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