Free Press Reduces Poverty
Strong governments and effective leadership offer lasting improvements for those living in poverty, as they provide social and economic structure for a nation. Efficiency and transparency of government actions and regulations are the first steps toward protecting individual rights. The promotion of transparent governments leans toward a democratic governing system, where citizens may have the right to elect their officials and representatives. The free press and its contributions to democracy in helping to eradicate poverty may not always be at the forefront of aid organizations’ initiatives. Many organizations, however, do recognize that journalists help provide transparency about the states of governments to the people and that a free press reduces poverty.

What is a Free Press and Who Has One?

A free press means that private and public newspapers, magazines or radio programs have the right to report the news without being controlled by the government. This critical freedom from the government’s powers means that the press may act as the people’s eyes and ears for the shifts and changes within the institutions of power.

Unfortunately, more than a third of the world lives under presses that are not free or media coverage that their governments highly control and censor. In the Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 World Press Freedom Index, it is unsurprising that more developed and economically stable countries find themselves at the top of the ranking. Norway comes in first, followed by Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark. Ranking at the bottom are countries with highly restrictive governments or some of the poorest nations, such as Yemen, Syria, Sudan and Turkmenistan.

How Does a Free Press Reduce Poverty?

A free press reduces poverty by allowing for an open exchange of information and opinions among ordinary citizens; there is no need for government clearance to learn about the day to day government actions. Journalism provides transparency which helps decrease the risk of corruption in governments and holds them accountable for their actions. A free press helps provide a channel of information about government actions for public assessment and debate. Citizens can see exactly how governments spend taxes or what revenues from big industries they receive. They can even see inside houses of governments where administrators sign laws. Knowledge about the government and freedom to express opinions without fear empowers ordinary citizens.

Debate and exchanging information and ideas is a foundational component of democratic practices. Free presses allow for free debate among the people and not just the political leaders. While debates among community members may not immediately change laws, the debate itself establishes self-autonomy, because everyone participates in conversations and decisions that affect their lives.

Countries with stronger economies and less poverty require strong and stable governments to utilize their resources and to participate in foreign markets. Strong governments strive to enable the political voices of even the poorest populations. Improving governance includes maintaining fair laws, respecting human rights and combating corruption. By promoting all of these, a free press can reduce poverty.

Who is Fighting for Freedom of the Press?

The USAID is one organization that has recognized how a free press reduces poverty. By strengthening journalistic skills, building economic self-sustainability of media outlets and working to legally protect press independence, USAID promotes freedom of the press in 35 countries. The organizations work in Afghanistan produced a national network of 50 Afghan-owned and operated radio stations.

Reporters Without Borders advocates for a free press in order to promote democracy, development and individual empowerment. It helps journalists gain access to equipment anywhere from bulletproof vests to insurance. Working in countries across five continents, the organization monitors a great number of countries’ treatment of journalists and their rankings of press freedom.

The Windhoek Declaration

Some countries, like Namibia, decided to take matters into their own hands. The 1991 Declaration of Windhoek on “Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press” helped establish a foundation for a free press in Africa by joining the forces of journalists, editors and media owners across the continent. The Windhoek Declaration helped spark the establishment of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA). MISA’s continental email alert system hoped to make the world aware of violations of media freedom as soon as they occurred, bringing national attention to the power and importance of journalists. Inspired by the success of the Windhoek Declaration, similar support for free press like the Declaration of Santiago in Chile, the Declaration of Sana’a in Yemen and the Declaration of Sofia in Bulgaria, soon followed.

The globe recognizes the Windhoek Declaration and leaders of the conference even consulted with the U.N. for the implementation of International Press Freedom Day every May 3rd. The Declaration has inspired and allowed journalists to start their own independent newspapers like MediaFax in Mozambique and The Monitor in Malawi.

The purpose of a free press is to empower ordinary citizens, no matter their economic status. By providing honest information, journalists help hold political leaders accountable and decrease government corruption. Through the democratic power of debate, even the poorest populations can have a political voice.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Flickr

Abiy Ahmed’s Political Accomplishments

On April 2, 2018, Abiy Ahmed became the prime minister of Ethiopia. Ahmed has a history of being in the military, formerly serving as an army intelligence officer.  He also has a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and a master of arts degree in transformational leadership. Yet, these facts do not even compare to Abiy Ahmed’s political accomplishments thus far.

Abiy Ahmed as Prime Minister

At 42 years old, Ahmed is the youngest African leader to have a leadership position.  In his first 12 months of office, Ahmed has already enacted political reforms that will privatize state-owned sugar plants, railways and industrial parks. He also intends to partially privatize Ethiopian airlines, telecom, electric power corporation and shipping & logistics services enterprises. These four industries are the most crucial for Ethiopia since Ethiopia considers them “the four crown jewels of the economy.” Ahmed’s privatization process has already garnered international support, gaining $1.2 billion dollars for Ethiopia from the World Bank. This is the largest loan a Sub-Saharan country in Africa has ever received. Ahmed is not only implementing reforms that are leading to global outreach, but he is also bringing in more money for Ethiopia’s economy in doing so.

Repression in Ethiopia

Many consider Ethiopia to be one of the most politically repressive countries.  Historically, leaders would lock journalists for doing their jobs or torture inhabitants of detention centers. The political repression has not completely improved, but Ahmed is making sure to take steps in that direction. He has already admitted to the repression that exists and even to the government using torture.  Ahmed is attempting to undo Ethiopia’s brutal history of repression by admitting to it and releasing the prisoners. This will not fix Ethiopia’s problems overnight, but it is a small step that should bring the country to a better place for itself and its citizens.

Despite the fact that Ahmed has committed some very important actions that could ultimately impact Ethiopia’s economy, the results have not always been positive. Communal violence has broken out since Ahmed has been in office, resulting in messy and confusing times for many of Ethiopia’s citizens. Ethiopia has an incredibly big, diverse population, which makes it one of the more difficult ones to govern. Many of its citizens still live in poverty and the literacy rates reach only half the population. While Ahmed’s new policies and reforms will be beneficial, that does not mean they will have overall positive effects. However, there is some hope amidst the chaos. It means that the citizens care and that they are looking for something to believe in. Abiy Ahmed’s political accomplishments could be that hope.

Ethiopia still has a long way to go. Abiy Ahmed’s political accomplishments are already paving the way to Ethiopia gaining a more benign government and country. The small steps he is taking will be significant in enacting big change.

– Haley Saffren
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Poverty in Malaysia
Malaysia is a South Asian country that consists of two noncontiguous regions; Peninsular Malaysia which West Malaysia and Thailand share, and East Malaysia which Malaysia shares with the island of Borneo. While this nation has been able to rapidly tackle its poverty situation, millions of Malaysians still struggle every day. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Malaysia.

10 Facts About Poverty in Malaysia

  1. Malaysia’s Poverty Definition – Malaysia’s government defines poverty as families earning between the Poverty Line Income (PLI) of MYR800 and those families living below the national median household earnings by 50 percent. As of 2015, only 0.4 percent of the population was living below the national poverty line.
  2. How Malaysia Measures Poverty – Malaysia calculates poverty with the PLI and Consumer Price Index. The Department of Statistics (DOSM) uses micro-data to calculate poverty. It conducts household surveys and the micro-data refers to those responses. The lack of transparency between the government and its citizens lies in the fact that the government hides these results from the public. This leaves many unanswered questions about the poverty situation in Malaysia.
  3. Unemployment – As of September 2018, Malaysia had a 3.3 percent unemployment rate and youth unemployment of just over 10 percent. The total number of unemployed people is 516,400. Limited English language proficiency, unpolished skills and a lack of digital literacy are common reasons for unemployment.
  4. Access to Clean Water – The Orang Asli, or the first peoples of Malaysia, are significantly unhealthier compared to others due to their inability to access clean water. This caused the Global Peace Foundation to initiate the Communities Unite for Pure Water (CUP) initiative by installing water pumps in a village to filter water into each household. This helped the entire village gain access to clean running water.
  5. Access to Health Care – Malaysia has a two-tier health system, public and private. Both are easily accessible, yet the public sector suffers from severe overcrowing and wait times are very long. This resulted in many people changing from public to private health care, which is very expensive, leaving families one accident away from becoming poor.
  6. High Living Costs – The government implemented the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1, 2015, in order to replace sales and services tax. This added tax of six percent caused people to look for new jobs in order to better situate themselves for the new tax. Only 19 percent of responders said that the tax had done nothing to their routine.
  7. Corruption – People know corruption to be Malaysia’s “public enemy number one.” Bribery and corrupt activities went from 19 percent in 2014 to 30 percent in 2016. The 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) case is an example of corruption in the government. Prime Minister Najib Razak looted $4.5 billion from a state fund focused on financing infrastructure and “other economy-linked deals.” This scandal affected a wide spread of people “including financial institutions” from Malaysia to Singapore.
  8. Minimum Wage – Malaysia’s minimum wage was RM1,000 per month before the National Wage Council’s September 2018 meeting announced its new minimum wage of RM1,050. The government wanted to keep costs of production and wages low so Malaysians did not lose competitiveness with foreign investors. After many protests, Malaysia raised its minimum wage to RM1,100.
  9. Common Diseases – Poor diet and nutrition cause killer diseases in Malaysia. Coronary heart disease, cancer and strokes affect Malaysians the most. The Malaysian Rare Disorders Society, founded in 2004, is a voluntary organization that looks out for the welfare of families and represents them as rare disorders affect them. The organization helped Aminisha, a girl with the congenital disorder of glycosylation (CDG) Type1b, in May 2004. It provided her tube feeding, plasma transfusion and extraction of excess fluids.
  10. Social Programs – Under Malaysia’s 2017 Budget, the Malaysian government allocated about RM10 billion for government aid and subsidies. The government helped the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development, which financially helps single mothers for a year by providing a minimum of RM100 per month per child and a maximum of RM450 per month if there are more than four children.

