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India is the world’s second-most populated country with 1.3 billion people, and is ahead of the United States — the third highest population — by nearly 1 billion people. When comparing the populations of the two countries, it is easy to understand how the media misrepresents India as an overcrowded, poverty-stricken country.

While true that India has a high population and a large percentage of the nation lives off of incomes considered below the world poverty line, there is also financial and social growth leading to improved conditions in India.

It is also easy to understand how the media misrepresents India as an environmentally unfriendly country: many cities in India suffer from problems of air and water pollution. However, India is instituting new policies to combat those issues and to improve the quality of the environment.

Economic Progress

Even though 68 percent of India’s population lives in poverty according to World Bank standards, the poverty level has declined since 2004. Further, India has one of the world’s fastest growing economies — growth of India’s GDP is expected to be 7 percent in fiscal year 2018, and increase to 7.4 percent by fiscal year 2020.

India also has a growing international business market that will increase industries and jobs. For example, solar panel manufacturing is becoming an important market and there are multi-billion-dollar investments being made to further expand and produce panels for both domestic and exportation purposes.

Social Progress

In recent years, India has improved in its quality of life measurements in addition to moving up from the low social progress category. This shift means that measured standards indicate that India is meeting an increasing number of basic human needs for all its people. One large factor in that advancement was progress made in providing shelter; 67 percent of the population now has access to affordable housing.

India also increased general access to information and communication. The numbers of both internet and phone users increased since 2014, allowing people to connect and obtain information more easily.

Environmental Progress

The smog in India’s capital, New Delhi, is infamously thick; however, solutions to the pollution exist that are less readily portrayed by the media. One such solution is an air purifier that can be used indoors to help clean the air, and bigger policy initiatives to help tackle the root of the pollution problems are also being pushed by the government.

India is trying to eliminate its manufacturing of gas-running engines by 2030 and turn toward electric vehicles to remove one source of pollution. Along with other policy measures, and investments in cleaning polluted air and water, India aims to alleviate its problems of environmental degradation.

How the Media Misrepresents India

How the media misrepresents India is through its focus on big picture negatives rather than on the positive growth of the country. All the separate instances of progress add together and help to create a more sustainable future for the people of India.

With monetary and policy support, further strides can be made in the media’s notation and highlighting of the resilience of India.

– Hayley Herzog

Photo: Flickr

John Kerry
Secretary of State John Kerry and the U.S. Senate remain embroiled in a billion dollar foreign aid battle that has been raging since 2011.

In 2014, the United States signed a $500 million loan agreement with Tunisia, which would allow the people of Tunisia to access international capital and other financing techniques to assist with their “democratic transition.”

According to the New York Times, the U.S. has extended $700 million in direct aid to Tunisia over the past four years and two rounds of loan guarantees totaling $1 billion since 2012, after designating Tunisia a major non-NATO ally in July 2015. This status brings up the promise of added military cooperation.

Being called “the Arab Spring’s only potential success story” by the Al-Monitor, Tunisia has been a central player in the Obama administration’s efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East. Secretary of State John Kerry has been working to increase the amount of USAID dollars sent to Tunisia and has been advocating for other programs of economic growth that may reinforce Tunisia’s march to democracy.

“The eyes of the world are on Tunisia, and America wants Tunisia to succeed,” said John Kerry in a news conference in 2015. “Tunisia is where the Arab Spring was born, and it is where it distinctly continues to bloom in ways that are defining possibilities for other countries in that region.”

The Tunisian government has so far been enthusiastic about transitioning to democracy, despite potential threats they may face from “regional rivals” such as Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Prime Minister Jomaa of Tunisia says, “We are very proud of our new constitution, of our shared values of democracy and rights […] we need to think about economic and social aspects, and also about teaching and learning because we are eager to develop our youth and to develop new technologies.”

However, not all members of the U.S. Senate are convinced that Tunisia is stable enough to promote Prime Minister Jomaa’s agenda. Senate members were wary of potential terrorist threats within Tunisia this past summer and blocked significant amounts of foreign assistance to the region that were proposed in a House Bill.

The alternative Senate appropriations bill was $10 million short of the foreign assistance demanded by the State Department. It also did increase military aid, although it cited “the terrorist threat Tunisia faces,” as a primary motivator for sending fewer dollars abroad.

The concerns of the Senate are not unfounded. The deteriorating situation in Syria has had profound effects on Tunisia, both with Syrian refugees pouring into the region and Tunisians themselves becoming involved in the civil war. According to Al-Jazeera, 5,500 Tunisians have joined groups like ISIL, al-Nursa Front and al-Qaeda in the neighboring nations of Syria, Iraq and Libya.

However, USAID has been working with Tunisia to create programs of entrepreneurship and economic opportunities that may halt the flow of young Tunisians toward radical groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Funds like the Tunisian-American Enterprise Fund, which allocates investments totaling $20 million into small and medium enterprises in Tunisia, is one attempt to jump-start Tunisia’s private sector despite political turmoil that may hinder it.

“Measurable economic progress can help bolster democratic reforms both in Tunisia and elsewhere in the region,” said Alina Romanowski, the Acting Assistant Administrator for the Middle East for USAID. “The Tunisian-American Enterprise Fund will help to address gaps in financing for entrepreneurs and small businesses that overwhelmingly drive Tunisian private sector growth.”

USAID and the budding Tunisian democracy are hoping that these economic reforms can be perfected in Tunisia and then transferred to other nations like Syria. Private sector growth, combined with financial support from the U.S. and USAID, could promote a new era of peace and prosperity for Tunisia while also creating a useful ally for the United States in the Middle East.

John Kerry has called Tunisia “a shining example to those who claim democracy is not possible in this part of the world.”

Emma Betuel

Sources: NY Times, Al-Monitor, USAID
Photo: Flickr