” The World Bank cites a combination of factors as the reason for a six percent decline in the territory’s GDP. While the decade-long blockade has done significant damage to the economy, recent cuts to international aid are placing additional strains on Gaza. Another contributing factor is that 52 percent of Gaza’s inhabitants are unemployed. Gaza has a youth unemployment rate of 66 percent.
  4. As many as 90 percent of those living in Gaza have little access to safe drinking water.
    In fact, 97 percent of Gaza’s freshwater is unsuitable for human consumption. Diarrhea, kidney disease, stunted growth and impaired IQ result from Gaza’s water crisis. Additionally, humanitarian groups warn that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 due to shortages.
  5. Poverty in Gaza is exacerbated by precarious access to food and other basic goods.
    In 2018, the UN characterized 1.3 million people in the Gaza Strip as food insecure. This constitutes a 9 percent increase from 2014. The blockade prevents many goods from entering the territory. Further, it places strict limits on fishing activity, a major source of economic revenue. It also limits availability to the equipment needed for construction, as Israel worries the equipment could be used for violence.
  6. Gaza currently has access to electricity for only eight hours each day.
    Demand for electricity far exceeds the supply. Likewise, the UN describes it as a chronic electricity deficit. From providing healthcare to desalinating water, poor access to electricity makes life more difficult in the Gaza Strip.
  7. Many organizations and movements are working to alleviate poverty in Gaza.
    The United Nations has several arms at work, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The UNRWA provides education, health services and financial loans to refugees in the territory. The UNDP targets its assistance to decrease Gaza’s reliance on foreign aid. Additionally, the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement strives to put economic pressure on Israel and lift the blockade.

Importance of Addressing Poverty in Gaza

These seven facts about poverty in Gaza provides some insight into the situation. However, addressing the region’s poverty proves to be a worthwhile pursuit. Poverty reduction can lead to greater stability. Furthermore, it can increase the chances for dialogue between Israel and Palestine. Overall, international cooperation and foreign aid have the potential to vastly improve the lives of the 1.8 million individuals in Gaza.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Global PovertyPeople helping people. Country helping country. Giving back to the world is not a strange concept and is a welcomed idea in most societies. A popular form of global help is foreign aid. The umbrella term commonly refers to monetary assistance provided by outlying or foreign governments. The funds are generally distributed through humanitarian organizations, non-profit groups or directly from a foreign government. As such, the aid is given to citizens in an abundance of forms, such as money, food or shelter. While some can afford to provide more than others on a purely numeric comparison, the amounts are measured or valued differently depending on the country’s economic standing. This list consists of five countries fighting global poverty who outshine the rest.

Top Five Countries Fighting Global Poverty

  1. Norway begins the list as it provides the largest amount of foreign aid in comparison to its GDP. The government put 1.11 percent of its GDP towards global humanitarian aid, spending NOK 455 million as of 2018. The country utilizes organizations such as the U.N.’s CERF (Central Emergency Response Fund), the Red Crescent Movement and the Red Cross. Recently, Norway channeled much of their funds into CERF in order to assist Venezuela in its growing refugee crisis. Norway’s contributions towards these programs effectively fight against global poverty and prove the nation should be in the top five, as its generosity in comparison to its national budget is the highest in the world.
  2. Luxembourg also contributes a significant portion of their GDP towards humanitarian and foreign affairs. Approximately 1 percent of their national budget, or about USD 413 million, is used for aid. Some of Luxembourg’s projects include poverty reduction through community development in Laos, education improvement in Burkina Faso and health care in Nicaragua. These countries receive specific help from various agencies and organizations like LuxDev and the Directorate for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs. These groups and projects, though just a few select examples, show how much effort Luxemborg puts in fighting poverty.
  3. Sweden comes forward as another example of a smaller country with a smaller budget who still makes a grand impact in the world. As about 1.04 percent of its GDP, or about USD 5.8 billion, is used for humanitarian and foreign aid, Sweden holds a top ranking. While the money touches on a broad range of topics, from civil rights to education, specific Swedish projects focus on poverty issues. For instance, Sweden recently provided aid to Somalia for drought relief through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Somalia Humanitarian Fund. Sweden makes a mark on the world by not only tackling larger, conceptual issues, but by also responding quickly to disasters and world events. Such assistance highlights the country’s proficiency in the fight against global poverty.
  4. The United States is a leader in fighting global poverty as it contributes the most money towards humanitarian and foreign aid. Within the past few years alone, the U.S. contributed USD 30 billion towards various forms of international aid. The nation utilizes several different federal agencies, non-profit groups and other organizations to distribute aid. The U.S. commonly works with popular organizations such as UNICEF or the Red Cross. A prime example of the U.S. effect on the world is with the sheer number of countries it provides for, as it touches nearly 40 different nations, including Pakistan and Mexico.
  5. Germany also provides a significant amount of aid with nearly USD 20 billion contributed towards humanitarian projects in recent years. This accounts for nearly 0.70 percent of the national budget. Popular organizations and agencies include the World Food Program, which Germany utilized to provide relief to Africa. In addition to such organizations, Germany is known to donate large amounts of money to other countries, a notable example being Syria in recent years due to their ongoing crisis. Germany’s monetary generosity also makes it the second-largest donor in the world to foreign aid, falling in just behind the U.S.