Another way Malaysia combats poverty is through EPIC Homes. This NGO has been providing “safe and sustainable housing” for poor families, mainly the Orang Asli, since 2010. About 82 percent of Orang Asli are in need of housing. Over 5,000 builders have constructed over 100+ houses in over 10+ villages. With the continued work from Malaysia’s government to increase the country’s minimum wage and aid from different initiatives, Malaysia’s poverty status should improve.

–  Isabella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts About Education in Serbia
Education levels have been improving in the Balkan country of Serbia since the early 2000s and especially since Serbia’s partnership with Switzerland. It is evident that Serbia’s work with other European countries and its attempt to bridge the gap between the rich and poor are doing wonders for Serbia’s education system. Here are eight facts about education in Serbia that highlight the progress of its education.

8 Facts About Education in Serbia

  1. Serbia is fighting an uphill battle due to the fact that 25 percent of its population lives at the poverty line, with the Roma people making up two percent of the Balkan national population. Laws for the 2018 education system should help temper this issue, which includes the implementation of procedures regarding the handling of discriminatory behavior and insulting reputation that affects honor and dignity. These should help put an end against any form of discrimination. The second most important law for this trend is the Bylaw on additional education, health and social support for children, pupils and adults. This Bylaw made it so that the education system would include less fortunate children in lower standings of society with the right to use of resources and individual assistance.
  2. Serbia has made great progress in increasing the successful outcomes of its education system since the mid-2010s. The fact that the Harmonized Learning Outcomes (averaged over all subjects and grades) have shown a 63 point increase from a meager 458 in 2003 to 2015 reinforces this. This is due to an attempt to bridge the social gap between the poor and wealthy which has also lead to an increased interest in education after high school. This is due mostly to the laws mentioned in point one, which led to increased spending on education.
  3. Other European countries, like Switzerland, have been integral to helping Serbia reform its education since 2012. The Swiss displayed to Serbia how to provide more inclusive education for those less fortunate. Switzerland also provided agents to show the leaders of the Serbian education system how to properly analyze schooling data to better reform the system.
  4. The Red Cross has provided humanitarian aid that has targeted families in need of food, hygiene and social inclusion to allow children the basic opportunity of enjoying and learning in the schools they are in. In contrast, UNICEF has focused on school programs to allocate funds to allow students to be more involved in extracurricular activities.
  5. The Joint Programme on Roma and Marginalized Groups Inclusion is also taking steps to make sure the Roma children are able to catch up within Serbia’s school system. One of these steps is to make education more affordable for those who require a secondary education so that the system includes more of the population. This is important since the jobless rate for the Roma is over 60 percent, which is exacerbated by the fact that over half the Roma people do not get an education.
  6. Serbia can collect much of its education system’s data partly because it has become the 31st member of the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. This organization of 31 member states works and collaborates to improve Europe’s education system to make it more inclusive for everyone. Through the use of technical support, this agency supports Serbia by better organizing data so that the Balkan Nation’s Education Organizer can use it. This, in turn, has allowed for better use of evidence-based information to solve critical issues in Serbia.
  7. Serbia has also addressed its plans to fix the large success gap between the wealthy and poor, with the latter only having an upper secondary education success rate of 45 percent. Although this number may seem low, it is an improvement of 22 percent since 2011. The reason for this is affordability as higher forms of education can be too expensive for most families in Serbia. The Inclusivity Act mentioned above should help change this, which works to bring the wealthy or discriminated these higher levels of education.
  8. In 2018, Serbia implemented a program that included a financial education program to help pave the way for greater minds to lead the country’s economy. This is a law that seeks to help students have a better grasp of the business world, how to better find jobs and create them, as well as how to better create teachers who can impart this knowledge on the student body. It should start sometime in the later part of 2019.

These eight facts about education in Serbia show that while Serbia has issues, the country has greatly improved its education system, and will continue to do so at the apparent rate it has set themselves. So long as Serbia is open to accepting outside help and to work to bridge the gap between the wealthy and the poor, the number of people that will benefit from its system will only grow. These eight facts about education in Serbia will hopefully serve as something Serbia can expand upon in the future.

– Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Poverty in Moldova

Moldova, a country located between Romania and Ukraine, was one of the richest countries in Europe while under the Soviet Union. By 1991, when Moldova claimed independence, its economic prowess dropped to an all-time low. This drastic change caused Moldova to become one of the poorest and least visited countries in Europe. Listed below are 10 facts about poverty in Moldova and the development of the country.

10 Facts About Poverty in Moldova

  1. Population: Moldova’s population is not accurate because of the many citizens that have left to go to neighboring countries, like Romania and Ukraine, in search of better jobs. Within the poorest areas of Moldova, it is very difficult for the people to find available jobs that will pay them more than $2 a day. In Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, the average salary after taxes is $237. This significant difference has caused around 300,000 to 800,00 people to look for work abroad. Officially the population is 4.4 million, but the number continues to decline.
  2. Shared Wells in Grozesti Cause Health Problems: Gathering clean water can be very difficult, especially for those living in Grozesti, a rural village in Moldova. There are only 12 shared wells within reach for 700 families, causing water to become scarce throughout the day. However, expert geologists proclaim that the water from these wells contains high levels of iron and fluoride, which can cause yellowing of the teeth. “Many locals suffer from stomach problems or kidney problems because of the mineral content…and there are also a lot of water-related diseases such as hepatitis.” Local doctors have also discovered that water consumption has led to untimely deaths.
  3. Inequality: The highest paying jobs in Moldova are in the country’s capital of Chisinau and the lowest pay is in the southern regions. There is also a gap in pay between men and women. Women are still receiving 12 percent less pay than men in careers dealing with “information and communication, industry, arts, leisure, and recreation sectors.” Income is not the only problem, though. Due to the small amount of access to wells in rural areas, “only 43 percent of the poor have access to clean water compared to the 90 percent located in town.” Those with disabilities are also at a disadvantage in rural communities because 70 percent of public areas do not have wheelchair accessibility. In May 2017, the OSCE Mission held lectures that informed others about the importance of gender equality and the economic life of the country, so that future generation would rise above the country’s current issues of inequality. About “900 students and teachers” attended and learned about what they could do to promote equality.
  4. Health Care Access: All the hospitals are mainly located in Chisinau, which means that many in rural areas must travel a long way to gain access to health care. In 1990, there were only 129 hospital beds and 40 doctors, and only 12 percent of the government’s budget went towards health care improvements. Today, “18 local hospitals and outpatient care in Chisinau” and “264 physicians per 100,00 people”, which is a lot more than two decades ago.
  5. Education: Although a vast majority of children attend school, many of those from rural areas find it more difficult to learn the basic principles of reading, mathematics and science. Due to the lack of skills among children, only 90 percent can attend primary school while only 85 percent attend lower secondary schools. Many organizations have donated towards the refurbishing of schools for children between the ages of three and six, which is an age group that Moldova has cared most about, but there are still children that do not have access to education. “Children with disabilities and those from Roma and rural communities are among the most disadvantaged.”
  6. Moldova Wine: Due to Moldova being one of the poorest countries in Europe, the economy relies heavily on agriculture, “featuring fruits, vegetables, wine, and tobacco.” Wine, however, is what the country is known for. One of the most famous wineries in the capital Chisinau is Cricova winery. Recently, Vladimir Putin traveled to Moldova just to get a taste of the wine for his birthday. “Almost 5 percent of the country’s territory is filled with vineyards…. Nowadays, Moldova exports over 90 percent of its wines, mostly to the European market.”
  7. Trans-Dniester River: Moldova formerly used Trans-Dniester river along the Dniester region for the trade of goods. However, when the region became aware of Moldova’s ties with Romania, it began the road to independence from Moldova in 1990. Moldova does not recognize this independence, however, due to the region’s land being directly in between the borders of Moldova and Ukraine. The Dniester region’s inability to gain full independence has led to continuous fights over the previously used route.
  8. Criminal Acts: In Moldova, there have been reports of organized crime groups that mainly originate from Trans-Dniester, the breakaway territory. Many of these crimes include “money laundering…and the smuggling of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, human beings, and illegal weapons…” The government attempted to implement ways to prevent organized crimes in 2005, but there was not much success in doing so. It has caused “the dearth of public education in Moldova concerning corruption, as well as the country’s prevalence of economic and social problems.”
  9. Sex Trafficking: As it becomes harder for one to acquire employment and obtain enough money for their families, many young women have become susceptible to sex trafficking. Women and young girls have been coerced into trafficking, being exploited in countries like Russia, Turkey, Italy, Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates. Between the years 2000 and 2005, records identified at least 1,760 victims in Moldova, but there may have been more due to many women not coming forward.
  10. Solutions: Moldova has grown as a country economically since 2009 when there was a global economic crisis. Among many of the problems that the country faces, however, is knowing how to compete with other countries that thrive on agriculture. The World Bank Group has made it its responsibility to ensure that Moldova has everything it needs to ensure that it continues to rise from poverty. “In 2006–12, roughly 500 matching grants provided to 479 firms for international quality certification and business development. Over US$ 22 million provided as a line of business credit to 60 enterprises.” The World Bank Group has also helped Moldova improve areas like agriculture, education, energy, social assistance, health, communities and public services.

The 10 facts about the poverty in Moldova listed above are not only informative about the country’s state of poverty, but also how it continues to look towards a better future. With the World Bank and other organizations, the country should continue to rise economically and further out of poverty.

– Emilia Rivera
Photo: Flickr

 

Corruption in GuatemalaThe United States has long been a sponsor and provider of aid to Guatemala, along with other non-governmental organizations backed by the U.N. Much of this aid has been to fight corruption—either the investigations of corrupt practices or the establishment of institutions to monitor and prevent corruption, impunity and organized crime.

The Background

As in many Latin American countries, particularly the Northern Triangle region (consisting of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras), corruption is ubiquitous from the local to national levels of government. Corrupt government leads to extractive institutions, which in turn leads to poverty, violence and mass emigration; at present, the majority of migrants at the U.S./Mexico border are from Guatemala.

In recognition of this, several political leaders and pundits of both parties have spoken out against proposed cuts to foreign aid, citing the need to stabilize the region by addressing the problem at its source. USAID and State Department programs focused on economic development have been widely successful, resulting in: increased access to nutrition for 230,000 children under the age of five, a 51 percent increase in rural agricultural sales, 20,000 new jobs in the agricultural sector, a 60 percent increase in American agricultural exports to Guatemala and many other improvements besides.

The long history of institutional corruption has not burdened agriculture, which allows for direct economic investment while the country focusses on anti-corruption efforts to dismantle impunity in other sectors—particularly in customs administration. The customs and tax administrations conducted the Linea bribery scandal of 2015, which resulted in the impeachment of President Otto Perez Molina and nearly 600 arrests. Since the Linea scandal, officials in multiple areas have been working with the UNODC (U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime) to combat the corruption that enables the use of Guatemala’s ports as drug trafficking avenues.

The UNODC and IACAC’s Efforts to Fight Corruption

While not as specialized as other anti-corruption programs and NGOs operating within Guatemala, UNODC has been instrumental in Guatemala’s fight against organized crime, with which governmental corruption naturally dovetails. In 2010, the drug trade alone was worth double the country’s GDP. The violence it generated (Guatemala has the 15th-highest murder rate in the world, out of 230 countries) dissuaded tourists and investors, which in turn contributed to the poverty that engenders corruption and organized crime, to begin with. However, with the help of UNODC along with other domestic and international programs, Guatemala has made significant economic progress. Its current GDP is nearly double what it was before the major anti-crime and anti-corruption initiatives began in 2010 and 2011.

International efforts to fight corruption in Guatemala have a long history, which has resulted in significant governmental reforms. The earliest instance of this was the adoption of IACAC, or the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, which Guatemala ratified in 2001. The country has made substantial institutional reforms to maintain its compliance with IACAC, most notably a commission that allows for the coordination between the executive and judicial bodies, and its independent Association of Journalists. IACAC has also spawned several bilateral agreements with other countries—including the United States—to share evidence and otherwise support anti-corruption legal proceedings.

The reforms prompted by IACAC compliance had few immediate effects—within the first two years after ratification, Guatemala’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) did not change enough to indicate a conclusive shift. However, the primary effect of IACAC has been to keep institutions updated and to keep corruption in Guatemala in the public eye. With the institutional reforms that IACAC prompted in the early 2000s, there was an existing framework for other anti-corruption initiatives to operate with much greater effectiveness.

The International Commission Against Impunity’s Success

The U.N.-backed International Commission against Impunity (referred to as CICIG by its Spanish initials) is the most successful NGO fighting corruption in Guatemala, which has prosecuted over 100 cases and obtained roughly 300 convictions since its establishment in 2003. Yet despite its impressive record, Guatemala’s current president, Jimmy Morales, attempted to end CICIG’s mandate before its natural expiration in November 2019. Guatemala’s Constitutional Court halted that decision and legal battles are still ongoing. Public support is heavily in favor of CICIG and the Court.

In the meantime, CICIG’s commissioner, Iván Velásquez, has taken the time to respond to the Morales administration’s accusations against CICIG in detail. Velásquez upholds CICIG’s record of convictions and dryly remarks that “[threats and smear campaigns are] foreseeable with respect to an entity whose purpose is to attack structures that co-opt the State to profit and refuse to lose privileges obtained illegally and illegitimately.” The country recently blocked Velásquez from re-entering, along with dozens of other CICIG staff, when Morales announced the premature termination of the commission. The country must continue to restore Guatemalan’s confidence in its elections.

– Robert Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

 

Poverty Reduction in VietnamVietnam plans to eliminate all poor households and near-poor households by the end of 2020 through implementing vocational training, accessible quality education and affordable health care services. Poverty in Vietnam has been on a steady decline since 2010. In 2016, HCM City officials saw this decline in poverty as an opportunity to implement more poverty reduction efforts by taking multidimensional measures that tackle the main sources of poverty. Sustainable Poverty Reduction was created to eradicate all poor and near-poor households by 2020.

As of January, there were 103,000 poor and near-poor households in HCM City, less than five percent of all households. Since the project began, more than 60,620 poor households. Furthermore, 58,700 near-poor households in HCM City have risen above the poverty line.

Vocational Education and Training

One aspect of the Sustainable Poverty Reduction in Vietnam is vocational education and training (VET). This project is also known as “Renewal and Development of Vocational Training System by 2020.” It involves training rural workers and providing them information about employment trends and career advice. By 2020, this project predicts to increase the rate of skilled rural workers to 50 percent. Additionally, the plan aims to provide VET services to at least 90 percent of Vietnam’s working population and double rural incomes.

Vocational training has helped millions of people garner technical skills to utilize in the workforce. For instance, in 2017, more than 2 million people were enrolled in VET schools. To adapt to a rapidly growing economy, Vietnam’s workforce must transition from agriculture to service-oriented jobs. Similarly, VET services provide resources for rural workers to transition into more skillful and lucrative careers.

Employment in the agricultural sector has been dropping since 1997. About one million workers each year from 2011 to 2014 have transitioned to industry and service sectors.

Education

Along with VET services, Sustainable Poverty Reduction in Vietnam also includes other forms of education. City officials are working to further improve the quality and accessibility of education within poor communities. Education is vital to reducing poverty as most jobs in Vietnam require certain degrees and qualifications. Those with degrees in higher education are more likely to get hired. In 2017, among workers with professional and technical qualifications, 44.7 percent had university degrees and above, 15.8 percent had college degrees, 24 percent had intermediate degrees, and 15.6 percent had elementary certificates.

Education funding is Vietnam’s largest expenditure. It makes up 20 percent of the state budget. In 2012, Vietnam ranked 17th out of 65 countries in academic performance, ahead of countries such as the U.S. and France. Throughout 2015 and 2016, school enrollment was very high. Student enrollment numbers for early elementary students were eight million, five million lower-secondary students, and two million upper-secondary students. This is according to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam. Furthermore, in those same years, the upper-secondary school graduation rate was at 95 percent.

Health Care and Accommodation

This project also incorporates health care services and accommodation. More than 87 percent of the population has health care coverage. Furthermore, estimates indicate an increase to 90 percent by 2020. Health care is one of Vietnam’s weaker programs. However, it is gradually improving due to the increase in health care funding.

The government of Vietnam is dedicated to further expanding universal health care and ensuring poor and near-poor households have access to high-quality treatment and medicine. Vietnam’s Health Insurance Fund covers all hospital fees for poor ethnic minorities living in impoverished communities.

Future of the Vietnamese Economy

The poverty reduction in Vietnam is also attracting other nations to open up their markets to Vietnam. Vietnam is earning its place in the world stage as it begins to globalize its economy and develop trade relations. These relations are with major global players such as the country of China. The globalization of Vietnam’s economy may further expand job opportunities and continue to improve the standard of living. In 2017, there was a 6.7 percent increase in overseas employment. As a result, job opportunities are increasing in international labor markets.

Vietnam’s innovative approach proves a success story. In 1990, Vietnam was one of the poorest countries, facing the remnants of war and famine. In the following years, the country saw rapid economic growth and government officials utilized their resources to further strengthen the economy and lift Vietnam from decades of hardship and poverty. As 2020 approaches, poverty reduction in Vietnam continues as the country takes great measures and strides toward becoming a developed nation.

– Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Slums in Manila
Since as early as the mid-1900s, impoverished citizens of Manila, Philippines have resided in informal settlements known as slums. The metro Manila area has several of these slums which houses much of the poor population of the city. Below are 10 facts about slums in Manila.

10 Facts about slums in Manila

  1. An estimated 35 percent of the metro Manila population live in unstable, poorly constructed shelters in slums. Eleven percent of slum residents live near unsafe areas like railroads and garbage dumps. According to the World Bank, living conditions in slums are worse than in the poorest rural areas. The Mega-Cities Project’s research found that tuberculosis rates were nine times higher than in non-slum areas and that rates of diarrheal disease were two times higher.

  2. It is extremely difficult to collect adequate demographic data on slum populations, as most constituents lack a proper address. Even if surveyors reach slum occupants, most are timid to answer questions due to the fear that surveyors will use the information to demolish their shelters or resettle them. Most slum residents have very little or no tenant security. However, in 2000 the Asian Development Bank estimated a total slum population of around 3.4 million in Manila.

  3. The rate of childhood malnutrition is three times higher in the slums than in non-slum areas. According to USAID, children sometimes have to sort through garbage for scraps of food. A study of the Smoky Mountain slum found that 80 percent of children aged eight months to 15 years who scavenged for food had at least two species of intestinal parasites. An Asian Development Bank study found that 50 percent of children were anemic. This is despite the fact that many of these children have access to medical facilities.

  4. Residents in Manila slums lack access to proper sanitation and a clean environment. USAID states that 66 percent of slum residents lack an adequate way to dispose of human waste and often resort to open pits or rivers. A UNICEF study found that only 16 percent of children in the slums have access to clean drinking water. As a result, residents often turn to vendors or contaminated groundwater. The child mortality rate in slums is three times higher than in non-slum areas according to the Philippines Health Department.

  5. Project PEARLS is providing children in Manila slums with food and health care. The organization has three different food programs for the children of Manila slums. PEARLS launched The Soup Kitchen program in July 2015, which feeds at least 300  children per day on a budget of $160. The organization also provides free medicine to children for illnesses like dehydration, flu, pneumonia and infections, as well as various wounds.

  6. Slum settlements in Manila are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. The Philippines ranks fourth in the global climate risk index and is often prone to typhoons, flooding, earthquakes and other natural disasters. The instability of the often homemade shelters provides little to no protection from these calamities. The Asian Development Bank states that this and the fact that most slums are in dangerous locations make slum settlements vulnerable to natural hazards. Heavy rains in July 2000 caused a landslide of garbage that killed 218 people in a slum settled on top of a garbage dump.

  7. Habitat for Humanity is building stable shelters for slum residents in Manila. With the help of volunteers, the organization builds around 5,000 homes every year. The team works with the local government to rebuild homes and also construct new homes that can withstand the natural elements. From digging the foundation to pouring the concrete and laying the roof, the organization and volunteers create sustainable homes from the ground up for thousands of impoverished slum residents.

  8. The moderate economic growth in recent years did not help to mitigate poverty or slums. The Asian Development Bank reported an average 5.3 percent increase in GDP from 2003 to 2006. Poverty rates increased from 24 percent to 27 percent during that time and continued to increase in 2007 when the GDP growth was 7.1 percent. Chronic poverty, driven by factors like severe inequality and corruption, hinders the reduction of slum residents and settlements. The Philippines ranked 141 out of 180 countries in the 2008 Transparency International corruption perceptions index. According to the Asian Development Bank, local political dynasties manipulate markets to deter the poor from accessing private goods and capital. In 2006, the richest 20 percent owned 53 percent of the wealth in the country.

  9. Poverty is fuelling online child sex abuse in the slums. The live streaming of child pornography in these locations has led UNICEF to name the Philippines the global epicenter of the online child sex abuse trade. Despite the new cybercrime unit at the Philippines National Police Headquarters and the passage of an Anti-Child Pornography Law, convictions remain low and case reports high. This is partially due to the fact that the age of consent in the Philippines is only 12 years old. UNICEF reports that parents have even brought their children to these shows to earn money.

  10. Police and government corruption have engendered the unlawful killings of thousands of slum citizens at the hands of officers since the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. These corrupt and violent raids target slum residents the most. A Human Rights Watch report found that these raids have unlawfully killed over 7,000 people. The report states that police often falsify evidence and falsely claim self-defense to get away with these extra-judicial killings. Although Duterte has not called for extra-judicial killings, his repeated calls for the killing of drug offenders and an absence of any investigations into the killings prompted the Human Rights Watch to label this campaign as a possible progenitor of crimes against humanity.

The Manila government has struggled to find ways to reduce poverty and the population of slum residents, but poverty is a drain on Manila’s economy. According to the Asian Development Bank, for every one percent increase in poverty, there is a 0.7 percent decrease in overall per capita income. Along with this economic algorithm, a lack of investment, access to capital and financial markets throughout slum communities hinders economic growth. Different non-governmental organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Project PEARLS are providing basic essentials and helpful assistance for the different struggles of slum life. However, the Philippines requires more research and both domestic and international assistance to mitigate and eventually solve the aforementioned 10 facts about slums in Manila.

– Zach Brown
Photo: Flickr

presidents who experienced povertyGrowing up poor can place hindrances and obstacles on the path to one’s success and achievements in life. It can hurt education opportunities, employment opportunities and recreational activities such as hobbies and skills. However, there have been American presidents who experienced poverty at some point in their lives. Despite this, each managed to climb the political ladder to the top.

Here are five American presidents who experienced poverty:

  1. Harry S. Truman – Preceded by Franklin D. Roosevelt, he was the 33rd President of the United States. His presidential term last from April 1945 through January 1953. He is well-known globally for the establishment of the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine and NATO. Although Truman had a humble upbringing, he often had a chaotic financial situation due to his poor investment choices. He also had unsuccessful business ventures such as a men’s clothing store and a mining and oil company.
  2. Ulysses S. Grant – The 18th president from 1869 to 1877. Unlike Truman, he never had the opportunity to turn around his financial situation. He eventually became bankrupt after he lost $100,000 due to the fraudulent behavior of his son’s business partner. Grant was well-known for being a national hero following the Civil War after President Abraham Lincoln made Grant a brigadier general. It was only after his death that he was able to provide finances to his family, leaving them with around half a million dollars, sourced from his Civil War memoirs.
  3. William Henry Harrison – He was a farm owner so he was quite dependent on agricultural factors for his wealth. Unfortunately, while he was serving as the Ambassador to Colombia, the harsh weather destroyed his crops. This naturally steered to his failure to accumulate much wealth. Harrison was the ninth president for 31 days in 1841 before he died of natural diseases. While he may not have had much time in office to prove his capabilities, he had military experiences that stood out.
  4. Thomas Jefferson – One of the founding fathers, he was the third president of the U.S. between 1801-1809. He was the main author of the Declaration of Independence. Additionally, he served as the second vice president from 1797 to 1801. Although he started with affluence, he accumulated a lot of debt throughout his life. He was not able to take care of his debts as he could not find buyers for his land. As a result, his daughter did not inherit much and had to live off charity.
  5. James A. Garfield – He served as the 20th president of the United States in 1881 for around six months until he was assassinated. He had served as a general during the American Civil War and attempted to fight off corruption in the post office. Garfield was born into poverty and worked many jobs such as being a carpenter or a janitor so that he can get through college. Since he was dedicated to being a public servant, he did not have much room to be able to accumulate much wealth. By the time of his assassination, he was penniless.

These American presidents who experienced poverty shed light on the fact that even the brightest or the most capable among us who can lead a nation like the United States can be living in poverty. Economic empowerment and education opportunities can be presented to all talented potentials, thus eradicating global poverty and reducing global inequality in all spheres.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Google Images

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