India's Center for Policy ResearchEstablished in 1973, the Center for Policy Research (CPR) is a non-partisan nonprofit think tank designed to produce better public policy that shapes Indian life. Its unique team draws from a diverse set of occupational backgrounds to confront social issues with a multi-dimensional lens. Some highlights include Shyam Divan, Senior Advocate for the Supreme Court of India; Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, former Indian ambassador to the EU and well-known historian and Vinita Bali, former CEO of Britannia Industries Ltd.

India’s Center for Policy Research, located in the heart of Delhi, divides its research into five main categories:

  1. Economic policy
  2. Environmental law and governance
  3. International relations and security
  4. Law regulation and the state
  5. Urbanization.

The following will breakdown these subgroups in an attempt to decipher just exactly what the organization supports.

Economic Policy

The think tank recognizes the necessity for growth and productivity for the maintenance of a healthy economy. What makes it stellar is its commitment to equity

For example, one of their most recent projects involves the analysis of India’s “Special Economic Zones” and who truly benefits from their implementation. The organization’s non-partisan and nonprofit approach liberates them from the bias of special interest groups that oftentimes heavily influence the outcomes of these “case studies.”

These sentiments are echoed in another of the group’s economic policy projects. It is a campaign to officially define the characteristics of the country’s middle class. This could serve as a critical step in enhancing the rights of millions of Indian citizens.

Environmental Law and Governance

The goal of India’s Center for Policy Research is to establish a clean and sustainable environment. To address this, the group focuses their programs on pivotal topics such as Delhi’s air pollution, water use in rainfed agriculture, overall water policy and state action plans on environment sustainability.

International Relations and Security

The CPR’s international relations and security division is more in tune with typical slants on the subject than the other divisions. But, it still has some standout components. In the quest to understand India’s past and present role in the shifting global order, the think tank vows to research international relations from traditional and alternative perspectives. This aspect is very important as it deviates from the usual one-dimensional historical viewpoint.

Law, Regulation and the State

This sector of the CPR delivers a sort of institutional examination of the country of India. The purpose is to identify the relationship between laws, institutions and Indian life. It consciously aims to figure out the implications of these entities on basic rights such as land and intellectual property.

This category unites the others to land rights and dialogues on Indian politics. The hallmark project in this section is labeled “Balancing Religious Accommodation and Human Rights in Constitutional Frameworks.” This project is especially important because it targets issues with the country’s constitution that suppress rights, providing a direct opportunity to rework the country’s unequal beginnings.

Urbanization

This final subset is focuses on the rapid effects of urbanization currently taking place in India. The process of urbanization comes with a range of different challenges such as personal issues with governance and citizenship, to material issues regarding infrastructure. Because of this, urbanization holds a very multifaceted array of projects. These aim to work in unison to uncover the connection with urbanization and its effect on how people engage with the state.

Overall, India’s Center for Policy Research is tackling many different issues and challenges that India faces today. If it helps enact effective policies in its five focused areas, it could help boost India’s already growing economy and even eliminate its national poverty.

– Liam Manion
Photo: Flickr

Five Facts About China’s Poverty Alleviation ProgramChina has contributed to more than 70 percent of poverty reduced globally, making it one of the countries with most people lifted out of poverty in the past four decades. China has also recently become one of the leading nations in poverty reduction efforts by implementing a poverty alleviation program. Here are five facts about China’s poverty alleviation program.

