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Finding a New Way Forward: Infrastructure in MexicoUnderdeveloped educational and economic infrastructure in Mexico cultivates conditions where many turn to crime as a means of survival, supplying and staffing the drug cartels ravaging the country and funneling narcotics into the U.S.

In Mexico, one in four youths between the ages of 15 and 24 is neither employed nor enrolled in school. These “ninis” (“ni estudian ni trabajan—[those who] neither study nor work”) represent a potential labor pool of seven and a half million people for the cartels.

The “nini” phenomenon is partly fueled by a lack of accountability in the education infrastructure in Mexico. Mexican universities are not required to report data which would allow for ranking or evaluation of their educational effectiveness, effectively killing accountability and incentives to ensure that curricula adequately prepare students for the modern workforce.

Underdeveloped agricultural infrastructure in Mexico also contributes to the number of narcotics available for the cartels to traffic. Antonio Mazzitelli of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime states that “it is not drug production that generates underdevelopment[,] it is the lack of development that generates the opium cultivation.” In this, he agrees with the findings of the Open Society Foundation, which found that underdevelopment of agricultural infrastructure, in conjunction with other development factors, is common among regions where drug cultivation is high.

The Mexican government, recognizing these issues, is working to increase investment in infrastructure across the country. The Peña administration’s current National Infrastructure Plan is slated to inject nearly 7.75 trillion pesos (about $400 billion) into development, especially in transportation and communications infrastructure in Mexico.

Such projects promise to knit the country closer together and bring more opportunities to both rural areas and “ninis” nationwide. The U.S. is working to complement these efforts to improve infrastructure in Mexico through its Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID works with universities in both Mexico and the U.S. as part of the Training, Internships, Exchanges and Scholarships (TIES) program to create partnerships between higher education institutions in both countries to address development issues. USAID also supports training programs for Mexican educators in the U.S., with the intention that they return to rural, disadvantaged communities in Mexico to pass on their skills and help lead local development initiatives.

Whether these programs—and others supported by USAID—will survive potential cuts by the Trump administration remains to be seen. Following a deal with Democrats, a decision concerning the final fate of his budget proposal has been put off until the end of this year.

Domestic political conditions may also have a significant impact on infrastructure in Mexico. Elections will be held in July to vote for a new president. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, head of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), is currently ahead in the polls, according to Reuters. He is campaigning on a platform of eliminating corruption and putting the money saved towards economic development.

– Joel Dishman
Photo: Flickr

Leaky Pipes? Infrastructure in RussiaDespite high levels of foreign investment and a thriving energy sector, the development and maintenance of infrastructure in Russia remains sluggish and disproportionately benefits a small elite. Russia is one of five major emerging economies grouped under the heading “BRICS”— Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Investment in infrastructure in Russia, however, lags behind other member nations, particularly India and China.

Even with overall low rankings in infrastructure investment, Russia remains an “energy superpower” as a major exporter of oil and natural gas. Indeed, one active area of infrastructure development in Russia is pushing pipelines through Central Asia towards China in an effort to solidify the country’s hold on that market.

This commanding position hasn’t necessarily translated into widely-shared prosperity for the people of Russia. Poverty in the world’s largest country is up by nearly 15 percent. The majority of economic gains go to a fairly small privileged class. As it stands, only 110 households hold between 19 percent to 85 percent of all Russian financial assets. This uneven distribution of prosperity is in large part due to endemic corruption in Russia, facilitated by weak government institutions, a legacy of the breakup of the Soviet Union.

This disregard of the law threatens the future of investment for infrastructure in Russia. Andrey Movchan, senior fellow and director of the Economic Policy Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, opines that due to corruption state investment in infrastructure not only would likely fail to revitalize the Russian economy but might actively damage it.

The Russian government under Vladimir Putin has actively blocked efforts by the U.S. to improve governance in the nation. Putin’s administration ordered the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) to shut its operations in Russia in 2012, claiming that the organization was engaging in subversive activities. 

Domestic efforts to combat entrenched corruption likewise face challenges. Enemies of the state are notorious for being sidelined by illness, exile or death. One prominent example of such a suspicious neutralization is the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian tax accountant who died in prison in 2009 following his investigation into potential tax fraud. This prompted the U.S. Congress to pass sanctions in 2012 targeting Russian officials believed to have been involved in human rights violations.

