Posts

inflation in VenezuelaVenezuela has been in a decades-long economic crisis. Its economic decline is historically marked by el Viernes Negro or Black Friday. Black Friday took place on February 18, 1983, when the nation’s bolivar began depreciating in value. Inflation in Venezuela has been rising ever since. Recent hyperinflation in Venezuela has caused mass poverty across the nation. The result have been shortages of food and medical supplies and an unemployment rate of 35 percent as of December 2018.

Origins of Depreciation

In order to understand potential ways to alleviate Venezuela’s rising inflation rates, it is essential to understand how the economy reached this point. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, Venezuela was a flourishing oil tycoon in possession of some of the world’s largest oil deposits. A worldwide shortage of oil raised the prices of barrels and created a golden period of economic growth for oil giants like Venezuela. Once the 1980s rolled in, oil prices stabilized. People started looking for more affordable, alternative energy methods.

This was detrimental to Venezuela’s economy since there was less demand for oil. Heightened production due to the previously increased oil prices left Venezuela with an abundance of oil produced and less demand. Venezuela’s reliance on exporting oil became its undoing. The price of oil continued to drop as the years progressed. Venezuelan oil production continued to exceed the actual demand. Inflation in Venezuela began here as the nation struggled to adapt in the face of failing exports.

Worsening Factors

Several factors contributed to the inflation of the Venezuelan bolivar. One factor was increased spending on social welfare programs and the importation of basic goods during Hugo Chávez’s presidency. While these actions helped to alleviate social unrest, this type of spending couldn’t be sustained as the oil-based economy tanked. In 2008, the global price of oil dropped to around $34 dollars per barrel, a record low that severely cut Venezuela’s core income. In 2014, another record low sealed Venezuela’s economic down spiral as the nation could no longer rely on its chief export for a means of financial stability.

However, this did not deter spending on welfare programs and imports, which led the nation into deficit spending. Deficit spending continues to be a major factor in increasing inflation in Venezuela. The further the nation falls into debt, the more the value of the bolivar depreciates. Currently, the full value of Venezuela’s debt is exceeds “the value of its exports” by 738 percent. Because of its massive debt, the U.S. implimented trade restrictions in early 2019. This has further decreased the sales from exports and the nation’s gross revenue.

Currency printing has been another cause of inflation in Venezuela. In order to pay for the importation of basic goods, more money has and is being printed by banks and the government. The value of the bolivar depreciates the more that is printed. It should be kept in mind, however, that these aren’t the only factors in inflation. The situation is deeply complex, spanning over decades of domestic mismanagement and failing international relations.

Qualifications for Hyperinflation

According to Forbes, a nation’s economy reaches hyperinflation once its monthly inflation rate surpasses 50 percent for a full thirty days. Once that inflation rate drops below 50 percent for another full thirty days, it is no longer in hyperinflation. Venezuela has been in a continued episode of inflation with some peaks of hyperinflation since November 2016.

Because of the longevity of Venezuela’s financial crisis, the nation’s economy is considered to be in hyperinflation. According to the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela’s GDP will drop another 25 percent by the end of 2019. The projected inflation rate by the end of 2019 will surpass 10 million percent.

Alleviating Inflation

Despite the economic down spiral in Venezuela, there is a potential solution that is common across business analysts. Forbes and Bloomberg Business both suggest that Venezuela adopts “dollarization.” This means abandoning the domestic currency in favor of foreign currency. Dollarization allows the economy to stabilize as Venezuela could leave behind the bolivar and adapt to an already stable foreign currency.

The reasons for inflation in Venezuela are numerous. There are some solutions out there, but they have yet to be implemented. In this case, adopting the American dollar may be the best approach to curb the rising inflation in Venezuela and reduce the poverty caused by inflation.

Suzette Shultz
Photo: Flickr

Bhutan's Gross National Happiness Index

The traditional tool to measure the success of a nation is by its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP refers to the total value of goods produced and services provided by a country in a given year. GDP can provide an accurate depiction of the economic success of a nation, but it does not measure true fulfillment and well-being properly. An alternative measure of success is Bhutan‘s Gross National Happiness Index.