Five Facts About China’s Poverty Alleviation Program

  1. Main Goals: China’s main goals for this program are to address issues such as food security and clothing, compulsory education, basic medical care and housing. It wants to solve these issues by 2020. Additionally, by 2020 it wants to have a zero percent poverty rate in rural areas. Furthermore, the government wants to increase the income growth rate for farmers while also solving the regional poverty problem.
  2. Implementation of the Program: In order to achieve its goals, the government has focused on developing the economy through local industries, combating corruption within the poverty alleviation efforts and making changes to the education and healthcare systems as well. The Chinese government has registered the poor population in order to target the specific regions that need help the most while also tracking the progress being made. By targeting specific regions and having the entire poor population registered, the Chinese government can provide assistance to certain households or individuals. There are five parts of the poverty alleviation program which are being implemented to raise more people out of poverty and those are industrial development, relocation, eco-compensation, education and social security.
  3. Progress being made thus far:  As of 2019, more than “700 million people have been lifted out of poverty” according to the country’s national poverty line of $1.10 a day, which is more than 70 percent of the world’s poverty reduction efforts. When using the poverty line of $1.90 a day more than 850 million people have been lifted out of poverty between the years of 1981 and 2013. In 2016, more than 775,000 officials were sent out to different rural areas within the country in order to further development and aid the poor-stricken people living in the less-developed parts of China. This has proven successful given that, after this tactic was employed, the population living in rural areas that were still affected by poverty dropped to 30.46 million people. Additionally, the poverty incidence was also reduced to 3.1 percent. Although great progress has been made far ahead of the U.N.’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, China must still raise an additional 10 million people out of poverty in order to reach its 2020 goals of zero percent poverty.
  4. Citizens’ living conditions: China has worked closely with the International Labor Organization (ILO) to improve its citizens’ living conditions. It has done this by providing a better social security and welfare program which covers unemployment, pension, medical care, employment injury and maternity for urban employees. Additionally, this program includes what is known as the “Dibao,” the minimum living guarantee program, which ensures that even the poorest residents in either urban or rural areas would be supported by the government.
  5. Global impact: China’s poverty alleviation program is not only a domestic policy but also an international policy. It has benefitted many developing countries around the world. The Chinese government has provided about 400 billion yuan ($59 billion) in aid, which has benefitted 166 countries and international organizations. Additionally, more than 600,000 aid workers were sent overseas to contribute to the poverty-reduction efforts. China has also pledged $2 billion to the Assistance Fund for South-South Cooperation in order to support developing countries to reach the U.N.’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

As a result of China’s poverty alleviation program, people countrywide are overcoming the challenges of poverty. Not only is the percentage of poverty globally declining because of China’s efforts but people are also thriving. China is the only country worldwide to have improved its citizens’ living conditions to such an extent in such a short period of time.

Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Justice for Iraqi WomenThe status and protection of women remain a heated topic of discussion in international and national committees, particularly concerning justice for Iraqi women. Iraq’s government is aware of the violations committed by its previous regime against certain civil community groups. As a result, Iraq’s government has strived to drastically change how they aid and support victimized and often impoverished groups. However, Iraq’s strategy to reconcile these issues is unique. For example, China encourages its impoverished population to move to urbanized cities, and the United Kingdom encourages participation in its labor market. But Iraq seeks to acknowledge the voices of the victims.

In 2003, Iraq’s government and the International Center for Transitional Justice partnered with the Human Rights Center of the University of California, Berkeley to create Iraqi Voices. Iraqi Voices is a report based on data collected from in-depth interviews and focus groups. This data represents different perspectives of the Iraqi population regarding transitional justice. There are seven main topics of focus represented in this report: past human rights abuses, justice and accountability, truth-seeking and remembrance, amnesty, vetting, reparations, and social reconstruction and reconciliation.

Hearing Women

Iraq is working to have women and girls meaningfully participate in all stages of decision making. Programs and organizations like the SEED Foundation have worked to ensure this justice for Iraqi women. In particular, the SEED Foundation works to empower and engage the voices of violence and trafficking victims in Iraq. As such, SEED Foundation leaders and activists encourage the meaningful participation of women in sustainable peace negotiations and conflict reconciliation. Through their efforts, the Iraqi Parliament now has a quota setting aside 25 percent of seats for women in provincial councils. By acknowledging these voices, the Iraqi government is helping seek justice for Iraqi women.

Moreover, Iraq has taken strides to bridge the gap between policymakers and victims when addressing the needs of local communities affected by ISIS. To do so, Iraq is considering partnering with or accepting assistance from other nations. While international policymakers seek justice for Iraqi victims, they fail to address the real concerns of affected communities. Instead, they often focus on prosecuting the perpetrators. But affected communities also have more immediate needs. Therefore, this partnership and assistance allow victims of affected communities to participate in prioritizing and creating appropriate policies. Efforts to ensure meaningful participation in Iraq’s government thus bring about transitional justice. By addressing systemic failures, Iraq’s government brings justice to marginalized victims, including justice for Iraqi women.

Bringing Change

Ultimately, the changes implemented by the Iraqi government aid and empower impoverished and victimized groups, such as women. The inclusion of female voices in politics influences larger discussions affecting women and, as seen as Iraq, helps get justice for Iraqi women.

Jordan Melinda Washington
Photo: Pixabay

New Industries UgandaThe Ugandan government recently announced the decision to draft a new national policy that will aid the country’s economic growth and assist in the creation of new industries in Uganda. Such development could draw more investment into the country and bolster the nation as a whole, and the silk industry might be the best way to achieve economic prosperity.

A New National Industrial Policy

In 2008, Uganda’s parliament passed the National Industrial Policy to combat the country’s slow economic growth. The policy was highly anticipated as it aimed to transform the structure of the country as a whole rather than just one specific industry. The National Industrial Policy was not only meant to lead to the creation of new industries in Uganda but it also to lead to the cooperation of the state by providing a plan of action.

Fast forward 10 years and many Ugandan citizens are disappointed with the policy’s impact. By 2018, only 30 percent of the policy has been realized. The main reason for this underachievement is the fact that the policy was not properly implemented. The plan and prediction were that GDP in Uganda would grow to 30 percent, but between 2008 and 2017, it only grew by 18.5 percent. The new policy seeks to rectify this situation by making investment easier, increasing funding to the industrial sector and strengthening existing laws that help industrial development.

Focus on Industrialization

Many economists and politicians believe that industrialization is a key component in lifting countries out of poverty and into a modern, industrial economy. The far-reaching goal of industrialization is to change the system, and such widespread aims can help lead to nationwide development.

One aim of the new industrial policy is the silk industry. Due to the high demand for silk, Uganda is looking to farm silkworms in a process called sericulture to produce more silk. Many hope to expand the silk industry through this new policy. China and India are the ultimate silk producers at this moment, but both are currently experiencing declines. Estimates state that Uganda could make almost $94 million and create up to 50,000 jobs every year in the silk industry; time will tell if such potential can be realized.

The Ugandan government is set to put in about $102 million into this endeavor over the course of five years with the hopes of making about $340 million. While the new national policy seeks the creation of new industries in Uganda, the silk industry has existed in the country before and had been implemented in the 2008 National Industrial Policy. Uganda has grown and produced silk since the 1920s and had had silkworm farms up until the late 1990s. Now, the nation seeks to revitalize the product and its process.

What’s Next?

While this new national policy has yet to be implemented in the Ugandan government, there is still the hope that this policy will create more domestic growth within the nation. It is necessary to wait and see the effects of the policy since the same problems that the 2008 policy faced could still exist. The effects are unknown, but now there is hope that the creation of new industries in Uganda is the start that the country needs.

Isabella Niemeyer
Photo: Flickr

United NationsThe United Nations is an international organization that was founded in 1945. At the end of the Second World War, many countries came together to focus on global peace, climate change, humanitarian emergencies and country development. The organization has become a forum for countries to negotiate and solve problems together in a regulated environment. Below are 10 cool facts about the United Nations.

10 Cool Facts About the United Nations

    1. The U.N. Has Almost 200 Member States
      There are currently 196 member states in the United Nations. These individual states are all recognized by the United Nations as members of the international organization. There are only four countries that are non-members of the U.N. They are Kosovo, Palestine, Taiwan and Vatican City. These countries have received invitations to join the U.N., but have yet to accept.
    2. Branches and Programs of the U.N. Received the Nobel Peace Prize 11 Times
      Over the last 70 years, the United Nations has been given 11 Nobel Peace prizes awarded to various agencies, specialized programs and initiatives. This prize was inspired by the last will of Alfred Nobel in 1895. Upon his death, he left most of his fortune to those who made advancements for the betterment of humanity in the areas of physics, chemistry, physiology, medicine, literature and peace.
    3. The United Nations Was Proposed in 1942
      United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the term the “United Nations” on January 1, 1942. Representatives of 26 nations came together at that time in order to fight the Axis Powers during World War II. However, the U.N. did not officially create a charter until 1945. The organization was officially formed in October 1945 when 51 member states ratified its charter. This day is now celebrated as United Nations Day.
    4. The U.N. Has Six Official Languages
      In 1946, the U.N. established six official languages for its meetings and distributed documentation. The languages are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. During meetings delegates and representatives must utilize one of these languages or provide a written interpretation in one of them. Each language is recognized on a specific day of the year to celebrate cultural diversity and multilingualism.
    5. The U.N. Has Its Own News Site
      In order to keep the world updated on pertinent international issues and achievements, the United Nations has a news site. The site separates stories by world regions, topics and timeliness. The site is available in the official languages of the U.N. and has both a written and audio option.
    6. It Prioritizes Specific Global Issues
      Conflict resolution and peacekeeping are the main efforts of the United Nations, but the organization has many other branches of foreign assistance. Through specialized programs, the U.N. also addresses global issues such as decolonization, climate change, ending world poverty, children’s rights and international law. The website also outlines fast facts to engage readers about various topics.
    7. The U.N. Hosts International Court Hearings
      The main body of the United Nations judicial system is the International Court of Justice. It is composed of 15 judges who each serve nine-year terms and are elected by the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council. This court provides legal advising and settles disputes between member states. It also regulates global commons, such as environmental conservation, international waters, outer space and global trade, and ensures that human rights violations are prosecuted.
    8. The U.N. Has 36 Specialized Agencies, Programs and Partnerships
      There are 36 agencies and programs known as the “U.N. Family.” The programs are funded through voluntary contributions and are considered independent international organizations. The agencies and programs specialize on different issues. For example, UNICEF is the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and focuses on ensuring the proper treatment of children worldwide and the protection of children’s rights.
    9. The Official Emblem Hasn’t Changed Since 1946
      The United Nations flag and symbol are blue and white. The design team created the logo in 1945, and it was officially adopted by the organization in 1946. The emblem is “a map of the world representing an azimuthal equidistant projection centered on the North Pole, inscribed in a wreath consisting of crossed conventionalized branches of the olive tree, in gold on a field of smoke-blue with all water areas in white,” according to the original description.
    10. The U.N. Has the First Recorded Definition of Human Rights
      In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly drafted the first Universal Definition of Human Rights (General Assembly resolution 217 A). It was drafted by representatives from different legal and cultural backgrounds to make it more comprehensive. It sets out fundamental human rights that should be protected; condemning slavery, torture, imprisonment without trial and prejudice. It has been translated into more than 500 languages.
The United Nations has worked for decades to protect human rights around the world. These 10 cool facts about the United Nations shed some light on the history of the organization as well as some of its policies.

Emily Triolet
Photo: Flickr

A Timeline of President Trump's Foreign Aid Policy
President Donald Trump ran his presidential campaign with promises to put “America First” and prioritize the problems in the United States before concerning himself with the issues in other countries. Thus far, over a year into his presidency, President Trump’s administration has materialized campaign promises into actions, which they believe work towards achieving their goal of “Making America Great Again.” On multiple occasions, these actions have threatened the security and influence of U.S. foreign aid and development assistance.

The Administration has taken steps to reduce the size and scale of aid programs like The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and has also threatened to withhold aid to long-term recipient countries. Countries that receive U.S. aid use the resources they’ve been given for a wide number of projects, but the majority of them focus on poverty-alleviation efforts and development assistance. There are still at least two years left in the Presidency of Donald Trump, but here is a recap of major decisions regarding President Trump’s foreign aid policy during the first half of his administration.

2017

May 10, 2017– President Trump nominates Mark Green as the new USAID administrator. Mark Green received bipartisan support in his nomination as he has often sought to foster bipartisan approaches to U.S. foreign assistance. Green served as the former US Ambassador to Tanzania, and before that, he was acting president of The International Republican Institute.  

May 23, 2017– The White House released its 2018 budget proposal: “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” The budget put forth by The Trump Administration requested a 33 percent reduction in funding for The State Department and USAID. The budget proposal also intimated plans to merge The State Department and USAID in order to “pursue greater efficiencies through reorganization and consolidation.”

October 2017– There were 97 applicants, already in the pre-employment process with USAID, who were denied foreign placement due to a hiring freeze imposed on the program by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson defended the hiring freeze arguing that it helped, “increase efficiency.”

Dec 20, 2017– President Trump threatened to cut off U.S. aid to any member of The U.N. General Assembly who votes for a resolution condemning his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. President Trump delivered his threat at a cabinet meeting following a letter sent to the U.N. General Assembly by U.S. Ambassador to The United Nations Nikki R. Haley, in which she warned that the U.S. would note the countries who voted for the resolution. Regardless of the threats made by President Trump, a large number of countries in The U.N. General Assembly still voted not to pursue diplomatic missions in the city of Jerusalem in order to avoid exacerbating existing conflicts between Israel and Palestine. 

2018

Jan 2018– The Trump Administration announced its plans to withhold the majority of U.S. aid to Pakistan. The White House cited the Pakistani government’s unwillingness to aggressively confront international terrorists and militant groups in their region as the reason behind the withholding of aid.

Jan 2018– President Trump ordered some $65 million to be withheld from The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). UNRWA provides humanitarian and development assistance to Palestinian refugees. The President ordered the withholding of funds noting concerns over how the organization was run.

Feb 12, 2018– The White House released its 2019 budget proposal: “An American Budget.” The proposal furthers it’s 2017 stance on The State Department and USAID requesting a 26 percent reduction of funds for the programs. The budget revealed a continuing trend in President Trump’s foreign policy to shrink the size of The State Department.

Each new president has their own understanding of the role that foreign aid plays in the advancement of American interests in the international community. President Trump’s foreign aid policy has revealed to America his hesitation to support the distribution of American resources to developing/emerging international markets. The President has emphasized his opinion that more efficient work can be done to improve America by investing more in domestic relief projects and less in international ones.

– Clarke Hallum
Photo: Flickr

Tobacco Use in Impoverished CountriesTobacco is one of the world’s most preventable causes of disease. Preventing tobacco use in impoverished countries is important because tobacco use causes many diseases and about half of tobacco users end up dying from it. In recent years, the World Health Organization (WHO) discovered that about 80 percent of tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries.

Before, the citizens in those countries would and could not spend their money on tobacco because it was not necessary. Tobacco is considered a luxury. But as they earn more money and incomes increase in their countries, they can afford to spend their money on tobacco.

As impoverished countries begin to get out of the lower classes of income, tobacco companies begin to target these countries. They sell and advertise tobacco without many restrictions, as the countries have often not yet put regulations in place. Because of that, the citizens of these countries end up buying tobacco and facing the consequences of its use. However, preventing tobacco use in impoverished countries through restrictions can have dramatic effects.

One of the best examples of this is Honduras. Between the years 2000 and 2015. The World Bank reported that smoking prevalence in adult males decreased by 30 percent. The World Bank also noted that Honduras is a low-middle income country, the target area for tobacco companies. So why has tobacco usage decreased in Honduras?

To put it simply, they have begun to put restrictions on tobacco. According to The Tobacco Atlas, Honduras has many rigorous regulations regarding tobacco. For example, many of Honduras’s public areas do not allow smoking. Universities, restaurants and all other indoor public spaces are smoke-free. They have also limited the number of television channels on which tobacco can be advertised. Additionally, Honduras has a 21 percent excise tax on cigarette prices. Because Honduras has these restrictions, their smoking rate has decreased by 30 percent.

The positive impacts of these restrictions on tobacco advertisement and use in Honduras are that fewer people are buying tobacco because of the added expense of taxes and fewer people are being exposed to tobacco in the first place. The laws that limit where people can smoke help to prevent people from smoking in indoor public spaces and prevent nonsmokers from being exposed to cigarette smoke.

Preventing tobacco use in impoverished countries requires many different strategies. Taxes, advertisement restrictions and other policies work together to lower tobacco usage. Low-middle income countries need to implement these policies to help protect their citizens. Implementing proper restrictions on tobacco is important to the health of these countries.

Daniel Borjas

Photo: Flickr

Immigrant In-Equality: Causes of Poverty in LiechtensteinThe Principality of Liechtenstein is a country located in Europe that is landlocked between Switzerland and Austria. It is a relatively wealthy country, containing one of the highest measures of GDP per capita in the world, a low inflation rate and the benefits of a monetary and economic union with Switzerland. It therefore has one of the highest standards of living across the globe, although it comes with the trade-off of an extremely high cost of living.

Much of the country’s wealth can be attributed to its status as a tax haven, though it has taken steps in recent years to regulate and rid itself of this image and to reposition itself as a legitimate financial center. Despite the country’s economic successes, there is still poverty to be found here.

The causes of poverty in Liechtenstein become evident when analyzing the immigration policies put in place by the country’s government. In 2013, many media outlets in Europe began to report that the growing immigrant population was composed of many low-income families. This is mainly due to the increased share of the population that are immigrants, with the incomes earned by these immigrants being lower than those of the native population. This has caused the overall income growth of Liechtenstein to be subjected to downward pressure in recent years.

The unemployment rate of immigrants in Liechtenstein is approximately twice as large as it is for national citizens that have lived in Liechtenstein for their entire lives. In terms of how this applies in practice, one in two unemployed persons living in Liechtenstein is an immigrant. Despite these concerns, compared to other European countries, Liechtenstein remains in a prosperous position and the unemployment rate in general is at a very low level. As of 2012, the average unemployment rate faced by the country was 2.4 percent, with the unemployment for national citizens being 1.7 percent, compared to immigrants, who had an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent.

This is the result of a restrictive immigration policy based on bilateral agreements and clear economic considerations, combined with the insatiable job demand of Liechtenstein’s economy. One of the essential guidelines for immigrants is that there is a requirement for the person immigrating to have the ability to support one’s own cost of living when applying for residence. This means that the onset of poverty usually occurs sometime after having immigrated, with the main reasons for poverty ultimately being unemployment, illnesses, death of an employed family member and excessive indebtedness.

A relevant quote by economist John Kenneth Galbraith rings true with poverty in Liechtenstein, in which he writes, “people are poverty-stricken when their income, even if adequate for survival, falls markedly behind that of the community.” This is one of the main causes of poverty in Liechtenstein and it illustrates an area that can be improved upon, leading to a greater equality of wealth between national citizens and immigrants and less poverty overall.

Drew Fox

Photo: Flickr


The debate over immigration is one of the key tenets of modern U.S. political discourse. The poverty aspect of the conversation, however, is frequently ignored.

But some academics have taken to asking an intriguing question: should poverty reduction through immigration legislation be taken more seriously as a proposal?

The data bears out how legal immigration can benefit both parties when it comes to alleviating poverty. Among Mexican immigrants, the largest foreign-born group in the U.S., those with legal recognition have a 12 percent lower rate of poverty than the undocumented. Average annual income is around $6,000 higher.

The domestic economy, and U.S. workers, can benefit from these influxes. The labor market becomes more efficient and managerial positions often appear and are usually filled by native-born Americans. Employers are also spurred on to comply with labor, health and safety regulations, unlike when undocumented migrants form their employment base.

The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act stands as a testament to what federally sponsored legal immigration can do to reduce poverty both domestically and abroad. The legislation legalized the status of 2.7 million immigrants and in the process increased their wages by 5 percent. A frequent criticism of a more liberal immigration policy is that it encourages poverty to ‘migrate’. This fails to account for the impact bills like the 1986 act can have to encourage poverty reduction through immigration.

More successful than some humanitarian and foreign aid projects, migration is capable of alleviating poverty among some of the most at-risk nations in the world. Haitians, the most poverty-stricken people in the Western hemisphere, have migrated in large numbers to the U.S. and Canada, often as refugees. Now, around four out of every five Haitians who are above the poverty line live abroad. These migrants, in turn, often repatriate wages back to Haiti to support their relatives.

Encouraging legal immigration as a policy goal could be under threat in 2017. The White House has made moves to significantly curb legal migrants and a new proposal endorsed by President Trump seeks to greatly limit the availability of green cards to family members of existing immigrants. The number of refugees will also be cut in half.

Congress appears unwilling so far to pass such a bill. Some Republican Senators have highlighted the economic benefits of legal immigration to their home states, such as South Carolina’s Lindsay Graham. They could join Democrats in universal opposition to the proposal and effectively kill it.

Treating immigration as a poverty-solving method could prove effective if taken seriously on Capitol Hill. While it appears any restrictions to legal immigration remain unlikely to pass, poverty still is a largely absent feature of the debate. The 1986 Immigration Reform Act, in particular, should stand out as an example of how to support poverty reduction through immigration.

Jonathan Riddick

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Puerto Rico

Poverty in Puerto Rico continues to be a major issue, indicating that the island is anything but a “rich port.”

For many years, Puerto Rico has relied heavily on tourism to boost its economy, but the Zika virus, which is linked to severe birth defects and neurological diseases, has scared many tourists away during the peak of tourist season.

As a precaution against contracting the virus, tourists have canceled their plans to visit the island, resulting in a loss of about $28 million in revenue.

In addition, the island cannot pay its $72 billion of debt or meet the $30 billion shortfall in its state pension fund. At this rate, Puerto will soon run out of money.

According to The Week, for decades Puerto Rico issued bonds to cover budget deficits. However, the securities are exempt from federal, state and local taxes, making them attractive to investors. In 1996, Congress ended tax breaks for U.S. manufacturers operating in Puerto Rico. As a result, the island doubled its debt over the next 10 years.

Unemployment in Puerto Rico currently stands at more than 12 percent and the poverty rate is a staggering 45 percent. The Week also reports that the foreclosure rate is increasing, water and electricity rates have spiked and sales tax rose last year from seven to 11.5 percent, the highest in the U.S.

In addition, more than 440,000 Puerto Ricans have fled the country for mainland states, primarily nearby Florida.

In 2014, the U.S. Census estimated that 58 percent of children live below the federal poverty rate in Puerto Rico. It has been documented that children who experience poverty are at a higher risk for health problems, academic difficulties, criminal behaviors and unemployment. Children in Puerto Rico are faring worse than other U.S. Hispanics due to low quality early childhood care and education.

The Obama administration is working closely with Puerto Rico officials to resolve the crisis. They have dedicated a team to closely monitor the crisis and provide financial advice. The administration has aided in providing a steady flow of previously obligated federal funds to the island.

In May 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives proposed a bill that would create a federal control board to oversee Puerto Rico’s finances, manage any debt restructuring and enforce balanced budgets. On July 9, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill, sending it to Senate for consideration.

However, a $2 billion payment is due on July 1. Gov. Alejandro Padillo said in an appeal to the U.S. Senate in December, “We have no cash left.” In a statement, the White House urged Senate to act promptly “so the president can sign the bill into law ahead of the critical July 1 debt payment deadline.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan also insisted Congress act quickly, warning lawmakers of a “deepening crisis” on the island. Ryan said, “The island is shutting down with closed schools; hospitals are beginning to close, that’s today. Tomorrow there could be policemen without cars, there could be blackouts at hospitals.”

The Obama administration has warned that, if unaddressed, poverty in Puerto Rico could grow into a humanitarian crisis. If the bill is passed, Congress can provide the critical tools Puerto Rico needs to restructure its debt, fix its healthcare system and jumpstart its economy.

Jacqueline Venuti

Photo: Flickr