Despite the risks, Russians continue to fight for their futures and for better infrastructure. Alexei Navalny, head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation and a frequent inmate of Russian jails who attracts thousands to his rallies, has announced his intentions to run against Putin in the 2018 presidential elections.

– Joel Dishman

Photo: Flickr

After Oil Windfall, Spending on Infrastructure In Ecuador Continues ApaceEcuador is a small, resource-rich country sandwiched between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean on Latin America’s western coast. Home to just over 16 million people, the country’s geography brings with it numerous advantages and pitfalls for infrastructure in Ecuador. With a landscape containing some of the continent’s tallest peaks and the thick jungle of the Amazon, infrastructure in Ecuador is a challenge — but oil revenues, largely found off the coast or in the interior of the country, have spurred a development boom over the last decade.

High oil prices in the late 2000s and early 2010s allowed the government of then-President Rafael Correa to unleash significant government spending on social services, government programs and energy and transport infrastructure in Ecuador. With the end of the oil boom in 2014 and a crash in global prices, the country found itself in a difficult financial situation. Despite the sharp decline in resource revenues, the new government of President Lenin Moreno is pushing ahead with ambitious spending on infrastructure in Ecuador.

While new funding is being dedicated to everything from hospitals to schools, the government is focusing on improvements to energy and coastal infrastructure in Ecuador. The coast around the town of Portoviejo, decimated by a 2016 earthquake that killed 673 and left more than 30,000 homeless, is a prime candidate for greater spending to rebuild damaged infrastructure and is a main focus of the government’s recently unveiled budget for next year.

Without oil revenues, the government is betting that greater public spending on infrastructure in Ecuador — supported by the World Bank and other institutional partners — can accelerate GDP growth in an economy ravaged by the fall in oil prices, the 2016 earthquake and a particularly devastating season of floods due to the El Niño weather phenomenon.

Beyond rebuilding efforts, the government is seeking more public-private partnerships for new infrastructure in Ecuador. Recently announced deals include a $65 million shrimp industry plant built by a Norwegian fish feeding company. The government is also pursuing public projects across the country, including a light rail line in the city of Cuenca and a new market in a town that borders Peru.

– Giacomo Tognini

Photo: Flickr

5 Development Projects in Algeria
Since gaining independence from France in 1962, Algeria has been arduously attempting to gain some headway on the international stage. Following a 20-year engagement with the socialist model, Algeria shifted its approach to development in the early 80s, and has been actively engaged in the precepts of globalization ever since.

Yet, the road towards development has yet to reach its end. The following are five development projects in Algeria that aim to settle the country in a place of prosperity and hope, once and for all.

  1. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
    IFAD has spent $65.6 million on a series of agricultural development projects in Algeria. First, they aim to strengthen the capacity of rural communities to operate independently. Second, they work to improve irrigation infrastructure, soil and water conservation, management of silo-pastoral ecosystems, livestock husbandry and rural tracks. Lastly, they continue to push for the progression of women’s place in society through the development of rural microenterprises. They have focused assistance on three communities whose economic capabilities are all but limited to agriculture. Currently, their five programs operate in the mountainous areas in the north of the country, the Saharan areas in the south and the coast, where poor fishing communities make up the majority of the population.
  2. Arab Reform Initiative – International Development Research Center of Canada (IDRC)
    After the uprisings in 2011, commonly referred to as the Arab Spring, the fervor slowed as national governments cramped down on protestors. The aim of IDRC funding is to ensure that ideals of democracy and progress are maintained and cultivated in the youth of Algeria. The project, lasting for two years, is managed by the Arab Reform Initiative, and aims to develop the youth as political actors and active citizens engaged in their country’s political, social, economic and cultural spheres.
  3. The Trans-Saharan Highway (La Route Transsaharienne)
    The development of the trans-Saharan highway has been years in the making. The route from Algiers, running through Niger and down through Nigeria, is about 5,000 km. The route itself has been used for trade since the eighth century, but, until recently, has been a road of sand. Paving the road is meant to increase the trade profit between the three nations it runs through. The Algerian government has opted to pay for its portion of the construction from its national budget, a reflection of a trend in their more recent national policy.
  4. World Food Program (WFP) – Algeria’s Sahrawi refugees
    The WFP has operated in Algeria since the late 80s. They work to provide basic food and nutrition needs to the populations of Sahrawi refugees on the country’s Western border. Algeria has hosted Sahrawi refugees from Western Sahara since 1975. The program’s main focus is decreasing a debilitating rate of iron deficiency found in Sahrawi women and children.
  5. Transparency International
    Transparency International is an organization whose aim is to evaluate the transparency of governments. In Algeria, it has determined that transparency is sorely lacking. The country has been scored 34 out of 100, and comes in 108 out of 176 countries. The organization’s tactics are simple. By shining a light on issues of corruption within the government and private sector, Transparency International is able to create accountability in situations where it is sometimes nonexistent. In this way, ideals of transparency have begun to permeate governance, as seen in the 2006 creation of the Central Office for the Suppression of Corruption, an agency tasked with the investigation and prosecution of all forms of bribery in the country.

