Causes of Poverty in IranIn 2016, about 80 percent of people in Iran were impoverished. Poverty in Iran can lead to a variety of other issues, including negative effects on the mental health of the country’s youth. Mental health issues in Iranians are found to be linked to a plethora of factors, economic pressure being one of them. Due to the poverty faced by many, suicide is becoming a more common issue.

In addition to affecting the mental health of young people in Iran, the country’s high poverty rate also impacts people’s physical health. With how negatively poverty has affected the people of Iran, it is essential to consider what the causes of poverty in Iran are.

Top Causes of Poverty in Iran

  1. Sanctions in Iran are cited as a cause of the country’s high poverty rate. These sanctions have affected multiple groups, one of which is Iran’s millions of Afghan refugees. Statistics have demonstrated that Afghans who are able to find work are self-sufficient and actually better the economy of Iran.
  2. Inflation is another cause of poverty in Iran. In early 2013, Iran’s inflation rate stood at nearly 40 percent. The depreciation of the country’s money has lead to an increase in the unemployment rate, which has driven many Iranians into poverty. A solution to this issue that the government of Iran has sought in the past was rationing, which prevented the country’s impoverished populations from being as affected by inflation.
  3. Besides sanctions and inflation, another cause of poverty in Iran is high medical costs. Each year, 7.5 percent of Iranians are driven into poverty because of their medical expenses. Among the top three most common illnesses to affect Iranians is cancer. Many times, the cost of treatment for families is so high that those affected by illness are not able to complete their treatment.

The high poverty rate in Iran has affected millions of Iranian citizens and has taken a toll on the mental health of the country’s youth. Among the most prominent causes of poverty in Iran are sanctions, inflation and medical expenses. As of mid-2017, the government of Iran is working toward implementing a reform agenda, which aims to help businesses and labor markets. The reform agenda is targeted at Iran’s overall goal of reducing its poverty rate. Though they face hard times as a result of their medical and economic status, children and families remain hopeful for the future.

– Haley Rogers

Photo: Flickr

US Is Extending Iran Sanctions ReliefOn September 28, 2017, White House officials announced that the U.S. is extending sanctions relief for Iran implemented by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The nuclear deal was coordinated by the international community and ended crippling economic sanctions against Iran by the United States, European Union and United Nations, in exchange for Iran reducing its nuclear capabilities for 10 years and limiting uranium enrichment for 15 years. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has been upholding its end of the deal.

The relief from key economic sanctions under the JCPOA plays an important role in Iran’s future economic sustainability. The sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program limited the nation’s ability to engage in trade and its access to oil revenue and international financial institutions. This contributed to a recession in 2012 and 2013 that saw Iran’s GDP growth decline by 6.6 percent in 2012. Inflation rose to over 30 percent, resulting in dramatic price hikes in food and basic necessities, and more than a fifth of the country was left unemployed.

Though the Iran deal is still in its infancy, it has already had significant impacts on Iran’s economy. World Bank estimates place Iran GDP growth at 6.4 percent and is projected to grow by over 4 percent from 2017-2019. Projections by the World Bank show significant boosts in oil production and other industries and potential growth in women’s employment.

The Iran deal also has the potential to fuel Iran’s development goals. Sanctions were lifted a month before Iran’s parliamentary elections and were touted as a significant victory of Iran’s moderate leadership. The elections resulted in large gains for development-minded moderates and economic reformers and significant losses for Iranian conservatives.

However, the sanctions relief for Iran remain controversial stateside. Though President Trump has chosen to continue maintaining the Iran deal, he has called the Iran deal “one of the worst deals” in history, and signaled that the U.S. is extending Iran sanctions relief temporarily and may withdraw or renegotiate the deal come October.

Furthermore, President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson believe that Iran is not complying with “the spirit” of the deal due to its ballistic missile tests, cyber activities and continued backing of terrorist groups, though no clause in the JCPOA forbids Iran from engaging in these actions. Nonetheless, the White House announced new sanctions outside of the Iran deal on several Iranian individuals and entities connected to malicious Iranian cyber activities.

Carson Hughes

Photo: Flickr

Sanctions and Venezuela's PoorWith the recent political unrest in Venezuela surrounding the controversial election of President Nicolás Maduro, the United States has placed financial sanctions on Maduro and some of his high-ranking officials. These sanctions are aiming to freeze any of Maduro’s U.S. assets as well as halt all business between him and U.S. citizens. However, there may be an unfortunate connection between U.S. oil sanctions and Venezuela’s poor.

These individual embargoes may not be enough, though. The Trump administration is still considering whether or not to place economic sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector, according to Reuters. This would hit the country hard, as the oil industry accounts for upwards of 95 percent of Venezuela’s export earnings. Venezuela is also the third largest supplier of oil exports to the United States.

While it is important to analyze the effects of economic sanctions on a nation’s elites, what are the effects of these actions on Venezuela’s general populace? More specifically, what effects will these actions against President Maduro have on his people, and are there potential collateral effects linking U.S. oil sanctions and Venezuela’s poor?

First, it should be noted that there are multiple types of sanctions that a country can pass. In terms of U.S. embargoes pertaining to Venezuela, the kinds of sanctions being enacted and debated are in regard to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List and the Sectoral Sanctions Identification (SSI) List, respectively.

As described in a case study by the U.S. State Department, sanctions targeting the SDN List are against individuals and entities, such as President Maduro and his high-ranking officials. SSI sanctions, on the other hand, target sectors in a foreign economy, such as the oil and gas industries in Venezuela.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. uses economic and financial embargoes more than any country or any body of countries in the world. As of 2015, the most notable U.S. sanctions historically have been levied against Cuba since 1960, Iran since 1984, North Korea since 2008, and the Ukraine/Russia since 2014.

U.S. embargoes against Venezuela began in 2015 when President Barack Obama issued an executive order targeting seven of Maduro’s high-level officials. New sanctions from late July added President Maduro himself to the SDN List.

In general, embargoes levied against individuals on the SDN List appear to have minimal collateral effects on that person’s respective regional economy. This is what the Obama administration argued when it placed sanctions on Venezuelan officials in 2015, and it is what the Trump administration is arguing now.

Sectoral sanctions, however, seem to have a broader impact on the country at large. The more a sanctioning country is a contributor to the economy of its target, the higher the potential is for collateral damage to occur.

For example, after monitoring the effects of sanctions placed on Russia by the United States and the European Union in 2014, U.S. State Department Deputy Chief Economist Daniel Ahn and Georgetown University professor Rodney Ludema concluded in a study that “sanctions [on Russia]…appear to be ‘smart,’ in the sense of hitting the intended targets…while causing minimal collateral damage.”

The E.U., however, who is Russia’s largest trading partner, had a different story. A study by the European Parliament in 2015 noted that Russian officials predicted an 8-10 percent loss of the country’s GDP due to the E.U. sanctions, resulting in a multitude of indirect collateral effects on the Russian economy and its people.

The scale of trade relations, therefore, directly correlates to the collateral damage sanctions have on an economy, and this must be considered when discussing U.S. sanctions and Venezuela’s poor. The oil sector accounts for 95 percent of Venezuela’s export earnings and 25 percent of their GDP, and because the United States is the country’s largest export destination according to OPEC, a sectoral sanction of this size could potentially have massive effects on Venezuela’s populace.

If Venezuela were to cease relations with their primary trade partner and lose the respective export earnings from their primary resource, the result would be a substantial decrease in national revenue. Money that would normally be used for social programs would be stifled, bringing more harm to a population that is already suffering from economic and political hardships plaguing the country.

Because of all this, it is important to watch the Trump administration and see how the President decides to handle the complex issues surrounding Venezuela. There is a viable argument that collateral damage would result from U.S. oil sanctions and Venezuela’s poor would bear the brunt of that damage.

John Mirandette

Photo: Flickr

Sanctions
Sanctions. A frequently employed strategy to mollify human rights abuses has been marked, at best, as underwhelmingly ineffective.

In 1948, the U.N. General Assembly outlined a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which “sets out basic rights and freedoms to which all women and men are entitled – among them the right to life, liberty, and nationality; to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to work and to be educated; the right to food and housing; and the right to take part in the government.”

Unfortunately, the UDHR has been ineffective at upholding member-states to their obligations. Violent and nonviolent human rights abuses are common practice for unscrupulous governments.

According to information gathered by Amnesty International, out of the 160 countries in which data was collected, 119 countries arbitrarily restricted freedom of expression. During 2014, at least 18 countries committed war crimes or other violations of the “laws of war.”

In an effort to avoid draconian measures when correcting the irresponsible behavior of international actors, the global community has developed a pattern of implementing sanctions – the process suppressing or excluding economies from reaping the benefits of the global trade system.

Recently, however, the efficacy of sanctions has been questioned. Reports by the International Association for Political Science Students noted that sanctions disproportionately provide adverse consequences for the innocent population, but not the guilty leadership.

The now dismembered U.N. Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights issued a resolution in August 1997 where it condemned the use of sanctions as a tool of international diplomacy – further increasing skepticism on the efficacy.

Consequently, both selective and comprehensive sanctions discourage the promotion of human rights, and in fact, create counter-productive consequences – e.g. less distribution of wealth and the advent of black market business practices.

A recent example that undermines the efficacy of sanctions is the U.S. led sanctions on North Korea, which concentrated the remaining resources and wealth in Pyongyang (with the government). As a result, famished North Koreans resorted to cannibalism as an attempt to garner the necessary nutrients to survive.

Other long-standing recipients of U.S. sanctions are Iran and Cuba, which were marked as a pariah for their involvement in the sponsorship of terrorism and spread of communism, respectively. Fortunately, the U.S. has begun to normalize relations with Cuba and is likely to undergo a “fresh-start” without U.S. administered sanctions.

Some sanctions have remained intact for over 30 years without a change in behavior by the target country. At one point, the international community must begin to question the efficacy, as the primary objective to correct misguided international behavior is not achieved. Additionally, the international community must also wonder if the act of sanctioning itself is a violation of the UDHR, as the collateral damage of innocent civilians’ deaths continues to rise.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

Sanctions in Sudan
The U.S. designated Sudan a “state sponsor of terrorism” in 1993 when it was revealed that President Omar al-Bashir’s government was protecting terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden. There have been sanctions in Sudan ever since.

However, it has recently been pointed out by various publications and organizations that the sanctions have not had their desired effect. Foreign Policy, for instance, has pointed out that rather than crippling Sudan’s privileged and corrupt elite, the sanctions have done little more than exacerbate the poverty that 39 percent of the African country’s population lives in. Some would argue that it is, therefore, time to lift sanctions in Sudan.

The ways that the sanctions harm ordinary Sudanese are numerous. For one thing, isolation of the country’s biomedical sector has severely impacted its already dismal state of health care provision. Doctors often have to use outdated technology or black market products because the necessary equipment is too expensive.

Furthermore, scientists and academics cannot perform important research because they are prevented from subscribing to certain journals, buying certain books and accessing databases used by laboratories around the world. It is difficult for them to collaborate with scientists from the U.S. and other more advanced countries, which would be a crucial aspect of development.

Things are similarly tough for aid and development institutions. Though food, medicine and humanitarian assistance are technically exempted from sanctions, obtaining waivers is difficult and sometimes impossible. Many organizations would like to deal with Sudan balk because of the need to navigate thorny bureaucratic territory to secure special licenses. In other developing countries, a lot of this work would be performed by intermediary banks but since complying with the sanctions is such a hassle, many are unwilling to do so.

The IMF has reported that the dissolution of relations between Sudanese banks and their foreign counterparts is in large part the result of U.S. policy. Last year, the French bank BNP Paribas, after being caught doing business with Sudan, Iran and Cuba, was forced to pay an $8.9 billion penalty. This punishment has highlighted the increased risks banks have faced since 9/11 in dealing with countries that have some history of financing or otherwise abetting terrorism.

Despite having in these ways taken a significant toll on ordinary Sudanese, the sanctions have failed to oust Bashir from power or put an end to violence in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions. To lift sanctions in Sudan would allow the country new opportunities to develop and address its economic and political crises.

Up until recently, such change seemed like a pipe dream, since U.S.-Sudan relations have kept at a destructive standstill. However, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is looking to loosen things up.

According to TheHill.com, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) are hoping to undo travel restrictions that halt travel between Sudan and the U.S. The legislation they plan to introduce “would allow individuals from countries in the Visa Waiver Program who have dual citizenship with Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan to travel to the United States without a visa.” A bipartisan group of representatives plans to introduce similar legislation in the House.

These moves are not as major as a decision to lift sanctions in Sudan but they do point to the possibility that momentum will be gained in that direction in the near future.

Joe D’Amore

Sources: Foreign Policy, IMF, The Hill 1, The Hill 2, Flickr

poverty_in_russiaEarlier this month, the International Business Times reported “critical” levels of poverty in Russia.

This can come as a surprise to a lot of people, mainly due to the fact that Russia is a part of the Group of 8, an elite group that compromises the eight most advanced economies in the world. Russia has an annual GDP of $2.3 trillion and unemployment hovers around 5.6 percent. These statistics do not paint a picture of poverty.

Given these circumstances, the use of the term “critical” to describe the poverty in Russia is baffling. The impetus to how Russia got here is woven into their annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea, and the subsequent reaction by the European Union and the United States.

On March 14 of last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country would be annexing Crimea, citing the historical ties the peninsula has with Russia. Although Russia claims the Crimean citizens conducted a referendum to secede from Ukraine, NATO says it was illegal and “doesn’t count.” Samantha Powers, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, equated the annexation to “theft.”

In response, the European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on Russia’s finance, arms and energy sectors.

The sanctions, enacted last September, prevent Russia’s state banks from financing long-term loans in the European Union. Exporting military equipment and oil technology to Russia is also banned.

In addition, the Russian elite, many of whom control the businesses that have been impacted the hardest by the sanctions, have been subject to asset freezes and travel restrictions.

A year later, the sanctions have rippled through the Russian and European Union economies. Russian citizens living in poverty number around 22.9 million, roughly 3 million more than last year; this comprises 15 percent of the country. Although unemployment has remained stable, the inflation rate has soared and the value of the ruble, Russia’s currency, has plummeted along with wages.

In addition, the stark drop in oil prices, one of Russia’s main exports, has exacerbated the effects of the sanctions.

The Russian economy is expected to shrink three percent in 2015.

The leaders of NATO and the UN believe that this sends Russia a strong message that its annexation of Crimea, and support of pro-separatist forces in Ukraine, is unacceptable. However, the sanctions have affected more than Russia.

According to research by the Austrian Institute of Economic Research, the European Union economy will be adversely influenced by the sanctions. The report found that 2.5 million jobs will be cut, which would drain nearly 30 million euros from the economy.

Europe depends on Russia for 30 percent of its oil and gas supply. This has been problematic because the sanctions specifically targeted Russian oil and gas companies.

While the sanctions have slowed the Russian economy and isolated the country diplomatically, the residual, mostly negative, effects on some of the countries that imposed them have been counterintuitive.

NATO’s response to the Crimean annexation highlights how interconnected global markets are. Although many world leaders denounce Russia’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine as unacceptable, their response could affect the economic security of millions who have nothing to do with the situation but are living in poverty in Russia.

Kevin Meyers

Sources: BBC, Heritage, IB Times, Huffington Post 1, Huffington Post 2, Huffington Post 3
Photo: IB Times

Poverty_in_Russia
Poverty in Russia has been a prevailing issue for years now, but a host of causes has finally brought it to its worst point yet.

According to a recent report by Rosstat, a Russian state statistics service, the amount of people living below the poverty line in Russia hit 22.9 million earlier this year. Russia’s population was roughly 144 million at the end of 2014.

Russia’s poverty crisis has worsened steadily over the past few years due primarily to embargos and resulting inflation. As a result of Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis, many countries embargoed food imports to Moscow. This caused inflation in the country to rise to 16.9%, its highest point in 13 years.

“Unfortunately, predictions are coming true: According to official statistics, the number of poor people has reached 22 million,” Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets told a Russian television station.

Additional Western sanctions have caused a steep decline in the price of oil, Russia’s largest export, further damaging the country’s economy and job market. In 2014, the amount of social service agency employees in Russia was cut by 6.5%. Experts are predicting that far more job cuts will follow, affecting 33 different regions of the country over the next few years.

Poverty in Russia is also proving to be immensely damaging to education. According to the Accounts Chamber report, 9,500 towns with populations between 300 and 1,500 had no preschool facilities, and one-third of these towns had no public transportation.

Between this year and 2018, 5.6% of Russia’s preschools are expected to close, as well as 6% of primary and secondary schools, 14.7% of orphanages and 16.1% of vocational schools.

As conditions in Russia continue to worsen, work must continue to be done to improve the quality of life within the country.

Alexander Jones

Sources: World Socialist Web Site, International Business Times, Moscow Times
Photo: Business Insider