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Poverty in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan is a landlocked country in central Asia with a long history of poverty. It is important to first identify the issues affecting poverty in the country, and then look at what is being done to address them. Here are ten facts about poverty in Turkmenistan:

 

10 Facts About Poverty in Turkmenistan

 

  1. According to the Asian Development Bank, only 15 percent of the population used the internet in 2015. This statistic shows a lack of access to not only the internet and technology, but also to disposable income and affordable energy.
  2. Also in 2015, the Turkmenistan currency was devalued by 19 percent, which was the first drop in almost seven years.  Bloomberg noted that Turkmenistan and neighboring nations would need to devalue the currency in order to keep their exports competitive.
  3. Although the definitions for appropriate living standards defer in Turkmenistan, the World Bank reports that 58 percent of the population receives cash incomes below the official national minimum wage. According to the government, however, having 50 percent of the national median income indicates unacceptable living conditions; only 1 percent of the population falls below this line.
  4. According to the World Bank, in 2016 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $36.18 billion; in comparison, the United States’ GDP is around $18 trillion.
  5. Carbon dioxide emissions are also a good indicator of a country’s development and urbanization. With a 2014 population of 5,466,241, Turkmenistan produced 12.517 metric tons of CO2 per capita. This high level of CO2 production — compared to a relatively small population — indicates unsustainable and slow development, as well as low access to clean energy sources.
  6. There are only 26 registered refugees in Turkmenistan, but it is likely that this number is actually much higher. The United Nations Human Rights Commission once estimated 40,000 refugees in the nation but indicates that most of them have become naturalized citizens.
  7. In 2011, Transparency International named Turkmenistan as the third most corrupt country in the world; this corruption is preventing genuine change that could reduce poverty in the nation.
  8. According to the United Nations Development Program, Turkmenistan has an adult literacy rate of 99.6 percent, which is extremely high for a nation with such high poverty levels; this indicates strong education systems in the country.
  9. In 2012, Turkmenistan adopted the National Climate Change Strategy, which aimed to develop more efficient resource use, a greener economy and lower carbon dioxide emissions.
  10. According to the Turkmenistan government, 75 percent of the national budget was dedicated to the implementation of the National Programme (2007- 2020) on Improving Social and Living Conditions of People in 2012. This funding demonstrates at least an intention to improve the lives of Turkmenistan residents.

Based on these facts about poverty in Turkmenistan, the country has a lot of work to do. Plans need to be improved for reducing poverty, improving the standard of living and becoming more transparent as a nation. Government corruption also needs to be addressed before real change can be made.

Finally, Turkmenistan needs all the assistance it can get from organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank, as this will speed up the process of improving the lives of those in the country.

– Liyanga de Silva

Photo: Flickr


Poverty in Angola runs high; roughly 40 percent of the population currently lives below the poverty line. The combination of a long, drawn-out civil war, systematic political corruption and economic crisis have prevented the country from establishing itself as a stable and prosperous state since Angola received its independence from Portugal in 1975.

While Angola does not have many lucrative exports, oil does make an important contribution to the country’s economy. Between 2006 and 2016, it accounted for as much as 97 percent of exports on average each year and, while there has been some reinvestment into national infrastructure, the president, José Eduardo dos Santos, has received criticism for not redistributing the profits fairly and using the financial boost from oil exports to reduce poverty in Angola as much as he could have.

Beyond its meddling in the oil industry, other forms of government corruption and nepotism are also rife in Angola. One particularly prominent example is the appointment of the president’s daughter, Isabel dos Santos, to the position of chief executive of the state-run oil firm in 2016. Forbes ranks her the richest woman in Africa, and she has an estimated net worth of more than $3 billion. Meanwhile, there is extreme poverty in much of Angola and subsistence farming is the main source of income for the majority of her countrymen and women.

This over-reliance on oil causes another problem: Angola is especially vulnerable to the fluctuations in the global oil market. Just last year, a global drop in oil prices resulted in an economic catastrophe for Angola. This triggered a rise in prices on everything from food and fuel to healthcare, putting an even greater strain on the country’s poorest inhabitants. The situation was exacerbated when the government imposed tough austerity measures, a move the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights deemed regressive and concerning.

Meanwhile, in a bid to diversify the economy with additional sources of revenue, huge land grabs have taken place at the hands of government officials and private businesses. In many cases, citizens have been forcibly evicted without adequate housing alternatives and proper compensation. Instead, they have been resettled in makeshift housing with little access to amenities such as healthcare, education, water and electricity.

Even before this move, access to healthcare and education has been severely limited, helping to reinforce a cycle of poverty. So while progress – although slow – has been made in both areas since peace was established in 2002, there is still much progress to be made. More investment is needed in the country’s public services to alleviate levels of poverty in Angola.

Rosie McCall

Photo: Flickr

Equatorial Guinea
Being one of the last remaining colonies of the once expansive Spanish Empire, Equatorial Guinea became independent in 1968 during the rule of Spanish General Francisco Franco. This West African nation is very interesting in many aspects. Its capital is located on an island faraway from the mainland, it is the only Hispanophone country in West Africa—barring the territory of West Sahara—and it also has the highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in Sub-Saharan Africa.

However, in this relatively prosperous country, approximately two-thirds of the population lives in extreme poverty.

Despite the discovery of oil and other natural resources that the countries of West Africa have been bequeathed with by their geographical locations and an extremely small population of less than a million people, it is rather paradoxical that the richest country in Sub-Saharan Africa and the region’s third-largest oil producer whose size is roughly the same as Massachusetts allows more than half of its people to fall into abject poverty.

In neighboring Cameroon, where the GDP per capital is only a tenth of that of Equatorial Guinea, for example, much less than two-thirds of the entire population lives in extreme poverty. To put it in comparison, Equatorial Guinea’s GDP per capita is greater than those of Italy, South Korea or Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, other statistics regarding the country’s standard of living are also equally — if not more — frustrating. Only about half of the country’s population has access to clean drinking water, overcrowded living condition is—surprisingly given the country’s low population density—rampant and very few children enjoy the advantages of urban life such as education, medical services and recreational facilities.

Despite the grinding poverty suffered by hundreds of thousands, Equatorial Guinea seems to often escape the radar of global attention due to the highly distorted numerical means, which shows the country in good standing in terms of GDP per capita. However, in reality, there is a flagrant discrepancy that is indicative of a rather stark disparity between the have and the have-not.

To make this inequity even more unsettlingly palpable and conspicuous, the country is also building a brand new and expensive capital city on the mainland, hundreds of miles away from where the majority of the already sparsely populated country lives. Currently, Malabo, situated on an island to the far northern reaches of the country, is the capital, while Bata, an Atlantic seaport, serves as the country’s largest city.

However, Oyala—under construction—will serve as Equatorial Guinea’s President (and Africa’s longest-ruling dictator) Teodoro Obiang’s new capital. What is his supporting rationale? His government’s and his own safety and security. This project is expected to cost billions of dollars before it finishes in a country where over 60 percent of the population is struggling to live on less than $1 per day.

It is clear where at least some of the immense amount of wealth of this nation goes. In 2012, the French police sent out an arrest warrant of Teodorín Obiang, the son of the Equatoguinean president who had to escape Paris back to his own country. Upon investigation, they found evidence of an obscene accumulation of wealth. Teodoro Obiang—his father and the country’s leader—is also leading an extremely corrupt government. A criminal investigation launched in Spain revealed that there are 11 families with close ties to the Obiang family who are amassing most of the country’s wealth.

Equatorial Guinea is a tragic archetype of a country that could have been highly developed and whose citizens could have enjoyed a very high standard of living. However, the lack of democracy has allowed only a handful of individuals to accumulate most of the country’s vast wealth.

– Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: Europa Press, International Business Times, IEACH, Open Society Foundations
Photo: World Rainforest Movement

people_venezuela
On March 4, in a simple resolution, an overwhelming majority in the United States House of Representatives agreed to support the people of Venezuela as they protest peacefully for democratic change and call for an end to the escalating violence in the South American country.

The resolution comes on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the passing of Hugo Chavez, who succumbed to cancer after 14 years as the president of Venezuela. Nicolas Maduro took over leadership and has carried on the Chavez legacy with state-controlled economic policies that are now under criticism by anti-government demonstrations. At least 18 people have been killed since the protests began in early February.

The buildup towards the recent student-led protests came from hyperinflation, a shortage of basics, spiraling murder rates and a general decline in living standards. Presently, Venezuelans cannot get basics such as toilet paper, rice, coffee and corn flour. Last year, almost 25,000 homicides took place in the country. Protesters claim that the government is corrupt, undemocratic and is ruining the economy.

On February 12, Venezuela’s National Youth Day, students led a peaceful anti-government protest. The Venezuelan military responded with gas bombs and guns to control the crowds. Leopoldo Lopez, leader of the opposition party Voluntad Popular, was arrested later in the month and is currently being held in a military prison. Amnesty International states that the arrest of Lopez is a politically motivated attempt to silence dissent in the country.

The Venezuelan government has implemented a number of policies in reaction to the protests. It declared three consular officers at the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela personae non gratae, or un-welcomed, adding to eight other American officials who were expelled in 2013. The Venezuelan government has also taken control of television, radio and the internet. It blocked online images of the marchers, shut down Twitter, has taken Colombian news channel NTN 24 off the air and threatens to expel CNN.

The House Representatives agreed that the U.S. Government should support the free and peaceful exercise of representative democracy in Venezuela, condemning violence and intimidation against the country’s political opposition, and calling for dialogue between all political actors in the country.

The House resolution just passed urges the international community to stand in solidarity with the people of Venezuela and to actively encourage a process of dialogue between the government of Venezuela and the political opposition to end the violence there. It also believes that the Organization of American States should respond to the erosion of democratic norms and institutions in member states.

Additionally, it deems that the U.S. Department of State should work in concert with other countries in the Americas to take meaningful steps to ensure that basic fundamental freedoms in Venezuela are in accordance with the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Lastly, The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights demanded that the Venezuelan Government adopt measures which guarantee the rights to life such as humane treatment, security, political rights, the right of assembly, and the rights of freedom of association and freedom of expression.

– Maria Caluag

Sources: GovTrak, BBC, Amnesty International
Photo: Los Angeles Times

Ukraine_Government_Protest_Movement
After nearly two months of protest movements ranging across cities of Ukraine, protesters have made landmark achievements towards a government void of corruption.

The social turmoil began when President Viktor Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the European Union and went on to receive a $15 billion bailout from Russia. However, anti-protest legislation introduced two weeks ago are what caused the protests to magnify and eventually turn violent.

Since then, opposition movements have placed significant political pressure on Ukrainian leaders. As of January 18, controversial anti-protest laws have been repealed and the very unpopular Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned from office.

Azarov’s resignation followed President Yanukovych offering of the Prime Minister job and other senior positions to opposition leaders. The opposition ended up rejecting the deal, asserting that they do not plan on letting up. They continue to press for new and early elections and there are still many negotiations to be made between the Ukrainian government and opposition.

So far, the opposition movements are calling for, “an end to government corruption, freedom for political prisoners and for Ukraine to be aligned with the European Union and not Russia.”

The Ukrainian government also recently signed in a conditional amnesty law for captured activists in which protesters would be given at 15-day deadline to leave the government buildings that are occupied. This also comes after recently allegations of the Ukrainian government for abducting and torturing citizens, including the opposition activist, Dmytro Bulatov.

As the situation in Ukraine has already been established as a human rights nightmare, it is increasingly becoming one with more information on government allegations surfacing. The United Nations Human Rights office has also gotten involved by condemning the cases of torture and is now calling on the Ukraine government to further investigate the situation.

Although the opposition movements in Ukraine have gained significant ground with the resignation of Prime Minister Azarov, the repeal of anti-protest legislation and now with the law of amnesty for all of the political prisoners (as long as protesters vacate government buildings), they are still calling for new elections.

It is unclear at this point, how much further the tension between the Ukrainian government and opposition will last. However, on an international scale, people are weighing in to attempt to resolve the issue.

As a consistent critical of the Ukrainian government’s handling of the past two months, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that, “Ukrainian president’s offers needed to improve if the opposition were to take them seriously.”

– Jugal Patel

Sources: BBC, BBC-2, Al Jazeera, Global News
Photo: Voice of America