These five development projects in Algeria are just a small indication of the state of Algerian society today. Ultimately, what these projects exemplify is the potential for further improvement in the North African nation.

– Katarina Schrag

Photo: Flickr

Two Months After Hurricane Maria, Reconstruction in Dominica Picks Up PaceAfter it made landfall on September 19, 2017, as a category five hurricane, Hurricane Maria devastated the island nation of Dominica. The storm was the worst natural disaster in the country’s history, damaging 98 percent of the island’s buildings, and killing 57 in a nation of only 73,500 people. Two months after the devastation, a robust domestic response from international donors and the government of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is helping reconstruction in Dominica pick up pace.

The U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) is partnering with the government’s housing ministry and local stakeholders to undertake a major nationwide study to analyze and assess all of the damage caused by the storm on the island and prepare for reconstruction in Dominica. With damages running into the billions of dollars, the analysis will help the government make decisions on the process of reconstruction in Dominica and assess which areas need the most funding.

“We have more than 100 people going throughout the island to assess all the buildings in Dominica, using an app provided by Microsoft,” said UNDP representative Massimiliano Tozzi to the Jamaica Observer. “The app will collect some very important demographic information that will allow the Dominican government to plan evidence-based policies for the next phase.”

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.N.’s migration agency, is assisting and training local construction workers to help with reconstruction in Dominica. Teams of local workers trained by the IOM are rebuilding 400 of the most damaged and vulnerable households across Dominica, with building supplies provided by donors including the U.K. and the Netherlands.

Still, the island country needs more outside assistance to build a sustainable recovery, and the road to full reconstruction in Dominica may be a long one. “Housing projects are a great way to keep locals from leaving the island, but we need stronger funding to create as many employment opportunities as possible and to rebuild the lost dwellings,” said Jan-William Wegdam, IOM team leader in Dominica, to the UN News Service.

– Giacomo Tognini
Photo: Flickr

water access in haiti

Haiti has long been one of the most impoverished countries in the Western Hemisphere, with a population of 11 million ravaged by earthquakes, hurricanes and epidemics in recent years. Now that the country is entering a new era of relative stability, after last year’s presidential election, government officials and civil society stakeholders are joining forces to improve water access in Haiti, a critical issue that has gone under-reported for years.

Diminished water access in Haiti contributed to the catastrophic cholera outbreak in 2010 which killed almost 9,500 people over several years. The outbreak began when water contaminated with cholera seeped into the River Artibonite from a base manned by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal, where cholera still has a presence. The Artibonite is the longest and most important river in the country, providing millions of citizens with water access in Haiti.

The State University of Haiti (UEH), one of the country’s most prestigious universities, partnered with the University of Florida (UF) and Haiti’s national water agency, DINEPA, to host a symposium on water access in Haiti. Held on November 16, the conference focused on promoting research in the water sector and spurring creative solutions for the crisis surrounding water access in Haiti.

“The university’s medical college has its own system of water provision, assuring its own autonomy and bringing water to five laboratories that in turn provide water to around 1,000 people every day,” said Jean-Claude Cadet (head of UEH’s medical school) to the leading Haitian daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste.

DINEPA is looking to the university’s self-sustaining system as a model of how to improve water access in Haiti and tackle an equally important problem: ensuring better water quality for the country’s citizens. The conference, held on the university’s campus, concluded with three objectives for the partners to work on together: establishing a water treatment center at UEH’s medical school, reinforcing cooperation between UEH, UF and DINEPA, as well as other participants and, most importantly, establishing a new institute for water access and quality that will eventually produce highly educated graduates dedicated to the goal of creating greater water access in Haiti.

– Giacomo Tognini
Photo: Flickr

Five Development Projects in BeninIn Benin, 40 percent of the country lives below the poverty line. The conditions force residents of the country to migrate on a regular basis. The country’s increased investments in infrastructure and sustained economic growth rate highlight its potential to move in the right direction. Below is an overview of five development projects in Benin that could help the country reduce poverty.

Agricultural Productivity and Diversification Additional Financing

One of the ways for a country to reduce poverty is to invest in agricultural programs. This project allows Benin to invest more heavily in its agriculture, as it will restore and improve productivity. It will also support the promotion of improved technologies and the development of production via water management.

Public Investment Management and Governance Support Project

This project will help reduce poverty and increase shared prosperity. The World Bank has issued a $30 million credit to Benin that will better facilitate the efficiency and management of this project. Their aim is to enhance good governance, accountability and promote more transparent management of public funds.

Small Town Water Supply and Urban Septage Management Project

About 22 percent of the country does not have access to adequate drinking water. The Small Town Water Supply and Urban Septage Management Project will increase access to water supply and sanitation. It will also strengthen the service delivery capacity of water supply and sanitation as well as prepare an effective response to potential emergencies.

Energy Service Improvement Project

This project will improve utility power performance and expand access to electricity to various areas across the country. It also aims to promote community-based management of forest resources. Investing in infrastructure is important to build up an economy, so this project, among other development projects in Benin, is extremely important.

National Community Driven Development (CDD) Project

The CDD project has provided grassroots management training. This has helped contribute to the decentralization process and strengthening of both local government and community capacities to better plan and implement development projects. Under the project, 81,000 children have enrolled in school and 10,000 people have gained access to a clean water supply.

These development projects in Benin have the capability of reducing poverty in the country and improving the lives of the individuals who reside there.

– Dezanii Lewis

Photo: Flickr

5 Active Development Projects in AfghanistanThe World Bank Group is currently providing funding for 49 active development projects in Afghanistan. These projects are working to address the full spectrum of needs of the Afghan people. Here are five development projects in Afghanistan currently underway.

  1. Trans-Hindukush Road Connectivity Project. The Hindukush Mountain range spreads across a vast piece of central Asia, including much of eastern Afghanistan. Travel throughout this region is limited and road conditions are generally poor. This project will provide aid to the Afghan government to rebuild and maintain roads spanning the Hindukush mountain region. Improved transportation infrastructure will bring economic growth as well as increased access to resources for people living in remote areas. The project started in 2015 and will come to a close in 2022 and The World Bank group has pledged a loan of $250 million.
  2. Women’s Economic Empowerment National Priority Program. This project came about when the Afghani government accepted a loan of $482.3 million in a plan to enact seven new development projects to combat the growing poverty crisis. The Women’s Economic Empowerment National Priority Program aims to ensure better access to economic opportunities and rights for women.
  3. Urban Development Support Project. The Urban Development Support Project was implemented to strengthen urban policymaking and development on both the national and provincial level. The project aims to improve city planning capabilities, census and data management and urban institution development and accountability. The project began this year and cost $20 million in funding; completion is projected for 2020.
  4. Herat Electrification Project. A small province in western Afghanistan, people in the Heratprovince have limited access to electricity. This project aims to provide homes and businesses in this region with a sustainable source of power. The World Bank group plans to accomplish this by expanding the electrical grid in the region. In areas which are further removed from electrical grid access, solar panels are being implemented to supply power to those who need it. The project began in 2017 and will hopefully be complete by 2022. The total cost of the project is $60 million, which was loaned to the Afghani government by The World Bank Group.
  5. Afghanistan Strategic Grain Reserve Project. This project was started in 2017 and aims to create a reliable stockpile of grain in hopes that in the event of an emergency there will be a safety net of food security. The project has an estimated total cost of $30 million and is hoped to be completed by 2022.

Development projects in Afghanistan such as these are radically improving the quality of life in Afghanistan, however, they only begin to scratch the surface of the larger web of issues preventing Afghanistan from becoming a fully developed country. Cooperation between the World Bank Group and the Afghan government has set the stage for Afghanistan to move closer and closer to development as time moves on.

– Tyler Troped

Photo: Flickr

 

BangladeshBangladesh is a developing country deep in poverty—about 31 percent of the country lives below the poverty line. Even though poverty is certainly prevalent in the country, strides have been made to reduce it in the past few years. For instance, the literacy rate in the country stands at an average of 72 percent and about 86 percent of the population has access to a drinking water source, according to the World Factbook.

Developing a country is an on-going process. Bangladesh is trying to continue its growth in ways that will ensure the success of the country. Here are five development projects in Bangladesh that will help the country reduce its level of poverty.

  1. Health Sector Support Project. There are areas in Bangladesh, such as Sylhet and Chittagong, whose key health indicators are below average. The Health Sector Support Project will help to strengthen health, nutrition and population management systems. One of the most notable aspects of this project is that it seeks to improve the quality and coverage of essential services, such as immunization coverage for children. According to the World Bank, $515 million was loaned to the country in support of the project.
  2. Bangladesh Insurance Sector Development Project. In order for the health sector to be sufficient, the insurance sector needs to be developed. The World Bank states that this project will “strengthen the institutional capacity of the regulator and state-owned insurance corporations and increase the coverage of insurance in Bangladesh.”
  3. Smart City campaign. The urban population of Bangladesh, which currently stands at 55 million, will significantly contribute to the growing national GDP. According to the Smart City website, this will lead to “burgeoning in cities” and a need to improve the conditions of urban cities. Since cities are “key economic engines” one of the development projects in Bangladesh, the “Smart City” campaign, will help to innovate these areas of opportunities.
  4. Additional Financing to Chittagong Water Supply Improvement and Sanitation Project. Parts of Bangladesh do not have access to an adequate water supply and sanitation. About 13 percent of the country does not have an adequate drinking supply and 39 percent of the country does not have access to water sanitation. This project will increase access to safe water and improve water supply, sanitation and drainage in Chittagong.
  5. Clean Air and Sustainable Environment (CASE) Project. According to the World Bank, poor air quality in urban areas creates serious health hazards and adversely affects the environment and quality of life. Reducing pollution could save lives and diminish disease outbreaks. The CASE project would improve air quality and safe mobility in Dhaka through the implementation of demonstration initiatives.

Increasing water supply and sanitation, innovative technology and improving access to healthcare are significant ways to reduce poverty. With these development projects in Bangladesh, the country is well on its way to implementing practices that will reduce poverty in the country for the long term.

– Dezanii Lewis

Photo: Flickr

5 Active Development Projects in SerbiaSerbia is located in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula in Eastern Europe. The United Nations Development Programme measures a country’s overall development through the Human Development Index, which considers all aspects of a nation on its way to development. The Human Development Index ranks Serbia as the 66th most developed country in the world, a ranking which is certainly nothing to scoff at. However, there is still much to be done before Serbia can be considered a fully developed nation. Here are five active development projects in Serbia which are bringing the country closer to becoming fully developed.

  1. Floods Emergency Recovery Project
    The aim of this project is to make the nation less vulnerable to damaging floods, and to improve the response strategies of people living in areas which are at a high risk of flooding. This project will aid farmers in taking precautionary measures in case of a flood so that such an event would not cause a devastating effect on the food supply and economy.
  2. Corridor X Highway Project
    Corridor X refers to the road network which leads from Austria to Greece, connecting the nations of the Balkan Peninsula. This is a critical route for trade, commerce and travel, and there has been a great deal of construction on the highway to try and connect the road networks leading through Serbia. Development projects in Serbia like this one will move the nation closer to becoming fully developed, and will bring increased economic prosperity.
  3. Enhancing Infrastructure Efficiency and Sustainability Project
    This project has a similar goal to the Corridor X Highway Project in that it aims to bring increased connectivity between the different regions of Serbia. By improving infrastructure like roads, water systems and hospitals, this project will help to grow Serbia’s economy and increase ease of travel for Serbian citizens.
  4. Real Estate Management Project
    The Real Estate Management Project addresses an issue which is currently holding Serbia back on the path to development. This project will essentially make the real estate system in Serbia more reliable, accountable and transparent. It will create a dependable system of determining property value, thus ensuring that people pay the right amount of tax on their property. Serbia is adopting an internationally accepted standard of property valuation to achieve this goal.
  5. Deposit Insurance Strengthening Project
    The Deposit Insurance Agency is essentially Russia and Eastern Europe’s version of the American Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and will serve as a financial safety net or backbone behind the banking industry in Serbia. Strengthening the Deposit Insurance Agency will make banking in Serbia more reliable, and will spark economic growth in the nation.

These projects only begin to scratch the surface of all the work that has been done, and has yet to be done, in bringing Serbia into the developed world. While there is an immense list of things that need to be addressed and improved before Serbia can be considered fully developed, development projects in Serbia such as these are leading the way into the future.

Tyler Troped 

Photo: Flickr