Whether it’s a natural disaster or political turmoil, when a country is in need, surrounding neighbors will often step up to help.

– Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr

Ten Features of the Parliamentary SystemDespite the fact that numerous nations around the world follow the parliamentary system of government, many Americans do not understand what it is. The parliamentary system is a democratic government. In this government, a coalition of political parties with the greatest representation in Parliament form the nation’s governing body. Below are ten features of the parliamentary system that describe this popular form of democracy.

Ten Features of the Parliamentary System

  1. The first of the ten features of the parliamentary system of government is the supremacy of its legislative branch. This is its defining feature. The legislative branch conducts its business through a unicameral (one house) or bicameral (two houses) Parliament. This group is composed of representatives or members that are elected by citizens of the country. The primary job of members of Parliament is to create and pass laws.
  2. The parliamentary system of government, unlike the presidential system, creates a divide between the roles of Head of Government and Head of State. Rather than citizens, members of Parliament elect the Prime Minister, who is the Head of Government. The Prime Minister oversees Parliament. This creates an overlap between the legislative and executive branches of government. The Head of State in a parliamentary systam is largely a symbolic role. Hereditary monarchs typically have this role reserved.
  3. The Prime Minister has no official term length. Thus, so long as Parliament is satisfied, the Prime Minister remains in position. Should it ever be called for, members of parliament will use a majority vote known as a “vote of no-confidence” in order to remove a Prime Minister from office.
  4. Majority vote of Parliament passes laws. Then, they are then signed into legislation by the Prime Minister, who does not have veto power. This is contrary to the presidential system. In the case of disagreement, the Prime Minister can return a bill to Parliament. However, a majority vote by Parliament can veto that return.
  5. In most parliamentary systems of government, there is a Supreme Court that can declare a law as unconstitutional. This would be done if it were to pose violations against the nation’s constitution. However, some countries, such as Great Britain and New Zealand, lack provisions for judicial review. In these countries, the only check against the legislature is the results of the next election season.
  6. Though uncommon, some parliamentary systems have an elected president who exercises foreign powers. An example of some foreign powers would be national defense and military command. The elected president exercises these powers. Some countries that follow this system are Lithuania, Bangladesh and France.
  7. Though members of Parliament hold their positions in office by each election season, they can be turned out of office. If one respective party loses majority holdover members of Parliament, they can be removed. Other members of Parliament, as well as the Prime Minister, are then able to vote out a member of Parliament. A no-confidence vote accomplishes this.
  8. Parliamentary systems lack what presidential systems call “Checks and Balances.” Therefore, the parliamentary system tends to be more efficient. This is because political gridlocks cannot delay them.
  9. A parliamentary system of government consists of members serving various political parties. Therefore, coalitions are a very popular type of agreement in parliamentary governments. Members of opposing political parties will often form a coalition, otherwise known as a temporary union. This alliance utilizes its combined resources to accomplish a common goal.
  10. Depending on the rules of voting within a country, the political representation within members of Parliament may consist of one party. It may also be proportionally representative of the nation. If a country follows a “first-past-the-post” (FPTP) principle, Parliament will most likely consist of one or two majority political parties. An FPTP is a principle in which candidates with the most ballots win a seat. However, some countries follow a rule of proportional representation. This means that the political makeup of Parliament members is appropriate to that of the nation.