Humble Beginnings

Bhutan’s government has a long history of striving for its peoples’ happiness. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, King of Bhutan from 1972 to 2006, made it his goal to increase the overall happiness and well-being of the Bhutanese people. The King declared that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product,” and in doing so, coined the phrase “Gross National Happiness.”

Moreover, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck developed a set of procedures that could produce an accurate measurement of happiness, Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index. The concept behind the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index is that well-being should not solely be based on economic success and that development cannot be sustainable without accounting for the more holistic aspects of progress.

Gross National Happiness in Practice

Bhutan’s GNH Index consists of nine different domains: 1. Psychological well-being; 2. Health; 3. Education; 4. Time use; 5. Cultural diversity and resilience; 6. Good governance; 7. Community vitality; 8. Ecological diversity and resilience; and 9. Living standards. Including all nine domains in the overall evaluation of happiness and well-being allows for the Bhutanese government to implement policy that is designed to target the domains where improvement is needed most. The GNH Index can also be broken down by demographic groups, allowing comparison between men and women or districts. Each of the nine domains is determined by examining 33 different indicators, giving leaders a comprehensive understanding of the various aspects that contribute to well-being.

GNH is the main tool used to ensure that development does not come at the expense of the Bhutanese people. Bhutan has grown as an economic power in recent years with an increase in large-scale hydropower projects, but the downside to this growth is that many rural workers and farmers have been displaced on account of these projects. Therefore, Bhutan has made it a priority to see that GNH and GDP can grow and exist in harmony.

Growth as a Result

Since GNH was adopted as the main measure of growth in Bhutan, almost 100 percent of its children are enrolled in school and the country has nearly doubled its life expectancy. Educational policy has also been affected by GNH principles. Children now learn about agricultural practices and environmental protection alongside math and science. Meditation is also a typical part of the school day as well. In addition, the country’s waste-management program ensures that all materials used in schools are recycled.

Journalists caught wind of this small Himalayan nation committed to increasing the happiness of its people, and with increased coverage, the ideas behind Bhutan’s GNH Index spread across the world. Well-being and happiness conferences increased in almost every part of the globe, and in 2012, the UN decided to follow Bhutan’s example in taking a more holistic approach toward development, making the GNH Index their main development indicator, a decision which was backed by 68 different countries.

Thanks to Bhutan, the world’s definition of what a successful country is may be changing. While GDP is still widely used as a measure of development, the use of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index is increasing in popularity right alongside it.

– Ryley Bright
Photo: Flickr

development in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a country located on the frontiers between Europe and Asia. This largely unheard of, mountainous country has a population of more than 8.6 million with an average GDP per capita of around $3,200, placing it near the bottom of the global ranking. However, over the past few years, the GDP of Tajikistan has grown between 6 and 7 percent. This article will address five facts about development in Tajikistan, including the challenging areas and opportunities that the country faces.

Five Facts About Development in Tajikistan

  1. Geography: Tajikistan’s geography is impugning its development since more than 90 percent of the country is mountainous. If fact, much of the land lies above 3,000 meters in altitude. Subsequently, the population is largely rural and widely dispersed, complicating infrastructural developments. However, as a result of this landscape, the majority of Tajikistan’s electricity production comes from hydroelectric power. The system is still largely inefficient though, especially in winter months. Users reporting shortages up to 70 percent of the time in winter months. Recent efforts have sought to address the gaps in provisions. In March 2019, the World Bank agreed to finance the rehabilitation of the Nurek Hydropower Plant, which generates 70 percent of the country’s energy demand. The rehabilitation should increase the plant’s winter generation by 33 million kWh, allowing it to meet winter energy demands and become a net exporter of energy in summer periods.
  2.  Government Policy: According to the U.S. State Department, Tajikistan is a country of ‘high risk’ but ‘high reward’ investment. Despite its consistent low ranking on the Freedom House Index, which measures civil and political rights, continual economic reforms have increased its Economic Freedom and promoted more investment. These reforms helped Tajikistan officially join the WTO at the end of 2013 after the changes made in property and investor rights. The 2019 ‘Doing Business’ World Bank report stated that Tajikistan had increased its rank overall by taking steps to participate more in the regional economy. Through the Simplified Customs Corridor agreement, Tajikistan has improved customs clearance with Uzbekistan. Based on the international classification, the poverty rate is projected to fall to 12.5 percent by 2020.
  3. Labor Migration: Due to the lack of employment opportunities, Tajikistan has a negative net migration rate, meaning that there are more people leaving the country than entering it. Most of the migrants are working-age men going to work in Russia. In 2015, worker’s remittances accounted for around 29 percent of Tajikistan’s GDP. But, this dependency means that Tajikistan’s fiscal health dropped from 95.8 percent to 60.3 percent in the period from 2016 to 2017 as a result of Russia’s economic downturn. To increase the opportunities for the workforce, the International Labour Organization has launched a pilot project aimed at strengthening National Skills Development systems as part of the ‘G20 Training Strategy’. Although it only has 1,460 participants so far, the updated frameworks could help increase Tajikistan’s current low productivity.
  4. Gender Disparities: In Tajikistan, women face a number of barriers to succeed economically, gain access to education, find employment or receive healthcare. They receive fewer years of schooling than their male counterparts and earn approximately 60 percent of what men do. However, with a migrating male workforce, female participation in the economy could be beneficial for economic development in Tajikistan. With help from funding from U.N. Women, the Tajikistan National Business Association for Women runs a number of training programs to improve employment opportunities for women. From 2015 to 2018, 3,200 women received training in business and 2,200 women received training in vocational areas. The organization also runs a bi-annual women-only entrepreneurship competition, which received more than 700 applications in both 2016 and 2018.
  5. Border Problems: Tajikistan shares a 750-mile long border with Afghanistan, one of the world’s largest opium producers. Consequently, illegal drug trafficking in Tajikistan is estimated to be worth around 30 percent of the GDP. However, the Project for Livelihood Improvement in Tajik-Afghan Cross-border Areas (LITACA) is one of a number of projects seeking to enhance cross-border cooperation between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, especially for women entrepreneurs. The Government of Japan finances this initiative, and the UNDP Tajikistan implements it in order to add stability and security to the region and ease border tensions. This program introduced around 25 socio-economic projects between 2014 and 2017, boosting economic growth to 45,000 people on both sides of the border. The project improved direct access to “schools, hospitals, irrigation, drinking water, energy supply, roads and bridges” for more than 388,000 people.

Tajikistan faces a number of barriers to its economic development. However, these five facts about development in Tajikistan show that important work is being done. There are many opportunities for growth. Economic reforms and continued investment could change the lives of the hundreds of thousands affected by poverty.

Holly Barsham
Photo: Unsplash

Credit Access in Bulgaria
Bulgaria is an Eastern European country with a population of approximately 7 million people. In 2016, the country’s poverty rate stood at 23.4 percent, which means that around 1.6 million Bulgarians lived below the national poverty line. In addition, Bulgaria has the lowest GDP per capita in the European Union and the highest levels of income inequality among E.U. countries. Increasing credit access in Bulgaria could be one way to recharge the economy and help reduce poverty.

Background

Poverty in the country has been steadily rising. Since 2000, the poverty rate has increased by 9.4 percent. Contradictorily, the unemployment rate has never been lower and wages have never been higher than they are now. To explain this contradiction, it is important to know that Bulgaria has experienced a rapid population decline. Between 1988 and 2018, the population of Bulgaria declined by nearly 2 million people. By 2050, economists predict that the Bulgarian population will fall to 5.5 million if the country does nothing to reverse the trend. This has precarious implications for the nation’s economy, and increasing access to credit is a viable solution to stymie population loss.

Particularly concerning is the fact that young and educated Bulgarians constitute the bulk of those leaving the country. In most cases, they leave to find employment elsewhere in the E.U. Some dubbed this phenomenon a “brain drain,” and studies confirm that it hinders economic growth and development. Experts at the Institute for Market Economics in Bulgaria argue that political stability and economic growth are the surest ways to dissuade young people from leaving the country; in other words, the overall outlook for the country must be bright.

Credit Access in Bulgaria

One possible way to address Bulgaria’s population problem is to increase access to credit. With increased credit access, impoverished Bulgarians can secure the funding they need to start a business, purchase a home or own a car. Expanding credit for small businesses could be due to economic growth. Furthermore, a 2006 study found that increased credit access in Bulgaria had a strong correlation with total factor productivity. Credit access has also led to growth in both the manufacturing and service sectors. A Georgia State University study found that access has led to a 0.34 percent annual increase in value for both sectors. These sectors account for 83 percent of Bulgaria’s GDP.

By further developing access to credit, Bulgaria has a brighter economic outlook. Despite its population decline, the GDP has increased by $52 billion since 2000. In order to reverse the brain drain and address national poverty, financial institutions and the Bulgarian government should continue to invest in credit access. Credit access will allow young entrepreneurs to remain in the country, helping the economy grow and encouraging Bulgarians. Economic growth, according to the Institute for Market Economics, remains Bulgaria’s best chance at recovering its lost population.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

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

Global MetricsWhile there are many websites that offer a detailed analysis of the problems facing the world’s poor and their solutions, a deeper understanding of global metrics and indexes will help curious supporters conduct their own research and make informed decisions on the economic, political and social statuses of impoverished countries around the world. Often times, a combination of multiple indicators from multiple governmental and NGO bodies is necessary to form a full picture of a country’s attitudes towards impoverished populations, the economy and governance.

The Three Main Global Metrics

To understand the economy of a country, researchers will look at global metrics such as gross domestic product (GDP), Gini index and the unemployment rate. The GDP is a broad metric measuring the total value of goods produced in the domestic market of the economy. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) cites the GDP as “the most popular indicator of [a] nation’s overall economic health.” What the BEA fails to mention is that GDP ignores wealth inequality, quality of life and overall happiness of the labor force.

The Gini index, on the other hand, measures only income inequality. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines the Gini index as “the extent to which income…among individuals or households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution.” Scores closer to 100 indicate a more unequal society while a score closer to zero indicates a more equal society.

The unemployment rate measures more than just the amount of population able to work but not working. More specifically, it measures the number of people in the labor force looking for a job but who remain unemployed. These three indicators working together can paint a more accurate picture than one alone, but without indicators of political and social health, the overall analysis of a country remains foggy.

Other Important Global Metrics

To better understand the political situation of a country, readers can consult indexes and indicators from a multitude of NGO and governmental watchdogs.

  1. Freedom House creates a comprehensive guide to the status of democracy in each country yearly. Freedom House breaks down its analysis into three categories: “freedom rating, political rights and civil liberties.” Along with these three categories, Freedom House also offers an overview of the key issues facing a countries democracy or lack thereof.
  2. The Economist also offers a comprehensive Democracy Index, which takes into account five categories. These include the “electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation and political culture.” Freedom House ranks countries from free to not free whereas The Economist ranks each country in a list that helps give global context to each situation.
  3. The U.N.’s Human Development Index (HDI) measures indicators of social happiness to round out the political and economic indicators and give a completely holistic view of a country. HDI takes into account a number of complex factors but, in short, it consists of “a summary of average achievements in key dimensions of human development [such as] a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and [having] a decent standard of living.” With a broad scope, HDI can look at metrics that other indexes cannot, such as education and life expectancy. Along with HDI, the World Happiness Report (WHR) offers a holistic analysis of how politics, economics and other indicators of happiness can shed light on a particular country or region. The WHR reports that they “focus on the technologies, social norms, conflicts and governmental policies” that change reports of happiness.

Overall Data Collection

A good place to start for general research into specific countries is the CIA World Factbook. The Factbook includes a summary of the country in question and will provide global metrics mentioned such as GDP, ethnic groups, population growth rate, government type and even electricity access. Global metrics are relatively intuitive, but using only one will offer a narrow view into a specific sector of a countries society.

For instance, according to the CIA World Factbook, the real GDP growth rate of Ethiopia is the fifth highest in the world in 2017, but 29.6 percent of the Ethiopian population lived below the poverty line and the unemployment rate was ranked 180 out of 218 countries studied. Just looking at the real GDP growth rate would lead to the assumption that the economy of Ethiopia thrives and that all members of society benefit from the expansion. However, other global metrics tell a different more concerning story.

Freedom House, along with its democracy in the world report, also operates a number of programs around the world in the interest of freedom. Freedom House’s “Latin America Program” seeks to help “citizens defend their rights against government abuses in Latin America and the Caribbean.” Freedom House has similar programs in both Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa that work towards the political rights of citizens through improving factors such as the rule of law and civic knowledge and engagement. In this way, Freedom House goes beyond just identifying factors that exacerbate global poverty. It goes a step further and also implements programs to fight it.

Having a well-informed viewpoint on the factors that allow for systemic ills in nations across the world helps supporters make informed decisions about how to combat global poverty whether through advocacy, donation or personal action. Some NGOs go beyond observing and documenting poverty to implementing plans to combat it. Whichever approach is used, global metrics help people to stay informed from many different approaches to help enact change.

Spencer Julian
Photo: Flickr

Uzbekistan Poverty RateAfter separating from the Soviet Union in 1924, Uzbekistan is finally getting its economic footing. This country has struggled with transitioning to a market economy, but it has finally found a solution. Because of this, Uzbekistan’s poverty rate has slowly been decreasing over the years. It has declined from 33 percent in 2004 to its current rate of just 12.8 percent in 2017.

Although Uzbekistan has successfully decreased its poverty rate, the country still faces the challenge of creating more jobs to keep the poverty rate down. Many urban cities – where most of the population live – lack adequate employment opportunities. An unsteady unemployment rate, high cost of basic necessities such as food and low wages are major factors contributing to the poverty rate in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan boasts 92.3 points out of 100 for food production stability and 88.5 points for quality, meaning the country does not have a problem producing high-quality food products. The problem is that the low wages plus the high cost of food mean many residents cannot afford to buy this high-quality food. In fact, 75 percent of the population has a low income. Because of this, the country reports high rates of iron, folic acid and vitamin A deficiencies in its citizens living in poverty.

Thanks to the overall economic growth, decrease in unemployment and rise in the labor force have contributed to the decrease in the Uzbekistan poverty rate. In fact, the GDP has steadily increased in the last decade. In 2016, the GDP was estimated at $67.22 billion, a rise from 2014’s $63.067 billion.

Uzbekistan’s poverty rate now ranks seventh compared to its neighbors. It follows countries such as Afghanistan (39.1 percent), Armenia (29.8 percent), and Georgia (20.1 percent).

Although Uzbekistan has a long way to go to completely eradicate poverty, Uzbekistan’s poverty rate has significantly decreased over the years. Continuing to create suitable jobs for urban residents while increasing the GDP will help the country maintain its steady poverty decline.

Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to AfghanistanAfghanistan has been plagued by war since the Soviet Military Intervention of the 1970s during the Cold War era. The 16-year civil war has impacted the foreign policies of many countries over the years. The fight between the Taliban insurgency and international collation forces has resulted in mass displacement, poverty, discrimination, human rights violations and destitution.

Despite the precarious stalemate reached, there were still an aggregate 3,500 civilian casualties last year, with insuperable pressure on humanitarian agencies and aid workers. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, over 296,000 individuals have been internally displaced since January 2017.

Foreign aid encompasses emergency assistance, food aid, military assistance and humanitarian and development aid. Consequently, foreign aid continues to be a vital question in solving the “Afghanistan Problem”, as it has been called. Even though foreign aid to Afghanistan has been quite successful over the years, with over 2.2 million individuals reached in the last quarter of 2017 alone, it is becoming a concern for stakeholder groups, organizations and countries involved. Phantom aid is an especially significant issue in Afghanistan, as it never reaches the correct source and fails to address poverty and other associated problems.

Even though Afghanistan’s GDP has been averaging around 3.6 percent annually since 2002 and the economy is showing progress, terrorism still remains one of the most pressing issues in the country. There are many splintered terrorist groups still existing in the country. For instance, the Haqqani Terrorist Network remains one the most hostile wings of the Taliban. Terrorist groups are blocking lines of communication in Afghanistan and further destabilizing the country. Army camps and soldier are imperiled by the threat of terrorism in the country. Owing to the recent surge in violence, the Red Cross is temporarily suspending its aid operations to protect aid workers and civilians.

However, many countries are coming forward to provide foreign aid to Afghanistan. China is coming close to matching the U.S. budget of foreign aid to Afghanistan and is one of the leading donors to the country. It is working with the World Food Programme to provide emergency food aid.

India is also a vital provider of sustainable foreign aid to Afghanistan. Since 2002, India has contributed a massive $2 billion in foreign aid to the country, both in civil and military assistance. India is also very involved in reconstruction and infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. The Salma Dam has been an especially crucial development. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is aiming to cement stronger ties with India. The two countries will collaborate on solving key issues like terrorism, and working towards political and economic strategies.

Furthermore, over 116 community projects will be developed in 31 major provinces in the realms of education, healthcare, flood control, renewable energy, agriculture and sanitation. India is also providing aid to fund 300 small development projects and working to bolster its military aid to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

However, according to findings by Aiddata, aid efforts remain poor due to the lack of transparency and corruption in the provision of aid to the country and the motives of stakeholder groups involved. Existing immobilities in infrastructure and other aspects are debilitating the progress of foreign aid to Afghanistan. Improving two-way communication in communities in Afghanistan will greatly improve the provision of aid. Foreign aid to Afghanistan must be sustainable for the long-term recovery of the people and the economy, and building the resilience and capacity of governments and businesses.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in San MarinoSan Marino, a small republic located in southern Europe, is one of several European microstates. The smallest independent state in Europe after Vatican City and Monaco, San Marino covers only 24 square miles and is landlocked by the Republic of Italy.

San Marino is a large political player in the international community, with diplomatic ties to more than 70 countries. Not only a member of the United Nations and World Health Organization, San Marino is also active in the International Court of Justice, UNESCO, the International Monetary Fund, the International Red Cross Organization, the Council of Europe, and many others. Moreover, although it is not a formal member of the European Union, it has official relations with the multinational entity.

Unsurprisingly, water quality in San Marino is not a cause for concern. Not only does the country have a large tourism industry, but it also has one of the most stable economies in the world and is regarded as one of the wealthiest in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. According to the Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book, San Marino’s GDP per capita was $59,500 in 2016, a growth of 0.5 percent from 2015.

High water quality in San Marino is just one of many factors that contribute to a high quality of life and long lifespan. Statistics from a 2009 World Health Organisation report list the average life expectancy for a newborn male as 81, which has increased since then.

San Marino’s water resources are drawn from one of four rivers, including the San Marino River, the Ausa River, the Fiumicello River and the Marano River. These rivers also play an important role in shaping the geography and political relationships of the country with itsneighborr Italy. The course of the San Marino River, for instance, creates a natural boundary.

The preservation of high water quality in San Marino is rooted in the country’s legal system, which began on October 8, 1600. “Maleficiorum”, the third of six governmental books comprising the country’s constitution, pays special attention to preventing the pollution of water sources.

Today, San Marino’s environmental issues are limited primarily to air pollution and urbanization which has invaded rural farmlands. As environmental policy continues to progress, the focus will largely lie in controlling these areas.

Katherine Wang

Photo: Flickr

Armenia Poverty RateFollowing a sharp economic downturn in 2009, Armenia is finally seeing a slow but steady decline in its poverty rates. As the country continues to find ways to increase wages and create jobs to stimulate the economy, Armenia’s poverty rate will maintain its decline.

Although Armenia has been experiencing a decline in its poverty rate in recent years, this decline comes after a six-year period of high poverty rates. In fact, in 2008 Armenia’s poverty rate was reported at 17.4 percent and had virtually doubled to 32.4 percent at the end of 2012.

This increase comes directly from the sharp economic decline in 2009 coupled with extremely low salaries that did not compensate for the cost of living in Armenia, despite it already being 54 percent lower than the United States.

However, the country quickly found a solution at the end of 2013 that gradually decreased the poverty rate and increased salaries and pensions.

ARKA News Agency noted that in 2014, 900,000 people were poor, with 310,000 very poor and 60,000 extremely poor. These accounted for 19.4 percent of the population as poor, 8.4 percent as very poor and 2 percent as extremely poor. But by 2015, Armenia had returned to a 29.8 percent poverty rate, just 12.4 percent more than the poverty rate in 2008.

Despite a still inflated poverty rate, the country continues to see improvements in its poverty rates. In 2015, Armenia ranked second to its neighbors in poverty rates at 29.8 percent, but now in 2017, at the same rate, it is ranked fourth.

With the poverty rats continuing to fall, the GDP has reflected the trend by increasing. Last year, the GDP climbed to $10.547 billion, a $0.018 billion increase from 2015.

As the country continues its substantial improvement, Armenia’s poverty rate will sustain its reduction while its GDP and salaries increase.

Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr