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The Egyptian EconomySince the Arab Spring rocked the Middle East in 2011, the countries fortunate enough to avoid devastating civil war were nonetheless impacted by the political turmoil in the region. Egypt was no exception.

However, even with several issues persisting in the Egyptian political and security spheres, the country looks to move forward with privatizing more sectors of its economy and has an overall positive economic outlook. The Egyptian economy, which has suffered from decades of bloated public sector employment, looks to revitalize its push for privatization in various sectors.

“That is the brake on reform,” said an anonymous government official in 2010, prior to the Arab Spring movement. His comments were pertaining to the overreliance on public sector employment. “They have grown up with the state doing everything: ‘You educate me, give me a degree, you give me a job, when I die you bury me — and I do nothing.'” While public sector employment is not altogether a negative, it is essential for private sector companies to flourish if there any hopes for growth.

In 2017, the privatization of the Egyptian economy is being rebooted by the government after encountering setbacks in years prior. The political fallout of the Arab Spring and subsequent policies undertaken by the Morsi and Sisi administrations had left a bad taste in the mouths of Egyptians regarding privatization.

However, after a tragic train collision this year on a government-owned rail line, it was understood that something needed to be done. Officials began drafting new laws that would allow private companies to improve existing lines, as well as grant them permission to operate their own stations. This will inevitably lead to the creation of jobs for Egyptians, a population that still suffers from almost 12 percent unemployment. Fortunately, this is the lowest it has been since the 2011 uprisings.

The Egyptian economy is slowly becoming a destination for foreign investment as well, even beating out South Africa for the top spot on the continent. In tandem with government reforms and an improving business climate, Egypt is attracting large sums of foreign money, most notably from Beijing.

“Currently [the European Union] is the biggest but I think China investors will grow rapidly… We’re in discussion with major players in terms of textiles and automotives. Those are two main projects we are in discussions with,” stated Trade Minister Tarek Kabil. This is in line with China’s growing presence on the continent.

Tourism is one of Egypt’s largest industries, and it has taken a severe hit since 2011. Fortunately, the country is seeing a slight uptick in tourism due to cheaper hotel deals as a result of certain currency policies. While the security situation continues to be a major factor in deterring potential tourists, this short-term low-cost trend will assist the tourism sector, which is a major pillar of the Egyptian economy.

The Egyptian economy undoubtedly suffered enormous setbacks in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. However, its position as the most populous Arab country paired with a strong economic outlook will allow Egyptians to look to the future with optimism.

Daniel Cavins

Photo: Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carson Hughes

Photo: Flickr

Why Is Tajikistan PoorTajikistan has done an incredible job over the past 15 years of reducing poverty and strengthening its economy. However, the poverty rate still remains at 31 percent. Despite being in the top 10 percent of countries in terms of poverty reduction, the question of why Tajikistan is poor remains.

Poor soil and a lack of employment opportunities have driven more than one million Tajiks to work abroad, mostly in Russia, in order to support their families. Additionally, narcotics are a huge source of economic activity in Tajikistan, leading to hostile environments for students and driving away foreign investment.

Education in Tajikistan is often truncated. There is limited opportunity for secondary school, and higher education is an opportunity only the most privileged can afford. The levels of education across Tajikistan are lower for women, as 12 percent do not end up graduating the compulsory nine years of primary school.

Minimal infrastructure is another explanation as to why Tajikistan is poor. Though there is a fairly well developed system of roads, they are in need of repair and supplement. Access to the internet and clean water, not to mention basic health care, is also restricted, and the railway system is rudimentary and ineffective.

Besides a lack of education and overall infrastructure, the rule of law in Tajikistan is weak, likely due to a history of civil war and a former dependence on the Soviet Union. This makes foreign direct investment unlikely, leaving little chance for new businesses to grow and develop.

Much has been done in recent years to continue to strengthen the Tajikistan economy, yet the question of why Tajikistan is poor remains. The country must work even harder than in the past, increasing access to the internet and energy, developing the private sector more fully and making the country an attractive one for foreign direct investment if they wish to continue the impressive growth that has been the norm for fifteen years.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr

Tonga Poverty RateThe Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga is home to around 102,000 people. Tonga is an archipelago comprised of 171 islands, only 45 of which are inhabited. In 2005, the U.N. estimated 77 percent of the population lives in rural areas.

The poverty rate in Tonga is 22.1 percent; in other words, one out of every five Tongans lives below the poverty line. Among the eight nations in the Pacific region, Tonga has the third lowest poverty rate, proceeded by the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Tonga’s impoverished communities are primarily in rural areas on the outer islands. The main island of Tongatapu has the highest GDP per capita, but the citizens of the farther islands of ‘Eau, Ha’apai, the Niuas and Vava’u struggle to find work. The higher poverty rates on these islands are due to a lack of access to goods, transportation and marketing opportunities.

The poverty rate in Tonga worsened after the 2008 global financial crisis. The cost of living skyrocketed due to increased prices of imported fuel and food. The crisis also caused Tongans overseas to lose their jobs in fields such as construction and landscaping, rendering them unable to send money back home. It is estimated that there are more Tongalese expatriates than current citizens, and many of them reside in the neighboring countries of Australia and New Zealand.

Tonga’s economy is primarily agricultural. Their main cash crops are squash, fish, copra and coconut products, vanilla bean extract and bananas. Tonga’s main mode of foreign exchange is through agricultural exports, tourism and remittances. The Tongalese economy also relies on foreign aid to offset its chronic trade deficit.

The biggest hope for improving the Tongan economy is tourism. Tonga hopes to increase high-value tourism among the outer islands, which have white sandy beaches and ideal sailing conditions. The Tongan tourism industry still has problems with remoteness, infrastructure and poor marketing. However, conditions are improving. In January 2011, tourist receipts totaled 60 million Tongan dollars, the highest point in the last decade.

Like many countries, Tonga is still in the process of rebuilding its economy after the 2008 financial shock. International cooperation will also be instrumental in doing so, as Tonga continues to rely on foreign aid for emergency assistance and filling the gaps in trade deficits. With further cooperation and the development of local markets, there is hope to lift many more Tongans out of poverty.

Hannah Seitz

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in GuadeloupePoverty in Guadeloupe has been severe for over a decade. Multiple factors contribute to the French territory’s 12.5 percent poverty rate, including natural disasters, a poor job market and a high crime rate.

Disasters

Guadeloupe is in an island region located in the Caribbean, which means that it is located in an area that is plagued by natural disasters. The region was hit by Hurricane Dean in 2007, which destroyed an estimated 80 percent of the banana crop. This was devastating to the country, as bananas are one of Guadeloupe’s three top exports, in addition to sugar and rum.

According to the U.S. Geological Study, Guadeloupe was also struck by a magnitude 5.7 earthquake in 2014. Along with earthquakes and hurricanes, Guadeloupe regularly faces clouds of ash from Montserrat’s volcano. These clouds can block the sun, damaging the production of all of their crops, which greatly affects their economy.

Since Guadeloupe is prone to such natural disasters, efforts have been made to help these affected areas more effectively and efficiently. One of the first steps, taken in 2003, was to establish a flood forecasting support service, as flooding can be caused by hurricanes and earthquakes, two of the most prevalent natural disasters. Guadeloupe also has Regional Health Agencies that have divided themselves between the three territories, including the two new communities in Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, to help provide health care to those who face injury in disasters.

Poor Job Market

One of the biggest aspects of a strong economy is a stable job market. Unfortunately, as of 2010, roughly 23.5 percent of the population in Guadeloupe was unemployed. With nearly one in four people jobless, unemployment is one of the major causes of poverty in Guadeloupe.

Even those who have jobs continue to face problems. In 2009, nearly 50 unions gathered together under the Collective against Extreme Exploitation to protest for weeks for higher living wages, adding €200 $250 to base salaries. These protests caused widespread issues, as supermarkets and government offices closed and a food shortage spread across the nation. The Collective’s demands were finally met on March 4, 2009 and $216 million of aid was sent from France.

Crime

Guadeloupe is also facing a high rate of violent crime. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, in 2009 the homicide rate in Guadeloupe was 7.9 percent per 100,000 people, which is higher than the United States’, at 5.01 percent the same year. Crime has continued to rise since then, and in September 2016 France sent 70 police officers to help stop the crime that was devastating Guadeloupe. France hopes to protect its citizens, and to help restore Guadeloupe’s status as a tourist attraction where tourists can feel safe.

With all these causes culminating to create poverty in Guadeloupe, it may seem like there is little hope. However, Guadeloupe has been on a resurgence and its efforts to rebuild are taking effect. For example, before Hurricane Irma hit in the beginning of September 2017, France had already mobilized military and health care personnel so that they were stationed in Guadeloupe to provide help after the storm. This effort made a lasting impact on Guadeloupe and its people, sparing many lives. With continued support from France, the people of Guadeloupe will be able to move out of poverty and thrive as a nation.

Scott Kesselring

Photo: Google

Comoros Poverty RateLocated between the eastern coast of Africa and Madagascar with a population of over 800,000 people is the Comoros. The country is comprised of three islands, Ngazidja, Mwali and Ndzouani. According to The World Bank, about 45 percent of the total population falls below the poverty line. Inadequate healthcare, poor education and a rising population are the main contributing factors to the Comoros poverty rate.

Healthcare
The results of a 2014 World Health Organization report show that over half of all deaths in the Comoros are due to maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions. The country severely lacks access to quality communal healthcare. With less than 5 percent of the budget dedicated to healthcare, operational facilities remain scarce. Fortunately, the country has seen progress in reducing the incidence of malaria. Spraying campaigns and the distribution of insecticide-treated nets across the three islands have greatly aided in its decline. The country has also seen noteworthy advancement in the under-five mortality rate and maternal mortality ratio.

Education
High repetition, increased dropout rates and poor learning outcomes remain problematic factors for the Comoros. High levels of illiteracy and dependency on foreign aid hinder economic development. However, according to The Global Partnership for Education, the Comoros has stepped up their access to quality education. The UNICEF Annual Report for 2016 shows the number of schools providing preschool education reaching almost 50 percent. Children are gradually starting to benefit from valuable education through the expansion of social, cognitive, motor and emotional skills.

Population
At a glance, the Comoros appears to be a very lightly populated country. But when compared to other regions, the Comoros ranks 25th in population density in the world. This ranking is predicted to increase, leading to more population pressure. The rising population has already led to widespread poverty in the form of limited land, lack of resources and unemployment. As a result, at least 150,000 people live abroad. Citizens are moving to countries like France in search of more space and essentially, a better life.

The Comoros poverty rate has started to improve thanks to a reformed poverty reduction strategy. In 2014, the country created a new growth policy that aims to strengthen the economy. Government, quality of life and resilience are all a major focus. The World Bank has also partnered with the Comoros in hopes of endorsing shared growth and increasing employment. Statistics verify that development for the region is slow, but eliminating poverty is a main priority.

Emilee Wessel

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in TajikistanSince its independence, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the government of Tajikistan has made incredible strides in reducing poverty across the country. Since 1991, its pace has placed it among the top 10 percent in the world. Despite this, approximately 32 percent of the country’s 8.6 million citizens remain below the national poverty line, with 3.7 percent living on less than $1.90 per day. With so much strong work already done to combat poverty across the nation, it is important to understand the remaining causes of poverty in Tajikistan in order to successfully continue the fight to eliminate poverty.

The first of these causes relates to Tajikistan’s economy. The poorest of the former Soviet states, Tajikistan has an economy that is largely reliant on remittances from Tajiks who are working abroad – such remittances comprise almost 50 percent of the nation’s total GDP. This leaves the economy open to external factors with the potential to heavily damage the economy, particularly in times of global financial crisis. Additionally, Tajikistan has an apparent inability to draw in foreign direct investment (FDI) due to a perceived unfavorable business environment, inadequate infrastructure and a weak legal system. Without significant change in policy in these areas, investment is unlikely to be forthcoming, limiting the ability of the country to lift itself fully out of poverty via economic means.

The lack of FDI and general private sector investment is also damaging to employment opportunities in the country. Tajikistan’s most valuable asset is its human capital and, at present, the country is incapable of creating enough jobs for the growing workforce. This has led to only 43 percent of the working age population being employed, with younger workers and women particularly hard hit by the lack of opportunity. With private sector opportunities only comprising 13 percent of jobs across the country, there are significant barriers to employment for much of the population, which can further exacerbate Tajikistan’s poverty dilemma.

The third of the primary causes of poverty in Tajikistan is related to infrastructure. An estimated 60 percent of the population is unable to access clean drinking water, leading to water from irrigation ditches – which is often polluted – being consumed instead. Adequate sanitation is similarly inaccessible, which has led to waterborne illnesses such as typhoid and diarrhea being widespread throughout the country. Both of these are particularly dangerous to children and infants and, as such, infant mortalities and malnutrition levels are above acceptable rates.

Through the aid of foreign governments and nongovernment organizations (NGOs), progress has begun in this area. UNICEF’s school-based hygiene project, for instance, is bringing fresh, potable water to schools through developing wells and pumping systems that the children can use, as well as improving sanitation facilities. Through projects such as this, thousands of children have seen living and health conditions improve exponentially. The World Bank is also extremely active in Tajikistan, with just under $370 million committed to a total of 23 projects across the country. These projects are aimed at supporting economic growth through developing the private sector as well as tackling the infrastructural and public service issues which ail the nation.

While foreign aid is certainly benefiting the country, it is unlikely to be enough to further reduce its poverty levels without governmental support. Government involvement is necessary to start seeing progress is overcoming the causes of poverty in Tajikistan, which would ultimately lead to a decrease in its poverty rate.

Gavin Callander

Photo: Flickr

African Informal EconomyThe informal economy in sub-Saharan Africa is booming. Comprised of jobs ranging from independent manufacturers to food vendors, the informal economy is responsible for nearly 70 percent of employment in the sub-Saharan. Additionally, it’s estimated that on average, the African informal economy accounts for nearly two-fifths of national GDP.

Working in the informal economy does come with certain challenges. Access to communication technology and money transfers is particularly difficult. Additionally, access to loans for ready liquid capital is slim. Most could be addressed with banking infrastructure and all are necessary services that businesses operating in the formal economy enjoy.

However, from the bank’s perspective, it is not in their financial interest to service many in the informal economy. Many unbanked Sub-saharan Africans, nearly 500 million of them, consistently make small transactions—usually less than $5  a day. For this reason and the cost of opening and maintaining banking branches, banks don’t consider these individuals serviceable.

That’s where companies like Nomanini step in.

Nomanini, meaning “Anytime” in saSwiti, is just one of several tech companies investing in the African informal economy. With the use of mobile point-of-sale (PoS) devices, individuals can become walking, talking ATMs.

Nomanini’s physical PoS terminal is no bigger than perhaps two smartphones put together and is fully wireless. The Google cloud also hosts the system, giving clients more stability.

Armed with the PoS device, vendors can sell pre-paid mobile airtime, electricity, facilitate banking transactions, and help others pay their bills. In some cases, clients are even granted micro-loans, allowing them access to working capital and the opportunity to build credit.

With the help of Nomanini’s digital PoS app, the African informal economy is exploding. Some vendors have seen their monthly incomes grow 20-30 percent.

Since launch in 2010, Nomanini has facilitated more than 16 million transactions. With the help of Nomanini, the African informal economy, armed with only smartphones and a wireless connection has shown its viability, It has also proven that its large number of unbanked shouldn’t be ignored by institutions just because of the size of their transactions.

Thomas James Anania

Photo: Flickr

Economy of SenegalYear-round, the legume tree Senna italica can be harvested in the drought-prone country of Senegal. In the commune of Kaymor, women in multiple villages grow the shrub on a large scale to compensate for losses the economy of Senegal has faced as a changing climate threatens their agricultural production.

The shrub provides some 300 women with agriculture training activities to capitalize on the economic benefits, and also brings medicinal benefits. The Senegalese use the plant to treat stomach discomfort, venereal diseases, jaundice, intestinal worms, and even skin irritation. Tea made from its leaves is said to help induce labor, and a root infusion can apparently be used to treat sore eyes. For now, its medicinal use makes local trade more common than anything else.

But outside of Senegal, the plant is still in demand. To the north, in Mauritania, people smoke the seeds. In Eastern Africa, the plant is mainly used to feed livestock. And internationally, the crushed dried leaves of the plant are used in hair conditioner and dye sometimes called “natural henna.”

Senna italica is easy to produce, available for harvest only two months after it is planted, and seemingly immune to the rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall that agricultural researchers believe will only get worse.

The economy of Senegal is growing regardless of the shrub, In fact, Senegal is second in Africa only to Cote D’Ivoire for growth. For that reason, many of the local women harvesting the plant are happy to reap its medicinal benefits and use the excess profit to buy groundnut seeds for their husbands.

Groundnut seeds are one of the staple cash crops of Senegal, so men so far are less involved in the harvesting of Senna italica, busy harvesting crops they have relied on for centuries. Yet village women are quickly discovering that as much money can be made from a hectare of the medicinal plant as two hectares of groundnuts, which are only seasonal.

In a local growers association of 70 women, each harvest can produce 500,000 CFA francs (close to $800) to support the local economy. With poverty still affecting 46.7 percent of the population, helping local economies helps the economy of Senegal, and this medicinal shrub offers an efficient way to empower women and fight poverty.

Brooke Clayton

Common Diseases in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s socioeconomic advancement has both improved and deteriorated the status of its public health. While infectious diseases are no longer considered a common threat to citizens, illnesses correlated with societal improvement have emerged as common diseases in Hong Kong. The current medical burdens for Hong Kong are long-term illnesses such as obesity, respiratory illnesses and dementia.

With greater food security and economic prosperity comes greater liberty to choose the desired quality and quantity of food sources. An increasing urban population hungry for the convenience of Western fast-food cuisine has made obesity one of the most common diseases in Hong Kong. A highly susceptible target of obesity in Hong Kong is its middle class; cheaper, high-calorie meals combined with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle strain the status of health for this social class. Although Hong Kong is a high-income region of China, it chooses to buy nutritionally deficient food for accessibility and indulgence.

Poor air quality and the prevalence of smoking among adults make respiratory illnesses an increasing concern. The National Health Center for Biotechnology Information claims that “respiratory disease is responsible for the highest health-care burden locally. Increased efforts in improving management and prevention of these diseases, including tobacco control, improving air quality and vaccination against influenza and pneumococci, are necessary.” Three million deaths induced by respiratory illness associated with smoking occur per year; this statistic is expected to increase to 10 million by 2025 (with two million of those deaths taking place in China) according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Addressing Hong Kong’s poor air quality due to industrial carbon emissions and social attitude towards smoking is unavoidable for the future of public health.

Hong Kong’s high life expectancy comes with its drawbacks. With an increasingly older population, dementia is becoming more prevalent among Hong Kong’s citizens. The lack of care facilities specializing in treatment for dementia adds pressure to the medical epidemic. However, the increasing presence of the disease has brought with it awareness, and thus it has received national attention. This awareness may be helpful in accommodating dementia sufferers with more treatment centers and medical options.

Mobilization is the most effective solution, due to the socioeconomic-induced nature of these common diseases in Hong Kong. Citizens must promote and sustain healthier models of living for the health of the public as well as the environment. Through integrated cooperation of Hong Kong’s citizens, corporations and the government, the adverse effects can slow down, creating a healthier future.

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr