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child poverty in spain
Since the end of Spain’s economic recession in 2014, the country is the largest grower in the EU, with a GDP almost twice that of the average European country. Despite a six-year recession that impacted both the entire population and other countries in the Eurozone, the economy seems to have recovered. However, despite Spain’s economic recovery, the rate and likelihood of children in poverty have increased exponentially. Curiosity arises as to how an issue like poverty could arise in a country as developed as Spain.

The Problem

The rise of child poverty in Spain despite the recovery of the economy seems counterintuitive. However, studies show that one in three children are likely to be impoverished or socially excluded, according to the EU’s latest figures. As the results of their studies show, Spanish children are not only encumbered by a lack of income, but also lack of socialization, meaning that child poverty in Spain is multidimensional; this means a lack of proper education, nutrition, future employment, and social time on top of the financial crisis that has remained in many middle and low-class families despite the national economic recovery. Impoverished families are unable to prevent their children from reaching the same fate because the turn of the recession has resulted in a job market that provides no opportunity for even the most qualified candidates.

This issue is most dominant in middle and low-class families, and the middle class is already dangerously small. The trademark economic concept of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer is true in the Spanish socioeconomic classes and results in the stretching and thinning of the middle class. These larger socioeconomic effects are only symptoms of child poverty in Spain. The reason why the focus of the recession is on children is that they are the most at-risk demographic; when parents are impacted, it extends to their children.

The Larger Issue

Child poverty in Spain has adverse effects on the rest of society, including senior citizens, young adults, and parents. The growing number of impoverished children puts pressure on the social pension systems that account for one of the fastest aging populations in Europe. Children trapped in poverty will grow to be adults who remain reliant on social and governmental assistance. Many young adults avoided higher education due to attractive employment opportunities before the recession, leaving a large population of eager, unaccredited workers in a job market that no longer needs it. Because of the lack of opportunity in the job market, parents are reliant on unemployment benefits or the pension of their parents.

Effects of The Problem

Because child poverty in Spain is a multidimensional issue, the effects correspond to their complexity. In terms of education, Spain has experienced a drop out rate 23 percent higher than the EU average since the beginning of the recession in 2008. In general, Spain’s dropout and unemployment rates are high, specifically among those of disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.

Studies show that even very brief bursts of intense poverty can impact child development for the rest of their lives. Economists and child development specialists predict that if this poverty persists, the adults of the future will have been stunted in their development due to their reliance on pensions.

What Is Being Done?

Even Sevilla, the fifth most populated city in Spain and a huge tourist destination, falls victim to increasing child poverty rates. There are many gaps in the welfare system that are unaccounted for, which are essential to the development of children. For example, because of limited monthly income but the need to continue to feed their children, families are buying enough food for everyone, but without the necessary nutrients for developing bodies. As such, children in Spain aren’t necessarily hungry, they are impoverished. So, NGOs like Save the Children fill in the gaps in children’s diets by providing nutrient-rich meals.

Save the Children works in several domains that benefit the needs of at-risk or impoverished Spanish children, including nutrition, health and education. By filling in the dietary and academic gaps in these children’s lives, their families will have some security. In 2014, Save the Children reached 14,889 children and 5,635 adults through programs that combat educational poverty, social exclusion, and workshops that prevent the issue from furthering. The hope is that as the recovery continues, economic reform will result in a balancing of socioeconomic classes and the disparity will vanish. Until then, NGOs like Save the Children will continue to try and cover up the remaining holes in the system left by the recession in the hopes that the children they serve will grow up to lead a generation where poverty is the exception, not the expectation.

Hope for The Future

Child poverty is a major issue because these children will grow up to be the leaders of their nation. The increased rate of child poverty in Spain is an alarming problem that is fueled by an economic crisis and a weak social infrastructure. Child poverty in Spain is different than in other countries. Spanish children are not poor in the traditional sense. They are fed and have access to education. The nature of poverty is more nuanced than a lack of resources. Children in Spain are fed, yet malnourished, have access to school, but often drop out. The other key issue is the lack of socialization among peers. However, with NGOs like Save the Children who provide programs to areas in need, this issue can perhaps be alleviated. With directed efforts towards these specific problems and programs that are tailored towards the specific nature of these issues, child poverty can be eradicated, securing Spain’s future prosperity.

Andrew Yang
Photo: Flickr

Growth in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic, a Caribbean nation of 10.77 million people, shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and is primarily known for its beautiful beaches and resorts. With a 13.5 percent youth unemployment rate in the country, these resorts provide necessary jobs, economic stimulation and growth in the Dominican Republic. Despite the recent negative media attention, the growth of resorts shows no sign of stopping. Four new resorts opening in late 2019 and 2020 will continue adding to the burgeoning tourist industry, increasing numbers of workers in the service sector and establish mutually beneficial U.S. and Dominican exchanges.

The Pillar of Tourism

According to the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, the tourism industry is one of the “four pillars” of the Dominican economy. It forms 7.9 percent of the economy. Growth in the Dominican Republic focuses on projects encouraging tourists to spend more money. There are already 65 such projects approved by the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism for 2019.

Speedy development will continue the trend of success in the tourism sector. The Dominican Republic Association for Hotels and Tourism statistics for 2018 displayed a 6.2 percent increase in the sector, which now makes up 20 percent of Caribbean trips. There was also a six percent increase in hotel rooms, and people filled 77 percent of total rooms. Overall, the industry reaped immense revenues of $7.2 billion in 2017. Tourism’s success contributes to GDP growth. The University of Denver predicts $89.54 billion in 2019, and GDP rising to $161.4 billion by 2030.

More Rooms, More Jobs

New resorts will extend the tourism industry’s prosperity by increasing the amount of occupied rooms and the jobs required to service visitors. The World Bank reported that the Dominican labor force was 4,952,136 workers in 2018, up from 3,911,218 only eight years before. Service sector workers made up 61.4 percent in 2017, illustrating the prominent role tourism and related industries play for the growth of the Dominican Republic. Here are four vacation spots heating up employment progress in late 2019 and 2020:

Grand Fiesta Americana Punta Cana Los Corales: This resort, owned by the Mexican Company Posadas, will have 558 rooms and various amenities necessitating more staff. The Director-General of Posadas, José Carlos Azcárraga, expressed hopes that the new resort will aid one of the fastest-growing Caribbean economies. The Dominican president visited the cornerstone to show his support. The resort opens in late 2019.

Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana: This American-owned Playa Hotels and Resorts brand also had a groundbreaking ceremony attended by the Dominican president. There will be 750 rooms requiring staff attention, alongside the various dining and fitness services provided. It opens in November 2019.

Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda: This newest edition to Club Med’s resort collection will be an eco-friendly environment with four separate “villages” for new employees to manage. In an email to The Borgen Project, Club Med stated it will hire more than 440 Dominicans and help lead vocational training for approximately 1,000 locals to extend the resort’s positive impact. It opens in November 2019.

Dreams Resorts and Spas in El Macao: AMResorts, a subsidiary of the American-owned Apple Leisure Group, will have 500 rooms for the staff to manage. Bars, pools and a litany of eateries will require service sector employees as well. It opens in 2020.

A Vacation for Two

The development of new resorts is mutually beneficial for both the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. The island nation’s tourism is highly dependent on American visitors, who formed 33.85 percent of guests in 2013. The Dominican Embassy reported that individual tourists spent $1,055 on average in the same year. Americans received a pleasant vacation in exchange for growth in the Dominican Republic.

Two of the above resorts are branded by American companies as well. Their earnings not only benefit the Dominican economy but also benefit the American economy. Resort companies are part of a larger exchange where 53 percent of 2017 Dominican trade was with the U.S.. The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service found that the Dominican Republic imported 42 percent of its goods from the U.S. in the same year.

Unfortunately, the four new resorts will not solve all of the Dominican Republic’s problems. Poverty remains high at 30.5 percent, although it has dropped from 41.2 percent in 2013. However, new resorts contribute to this decrease by providing employment opportunities in one of the nation’s most lucrative sectors.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Flickr

Economic Diversification in Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau is a small West African country with a poverty rate of more than 60 percent. Poor infrastructure and a stagnant business climate fostered a reliance on its main income producer, subsistence farming. Despite this, its GDP growth rate has remained fairly high. Real GDP growth rate in 2017 was 5.9 percent, one of the highest in Africa. Though a recession increased debt and caused Guinea-Bissau to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country has slowly rebounded. The nation stands to benefit from a diversified economy.

Current State of the Economy

Guinea-Bissau consistently ranks among the top 10 poorest countries in the world. About 80 percent of the population works in agriculture, while industry and services make up the remaining workforce. As is typical for a developing country, many residents rely on subsistence farming. Cashew production is an important export and source of income for Bissau-Guineans, making up more than 80 percent of income. Economic diversification in Guinea-Bissau could add jobs, begin infrastructure developments and lead to further investment in health and education.

A Cashew Economy

In a visit to Guinea-Bissau in January of this year, an IMF team led by Tobia Rasmussen discussed the importance of favorable cashew prices and production. “Ensuring a transparent and competitive cashew marketing season will be critical,” stated Rasmussen. Cashew production and pricing are important to most Bissau-Guineans. The issue, as with most developing countries, is an over-reliance on the agriculture industry.

Although economic diversification in Guinea-Bissau could be partially achieved by emphasizing crops other than cashews, there would still be a more widespread effect by focusing on services and other industries that have been left untapped. Further investment in the agriculture industry, such as through equipment and green technology, could also provide some relief to poverty-stricken residents.

Areas for Development

Guinea-Bissau lacks strong energy infrastructure and general infrastructure. Adding roads, bridges, railways, ports, hospitals and schools are examples of infrastructure developments that don’t just benefit the native population. Both tourists hoping to visit and business people interested in investing in a country that has the potential for growth stand to benefit, as well. Mineral resources, such as phosphates, mineral sands, bauxite, diamond and gold all are untapped. There are currently only small-scale mining of construction materials, such as clay, granite and limestone. Further development, as well as additional funding by the government in infrastructure, would provide a suitable foundation for the basis of a developed country. Infrastructure, such as roadways, is a necessary beginning to a developing economy. To demonstrate the current state of roadways in the country, only 10 percent of the national road network is tarred.

Energy Infrastructure

Only 21 percent of the population has electricity. There are also no telephone lines. Opening investment to the energy sector, especially to external corporations, is often foundational for further development. Current President of Guinea-Bissau Jose Mario Vaz has promised to reduce poverty and drug trafficking, both of which are rampant. At the 73rd United Nations Assembly President Vaz stated he wished to “eradicate poverty and hunger, combat major endemic diseases, as well as guarantee education and potable water for all.”

Promising Ports

The key location of the country is often overlooked. Guinea-Bissau is a western port of Africa that enables it to be a strategic location for trade. Fishing is usually grouped with the agriculture industry but could become a new income source for the 60 percent of Bissau-Guineans in poverty. Advancements in fishing, such as sonar technology that allows the user to find fish, is one example that provides simple and modern solutions to poor countries.

External Investment

China is a major investor in Africa and has announced it would invest more than $60 billion to help developing countries. One way it achieves this is through investment in infrastructure. China has built Guinea-Bissau’s parliament building, a government palace and a national stadium. The most economical investment China has made for Guinea-Bissau is its $184 million investment in a 30-kilowatt biomass power plant. The partnership is a major step in providing electricity to its residents while also adding to economic diversification in Guinea-Bissau.

With a continued focus on economic diversification and energy infrastructure Guinea-Bissau holds the potential for boundless development. The aforementioned initiatives and investment products indicate that positive change is already occurring in the West African nation.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

7 facts about living conditions in australia
In 2015, Australia was ranked as the second-best country in the world in terms of quality of life. This report was based on a number of living condition factors, including financial indicators, like average income, and health standards, education and life expectancy. The following 7 facts about living conditions in Australia further illustrate what life is like in the Land Down Under. Many of these facts are based upon data retrieved from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), comprised of 36 member countries and founded to stimulate world trade.

7 Facts About Living Conditions in Australia

  1. Children Are an Impoverished Group: As of 2018, 13.2 percent of Australians (around three million people) were living below the poverty line, 730,000 of which are children under the age of 15. According to the Poverty in Australia 2018 report, a large reason for the overwhelming number of impoverished children is the high poverty rate among single-parent families relying on a single income. In terms of money, living below the poverty line in Australia translates to earning $433 per week for a single adult, or $909 per week for a married couple with two children. Most individuals experiencing poverty in Australia rely on Government allowance payments, like Youth Allowance and Newstart.
  2. Sanitation is Good: The percentage of homes in Australia that have access to an indoor flushing toilet is more than 95.6 percent, which is the OECD average. Additionally, more than 90% of Australians report satisfaction with their water quality. Access to running water and the high quality of water makes Australia above average in relation to the other 36 OECD member countries.
  3. A Wage Gap Exists: The gap in income between the rich and poor in Australia is quite large; the wealthiest 20 percent of Australians earn almost six times as much as the poorest 20 percent of Australians. This income inequality has been steadily rising since the mid-1990’s. One attempt to remedy income inequality in Australia is a progressive system of income tax, meaning that as an individual’s income increases, they will pay a higher amount of their income in tax. Additionally, social welfare payments account for around 35 percent of the Australian government’s budget. In 2017-2018, this translated to a $164 billion budget for social security and welfare.
  4. Australians Are Staying Employed: Seventy-three percent of Australians aged 15 to 64 have paid jobs, while the percentage of Australians who have been unemployed for one year or longer is 1.3 percent. The percentage of employed Australians is higher than the OECD average. Though the Australian job market thrives, Australians have a below-average ranking in work-life balance.
  5. Strong Education: The average Australian citizen will receive 21 years of education between the ages of 5 and 39, which is the highest amount of education in the OECD. Roughly 64 percent of children in Australia attend public schools, while 34 percent attend private or Catholic schools. Additionally, not only is the education system strong for Australian citizens, but international education offered to foreign students is Australia’s third largest export, valued at $19.9 billion.
  6. Rising Crime Rates: Over the past 2 decades, the number of reported crimes has risen dramatically; for example, from 1977-1978, the number of reported break-ins was 880 per thousand. From 1997-1998, this number rose to 2,125 per thousand. In the same period, assaults have risen from 90 to 689 per thousand of population and robberies have risen from 23 to 113 per thousand. While many of these 7 facts about living conditions in Australia indicate increasing quality of life for citizens, rising crime rates affect feelings of security, which has a negative effect on standards of living in Australia.
  7. Improving Health Standards: Health standards in Australia have risen substantially since 1947. From 1947 to 1989, the life expectancy of women increased by 10.9 years, while the life expectancy of men has risen by 9.8 years. Since 1990, life expectancy has risen even more, increasing by another 1.4 years for women and 2 years for men.

With one of the strongest performing economies in the world, Australians experience thriving, stable financial conditions. The education system is well organized and accessible, and health standards have increased and driven the life expectancies of Australians up over the last 70 years.

Yet, despite the tremendous growth and development in Australia, there are areas in standards of living that demand improvement. Perhaps most importantly, income inequality in Australia is alarmingly high, and poverty rates of citizens, and especially children, plagues the strength of Australian society. These 7 facts about living conditions in Australia indicate a thriving and desirable country with a need for concentrated focus on income inequality to eradicate staggering poverty in the lower class.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

the urban-rural poverty gap in moroccoThough Morocco’s economic and political status has improved as a result of King Muhammad VI’s reign, the North African nation remains impoverished. Specifically, the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco is one of the nation’s most complex issues. Morocco’s larger cities, namely Casablanca and Rabat, are evolving into flourishing economic centers, attracting companies and tourists from around the world. Simultaneously, Morocco’s rural and agrarian communities–the Amazigh people–have found themselves stuck living with little access to modern commodities.

A First-Hand Account

Sophie Boyd, an undergraduate student majoring in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Colgate University, studied abroad in Rabat last summer. Boyd provided the Borgen Project some insight into the poverty situation in the North African nation. “There was a huge disparity between the living conditions of Moroccans in cities compared to the rural Amazigh villages we visited,” Boyd said. “You could be wandering around the enormous shopping mall in Casablanca and still only be an hour drive away from people who live with almost no electricity. This extreme gap was unfortunate to see and these neglected and impoverished people desperately need more accessible resources and aid.”

The Amazigh People

Unfortunately, Boyd’s observations were fairly accurate and realistic, as Morocco’s Amazigh population has faced hardship and poverty for decades. Though there are about 19 million Amazigh people living in Morocco, which makes up approximately 52 percent of the nation’s population. Their language, known as Tamazight, was not even recognized as an official language of Morocco until 2011. Not only do the Amazigh people who occupy these rural communities not have adequate means to subsist on, but they had also lost their representative voice in the Moroccan government until recently.

Urban Gains

A 2017 study conducted by the World Bank and the Morocco High Commission for Planning found that poverty was actually decreasing at a much faster rate in urban areas than in rural communities. This makes sense considering there is more room for economic growth and consumption in urban centers. Still, this phenomenon contributes to the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco and creates an even more drastic inequality between rural and urban communities.

Poverty Rising

Another aspect of the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco that has continued to develop over time is the concept of subjective poverty. The subjective poverty rate refers to the percentage of people, in this case, Moroccans, who consider themselves to be poor or impoverished. The aforementioned World Bank study found that from 2007 to 2014, the subjective poverty rate in rural areas increased from 15 percent to 54 percent. This drastic increase can be partially attributed to the recent economic growth in urban areas. However, it may also have to do with the daily living conditions of the rural Amazigh communities. For example, CIA World Factbook states that only 68.5 percent of Moroccans are literate. This can make life for rural people trying to emerge from poverty increasingly difficult, compounding with other factors such as the infertile, arid land.

A Hopeful Future, Still

The Moroccan government has made it a point to address the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco. The nation has already demonstrated its interest in resolving this gap through initiatives such as the National Initiative for Human Development Support Project, a plan launched in 2005 to try and close the poverty gap. Morocco will have to continue to work toward better living conditions in its rural communities. If the nation can fix issues like illiteracy and decrease the subjective poverty rate, then it will be well on its way toward closing the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

brickyards in nepal
In Nepal, where the world-renowned Himalayas are located, poverty continues to plague rural populations. The poverty rate in these regions is still around 35%. Due to a struggling agricultural industry, many are pushed to the cities, where they find jobs in less than desirable work conditions, such as the brickyards of Kathmandu.

The Brickyards in Nepal

During half the year, from late fall to early spring, laborers build thousands of bricks from the clay deposits found in Kathmandu. Many of the laborers are children, teenagers, women, and even the elderly. Whole families move into the brickyards in order to make a few dollars. The work is physically demanding and becomes dangerous near the kilns, where smokestacks bake the bricks and spew toxic chemicals into the air.

An estimated 750 brick factories are in operation in Nepal, but only a little over half of them are registered with the government. Due to lack of funds to enforce child labor laws, brickyards around Nepal still employ approximately 13,530 children in Kathmandu valley. Even more unfortunate, most families depend on their children to work in order to cover all of their expenses.

The Economic Angle

Several economic factors keep both the brickyards in operation and the families in bonded labor. First, construction remains one of the largest industries in Nepal, contributing NPR $55121 Million in 2018 to Nepal’s GDP. Brickyards in Nepal directly fuel this industry, and the government lacks legislative potency in order to reform brickyards’ working conditions. Second, middlemen often entice families to labor in brickyards with the false promise of good pay to get them through a dry season in the job market. In reality, families receive low pay for their work, which makes them unable to pay off their debts and forces them to stay in the brickyard, for years or possibly even generations.

Breaking the Cycle

The brickyards in Nepal present a raw picture of the cycle of poverty that still exists worldwide and exposes the structures and factors that keep families in economic bondage. While hopes of alleviating the situation seem dire, there are a variety of ways that nonprofit and activist organizations are mobilizing to alleviate the suffering in the brickyards in Nepal:

  1. Humanitarian: Ceramic Water Filter Solution is a company whose mission is to bring safe water home. One of their projects started in 2015 and 2016, has been to provide clean water to families working in brickyards in Nepal, where water is scarce. They provide many ways to volunteer, donate, and support their work on their website:
  2. Medical: Terres des Hommes collaborate with local partners to establish healthcare camps to provide aid, particularly to women and children. They have set up facilities in 20 brickyards in the districts of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. This initiative supports workers by monitoring children’s diets and checking on workplace health conditions. To help with these programs in Nepal, there are a variety of options for people to donate and to volunteer on their website.
  3. Technical: For brickyard owners, one initiative, the Global Fairness’s Better Brick Nepal (BBN) program, could, at a minimum, improve the working conditions of their brickyards. The program aims at providing technical assistance to make brickmaking safer and more efficient. In 2017, the BBN project has extended to 40 kilns in 14 districts. Ultimately, those who have started the BBN hope to enforce standards that brickyard owners must comply with in order to operate profitable businesses.
  4. Political: A research and activist group, BloodBricks seeks to end the “modern slavery-climate change nexus” of the construction industry in countries like Cambodia, Nepal, and Pakistan. Their studies trace the injustice of the “booming” construction industry in these countries and seek to fight these issues through further advocacy and discussion.

Deep-Rooted Issues

There are many different ways organizations are placing pressure on the system of brickyards in Nepal. While the issue is complex, involving deep-rooted economic and political structures, this situation is worth fighting, as one way to combat poverty and suffering in Nepal. Additionally, solving this issue has broader implications for economic bondage in brickyards in other countries and bringing this issue to light has wide impacts in terms of advocacy and awareness.

Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about living conditions in equatorial guinea
Equatorial Guinea is a small nation on the west coast of Africa. While Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa’s largest oil producers it also faces many challenges associated with living conditions. Living conditions are poor, due to problems ranging from corrupt politics to low education rates. These 10 facts about living conditions in Equatorial Guinea shed light on the major issues the country faces.

10 Facts about Living Conditions in Equatorial Guinea

  1. The same president since 1979: Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been in power for over 37 years and is currently the worlds longest running non-Royal head of state. Opposition to his office has cited the governments use of intimidation and irregular procedures to remain in power. When his son Teodorin was accused of laundering money by the French government, Mbasogo appointed Teodorin as Vice President and accused the French of violating draconian government laws. Some rights organizations have accused Mbasogo and his predecessors as some of the worst abusers of human rights in Africa.
  2. Highest per capita growth rate in Africa, one of the lowest Human Development Indexes: Equatorial Guinea makes most of its income through oil and is one of the highest oil producers in Sub- Saharan Africa. However, it ranks 141 out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index, its HDI currently is 0.591. The country’s per capita gross national income was $21,056 in 2014, giving Equatorial Guinea the biggest difference between per capita wealth and human development score in the world.
  3. Few basic services and malnutrition: In 2011 it was found that about half of Equatorial Guinea’s population had access to clean water. Twenty-Six percent of children suffered from malnutrition, and their growth was considered stunted. The country also has some of the lowest vaccinations in the world, with 25 percent of children unvaccinated.
  4. Low Education rates: Equatorial Guinea has some of the lowest education rates in the world, and even those in school do not remain for long. According to UNICEF, as of 2016, A staggering 42 percent of children do not attend primary school, making the country’s rates the seventh lowest in the world. To compound the issue, only half of the students in these primary schools finish or graduate.
  5. Agricultural Economy: Even though Equatorial Guinea makes most of its revenue through Petroleum, 71 percent of the population is agricultural. Some are subsistence farmers, who clear land by burning away other plant life in order to grow the crops that sustain them. Cocoa still remains a significant export, as it has been since before the country became an independent country in 1968.
  6. Large Youth Population: About 60 percent of the population of Equatorial Guinea is under the age of 25. Because of the pervasiveness of the oil-industry, job creation in other sectors of the economy is very limited.  Many young people are having trouble entering the market as they do not have the skills needed because of the low education rates in the country.
  7. Roads and Infrastructure: In the early 2000s,  less than a sixth of the roads in the country were paved. In some islands like Bioko, the systems are of a higher standard. Using tar as pavement, the city can better accommodate traffic. The country also does not benefit from a single railway or track. In the 1980s, multiple ports were modernized to accommodate the country’s increasing commerce.
  8. No Private Media: One of the most pressing of the 10 facts about living conditions in Equatorial Guinea is that all media outlets there are closely controlled by the government. There are no privately owned or independent papers or websites. As such, it is impossible to criticize the president or the security forces in the country. This, of course, makes it hard for word of Equatorial Guinea’s issues to reach other countries. However, it has been found the internet is being used for people to speak out against the government. The country had about 181,000 internet users out of its 1.2 million population.
  9. Plans to move forward: The World Bank’s presence in Equatorial Guinea has helped it move forward. The country’s economic plan, Horizon 2020, which will develop the country’s economic, national, and social standing, is being partly overseen by The World Bank. The Bank is providing technical services to strengthen the government’s public investment management systems. The first phase of Equatorial Guinea’s improvement plan was completed in 2012 and dubbed a success by the World Bank.
  10. No longer a “Least Developed Country”: In June of 2017, Guinea graduated from its status as an LDC or Least Developed country. Its national income is growing rapidly, and in recent years the infant mortality rate of the country has fallen by 43 percent.

Overall, there is hope on the horizon for Equatorial Guinea. Despite years of problems and issues, many which still remain, the country has seen improvement from many of its sectors. Most importantly, the country is now getting attention from multiple aid groups, who are doing what they can to improve conditions there. With support and attention, perhaps the worse of these 10 facts about living conditions in Equatorial Guinea can be nothing but history.

Owen Zinkweg
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Developing Countries
In the modern world having efficient energy infrastructure is vital for a country to find social and economic success. Lack of a proper energy infrastructure is one of the major factors that can hinder a developing country’s economic development. Many countries in the developing world at this moment are suffering from frequent power outages and insufficient power supply access, which are having negative consequences for their populations.

There is a misconception around the cost-effectiveness of renewable energy sources. The erroneous view contends that renewable energy sources are an expensive luxury only affordable to developed countries. In reality, the proper implementation of renewable energy sources in developing countries could reduce their dependence on natural gas and oil, and investments in renewable energy technologies would be more cost-effective than fossil fuels.

The Effects of Energy Poverty

Lack of access to a reliable energy source and energy services is commonly known as energy poverty, which affects more than 1 billion people in the world. Energy provides all of the basic necessities for human beings. Energy is utilized to provide human needs such as lighting, heat and proper water services. Indeed, there is a proven link between many of the markers of poverty, such as illiteracy, infant mortality, lower life expectancy and higher fertility rates, and only having access to inadequate energy services. This doesn’t surprise politicians, as modern public services and businesses, such as health care, education and communications are dependent on energy to properly function. Doctors need proper lighting to operate, vaccinations and blood cannot be properly stored without a cooling system, and medical equipment, such as X-rays need power to operate.

Benefits of Alternative Power Sources

Adoption and installation of renewable energy sources can offer numerous benefits for a country. Most forms of renewable energy are usually more cost-effective than fossil fuels. Renewable energy in most circumstances comes from a domestic source and therefore reduces the cost of foreign imports. Typically, the fuel for the energy usually comes in an abundance. In recent years, as the globe is seeing a major increase in renewable energy usage, a large number of jobs are being created by renewable energy advances.

Advances in technology related to solar power are becoming increasingly efficient in function. Solar technology is seeing a persistent increase in energy output efficiency and is easily capable of functioning in a variety of locales. Solar energy is viable because many developing countries are located in regions where access to the sun’s rays is optimal and are applicable to both homes and villages. Solar power can also help countries gain energy independence, meaning countries can reduce or eliminate dependence on energy imports. A reduction of energy imports can be extremely cost-effective as demonstrated by the Ukraine which has saved $3 billion on energy imports from Russia by going solar.

Wind power is one of the most cost-effective power sources available because it is sold at a fixed price and its fuel is free, making it vital for developing countries. Wind is a local source of energy with an abundant supply that is inexhaustible. In the developed world wind energy is creating an abundance of jobs with 100,000 people being employed in the United States by the U.S. wind sector. With unemployment being a major cause of poverty in many developing countries, the adoption of wind power could create a large number of jobs for these countries.

New Renewable Technology

As the market for renewable energy continues to grow, innovation has lead to the birth of new technology that generates energy through alternative means.

In the 21st century, smart grids are becoming increasingly common in the developing world. They are of vital use because of their cost efficiency, reliability and ability to manage energy consumption. Currently, developing countries such as China, India and Brazil have been world leaders in smart grid design and usage. Over the past 20 years, the number of photovoltaics (PV) installed has increased so significantly that it is now the third most important renewable energy source behind hydro and wind power. Solar PV systems are viable because they can operate for long periods of time with minimal maintenance making operating costs low after the initial installment.

Current Implementation of Renewable Energy and Future Progress

Renewable energy is already making a positive mark in the developing world with many developing countries already using renewable energy sources. As of now, Kenya is the world’s leader in the number of solar energy systems per capita with more than 30,000 PVs sold in Kenya each year. Countries such as Costa Rica and Brazil use renewable energy as their primary energy sources. Renewable energy accounts for 85 percent of Brazil’s energy supply and 90 percent of Costa Rica’s energy supply.

Proper investment in renewable energy can assist countries in providing adequate energy services to their populations. With the jobs it creates and the positive contributions renewable energy has to a nation’s energy infrastructure, developing countries could utilize it to alleviate poverty within their societies.

– Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

Helping the Kurds of Turkey
Scattered throughout the mountainous regions of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia, the Kurds are known as one of the largest ethnic groups without a state. Totaling about 35 million, 20 million of these Kurds live in Turkey, making it the largest Kurdish population within a state’s borders. Despite the significant size of the Kurdish population in Turkey, most  people in the U.S. and abroad don’t actually know what’s going on and how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are helping the Kurds of Turkey.

Surviving War

Since 1984, Turkish authorities and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) have been interlocked in a gruesome conflict. Labeled as a terrorist group by most of the international community, the PKK has engaged in terrorist and guerrilla tactics in the hopes of establishing a free Kurdistan in southern Turkey. In response, Turkish forces have unleashed a brutal and destructive counter-terrorism campaign in the South.

In 2016, 653 security officers, 460 PKK militants, 52 civilians and 139 youth of unknown affiliation died from clashes.

Basic human rights — such as minority rights, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom from torture — have been frequently violated by Turkish forces; which can be found here on the U.S. State Dept’s page.

Bolstering Economics

In 2015, it is estimated that between 15 percent (official Turkish government numbers) and 40 percent (private estimates) of the population in Kurdish-majority areas are unemployed. In fact, a study by the International Terrorism and Transnational Crime Research Center found that 4 out of every 5 PKK militants were unemployed at their time of recruitment.

As of 2015, about 1 in 3 people living in Turkey below the poverty line come from the southeastern provinces. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute in 2016, 9 out of 10 of the poorest cities in Turkey reside in its southeastern provinces. This has resulted in the average daily income of $7 for people living in Kurdish-dominated cities.

The Turkish government attempted to re-finance the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) by pumping money into projects — such as dams, irrigation, agriculture and power plants — that focus on rebuilding war-torn infrastructure.

However, according to the Ministry of the Economy, two-thirds of the $309 billion went to already developed regions, such as Istanbul and Ankara, while the southeastern provinces only received a mere 5 percent of the total funds.

Improving Education

The largest city in the southern provinces, Diyarbakir, teachers’ union reported in 2008 that class sizes were up to 60 students per teacher with little to no funding for textbooks, facilities or classroom materials.

Moreover, most of Kurdish students grow up speaking only their native Kurdish language; however, the Turkish government only allows the use of Turkish as the official language in schools. Therefore, many teachers experience language barriers while trying to educate and teach.

While around 800,000 students graduated from the Diyarbakir region, only about half had employment readily available, and around 0.1 percent went on to a university.

It is clear that the people of southeastern Turkey (primarily Kurds) are suffering from severe disparities in education, employment, security and infrastructure compared to the rest of Turkey. While the Turkish government has implemented projects on paper, actually turning funds and promises into solutions have not shown much progress in helping the Kurds of Turkey.

The Path to Peace: The Kurdish Project

One of the most well-known NGOs helping the Kurds in Turkey is the Kurdish Project. It was created by Farhad “Fred” Khosravi, a Kurdish-American entrepreneur, with the help of other NGOs, the Kurdish-American community and San Francisco tech groups. The Kurdish Project is a cultural-education initiative that aims at raising awareness of the Kurdish people, their culture and their struggles.

Through education and awareness, the members of the project hope to bring peace and stability to the Middle East by sponsoring local and international NGOs that focus on helping the Kurds.

Lobby for Change

Keep in mind, Turkey and the U.S. share a strong relationship and partnership in Middle Eastern affairs. So, emailing, calling and meeting with representatives in support of helping the Kurds of Turkey could go a long way to pressuring the Turkish state to change its methods.

Change shouldn’t be thought of as too far way in this situation. In fact, Erdogan himself stated that: “If we solve this problem [the conflict with the PKK], then investments can boom.”

Although he has frequently leaned toward brutal crackdowns in the southeastern provinces, economic aid, not military force, is recommended by the Washington Institute. If security forces are applied to more constructive projects, such as rebuilding infrastructure and protecting civilians, then the Turkish government can make significant headway to bringing peace within its borders.

After all, rebuilding the southern provinces will not only be helping the Kurds of Turkey, but also the rest of the Turkish state as peace and prosperity overcome conflict and poverty.

Tanner Helem
Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Iran

With a population of more than 79 million people, Iran is a large country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkmenistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Armenia. Sadly, of the millions of citizens in this country, 18.7 percent live below the poverty line. There are many causes of poverty in Iran, but two major causes have caused a crisis in the country during the last several years.

Unemployment
Iran’s economy began to struggle in 2014 when a subsidy program adjusted the prices of fuel, the country’s largest export. In 2015, the economy somewhat improved in the first half of the calendar year and the oil and fuel sector prospered. Meanwhile, unemployment in other job sectors increased. By 2016, the unemployment rate reached a three-year high of 12.7 percent, though labor participation increased from around 35 percent to about 40 percent since 2014. An unemployment gender gap was noted in 2016 as well, as unemployment rates for men and women were 21.8 and 10.4 percent respectively.

In 2014, however, Iran saw the height of the unemployment crisis when the rate of unemployed women was estimated to be 46 percent and youth unemployment was twice that of general unemployment.

Additionally, the standard monthly income for families averaging five people per household is about $600, which is considered significantly below the poverty line. In 2014, Parliament’s Plan and Budget Committee announced that 15 million Iranians were living below the poverty line, or 20 percent of the population, and seven million of those people did not have access to any services that might offer them support or assistance.

Internal Corruption
In 2014, news broke that a merchant with close ties to the Iranian government facilitated many oil and gold transactions through the Turkish People’s Bank and embezzled a significant amount of money, putting the country into serious debt. Later, many other fraudulent investors were reported to be active in the oil industry, and though over $1 billion in debt was reported, the guilty were not punished. Between 2013 and 2014, 4,000 cases of embezzlement and theft were reported, most of them being cases of illegally importing luxury cars, hidden monopolies and smuggling, to name a few, but no names of the guilty parties were ever disclosed.

In 2014, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani took office with the determination to develop an effective strategy to reduce poverty for Iranians. Rouhani established a three-part policy to assist the most vulnerable populations and curb inflation, which ended two years of negative growth. Officials under the Rouhani administration provided food aid to about seven million citizens in poverty. Though many aid projects under the administration were criticized for potentially adding to the budget deficit, such policies and programs seek to give immediate help to those living in absolute poverty, and the administration continues to fight for the poor and make food security its number one priority.

These causes of poverty in Iran have led to justified tension and fear among the public and the government that conditions and employment rates will deteriorate further if changes to the subsidy program do not go into effect, and if eliminating government corruption is not made a higher priority. Those changes are key to improving Iranian lives.

Olivia Cyr

Photo: Flickr