Andorra Struggles With COVID-19 ResponseAndorra, one of Europe’s smallest and oldest countries, does not boast full European Union membership. Instead, sandwiched between Spain and France’s 11,000 foot high Pyrenees borders, Andorra relies on integrating relations with the two countries. Yet, as Andorra’s economy and demographics differ greatly from most of the European Union, Andorra has a unique agreement with the body of countries. Unfortunately, lacking full E.U. membership and the benefits this includes, Andorra has faced struggles with their COVID-19 response.

A Unique Agreement With the European Union

As evidenced by the recent Brexit controversy, E.U. membership comes with positive and negative aspects. Entry challenges proved a significant hurdle for Andorra; therefore, it initially did not join the union. Only after the 2008 recession did Andorra arrange a special agreement with the European Union, like other European micro-states.

Due to tourism, the country’s main economic draw, and Andorra’s location on a map, some economic realities have been unavoidable. After 2008, Andorra began using the Euro and entered trade agreements slashing tariffs. However, unlike the rest of Europe, Andorra continued to restrict individual taxes. This branded the small country as a hot spot for tax evasion. This caveat kept Andorra afloat but alienated the country from the rest of Europe. Due to international pressure in 2011, the country began moving towards international tax standards.

Even though it lacks full European Union membership, Andorra still retains membership in the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Does Andorra qualify for European Union aid?

Full European Union member countries qualify for aid programs. The European Union, like most international institutions, provided large amounts of COVID-19 aid–37 billion Euros in the initial program to be exact. Individual countries qualify for an additional 100 billion from the E.U. for employment assistance.

However, Andorra’s partial membership benefits to the European Union are limited to:

  1. The customs union, which is a group of countries that have agreed to charge the same import duties as each other and allow free trade between themselves.
  2. Tariff exemption to void taxes imposed by a government on goods and services imported from countries outside of the European Union.
  3. Euro use for stable and standardized currency.
  4. Access to name and tax databases.

COVID-19 in Andorra

As Andorra’s place in the European Union is unclear, so is its ability to receive COVID-19 aid. It appears that Andorra cannot and has not accessed any European Union COVID-19 aid. As neighboring Spain and France have done, Andorra implemented specific travel limitations. Uniquely, its rules included odd and even-numbered homes taking turns with short exercise periods.

Poverty in Andorra

The tough situation created by COVID-19 shutdowns and the ambiguous nature of Andorra’s relationship with the European Union have left the country exposed to further poverty. Unlike countries with widespread extreme poverty, Andorra’s poverty is specific to immigrant labor unemployment during tourism lulls and the housing crisis. Both of which, when paired with COVID-19, have the potential to drastically increase Andorra’s 4% poverty rate.

As of now, Andorra continues to encounter additional struggles with their COVID-19 response. As the post-2008 trend of strengthening relationships between Andorra and the E.U. continues, more poverty prevention aid will hopefully find its way to this small, land-locked country.

– Rory Davis
Photo: Flickr

Strategy of Pro-Poor Tourism to Alleviate Global Poverty
Pro-Poor Tourism (PPT) is an approach to reduce poverty in developing nations. Areas across the globe, including regions like Africa, Asia, South America and India, have successfully adopted PPT. In addition, PPT’s principal goal is to generate net benefits for poor communities. The strategy of Pro-Poor Tourism aims to increase economic stability and mitigate the negative effects of local cultures and environments. In order to do so, developing countries must apply several strategies.

Strategies of Pro-Poor Tourism

Tourism accounts for 11% of the world’s economy. Tourism is a rapidly growing market and industry. Countries promoting tourism experience economic growth rates of over 9% per year. The industry employs hundreds of millions of people.

There are three strategies for Pro-Poor Tourism. The first strategy of Pro-Poor Tourism is to increase the financial profits of the poor. PPT promotes the growth of local occupational opportunities and the development of local businesses that supply products for the tourist industry. The second strategy is to enrich the lives of native citizens. PPT provides locals with availability to facilities and services originally established for tourists. The third strategy of Pro-Poor Tourism is to stimulate collaboration with the poor. This involves promoting the participation of the poor in the government and private sectors. In addition, it also includes increasing policy formation that supports the involvement of the poor.

Success in Kerala, India

In Kerala, the early adoption of tourism led to decreases in agricultural produce, increases in unemployment and a decrease in availability to local waterways. Hotels and restaurants employed individuals from poorer parts of the country, farmers sold their property for quick money and tour operations damaged local fishing equipment. In addition, Kerala’s Department of Tourism discussed a Pro-Poor Tourism reform in 2007. The strategy was labeled “Responsible Tourism.”

Over a dozen of hotels agreed to purchase numerous products from the local economy. As a result, this agreement created several businesses such as a fish administering division, a chappathy division, agricultural coalitions and coconut suppliers. Furthermore, hotels later arranged to purchase items from craft businesses, performances from a women’s traditional dance group and local art business. These opportunities enhanced the preservation of traditional Kerala cultures. This pro-poor tourism reform specifically focused on the expansion of jobs for women. Now, nearly 1,000 women participate in agribusiness, skilled labor, tour operations and wholesale enterprises.

Success in Bangladesh, India

The St. Martin Islands of Bangladesh have also implemented PPT. A qualitative research study reveals local residents now have more access to markets. Hence, there are more opportunities to sell products. In addition, natives of all ages participate in various activities involved in tourism operations.

The study also reports that local residents receive direct benefits of sustainable tourism. Local residents participate in the transaction of crafts, local resources, entertainment events and the production of infrastructure. Consequently, locals now have access to medical facilities, nontoxic water and hygiene services. Only 20% of locals interviewed believe tourism did not alleviate poverty in their community.

The application of Pro-Poor Tourism reform benefits the lives of native residents by increasing economic opportunity while maintaining culture and preserving the environment. Areas must plan and apply strategies of Pro-Poor Tourism appropriately per context. It is also important for governments, agencies and donors to apply PPT strategies with the growth of poor communities as the soul of the operation.

John Brinkman
Photo: Flickr

Ecotourism in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is notable for having a stronger democracy than the United States and being the least impoverished nation in Central America. Twenty-five percent of the country is national parks – some might say that leaving all that land unfarmed means losing productivity. The national parks also contain untouched forests, which create economic incentives to develop that land into a pasture or city. However, since it is doing better than its neighbors at economic and social development, there must be some other reason Costa Rica is successful. A large part of that answer is the amount of ecotourism in Costa Rica.

History of Ecotourism

Ecotourism in Costa Rica started in the 1960s when only 25% of the once entirely forested country remained untouched. Entrepreneurs were curious about how the country could preserve the forest in a way that earned more money than logging it. They built lodging near newly-founded parks and worked with foreign retailers such as Any Mountain to make specialized outdoor gear to handle the terrain. Entrepreneurs also encouraged the government to produce web pages that emphasize the positive environmental impacts of ecotourism.

Benefits of Ecotourism

As a result of these investments, Costa Rica attracted 3.14 million tourists in 2019. The direct and indirect benefits of these tourists are:

  1. Money: Costa Rica earned $3.4 billion in just one year— around 5% of the country’s GDP—due to visitor spending. That money can increase the number of people in the middle class and help Costa Ricans avoid the poverty that affects neighboring countries.
  2. Sustainability: If Costa Rica’s businesses decided to use the remaining 25% of the forests for lumber, there would be none left now. Ecotourism can exist as a source of income indefinitely. In the long run, that can create lasting prosperity and health for the citizens of the country.
  3. Protected Biodiversity: Places closest to the equator like Costa Rica contain the most species per unit area. Those species have the potential to cure diseases. They act as a harbor of life in the developed world where many are going extinct.
  4. Proof of Concept: Costa Rica was one of the first countries that had visitors to admire ecological, not historical, sites. People first created the term ecotourism, then, to describe the focus of the visitors. Many places in Africa such as Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Benin established national parks in an attempt to reap the same rewards as Costa Rica.

The Future of Ecotourism

Ecotourism in Costa Rica and in other parts of the world is a way to satisfy both the ecological and economical needs of people. This leads to stable and robust governments that can stand up to disturbances like natural disasters. They can also serve their constituents better by preventing vast swaths of the population from sliding into poverty.

That is not to say that it is a perfect solution. Historically, leaders have uprooted indigenous communities to make the parks for ecotourism. Other sectors like Costa Rica’s computer parts manufacturing can use it as a false front to justify unnecessary pollution. Diseases like COVID-19 can reduce traffic, leaving many without jobs. However, under normal circumstances, the positives outweigh the negatives. Countries around the world should at least consider integrating ecotourism into their economies and the lives of their citizens.

– Michael Straus
Photo: Flickr

Tourists at Kawah Ijen
In Indonesia, 9,000 feet above sea level, on the Kawah Ijen volcano crater, one can see two kinds of people: sulfur miners suffering backbreaking labor in toxic conditions, and tourists wealthy enough to afford gas masks and enjoy the rugged beauty of the landscape.

Background

The miners are locals of the region. They trek up the steep cliffs, carrying 80 kilograms of sulfur per trip for compensation of about 7 cents per kilogram. PT Candi Ngrimi employs them and processes the sulfur into powder, slabs and granules for sale to manufacturing companies. In particular, sugar processing companies use sulfur to refine and whiten sugar crystals.

Despite working next to the most acidic lake in the world and within the toxic fumes of the volcano, the workers have virtually no equipment to protect themselves from hazards. Most wear only a thin piece of cloth over their nose and mouth.

Unlike the miners, who have been active since 1954, the tourists at Kawah Ijen are a new addition to the volcano. East Java was rather obscure until 2010. Then, Abdullah Azwar Anas became regent of the Banyuwangi Regency (the city in which the volcano is located). Upon his election, Azwar developed fervent promotions for tourism, and now millions of people visit Banyuwangi yearly.

Benefits of Tourism

The economic impact of tourism is immense for many countries around the world. For instance, Maldives has shifted from a least developed to a developing country largely because of tourism, which is the dominant economic sector for that country.

Tourism is a growing economic force for Indonesia, too, as it accounts for 5.2% of GDP and 3.7% of total employment. Tourists at Kawah Ijen create the potential for public and private sector cooperation. This relationship could build infrastructure to support tourism, ultimately increasing employment and income.

Tourist attractions like the Kawah Ijen crater rely on the environmental and cultural health of the area. Thus, the governments and corporations in Banyuwangi have the motivation to preserve these aspects. Although there may be increased infrastructure development in the area, it is unlikely that there will be large-scale changes that would alter the natural and cultural beauty of Banyuwangi.

Consequences of Tourism

The primary concern of tourism at Kawah Ijen is that the sulfur miners become an attraction, much like the alluring blue fire, yellow sulfur and acidic lake of the volcano’s crater. Tourists reflect this concern by taking selfies with miners who are about to begin their trek back to base for their daily $5. Despite their popularity, the miners have not seen any monetary rewards during Banyuwangi’s tourism boom, barring small fees for photographs. Their wages remain as they have for decades.

Tourists at Kawah Ijen are not an inherently bad thing, of course. However, the sulfur miners are a big reason that the volcano is a tourist attraction at all, yet they continue to live in poverty. It is an extreme example of exploitation without compensation.

So popular is the hardship of the sulfur miners’ lives that they are documented on a database of “dark tourism.” Dark tourism, according to the website, is “travel to sites that are in some way connected to death or disaster.” Kawah Ijen received a 10/10 on its “dark-o-meter” rating, alongside memorials to the Hiroshima bombing and the Rwandan genocide.

How to Ensure Positive Development

There are ways that tourism can theoretically provide a positive experience for host communities. These ways not only avoid voyeurism but seek to alleviate some of the challenges host communities experience.

One example of this is voluntourism, which melds volunteer service work with tourism. Tourists could plant trees resistant to sea-level rise on the coast of East Java. They could help build a road to make the miners’ travels easier. Voluntourism, however, is a potentially deleterious activity that can strip local communities of their agency. If implemented at Kawah Ijen, officials would have to monitor voluntourism with extreme caution and attention to detail.

Another example is pro-poor tourism, which aims to create a net benefit for impoverished communities in host countries. This often takes the form of governments or private companies training impoverished populations to take part in the tourist industry, perhaps as a travel guide or an education specialist.

Because of tourism’s growing economic importance in Banyuwangi, tourists themselves have indirect political power in the region. Considering this, tourists at Kawah Ijen have an opportunity to become activists. If they demanded that miners received just compensation for their work, the regency or PT Cambri Ngimri may oblige. This is called justice tourism, and although it may seem idealistic, it could produce a serious change in places like Kawah Ijen, if it were done correctly.

Sublime photos of Kawah Ijen’s sulfur mines and blue fire continue to circulate on the internet. It is clear that the volcano’s popularity is not dwindling. Governments and companies, then, should try and discover ways to make tourism socially sustainable. This practice is necessary not just in Indonesia, but in any place that is worth visiting and celebrating.

Christopher Orion Bresnahan
Photo: Flickr

Economic Development in Developing Island Nations
Island nations such as Fiji and Tonga are isolated paradises largely cut off from global markets. As tourism increases through the year however, these countries’ economies thrive. While ecotourism in developing island nations increases employment rates and the development of other important sectors, it has to be done with the land and its people in mind.

What is Ecotourism?

Ecotourism in developing island nations is an economic development tool that involves bringing local communities and travelers together in an environmentally friendly way. The main benefits include the preservation of native lands, increases in local employment rates and increased funds for continued conservation. If not kept in check however, ecotourism has the potential to exploit an island’s natural resources and populations, so it must be implemented in the most sustainable way possible. Once nations see improvements in their tourism industry, they can easily become vulnerable to large corporations wanting to create new—and potentially damaging—markets there.

Why Tourism is Important to Developing Island Nations

The World Bank has identified 11 Pacific Islands (PIC 11) that will benefit immensely from increased tourism. These islands are: Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, Palau, Marshall Islands (RMI), Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Tuvalu. These countries received over 1.3 million visitors in 2014 and are renowned for their beautiful landscapes, diverse cultures and incredible natural resources. Of this group, countries with the highest tourism rates also have the highest employment rates. The industry employs 15% of the population in Tonga, 18% in Samoa, 50% in Palau.

The Caribbean is one of the most popular tourist destinations, with many of its nations’ economies heavily or completely reliant on tourism industries. The World Bank has started initiatives within the region to establish “blue economies” that take both economic development and environmental effects into consideration. Since 2010, the region’s GDP has increased alongside the growth of island tourism. Unfortunately, these changes have come with an increase in plastic marine debris and the destruction of coral reefs. The main focus of these “blue economies” is to establish a balance between the ocean and the economy so everyone benefits.

Ecotourism Efforts to Support

There are many organizations working to make ecotourism in developing island nations a reality. Ecotourism Belize hires local workers in the Toledo District as guides for tours through the Belizean jungle. They also have a group of bird specialists and traditional healers hired. All employees are of Mayan descent so they are able to give honest representation of ancient Mayan culture and convey how it has been passed down through generations. All of Ecotourism Belize’s profits fund conservation efforts within the Maya Golden Landscape.

In 2017, Palau became the first country to require an “Eco-Pledge” by visitors upon entering. Over the past several years it has seen tourist rates grow seven times larger than the region’s native population. Home to beautiful natural ecosystems, Palau knew it had to mitigate the rise in the destruction of its land due to increased tourism. The country’s government found this destruction was due to a lack of education. By introducing visitors to a localized way of thinking about the environment, the government has taken an important first step towards successful ecotourism.

Keeping Things Balanced

Ecotourism in developing island nations has the potential to help eradicate poverty in these regions. Done correctly, it allows locals to hold onto their culture while protecting their resources and ecosystems at the same time.

Stephanie Russo
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Malta
Considerable progress has been made in addressing poverty in Malta. Malta has experienced substantial increases in its GDP, with a real GDP growth rate of 6.7% in 2017. The unemployment rate in 2018 was also relatively low at 3.7%, exhibiting a -2.5% change from 2012, compared to the European Union average of 6.8%. Malta has further experienced a positive improvement in almost all of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including no poverty and zero hunger. In addition, Malta is among one of the fastest-growing economies within the E.U., further exhibiting their ability to effectively address poverty.

What Is Being Done?

The government of Malta is fighting poverty through its National Strategic Policy for Poverty Reduction and for Social Inclusion 2014-2024. The strategy works to address poverty in Malta through a focus on income and benefits, employment, education, health and environment, social services and culture.

The national strategy has been successful in that it has led to continued increases in the figures for At Risk of Poverty and Social Exclusion (AROPE). Progress addressing poverty in Malta is also being measured by the World Bank, which found that from 2010 to 2015 the income of the bottom 40% in Malta experienced a 3.6% increase, a growth rate faster than the average of the total population.

Pushing Forward Further Progress

While Malta has experienced considerable improvements in addressing the 2030 SDGs, progress has stalled in addressing sustainable consumption and production, inequality and climate change. Malta has put forth policies to push forward progress with regard to these stalled SDGs.

The reform package measure “Making Work Pay” works to address inequalities through the introduction of a guaranteed minimum pension, reduced income tax and introduction and extension of in-work benefits. The success of these measures is evident through the country’s low unemployment rate and rising GDP. Additionally, gender inequalities continue to persist in terms of employment. However, the rate of women in employment has seen a considerable increase in recent years. The fact that the gender employment gap has reduced by 4.6% from 2015 to 2018 demonstrates this.

Despite the fact that progress addressing climate change in Malta has stalled, when compared to other countries within the E.U., Malta is among the countries with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per capita. Malta’s Sustainable Development Vision for 2050 addresses the lack of progress in regard to climate change, as well as envisions the eradication of poverty and social exclusion.

Tourism in Malta

The Maltese government is also using tourism, a major contributor to their economic development, as a means of pushing forward the green economic transition and progress towards sustainable consumption and production and climate change. The restoration of historical and cultural sites in the country is making this progress possible. One such example is the restoration of the Grand Master’s Palace in Malta. Tourism contributes to the alleviation of poverty in Malta by increasing economic opportunities and generating taxable economic growth which can be used towards poverty alleviation.

While work is still needed in Malta in areas such as climate change and the gender employment gap, poverty in Malta is well on its way to meeting its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

Cabarete Sostenible
Cabarete Sostenible was assembled as a response to the economic consequences of COVID-19. The Dominican Republic ultimately decided to shut its borders, and this effectively suspended Cabarete’s tourism industry. Cabarete Sostenible provides food to Cabarete’s local population.

Cabarete is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations for surfers, water-skiers, swimmers and even horseback riders. The town draws tourists through its rich culture, natural scenery and of course, its beautiful beaches.

But this idyllic vision of Cabarete tells less than half of the whole story of the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic has fought a decades-long war against hunger and poverty. Though, in that time, the country has made significant improvements to its poverty rate and its rate of hunger.

Declining Poverty and Hunger

The Dominican Republic’s Gross Domestic Product increased at an average rate of 5.8% per year between 2011 and 2016. This was the second-highest rate of GDP growth in Latin America in that period. In 2017, the poverty rate was 15.9%, then dropping to 13.8% in 2018.

Similarly, the rate of hunger in the Dominican Republic continued to decrease over the same period of time. The Dominican Republic’s Global Hunger Index score was 12.8 in 2010. By the end of the decade, that score decreased to 9.2.

COVID-19 is a Threat to Continued Improvement

The World Bank has assessed that closures of a majority of the Dominican Republic’s tourism industry will lead to lower household income and higher rates of poverty. Cabarete Sostenible notes that over 65% of Cabarete’s population depends on the tourism industry for resources and food. Although the population is a relatively small 20,000 people, thousands in Cabarete are facing food shortages.

Cabarete Sostenible

A person is food insecure if he or she is without a three-day supply of food at any given time. Roughly 80% of Cabarete’s population is food insecure. Cabarete Sostenible has developed both an immediate and a longer-term solution to address food insecurity and hunger in Cabarete.

In the short term, Cabarete Sostenible provides ration packs to hungry and food-insecure individuals, which contain a week’s worth of nutrition. Ration packs include rice, beans, cooking oil, pasta, soap and bleach, milk, fruit pulp, oranges, spinach and dark, leafy greens. Four-dollar donations feed one person for one week, and 15-dollar donations feed a family of four for one week. All of the donations go directly to purchasing food.

In the long term, Cabarete Sostenible is building sustainable food production facilities. The organization has mobilized local landowners as part of this effort. Their project includes building “community gardens, permaculture farms and food education programs.”

Looking forward

The Dominican Republic locked down national borders because of COVID-19. This led to an economic and humanitarian crisis in Cabarete because over half of the local population depends on tourism for resources and food. As a result, the Dominican Republic will likely experience a regression in its rate of poverty and the rate of hunger because of disruptions to local economies. Cabarete Sostenible provides ration packs to the local population of Cabarete in order to limit further devastation. These ration packs are funded, in large part, by individual donations, or rather individual acts of love and solidarity.

Taylor Pangman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty in GrenadaGrenada, an island country in the Caribbean Sea, is known for its beautiful tourist attractions and flourishing spice trade. Unfortunately, poverty in Grenada affects almost one-third of its 107,000 residents.

The World Bank estimates that 32% of Grenada’s residents live below the poverty line. In addition, 13% of the population is considered “extremely poor.”

Dr. Elinor Garely of eTN notes that Grenada’s poorest residents are located in the rural regions of the country. She explains that this is due to inadequate access to the mainstream economy.

The mainstream economy is based on tourism and spice exportation, among other products. Grenada also depends on foreign aid. Without suitable access to the main cities and these economic opportunities, the rural communities suffer.

Youth in Grenada

Grenada’s demographic is quite young, with one-fourth of the population under the age of 14. The poverty in Grenada impacts youth most of all. In fact, Garely explains that 66.4% of the poor are under 24 years of age.

Due to a lack of birth control resources, there are high numbers of teen pregnancy, which often correlates to violence against children.

Physical and sexual abuse have emerged as the main issues facing the children of Grenada. More than one-third of children in Grenada have suffered from sexual violence. Women and children experience significant abuse due to the lack of laws against physical punishment.

Causes of Poverty in Grenada

Poverty in Grenada is linked to a number of different factors. With inadequate defenses against natural disasters, ineffective education and unprepared workers, poverty is “entrenched in the very fiber of the country.”

Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, frequently threaten the small island. The last two hurricanes occurred in 2004 and 2005. Hurricane Ivan hit first and devastated the majority of Grenadian homes. A year later, Hurricane Emily swept through the area, furthering the damage not yet repaired from Hurricane Ivan. However, significantly fewer lives were lost, as the Grenadian people took important precautions that had been neglected during Hurricane Ivan.

Education and unprepared workers are two other causes of poverty in Grenada, and they go hand in hand. Without proper education, the youth do not have the necessary skills to get jobs that offer livable pay. The jobs that are available, mainly agricultural, do not appeal to the youth because of “perceived instability, [the youths’] lack of interest in physical labor and very low wages,” according to Garely.

It would be more beneficial for the Grenadian youth to work in the tourism sector, but, unfortunately, it requires skills that many residents lack.

Efforts to Reduce Poverty in Grenada

The government is making strides to alleviate many of the issues that stem from or cause poverty in Grenada.

While it currently lacks enough funds to be effective, Grenada does have “a system to place orphans and children with domestic problems with other families.” In addition, laws are in place to protect girls from sexual assault. However, boys still remain vulnerable.

The country has taken important steps to defend against natural disasters. Creating a plan for natural disasters became a priority after the devastation of Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Emily. The change was seen immediately in how the people of Grenada reacted differently to Hurricane Emily after experiencing Hurricane Ivan; “the rush contrasted with the attitude before Ivan, when Grenadians took few precautions.”

While Grenada is still improving its ability to defend against natural disasters and internal issues such as violence, it has wonderful potential.

Abbey Lawrence
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Fiji
Many know Fiji for its beautiful beaches and luxury resorts, but it remains a developing country that deals with poverty. In fact, 31% of its population lives below the poverty line and struggles on a weekly basis to meet their needs. This article will look into homelessness in Fiji, what are some of its causes and why this is such a prevalent issue today. Here are five facts about homelessness in Fiji.

5 Facts About Homelessness in Fiji

  1. Suva, Fiji’s capital, is home to many of the nation’s homeless citizens. This includes individuals as young as primary school children. Mereseini Vuniwaqa, the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, said that those who are homeless are not necessarily in this situation because of medical issues or lack of alternatives. She stated that while some people are homeless due to mental illness, others simply moved away from their families for one reason or another. She also shared that this homelessness can be generational. Some families have been struggling with this issue for a long time going all the way back to their grandparents living on the streets to their parents and so on.
  2. Approximately half a million people residing in Fiji are living in poverty. This plays a big role in the homeless population in regards to lack of housing along with “unemployment, urban migration, non-renewal of government leases for land, overpopulation of farming areas and the breakdown of traditional village life and culture.” For Fiji to diminish this problem, it would have to start by building a minimum of 4,200 homes per year. This would significantly help with housing standards but, as a developing country, this is a difficult task.
  3. Another factor that is to blame for homelessness in Fiji is natural disasters. Recently, Cyclone Harold has devastated the islands of Fiji, as well as other islands such as the Solomon Islands. This category four storm took place from April 1 to April 11, 2020. While the total number of homes that Cyclone Herald destroyed remains unknown, it has destroyed 46 homes just in the Bouwaqa Village on Vatulele in Fiji and completely ravaged another 14 homes leaving dozens of people without a home to go back to.
  4. Violence against women and girls has caused an increase in homelessness. Estimates have determined that 84% of young women who fall into these categories experience intimate partner violence and 66% of them have succumbed to homelessness due to their sexual orientation and how they identify.
  5. While tourism is generally good for a nation’s economy, it can also become a hindrance. In Fiji, tourism has hurt a lot of people and helped bolster homelessness. The most desired destinations dwell on what is free-leased land. What this means is that leases for this land almost never receive renewal which creates a bigger profit. Therefore, while these hotels and resorts are making money and boosting tourism, they are also holding onto land that could serve as a home to those without one.

Solutions

Although these facts about homelessness in Fiji show that it will not dissipate overnight, some are implementing small measures to help those living on the streets. Since the coronavirus has happened, Fiji has been in lockdown like the rest of the world. One such family has taken it upon itself to continue its mission to feed the homeless. A 12-year-old boy named Junior, his parents and a small team of individuals call themselves MISSION-1. Even before lockdown, MISSION-1 would come to the streets of Suva every Sunday and provide food and hot beverages to the homeless. Despite lockdown and the risk of arrest, this team has continued to provide for those who others often forget.

Australia has also stepped up since Cyclone Harold devastated the Fiji Islands and has sent tents, kitchen supplies, hygiene items, containers for water as well as shelter kits. This is Australia’s way of giving back and thanking Fiji for its support during the Australian bushfires. With continued help, hope exists that Fiji’s homeless community will begin to decline.

– Stacey Krzych
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in Madagascar
Despite Madagascar’s 74 percent poverty rate in 2019, the small African country has one of the fastest growth rates in the world. GDP growth hovered around 5 percent in 2018 and 2019 and projections determine that it will remain at that rate in 2020 and 2021. Public and private investments in infrastructure, mining, energy and tourism helped drive the country’s recent economic growth. However, poverty still remains high, especially in the more than 60 percent of the total population that works in agriculture. Increased economic growth in Madagascar is drawing international investors to open businesses in the country, creating jobs and stimulating further growth in the developing nation.

Current State of Business

The main industry in Madagascar is agriculture. About 80 percent of Malagasy work in agriculture and approximately 86 percent of that number are in poverty. In addition, the country relies heavily on vanilla exports. The African nation is the world’s largest vanilla producer. Transitioning out of agriculture and diversifying the economy could help spur development. In 2017, the Economic Development Board of Madagascar helped reform the business climate to encourage outside investors to expand to the country. This also entailed fighting against corruption and money laundering. With Madagascar improving the business environment, international businesses may see potential in expanding to the island nation.

International Mining

Mining is yet another area driving economic growth in Madagascar. Madagascar is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas and ilmenite. There are more than one million jobs related to mining in the country. Additionally, 30 percent of export revenue comes from mining. Madagascar is abundant in ilmenite, zirsill and monazite. Rio Tinto, an Anglo-Australian company, is one of the large-scale mining companies. About 90 percent of Rio Tinto’s employees in 2018 was Malagasy. Although mining tends to be part of land degradation, Rio Tinto agreed to restore wetlands and biodiversity to its previous state after it completes mining.

Tourism Growth Resulting in Hotel Developments

Tourism remains an important industry that helped increase economic growth in Madagascar. More than 250,000 people visit the country annually to bring in $748 million in tourism revenue. The tourism industry grew by 20 percent in 2016 alone. Hotel development is one growing sub-category that could potentially add jobs to locals, particularly those seeking higher pay than they receive in the agriculture industry. The Economic Development Board of Madagascar stated that 11 percent of total employment is related to tourism.

More than 70 percent of visitors to the country stay for two weeks or more, expressing the value these visitors place on the economy. International hotel chains took notice of the increased demand for hotels in Madagascar. Radisson Hotel Group planned two hotels and one apartment complex in the country in 2019. All three buildings should open in 2020. Marriott International is opening hotels in many African countries, and one country on its list is Madagascar. Hotel and tourism growth could promise more jobs to Malagasy.

Clean Energy for the Future

The energy sector has even greater importance than tourism. Only 15 percent have access to electricity, which is one main impediment to economic growth in Madagascar. This holds back the country due to energy being one foundation to a developed economy. Schools, hospitals and other buildings require power to function at their maximum potential. As a result, the government of Madagascar set its goal high with the challenge of attaining 70 percent of electricity access by 2030. The country is already making progress to reach this goal. The country’s largest employer, Groupe Filatex, is building four solar power plants that will generate 50 MW.

As of 2019, Madagascar’s total capacity was 500 MW. Groupe Filatex employs more than 15,000 people and will add more jobs in the future to meet the high demand. Lantoniaina Rasoloelison, Minister of Energy and Hydrocarbons, explained that the country’s energy policy for 2015-2030 supports the transition to the energy mix for electricity and lighting. This will include 80 percent of renewable resources.

Growth Ongoing

International investors such as Radisson Hotel Group and Marriott International took notice of economic growth in Madagascar within the last two years. Three sectors seeing growth in the country are tourism, mining and energy. Additionally, the government’s goal of increasing electrification is a good next step to growing the country into a developed economy with less poverty and increased livelihoods. The addition of more jobs to these industries could reduce poverty.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr