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Economic Growth in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu
There is extreme potential for economic growth in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu according to a thorough analysis from the islands’ new representative. The representative, Guido Rurangwa, is overseeing nine different projects across the two countries that will be equal to $164.47 million or more as time goes on and relationships deepen.

The projects in both countries will cover a variety of issues such as youth employment and training, renewable energy, disaster resilience, climate and more. An example of this is the Infrastructure Reconstruction and Improvement Project in Vanuatu. The project, which was approved on June 17, 2016 and will last until April 30, 2022, aims to reconstruct and improve certain areas of Vanuatu hit especially hard by Cyclone Pam. This assistance will provide immediate responses to emergencies.

A key project in the Solomon Islands is the Rural Development Program II, which has been in place since Nov. 21, 2014. This project’s goal is to improve basic infrastructure to rural areas in an attempt to establish links between small-scale farmers and markets. The project will also help rebuild production quality after flash floods that hurt numerous farms in April 2014. The project will close on Feb. 28, 2020.

Rurangwa’s analysis is extremely trusted because of his long history with the World Bank and years of experience in the field. Rurangwa joined the World Bank in May 2001 as an economist in the Macroeconomic and Fiscal Department. Since then, he has advanced to numerous other ranks and positions, such as senior economist for Rwanda, his home nation, and senior country economist for Egypt.

This new information proves to be good news for the Solomon Islands based on the history of their economy. A majority of the population of the Solomon Islands live in small, rural villages, engaging in agriculture to sustain themselves and cash economy. The country’s economy almost collapsed in 2000, when the country suffered from a coup due to civil unrest. Even a large number of secondary schools provide agricultural training to students.

Vanuatu’s economy shares similar characteristics with the Solomon Islands’ economy. Also based mostly on subsistence farming, Vanuatu’s main exports include kava, cocoa and more, which are traded with many European nations and countries like Australia and New Zealand. The country does boast a bit more success than the Solomon Islands with tourism and offshore financial services.

The World Bank may also be a contributing factor to the economic growth in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. With 13 active World Bank projects in the Solomon Islands and 10 active projects in Vanuatu, both countries possess a future filled with opportunity and growth.

Ashley Morefield

Photo: Flickr

Nepal Earthquake
The 2015 Nepal earthquake left over 1 million children without a school. A little over a year has passed since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed thousands.

However, unrepaired damage continues to plague the country. The scope of the damage and political difficulties have meant much of the country still lies in rubble.

But the nation is making progress. Newly announced plans for reconstruction have set a three-year timeline for various progress goals, with education infrastructure named a top priority.

The Nepal earthquake destroyed 17,000 classrooms of nearly 8,000 schools, and the aftershocks damaged an additional 20,000 classrooms. While the donations obtained as of April 2016 tallied approximately $200 million, this was sufficient to repair only 1,700 schools.

Due to limited funding, the initial rebuilding efforts will focus primarily on education infrastructure in the hardest hit regions of the country. Over the course of three years, the national government hopes to accomplish significant rebuilding.

The overall economic impact of the earthquake on Nepal is estimated at nearly $7 billion. The country’s long history of political tension, combined with the magnitude of reparations needed, has led to an atmosphere of political urgency.

These tensions have aggravated preexisting political divides and slowed down measures to hasten reconstruction. Frustration with the situation has led to protests following the earthquake, making the need for efficient rebuilding of education infrastructure all the more urgent.

In the months following the earthquake, many students had to use temporary classrooms. These classrooms are not strong enough to withstand heavy Nepal weather (including monsoons). However, students have already used them for an entire winter season.

For those involved in the rebuilding efforts of prior learning spaces, avoiding the continued use of these classrooms is a top priority in order to provide students with a safe and stable learning environment.

The Nepal government continues to seek methods for resolving political differences and hastening reconstruction as much as possible. However, the three year-plan emphasizing education infrastructure represents major progress.

Additionally, humanitarian development organizations such as Plan International have contributed in the wake of the disaster. The organization recognized the importance of this project and hence began a classroom-rebuilding initiative.

Plan International seeks to rebuild 20 of the schools that the Nepal earthquake destroyed. They also plan to repair 1,600 damaged classrooms.

In order to further extend the positive impact of these schools, the buildings will have reinforcements that can withstand tough weather conditions. Additionally, Plan International will provide extreme weather training for students and teachers.

The students who lost their learning spaces in the Nepal earthquake will gain more than a building from this project.

They also represent increased safety for students. Schools not only provide education, but they also operate as a safe space. This rebuilding project could enact a decline in exploitation, child marriage and trafficking threats.

Charlotte Bellomy

Photo: CNN

gaza and west bank
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has stated that Palestinians in Gaza currently face an “enormous reconstruction task.” While rebuilding will probably be left up to humanitarian aid organizations, these organizations will depend on donations from the international community. International organizations play an important role in the economy of the Palestinian territories.

1. United States ($440 million)

Despite being in a difficult position in the Middle East, the United States is the largest donor to the Palestinian territories. On top of military aid to Israel, the U.S. has contributed humanitarian and economic recovery aid to the Gaza and West Bank in an attempt to alleviate poverty and suffering in those areas.

2. European Union ($370 million)

The European Union provides aid to the Palestinian territories in order to improve areas that are important in forming a thriving and peaceful state and relieving poverty. The European Union’s aid assists the Palestinian Authority in providing social assistance, supporting public service delivery, paying the salaries of public workers and supporting the private sector strengthens the rule of law and improves sanitation and water. Its total humanitarian assistance for Gaza and West Bank this year is at around $42.3 million. Two-thirds of this is allocated for emergency response and food assistance in Gaza.

3. UNRWA ($310 million)

UNRWA is seen mostly as a stabilizing agency in Gaza and West Bank, providing education, health care and food in those areas. Although Israel has accused the organization of being one-sided and members of U.S. Congress are concerned that U.S. aid to UNRWA could be funding Hamas, UNRWA has continued to provide services to Palestinian refugees in the Middle East.

4. United Kingdom ($136 million)

Although the United Kingdom believes that Israel has a right to self-defense, it is currently debating if they should still sell arms to Israel. Support from the United Kingdom for Gaza and West Bank is also large. In 2014, the United Kingdom will give $19 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority, which will be used to provide education needs as well as alleviate hunger and poverty in the Palestinian territories.

5. Japan ($76 million)

Japan is very outspoken in its support for the Palestinian territories. In July, Japan promised $5.5 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza to assist in distributing medicine, food and improving water and sanitation. Some of Japan’s 2014 bilateral aid spending will go to West Bank, improving public services in Jordan Valley and strengthening water infrastructure in Jericho City.

6. Germany ($55 million)

Germany’s aid programs in Gaza and West Bank highlight economic development, security, governance, environment and water infrastructure as important areas to work on. On top of strengthening institutions to provide and regulate water services, Germany works with the Palestinian Ministry of Women’s Affairs to empower women to take on management positions in the water sector. Germany also works with refugee communities in the West Bank and provides psychosocial support in Gaza’s schools.

7. France ($40 million)

Through the French Development Agency’s investments in water and energy, France has been supporting Gaza and West Bank humanitarian rebuilding efforts. Last year, France gave $25.7 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority. In July, President François Hollande stated that France would give almost $15 million to Gaza. Almost $11 million of that will go to the Palestinian Authority, and the rest will go to Gaza-based NGOs.

Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for UNRWA, said that the work ahead of them in reconstruction efforts is enormous. “Some estimates say as many as 10,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, affecting tens of thousands of people. So the catastrophic human displacement crisis is morphing into a homelessness crisis on a massive scale.”

– Colleen Moore

Sources: Devex, International Business Times
Photo: The Guardian

the assessing progress in haiti
Almost five years after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the United States Congress is using the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2014 to evaluate how U.S. funds are being used in reconstruction efforts in Haiti.

1. The legislation noted that conditions have not improved enough.

Although more than 90 percent of displaced people have been able to leave camps, around 171,974 people still remain in camps. On top of that, corruption is widespread, the business climate is not ideal, unemployment is high and the government is weak.

2. Aid has been slow to materialize.

The United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, has distributed only 31 percent of its reconstruction funds pledged to Haiti. The vision of thousands of new homes has not happened, which has forced earthquake victims to return to existing housing through a rental subsidy program. The June 2013 report by the GAO saw that goals were not being met and projects were very far behind.

3. The act gives Congress the power of monitoring assistance to Haiti.

The act allows Congress to supervise the $3.6 billion that has gone to Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act passed in the Senate 15 days earlier and it is awaiting President Obama’s signature to be signed into law.

4. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2014 entails the U.S. Secretary of State submitting an annual report to Congress.

The legislation requires the U.S. Secretary of State to submit an annual report on the condition of development projects and earthquake recovery in Haiti, no later than December 31 each year, through December 31, 2017.

5. The bill was sponsored by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Nelson, like many others, has expressed fear about the transparency in United States foreign aid, and the slow distribution of aid in Haiti. The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act received bipartisan support and the House passed it with no objection.

6. The legislation was applauded by several groups.

The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act has received support from many groups such as the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), which provides financial aid to grassroots organizations and agencies in Haiti.

7. The act states that certain promises are to be met by Haiti’s government.

The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act specifically addresses “transparency, a market economy, rule of law, and democracy.” The bill emphasizes that the situation in Haiti does not depict improved conditions and that the country is far behind in reconstruction.

“In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, our government laudably committed a significant amount of aid to help Haiti rebuild, but a lack of transparency made it difficult to understand how U.S. government funds were being used and if recovery efforts were making progress and were being measured,” stated the president of American Jewish World Service, Ruth Messinger. She believes that the “legislation embodies a new commitment to transparency, accountability, and good governance.”

Read more facts about the Haiti Earthquake.

– Colleen Moore

Sources: The Sentinel, McClatchy DC News
Photo: Washington Memo

Plans are currently in the works to rebuild Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, in the aftermath of the January 12, 2010 earthquake that reached a 7.0 on the Richter scale managed to destroy much of the city.

According to the Huffington Post, Harry Adam, the executive director of the company that handles public building and housing construction, claims the reconstruction will not be completed for another 10 years. The first half of the reconstruction will cost about $150 million, and officials have yet to release an estimate for the cost of the entire project.

While reconstruction may sound like a positive endeavor, the experience has not been so positive for many of the residents of Port-au-Prince. In fact, many of the city’s inhabitants were given only a day’s notice that their houses would be torn down before they were forced to evacuate from the area.

Consequently, many encampment zones have been popping up around the city. After these people were chased from their homes, they had nowhere to go and were forced to stay in friends’ apartments or live on the streets in tents and under tarps. Many were unable to gather their belongings before leaving, and when the bulldozers destroyed their homes, many were immediately plunged into poverty.

Not all government officials, however, are in favor of the capital’s reconstruction at the expense of its people. Senator Moise Jean-Charles told the Huffington Post that the construction company “only give[s] them a few minutes notice and then they start bulldozing? I consider that a crime. These families have nowhere to go and are now homeless again.”

Although some renters are being promised compensation, in order to receive the compensation they need to provide proof by way of receipts that they were paying all their housing expenses, which proves difficult for people who were forced to quickly evacuate.

– Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: The Huffington Post, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti
Photo: Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Mandela quotes
In 2006 South African President Thabo Mbeki presented the Nelson Mandela Memorial Lecture at the University of Witwatersrand.  Aware Mandela’s health was declining, Mbeki spoke of Mandela’s legacy, and the world that he will leave behind.

South African President Mbeki, who spoke of  “a good, a moral, a humane and a caring South Africa,” headed the memorial lecture.  He spoke of harmony, peace, and forgiveness as the tenants of the “new South Africa.”  Mbeki believes South Africa still needs a “Reconstruction and development of the soul,” as Mandela used to say.  Alluding to a new period of economic growth and infrastructure modernization, the South African President says Mandela’s message must not die with him.

“All revolutions…are in the end, and in essence, concerned with human beings and the improvement of the human condition…we must also say that human fulfillment consists of more than access to modern and effective services,” says Mbeki.  Modernization includes “the soul” of human society.  A society can build up infrastructure, grow GDP, and invite investment, but if the collective soul of society is sick, it can never advance.  Mbeki spoke of satisfying the spiritual needs of the people as well as the economic needs for survival.

The leader looks to capitalism as an economic provider, but not a spiritual provider.  “Unsure of what they stand for, people increasingly rely on money as the criterion of value,” says George Soros.  “People deserve respect and admiration because they are rich.  What used to be a medium of exchange has usurped the place of fundamental values, reserving the relationship postulated by economic theory.”

Critic of capitalism, Mbeki says laissez-faire income redistribution is unjust, prompting a “survival of the fittest” mentality in an unequal world.  Mbeki believes economic and social development relies on cooperation rather than competition, saying “nothing can come out of [competition] except the destruction of human society.”

President Thabo Mbeki says the best way to remember Mandela’s legacy is to band together, cooperating rather than competing, for a better South Africa.  Mandela spent his whole life nurturing the soul of human society, and now this job has been handed down to the South African people he loved so dearly.

Stephanie Lamm

Sources: International Relations and Cooperation, Nelson Mandela
Photo: Giphy.com

Poverty_in_Bosnia_Herzegovina
In 1992, a major conflict developed within Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbians and Croatians living in Bosnia hoped to make the country a part of their own. Led by Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbians and Bosnians raged a violent war, resulting in over 100,000 lives lost. Years later, the remnants of the war are still inflicting damage on the citizens of Bosnia.

In total, 100 billion United States dollars worth of damage was inflicted on the country during the three-year war. Nearly half of the Bosnia-Herzegovina population fled the country following the war. This impact has been significant, making BH one of the poorest countries in Europe.

The majority of the poverty resides in rural areas, where the failures of the market economy have become evident. The damage from the war had a profound impact on the Bosnian farmers. Nearly ninety percent of their livestock were killed in the struggle and over half of their assets lost. These misfortunes have resulted in an extremely high unemployment rate. For farmers in an area where cultivation and agriculture is already difficult to make a living off of, these blows have been crippling.

Another reason for the high poverty rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the focus on post-war reconstruction. The majority of the areas that received support and rebuilding were the highly populated urban areas of the country. This left the citizens residing in rural areas, which make up the majority of the population, on their own.

The post-war poverty struggles have had the most significant impact on the women of Bosnia. Unable to form working skills and lacking the same civil rights as men, many women have become susceptible and vulnerable to prostitution and trafficking. The impact on women has severely affected Bosnian families. The amount of households headed by a woman has increased by one to four following the war. These women are often unable to obtain suitable incomes to support their children.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is a perfect example of the long-term impacts war can have on an economy and a society. They continue to try to lift themselves out of the devastation today.

– William Norris

Sources: Rural Poverty Portal, Mtholyoke.edu
Photo: A Woman’s War

Angolan children in Uige Angola
Though Angola is one of Africa’s leading exporters of oil, the country ranks 148 out of 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. More than a decade has passed since a 27-year civil war displaced millions of Angolans and killed thousands more.

While the violent conflict involving three liberation movements and several foreign interventions has come to an end, many of Angola’s people continue to live in poverty.

Angola’s GDP has improved significantly since the war ended in 2002, growing 12 percent in 2012. Despite this progress, 67.4 percent of the country’s population lives on less than $2 a day, down from 70.2 percent in 2002. This reduction shows that poverty rates are decreasing, but the economy is growing at a much faster rate.

Foreign investors have provided funds for a national reconstruction program to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed during the civil war. The slums to which many fled during the war are being made over, and landmines are being cleared from formerly uninhabitable areas of the countryside.

While economic indicators seem to tout Angola’s transformation from a war-stricken wasteland to an up-and-coming African power, social indicators reveal that poverty remains an issue yet to be addressed.

President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos and the ruling MPLA party fiercely protect Angola’s image, controlling everything from the country’s economy to private media, but the peaceful image they project is far from the reality of most Angolan citizens.

While Angola’s investors and leaders enjoy immense material wealth, the country remains one of the most undeveloped states in the world. One in five children die before reaching the age of five, and almost 66 percent of people live in slums. Life expectancy hovers at around 51 years.

As Angola becomes an important part of the global economy, millions of its citizens continue to suffer from the long-lasting effects of a brutal civil war and a government focused more on abstract economic measures than true social change.

– Katie Bandera

Source: BBC, United Nations, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Reuters