Health Care Reform in Turkey
In a very revolutionary move, Turkey has made cancer treatment essentially accessible for all. Labour and Social Security Minister Jülide Sarıeroğlu announced in a written statement that the country has abolished all extra fees that were charged in treatment, surgery and medication of cancer.

This new shift in policy is part of a longstanding effort to improve health care in Turkey and make health care coverage available for all, particularly the nation’s poor.

Universal Health Care in Turkey

The policy was approved earlier this year and shows further commitment to universal health care in Turkey. Sarıeroğlu added that Turkey will continue to make improvements to its health care system regardless of costs.

The impact this will have on the population is significant as 20 percent of deaths in Turkey are caused by cancer and 450 individuals are diagnosed with cancer on a daily basis, totaling to approximately 164,000 cases every year. As part of the shift, the government also increased cancer treatment payments in private hospitals by 200 percent for those with social benefits.

The Labour and Social Security minister has additionally committed to improving the conditions of public health care providers and state universities. Lastly, to avoid overcrowding, hospitals owned by the Health Ministry and the Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu (Social Security Institution) were merged.

The History of Health Care in Turkey

In 2002, Turkey’s health care system was riddled with inefficiencies. The country’s allocation towards cancer treatment was a paltry 3 percent in overall spending. The infant mortality rate was at 26.1 per 1,000 live births, and two-thirds of the population had no access to health insurance.

With the support of the World Bank Group, the Health Transformation Programme was initiated. The programme’s main goal was to overhaul the previous health care infrastructure and equalize access to health facilities in rural and urban areas alike. Along with addressing systemic regional imbalances, the World Bank has helped Turkey confront non-communicable diseases, including but not limited to cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Reform of the Health Care in Turkey

Since the implementation of better and more comprehensive health care in Turkey, the citizens of the country have seen an increase in insurance coverage from 2.4 million people in 2003 to 10.2 million people in 2011. Coverage specifically for Turkey’s poorest decile jumped from 24 percent in 2003 to 85 percent in 2011. The enhanced financial protection provided by insurance has reduced the relative number of out-of-pocket payments, especially for lowest-income households, subsequently leading to a decline in exorbitant health expenditures.

Furthermore, life expectancy at birth is now close to the average level proposed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). An average Turkish newborn in 2014 has the chance to live 6 years longer than a Turkish baby born in 2002. This is an increase from 71.9 to 77.7 years. Only 39 percent of the population was content with health services in 2003, whereas 2011 saw satisfaction bloom to 75.9 percent.

This upward trajectory of health care in Turkey has validated the optimism of citizens looking forward to universal health care. The country’s existing hospitals are experiencing a reformation period and 500 new hospitals have opened in recent years. In her written statement, Jülide Sarıeroğlu assured that there are more improvements to come in the future period.

Yumi Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Saudi Vision 2030 Saudi Arabian Reform Opens Markets
With the recent rise to prominence of the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has committed to a vast economic and social reform plan. The Kingdom’s strategy is in its initial stages, but early signs indicate how the promise of socioeconomic Saudi Arabian reform opens markets for American business.

Saudi Vision 2030

The ambitiously conceived Saudi Vision 2030 is a reform plan for diversifying the Kingdom away from its traditional dependence on oil revenues. The plan’s goals are varied, with objectives ranging from enhancing the competitiveness of non-oil sectors, such as leisure and tourism, to increasing women’s participation in the workforce from 22 to 30 percent.

Although it is in its early stages, the plan has made some progress toward its social liberalization goals, providing an ongoing illustration of how Saudi Arabian reform opens markets. After the Saudi Ministry of Culture ended a 35-year ban on movie theaters late in 2017, the Chinese-owned, American-operated AMC Theaters obtained a license to open 30 movie theaters over the next 5 years as part of a joint operation with the Saudi government.