With so many types of government around the world, it can be difficult to understand how each works. These are ten features of the parliamentary system that can help citizens around the world have a better understanding of this popular form of government.

-Shreya Gaddipati
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Human Trafficking in Thailand

Characterized by breathtaking beaches, delicious food and stunning temples, Thailand is often called the “Land of Smiles.” As the number one tourist destination in Southeast Asia, it is an extremely popular place for millions of people to visit every year. Unfortunately, with convenient routes that funnel women and children in and out of the country, Thailand has also become a popular destination for human traffickers. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Thailand.

10 Facts about Human Trafficking in Thailand

  1. Human trafficking by boat is common – First up in this list of facts about human trafficking in Thailand is the method of transportation. The fishing industry is a major asset to Thailand’s economy, so many ships go out to sea to fish. These boats sometimes do not come back for up to three years at a time. This makes it nearly impossible for authorities to monitor the activity of boats. Thus, many traffickers prefer to travel through the seas, despite the risks it may pose on the trafficked victims.
  2. Thailand’s geographical location makes it particularly vulnerable to traffickers – Land routes from neighboring countries into Thailand are not very well secured and corruption is prevalent. This makes it much easier for human traffickers to smuggle people into the country.
  3. Minorities and migrants are high-risk for being trafficked – Among those at the greatest risk for being trafficked in Thailand are foreign migrants, ethnic minorities and stateless persons. They may experience various abuses including the withholding of identity and work documents and debt bondage. They could even be subject to illegal salary deductions. Language barriers and low socioeconomic status further contribute to the vulnerability of these populations.
  4. There is no one “type” of trafficking offender – Profiles of traffickers vary considerably. They include both males and females, Thai and non-Thai nationals. They can be from organized networks with the ability to produce or buy fake documents and avoid immigration requirements. Additionally, traffickers can act individually, seizing opportunities to profit from coercing vulnerable persons into situations of exploitation.
  5. There are various forms of trafficking networks – Trafficking networks can be well-structured and work across borders through the use of brokers. However, most trafficking cases are facilitated by individual and local level networks of friends, family members and former victims that often begin with voluntary migration.
  6. Most victims of human trafficking in Thailand are, in fact, of Thai nationality – The majority of trafficking victims identified in Thailand are Thai nationals, trafficked both domestically and internationally. Migrants from neighboring countries make up a large portion of identified trafficked persons in Thailand. However, many more victims from neighboring countries are not identified. These victims often willingly migrate from their home countries in search of better opportunities. Some of their home countries include China, Vietnam, Russia, Uzbekistan and Fiji.
  7. Victims are often trafficked into Thailand through established migration routes – These victims come from neighboring states with significantly lower levels of socioeconomic development. Facilitated by long and porous borders, irregular migration is a common trend in meeting the labor demands of low-skilled employment sectors.
  8. Trafficking in Thailand is a $12 billion industry – This makes it a bigger cash earner than the country’s drug trade, according to the International Labor Organization.
  9. More than 900 victims of human trafficking have been rescued in 2019 – According to official statistics released by the Thai anti-trafficking department, since the beginning of 2019, the police have rescued 974 victims of human trafficking. Most of the victims were from Myanmar.
  10. The hotel industry has taken initiative in combating this issue – A French multinational hotel group set up an employee training program to identify and address sex tourism in 2001. Additionally, Airbnb works with the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign. which provides education about human trafficking. Airbnb also works with No Traffick Ahead, a coalition for combating human trafficking.

Efforts to Eliminate Human Trafficking in Thailand

These facts about human trafficking in Thailand reflect the severity of this problem on a global level. The Thai government has pledged to continue fighting the human trafficking epidemic in their country. In the last year, it partnered with airlines and charities to warn visitors against involvement in trafficking. Subsequently, they urged them to spot and report potential cases.

UNICEF has been particularly active in calling attention to child exploitation and in addressing its root causes. This organization provides economic support to families so that their children will not be at risk of sexual exploitation; it improves access to education and is a strong advocate for children’s rights.

Progress in reducing the human trafficking trade has been made in recent years. However, to make a widespread impact, the efforts of these nongovernmental organizations need to be aided by urgent government action. This action is essential to protect Thai citizens and migrant workers.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Gang Violence in HonduasHonduras is one of the most impoverished nations in Central America. In 2016, figures showed that over 66 percent of its population lived in extreme poverty. These figures also reveal an estimated one out of five rural Hondurans is trying to survive on less than a mere $1.90 per day. Since poverty and criminal activity seem to have a close correlational relationship, it is no surprise that Honduras has held consistently high crime rates along with high poverty rates. What many may not know is that much of Honduras’s crime is due to gang violence. Below are seven facts about gangs in Honduras.

Seven Facts About Gangs in Honduras

  1. The two largest gangs in Honduras are the MS 13 and the Barrio 18. MS 13 is expanding internationally. Its scope and influence on crime in Honduras are hard to verify. In fact, since gang activity is so common in Honduras, it is hard for government officials to discern how much violence in the country is strictly due to gang-related activity.
  2. One gang runs several legal businesses. Recent investigations into the massive MS 13 gang activities in El Salvador uncovered a multimillion-dollar structure of legitimate businesses owned by the gang. MS 13 is a violent and massive gang that operates primarily in Honduras but also in El Salvador. Additionally, the gang has close ties with Mexican drug cartels.
  3. Honduras is attempting to rid its law enforcement of corruption. Since 2016, the nation of Honduras has dismissed around 4,455 police officers. This purge was an attempt to cleanse its law-enforcement from corrupted officials. These were officials who dabbled with organized crime and carried out extra-judicial killings. The country is also trying to create a new police training curriculum that centers on human rights.
  4. Ex-cops are being recruited into gangs. Despite good intentions, many of the released ex-police officers are now being hired by the vicious MS 13 gang as bodyguards and trainers for gang-related activities. MS 13 reportedly pays ex-officers 2.5 times the amount they made inside the police force. This allows the gang to become better-trained to conduct violent business.
  5. Families are leaving their homes to escape gang violence. Between 2016 and 2017, over 1,900 people fled their homes and communities because of gang-related death threats or extortions. It can be insidiously dangerous for residents of Honduras to live unaware of gang turf. Many may accidentally cross those invisible lines and put themselves in harm’s way.
  6. Homicide rates are decreasing, but Honduras still has one of the highest. Honduran homicide rates in 2018 are half of what they were in 2012. In 2012, Honduras experienced 86 murders per 100,000 citizens. In 2018, this number decreased to 42 murders per 100,000 citizens. Although making progress, Honduras still has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.
  7. Honduras has increased the budget for protection from gangs. The budget for Honduran security and justice institutions has increased by over 50 percent in the last five years. In the last couple of years, the El Pozo and La Tolva maximum-security prisons were built. Some of the nation’s criminal and gang leaders are now incarcerated there. Security officials say this has limited their abilities to operate within the prison system.

These key facts about gangs in Honduras indicate that Honduras is trying to lessen the violence that plagues its streets. This is in tandem with foreign partners such as the United States. Overall, global attention and innovative thinking are necessary to provide solutions to the gang epidemic.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

Anemia in GhanaIn Ghana, a country nestled in West Africa, 66 percent of children aged six months to five years have moderate to severe anemia. While other conditions may garner more publicity, anemia in Ghana is widespread and debilitating.

Anemia is a blood disorder with which there is an insufficient amount of red blood cells. Since red blood cells supply the entire body with oxygen, anemia affects multiple organ systems. Background anemia is the most common form of micronutrient deficiency; it affects “over a quarter of the global population.”

Causes of Anemia

Although anemia in Ghana has several causes, a low intake of easily absorbable iron is a known leader. Other nutritional deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B12 and zinc, also lower iron levels in the body.

In Ghana, the burden of anemia falls more heavily on women than men. Post-pubescent women are at increased risk for the condition due to monthly blood loss of menstruation. USAID studies find that 29 percent of women in Ghana are anemic.

Primary infections such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and those from parasites such as helminths can also lead to secondary anemia. According to UNICEF, 3.5 million people contract malaria every year in Ghana, making the country account for 4 percent of the global burden of malaria. Furthermore, UNAIDS reports that 330,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS in Ghana in 2018. The prevalence of these infections has increased the population’s exposure to anemia.

Consequences of Anemia

According to Mayo Clinic, those who are anemic may experience fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness and chest pain. Left untreated, anemia can cause premature birth in pregnant women, which often leads to infant mortality. Young people who experience anemia can have “irrevocable cognitive and developmental delays and exhibit decreased worker productivity as adults.” Untreated severe anemia can additionally result in an irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and even death.

While the health ramifications due to chronic anemia are devastating, having a largely anemic population also has national economic consequences. For example, chronic fatigue from anemia in Ghana could mean an increase in lost workdays and diminished productivity at work. While these indirect costs can be difficult to quantify, they still deserve attention.

Preventing Anemia

To manage anemia in Ghana, the government is offering nutritional support through supplementation and education about iron-rich foods. However, it must also target the rise and persistence of these infections. A multi-focal approach has been and will continue to be necessary.

While the consumption of fruits and vegetables drastically lowers the risk of contracting anemia, generally, rural populations in Ghana have an increased risk of mild to severe anemia. One study suggests that women in urban areas consume more fruits and vegetables, which contributes to the lower incidence of anemia.

As mortality from malaria for children under five years of age has declined drastically from 14.4 percent in 2000 to 0.6 percent in 2012, so has the incidence of new HIV infections from its peak in the late 1990s. While the reduction in each of these primary infections is enough to celebrate, it also means a diminished risk of secondary anemia.

Ghana is hopeful. In 2014, the country achieved 93 percent iron-folic-acid (IFA) supplementation in pregnant women. This nearly ubiquitous IFA supplementation is a milestone because it will lead to less preterm labor and fewer neonatal disorders.

While this is by no means the end of Ghana’s struggle with anemia, the country has made strides toward combatting primary anemia from nutritional deficiencies and secondary anemia from widespread infections like HIV/AIDS and malaria. The future appears positive for anemia in Ghana.

– Sarah Boyer
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Corruption in IndiaIndia remains high on the list of countries across the globe with perceived government corruption. Yet with recent elections, changes in governance, emerging anti-corruption groups and legislative actions, hope for India’s government exists. There are many strides for progress as seen in these 10 facts about corruption in India.