Film and Tourism

This expansion isn’t limited to AMC: one Saudi official estimates the cinema market to reach $21.3 billion over the next 10 years, and companies such as the U.K.-based Vue International and Imax of Canada plan to open 30 and 20 theaters in the Kingdom in the coming years, respectively.

Beyond theatrical entertainment, the emphasis on promoting tourism in the reform plan is opening up investment opportunities for international hospitality companies and employment opportunities for local women. Marriott International’s managing director for the Middle East and Africa has said that the demand for new hotels in the country has been steady, with the company scheduled to more than double its hotels in Saudi Arabia from 23 to 52 by 2022.

Steps Towards Gender Equality

And an increasingly greater shares of the jobs created in this industry are being filled by women. Saudi women appear to be more amenable to working in the hospitality sector than their male counterparts, the latter tending to seek roles in traditional public or energy sector jobs. In fact, a 2017 working paper by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Research cites researchers’ belief that women will an essential role in the tourism sector.

The social progress made by Saudi Vision 2030 is incremental and should not be overstated. The merits of the highly publicized repeal of a ban on women being granted a driver’s license are countervailed by the country’s continued human rights violations, such as this month’s arrest for dissent of women activists who had fought in previous years to overturn that very ban.

A Decade For Progress

However, as the name of the reform plan suggests, the timeline for Saudi Vision 2030 completion is over a decade.

A final judgment of its success will take time, but incremental progress to date shows how, if implemented, social and economic Saudi Arabian reform opens markets and could enhance opportunity for international businesses. The plan could also liberate opportunities for both male and female residents of the Kingdom in the coming years.

 – Mark Fitzpatrick
Photo: Flickr

Economic Reforms in Macedonia Make Doing Business EasierUnemployment remains high at about 23 percent in Macedonia, but the country maintains its macroeconomic stability. Since its 1991 independence, Macedonia has made progress in liberalizing its economy and improving its business environment. Economic reforms in Macedonia have focused on registering property, protecting minority investors and gaining credit access.

During the global financial crisis, Macedonia maintained its macroeconomic stability by practicing conservative monetary policy. Conservative monetary policy ensures that the domestic currency is pegged to the euro and that inflation remains at a low level.

Macedonia’s economic performance has been halted by internal political crises in the last two years. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), domestic private investments and public investments declined in 2016. The same year, public debt peaked at 50.5 percent of GDP before settling at 47.8 percent at the end of the year. Macedonia distributed a $495 million Eurobond to fulfill 2016 and part of 2017 budget requirements.

Doing Business, of the World Bank, evaluates economic reforms in Macedonia and their influence on the ease of doing business. According to the organization’s measures, Macedonia’s 2017 business reforms are as follows:

  • Getting Credit
    Credit access in Macedonia was strengthened by amending its laws to provide modern features for the collateral registry, to allow parties to grant nonpossessory security rights and to implement a functional secured transactions system.
  • Resolving Debt
    Macedonia made it easier to get out of debt by increasing creditors’ participation in insolvency proceedings and changing voting procedures for reorganization plans.
  • Protecting Minority Investors
    Macedonia reinforced minority investor protections by extending requirements for immediate disclosure of party transactions to the public, increasing access to corporate information during trial and expanding shareholder rights.
  • Enforcing Contracts
    Enforcing contracts has become more difficult with recent amendments to the Law on Civil Procedure that require mediation before a claim is filed. Required mediation lengthens the beginning phase of judicial proceedings.

Most of the past year’s economic reforms in Macedonia focused on registering property, getting credit and protecting minority investors. According to the World Bank, Macedonia ranks eleventh out of the region’s top ranked economies and has carried out 41 reforms, the second highest number among the top 20, over the past 15 years.

Macedonia is the only upper-middle-income economy that ranks within the top 20 economies in the overall ease of doing business. Thus, reforms in Macedonia have made it easier to do business, leading to better quality of life for citizens.

– Carolyn Gibson

Photo: Flickr

 BrazilBy hosting both the Football World Cup and the Summer Olympic Games in recent years, Brazil put the focus of the world’s attention firmly upon itself. In the resulting spotlight, many Brazilian citizens took the unique opportunity to voice concerns to the Brazilian government, with the wider world audience looking on. Protests and reform movements abounded in the past decade as a rapidly widening middle class made unprecedented demands in Brazil’s increasingly mobile and globally integrated society.

Among these movements, students and teachers in Brazil banded together to protest deficiencies in an education system that has long underserved Brazil’s citizens. In 2016, protestors occupied hundreds of schools nationwide to bring attention to the country’s needs.

In response to the protests and upheavals of the past few years, governments at every level in Brazil are beginning initiatives to address educational shortfalls. In many areas, education reforms in Brazil look familiar to readers from the United States. Ideas like performance pay for teachers and turning school management over to private charter organizations are spreading throughout the country at a rapid rate.

Application of the new American-inspired techniques is inconsistent however, and most education reforms in Brazil are still too new to evaluate effectively. In particular, schools in the large urban centers are innovating at a faster rate than systems in less developed areas of the country. Regardless, enthusiasm is high. Many of the movements are being fueled by the personal initiative of teachers, who are in some ways pulling their more conservative institutions forward with them.

Technology in Brazilian schools shows a similarly inconsistent yet hopeful picture. Schools in Rio de Janeiro, for example, are leaders in educational technology use in South America. In Sao Paulo, South America’s largest city, one nonprofit foundation leads an initiative to translate and implement the Khan Academy materials for use in Brazilian schools. This popular online curriculum and method now features in hundreds of Brazilian schools reaching over 70,000 students.

In addition to the visible presence of the popular video-based curriculum, officials at the Lemann Foundation are even more excited about the potential for the support material and quality measurement features of the Khan Academy method. They see these “back end” features as creating real lasting value for future advances in Brazil’s schools.

Still, regions outside of the country’s largest cities have not progressed as quickly. Internet speeds to schools in Brazil are one unexpected challenge. While Brazil is a world leader in mobile internet infrastructure, most connections to schools do not reach the 2Mbps threshold considered ideal for delivery of online materials. Fortunately, one potential solution to this challenge is on the way. KALite, a compressed, offline version of the Khan Academy materials, is now being implemented in areas with less robust infrastructure.

Some of these tech-heavy initiatives are showing early signs of success. Brazilian students using these self-paced, interactive tools are more likely to show up to class, and anecdotal reports indicate a higher level of morale and enthusiasm as well.

Brazil instituted compulsory primary education in the 1980s, after the end of military rule. In many ways, that change was impressively successful. Literacy rates for example are far higher today than in the latter half of the 20th century, and enrollment has strongly improved. Still, educational attainment lags behind nations at a similar stage of development. Brazil’s education system is ranked 105th in quality out of 122 nations by the World Economic Forum.

As time passes, results from more structural changes will be seen as well, and time will tell whether the legacy of these education reforms in Brazil will garner the same attention as the sporting events that precipitated their beginning.

– Paul Robertson

Photo: Flickr


For the last 18 years, Peru has enjoyed an unprecedented streak of positive economic growth. Beginning in the 1990s with the government of Alberto Fujimori, legal reforms in Peru helped revolutionize the economy of the Latin American nation and began this trajectory of growth that continued into the 21st century. The reforms comprised hundreds of legal and policy changes affecting land recording, contracts, access to courts and identity records, among other topics.

Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto, then a top adviser to President Fujimori, was the pioneer of these reforms. Because their effect was limited to within Peru, and due to the staggered timing of when and where they were implemented, the reforms operated as something of a natural experiment for de Soto’s academic theories on economic growth.

The guiding principle behind the legal reforms in Peru was the idea that the poor hold vast amounts of assets in an untapped and unproductive form. By the year 2000, estimates of this unproductive store of wealth exceeded $10 trillion worldwide in terms of land, tangible real estate and other assets held by the world’s poor. Supporters of the reforms believe that providing the owners with access to modern legal regimes creates opportunities to invest the assets in productive ventures. The result will be increased wealth and overall economic growth.

The effects of the legal reforms in Peru are difficult to measure directly, but a number of results appear to indicate some success. By 2007, 13 million residents received legal title to 3,200,000 pieces of property because of the new systems. In Lima, the capital and largest city, proper legal titles were granted for 98 percent of the city’s land. In addition to increasing the opportunity for mortgage-based credit, these new systems of record keeping had impressive effects on public infrastructure and utilities. With identifiable owners and responsible parties, public electricity is now available in the entire city.

One independent researcher also noted a significant increase in labor availability in areas of Peru where the land reforms went into effect. By 2016, Peru was ranked second among Latin American countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business report. The Economist and the Cato Institute even credited reforms to land titles in the Peruvian countryside with helping to undermine the violent rebellion of the Shining Path guerrilla movement.

Improved market conditions have attracted international attention. The Center for International Private Enterprise partnered with the Jordanian Youth Entrepreneurs Association in 2008 to assist young entrepreneurs in Peru with leadership and business training, and this initiative has continued in the years since. Due to the perceived success in his home nation, De Soto’s institution, the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, has since consulted leaders of dozens of other countries on how to institute similar initiatives.

– Paul Robertson

Photo: Flickr

Education in TaiwanAlthough Taiwan produces some of the most accomplished students in the world, its educational system is not without shortcomings. Education in Taiwan continues to be a subject of discourse; these nine facts can help you better understand the situation.

  1. Tensions over statehood manifest at every level of education in Taiwan. Because Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China, the central educational authority in Taiwan is the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China.
  2. The education system is run by the Ministry of Education in Taiwan. It consists of basic elementary education, junior high school and senior secondary education.
  3. The official language of instruction is Mandarin Chinese.
  4. The literacy rate among Taiwanese people age 15 and above was 98.5 percent as of 2014.
  5. Compared to the rest of the world, students who graduate from the educational system in Taiwan achieve some of the highest scores on an international level. Comparatively, these students excel in mathematics and science. However, it has been proposed that there is too far great a focus on memorization in the educational system and a lack of creative instruction.
  6. Taiwan has a testing-oriented education system, which also poses several issues. Standardized test results have recently demonstrated the shortcomings of this system. In 2006, only 4.7 percent of Taiwan students were reading at the highest level, according to the Program for International Student Assessment. The studies suggest that students are without the ability to read or think critically.
  7. In 2014, the Ministry of Education implemented reforms that included adding three years of compulsory education in secondary schools. This was in response to the aforementioned criticisms of the previous system.
  8. The reforms included “exam-free” pathways to secondary schools, a less restrictive curriculum, subsidies for students from disadvantaged homes and making arts education available to all students, among others.
  9. Population decline poses a real threat to the Taiwan’s higher education sector. By 2023, the number of predicted student enrollments in higher education is projected to drop by a third. This will also have implications for the higher education sector of Taiwan in the globalized education market.

Education in Taiwan continues to progress, especially towards targeting areas that it is less proficient in. With the added focus on reading, arts and creativity, along with less pressure to score high on exams, Taiwan is working to ensure that its educational system meets the needs of all its students.

Melanie Snyder

Photo: Flickr

How to Help Georgia: Social Assistance and Corruption
Georgia, a former Soviet state, has dealt with a massive civil war, corruption, poverty and strife since the fall of the USSR. A struggling economy has been hindered by conflict in the region, and Georgia has had to move from a model that favored international assistance to an increase in social spending, which led to an increase in the bottom 40 percent of income but not much else. The big issue in Georgia is poverty, which is driving citizens towards cities and away from the countryside, leaving those in rural areas without resources.

Social Assistance and Rural Strife
One organization, Czech Republic’s People in Need, has recognized the struggles that rural citizens face. It has extended its developmental support to rural people and internally displaced persons within Georgia that do not benefit from state-run social programs. In addition to developmental support, People in Need has helped bring immediate humanitarian assistance to the area and launched programs that aim to develop regions such as the Samegrelo region after their need for humanitarian assistance has waned. This includes promoting positive relationships between law enforcement authorities and the citizens, and civic initiatives that help youths learn life skills and get job training.

The United Nations Development Program stated “The unemployment rate in Georgia is 12 percent, while 68 percent of the population regard themselves as unemployed.” Many of the people in question come from rural areas, which have a declining job market as people move to city hubs. In order to improve the circumstances of these people, an effort needs to be made to develop accessible sectors such as agriculture. While farming cannot create an overwhelming expanse of new jobs, it would be enough to bring hope to an area that is in need. In order to get enough support to develop the agricultural industry, the government needs to step in, but Georgia struggles with high levels of corruption and an inefficient bureaucracy.

Government Reform
Another way to help Georgia is to rid it of the corruption that permeates the Georgian government. Georgia currently ranks highest in corruption in eastern Europe, and while it has taken steps to decrease this level of corruption by requiring greater transparency in elections and higher standards for publishing information, there is much that can be done to make the government run more smoothly. Some of these options include creating an efficient anti-corruption body, legal systems that are designed to prevent conflicts of interest, an independent investigatory mechanism and regulatory institutions.

Corruption has become such a widespread problem in Georgia that bribing public officials in order to make the government run more smoothly is just a fact of life for Georgian citizens. This makes it harder to develop industry, since the citizens who need new jobs may not be able to afford to bribe the public officials that can help with development and job creation in a timely manner. Bureaucracy, in this case, is too slow for citizens to get the help they need to create a better economic environment and help Georgia succeed in the region and world market.

Ultimately, the key to helping Georgia is putting efforts into eradicating corruption in the government and establishing a job market in the rural areas that hold the highest unemployment rates. While a history of corruption will be difficult to overcome, with time Georgia can rise to become a power player in its region and provide for its citizens.

Rachael Blandau

Photo: Flickr

Philippine Education ReformsPhilippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, has signed a bill that will grant free tuition to students attending state universities. Free higher education could prove to be a much-needed step out of the poverty trap for the 42 percent of Filipinos living on less than $2 a day.

The law, which was signed August 3 against the recommendation of the Duterte’s economic advisers, is estimated to cost nearly 100 billion pesos – roughly $2 billion US – per year. Some senators have claimed that when the plan is fully implemented it will only cost a quarter that much. The challenge for Duterte is the full implementation throughout the country’s 112 state schools.

There are some strings attached. Free tuition will only be available to students who maintain high grades throughout secondary education. In addition to that, all students – even those in private higher education institutions – will be required to pass drug screenings to attend school. The latter requirement is an extension of the recent crackdown on drug usage by the Duterte regime.

This bill is just the latest of many Philippine education reforms. In 2012 and 2013, the Kindergarten Act and the Enhanced Basic Education Act extended the formal education timeline by three years, from 10 to 13. Around the same time, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) became involved with the Philippine education reforms.

In 2011, after the launch of the U.S. led Partnership for Growth project, USAID began working closely within the Filipino school system, helping the nation reach its literacy goals and foster new partnerships between each nation’s higher learning institutions.

Even with the help of the U.S., the price of education has been a consistent problem for people in the Philippines. Unable to cover the costs of schooling equally in its 13 districts, the government has historically chosen to focus efforts and money on primary schooling. Duterte’s new law is the first of its kind to focus on higher education. Only time will tell whether his Philippine education reforms are financially feasible, but many Filipino lawmakers realize the importance of investing in human capital.

Education is commonly seen as being one of the steadfast ladders out of poverty. This tuition bill is just a piece of Duterte’s promised grand social spending plan– the regime hopes to add more skilled workers to its labor pool who are ready to take on the changing demands of a highly technological economy.

Tj Anania