10 Facts About Corruption in India

  1. Corruption Index: According to the Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index (2018), India has remained at a score of 41 on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean) over past years, ranking 78 out of 180 countries in perceived corruption. The index ranks countries by their perceived level of public sector corruption according to experts and qualified business people. The corruption index, in accordance with these 10 facts about corruption in India, reveals that despite some progress, the continued failure of most countries to control corruption has only furthered the crisis in democracy around the world.
  2. Elections:  As India’s election polls closed May 23, 2019, candidates spent a total 600 billion rupees ($8.7 billion) on publicity, logistics and, in some cases, distribution of cash for votes. Yet, the Election Commission ordered that each candidate not exceed 7 million rupees. N Bhaskara Rao, chairman of Centre for Media Studies, says, “Mother of all corruption lies in the spiraling election expenditure.” Rao estimated that expenditures in the 2024 general election could exceed 1 trillion rupees.
  3. The Prevention of Corruption Act: The Prevention of Corruption Act, an attempted anti-corruption regulation, was originally passed by Parliament in 1988. The Act has been brought before the Supreme Court for amendment twice since 1997 for regulation failures, most recently in 2018. PCA 2018 brought about significant changes, including making bribery a specific offense inducing corporate criminal liability, a fixed two-year timeline for the conclusion of a trial and stricter punishments for bribery offenses. However, a new provision now requires government approval before any inquiry or investigation can be conducted by Central Bureau Investigation into the public officials in question. The single directive bars investigative protocols and extends previous legislation (Central Vigilance Act of 2003) to protect officials of all ranks from corruption investigations. The single directive provision has been challenged in the Supreme Court of India and awaits judgment.
  4. The Companies Act 2013: The Companies Act of 2013 provides provisions to prevent corruption and fraud in the corporate sector. This includes requiring statutory auditors to disclose any instances of fraud, corruption or bribery committed by company employees, increasing penalties for fraud offenses, vesting increased powers to arrest with the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), establishing vigilance mechanisms and audit committees and increased responsibilities for independent directors. The Act was amended in 2017, modifying the existing penalty provisions for corporate fraud to tailor penalties to the seriousness and monetary value of the offense.
  5. The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013: This Act accords powers to the nodal ombudsman, independent and impartial officials, to investigate corruption cases in the public sector in the central and state governments, Lokpal and Lokayukta respectively. The Act also applies to the whole of India by granting powers to the Lokpal, an anti-corruption ombudsman authority, to investigate and prosecute PCA offenses by a foreign company doing business in India. The Act was amended in 2016 to require public servants to report their liabilities and assets, as well as those of their spouses and dependents to relevant authorities.
  6. The Whistleblowers Protection Act 2011: This Act protects whistleblowers in regards to the disclosure of corruption acts, willful misuse of power or of the commission of a criminal offense by a public servant. However, although the Act has been passed it has not yet been brought into effect by the government, awaiting further amendment, according to the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions. One such amendment introduced was the 2015 Bill, aiming to prohibit reporting of corruption-related disclosures by a whistleblower unless it meets specific criteria denoted by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
  7. The Commonwealth Games Fraud: In 2010 allegations emerged against the Commonwealth Games. The Central Vigilance Commission cited a $1.8 billion misappropriation of funds, costing almost 18 times the Commonwealth Games’ budget. It was estimated that only half the allotted amount was spent on the Indian sportspersons the funds were dedicated to. Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the Commonwealth Games’ organizing committee, and other officials were charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery for the purpose of cheating and were charged under sections of the PCA. The scam led to the resignation of multiple government officials.
  8. 2G Spectrum Telecom Scam: Later in 2010, a massive telecom scam implicating former Telecom minister Andimuthu Raja along with 14 others, ranked as the world’s second-largest abuse of executive power by the Time magazine. According to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the scam cost a loss of an estimated $39 billion to the Indian national exchequer. The scam was a combination of three cases, two registered by the CBI and one filed by Enforcement Directorate, in which 2G, second-generation licensure for mobile networks, was giving throwaway prices instead of carrying free and fair auctions. Raja denied all charges and was arrested on charges of cheating, forgery and conspiracy.
  9. “Coalgate” Scandal: The coal scam of 2012 followed a report made by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India which showed the inefficient and potentially illegal allocation of coal blocks between 2004 and 2009. The coal blocks were to be allocated via competitive bidding. However, the former UPA-2 regime did not abide and accusations ranged from malicious avenues in securing allocation, overstating net worth, nondisclosure of prior allocation and hoarding rather than the development of allocated resources. Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda, former secretary H.C. Gupta, former joint secretary in Coal Ministry K.S. Kropha and former director of Coal Ministry K.C. Samaria were found guilty. They were sentenced under the PCA and Indian Penal Code. A dozen companies were also cited in the CVC investigation. An estimated $34 billion was lost.
  10. CVC, SFIO and the Supreme Court: Recently, the CVC has taken action to advise all central government departments on quicker disposal of pending corruption cases. The authority has created an online complaint management system where individuals can file complaints in this regard. The SFIO has also taken proactive action in increasing the pace of its investigations, completing 87 investigations during 2016 and 2017, as compared to only 225 investigations completed in previous years since its formation in 2003. The Supreme Court has worked to expand the breadth of the definition of ‘public servant,’ defined in the PCA of 1988, to further include all officials of private banks, bringing them under the scope of anti-corruption laws.

These 10 facts about corruption in India are indicative of progress and further efforts needed for anti-corruption efforts in India. In a landslide victory, the 2019 general election reinstated incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who touts an anti-corruption platform focusing on good governance and economic growth. Since 2011, a number of anticorruption parties have emerged following the introduction of the India Against Corruption movement, including the Aam Aadmi Party led by activist Arvin Kejriwal. These efforts, in combination with the actions and guidance of anti-corruption entities, can help curb corrupt governance in India.

Julia Kemner
Photo: Flickr

East African FederationA proposed federation between Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda seeks to establish a single currency, political unity, modern infrastructure, improved trade relations and ensured peace. In the 1960s, when many of the above countries won their independence, a political federation was first proposed. Today, all six countries are members of the East African Community (EAC), which started in 1999 as a less ambitious form of unity. The East African Federation remains mostly an idea; however, leaders in all six countries are now working together to see the idea come to fruition.

Where it Stands

The countries began drafting a unified constitution in 2018, which would render each member’s individual constitution subordinate to that of the East African Federation. They have set the deadline for its completion to 2021. The EAC has already neared completion of a monetary union, likely being something akin to the European Union’s euro. The euro has allowed for the free movement of capital, stimulating trade activity between member states. Additionally, all six countries are planning to hold a referendum with their own citizens in order to gauge support.

Ambitions

The countries’ leaders say that a federation will lead to economic development and greater African sovereignty. The advantages of the East African Federation include linkages of infrastructure, which will allow four of the landlocked members to have access to the trading ports of Kenya and Tanzania. Further, the East African Federation, due to its enormity, will have more influence in international diplomacy, and its governmental institutions will become more robust through information sharing.

Limitations

When integration efforts were attempted in the past, they became derailed by individual national interests and existing tensions. While the East African Federation attempts to overcome these tensions, some doubt its ability to do so. Critics point to trade disputes between Rwanda and Uganda and military rivalries between Tanzania and Rwanda as prominent examples for why unity will remain unaccomplished.

The Promise

East Africa’s economy is the fastest-growing on the continent; GDP increased by 5.7 percent in 2018 and is forecasted to hit 5.9 percent in 2019. According to the World Bank’s most recent data, the average poverty rate for the 6 countries is 49.6 percent. Kenya has the lowest rate with 36.8 percent, and Burundi has the highest with 71.8 percent. The East African Federation promises to improve cooperation methods and increase economic potential, yielding greater growth, quicker development and lasting stability for the region.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

Top Five Facts About U.K. Foreign AidAs one of the most economically developed countries in the world, the U.K. plays a tremendous role in global prosperity. In 2017, the United Kingdom’s gross domestic product per capita was $39,953.60. Here are the top five facts about U.K. foreign aid.

Top 5 Facts About UK Foreign Aid

  1. How much is being spent?
    Since the 1970s, the United Nations has been urging all developing nations to invest 0.7 percent of their gross national income in overseas aid. This is in collaboration with the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to improve international welfare. The U.K. agreed and reached this target in 2013, along with five other countries. Shortly after, the U.K. included this goal in its legislation. By 2015, the U.K. legally required 0.7 percent of its G.N.I. goes toward foreign development. By 2016, the U.K. spent £13.3 billion ($16.9 billion) on international aid. As the U.K. economy continues to grow, the amount the U.K. spends each year does, too.
  2. What are the goals?
    On top of legislation, the U.K. created an aid strategy. The four primary goals of this strategy include promoting global peace, strengthening crises response, aiding in international development and helping the world’s most impoverished people. The government aims to do so by implementing several tactics. For example, 50 percent of all the Department for International Development’s (DFID) spending goes toward aid in developing nations. Moreover, it funds a £1 billion commitment to global health.
  3. How is funding being spent?
    The DFID spends approximately 74 percent of government spending. Smaller departments within the government spend the remaining 26 percent. Most funding (63 percent) goes toward bilateral aid, sent directly to countries in need. Organizations, such as the U.N., distribute the remaining funds. The top recipients of aid include Pakistan, Ethiopia and Nigeria. In 2015, humanitarian projects received the most amount of support. In order to ensure success and public awareness, the DFID site collects data to track foreign aid spending.
  4. What does the government think?
    Conservative parties within the U.K. have argued to reduce foreign aid. Accordingly, these parties believe the money could be better spent domestically. After the 2016 Brexit referendum, concern surrounding foreign aid increased. However, in 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May publically supported the 0.7 percent target goal. Bill Gates has also been a large advocate in support of U.K. foreign aid. In several interviews, Gates has expressed the U.K. should be proud of its contributions toward international poverty reduction.
  5. How does U.K. foreign aid compare?
    Since 2013, the nation has become a global leader in humanitarian aid. It is known as one of the first nations to offer assistance during crises. The U.K. provided relief during Hurrican Irma and the Ebola outbreak in Syria. In 2016, the U.K. ranked fifth in international aid, behind Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark. Norway gives more than 1 percent of its GNI to foreign aid, making it a model for other countries.

Overall, the U.K. should be proud of its contributions. These top five facts about U.K. foreign aid demonstrate the nation has contributed billions of pounds to reducing global poverty. For the future of society, may the U.K. continue to grow and prosper, deepening its stance against global poverty.

Anna Melnik
Photo: Google Images