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Living Conditions in Angola
Angola, the seventh-largest country in Africa, has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Since 2013, its economy has been booming and both international and domestic investments have been on the rise. Although Angola’s economy has the potential to become an economic powerhouse in Africa, the international community has become concerned with the poverty rates and overall income inequality in Angola. Despite Angola’s rapidly growing economy, it has a 26 percent unemployment rate and 36 percent of the Angolan population lives below the poverty line. The living conditions in Angola are indicative of an economy that is not yet diversified and a country with extreme income inequality. Here are 10 facts about the living conditions in Angola.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Angola

  1. Low Life Expectancy and Causes: Angola has a very low life expectancy. The life expectancy in Angola is one of the lowest in the world, and Angola has the 12th highest number of infant mortalities every year. The leading causes of death revealed that the low life expectancy is a result of preventable causes like diarrhoeal diseases, malaria, neonatal disorders and influenza.
  2. Literacy: A third of all Angolans are illiterate. Although primary education is compulsory in Angola, 33.97 percent of Angolans are illiterate and literacy rates have been on a steady decline since 2001. Very few individuals go on to college, leaving their economy stagnated with a brain drain and a lack of available employees for white-collar jobs that require a deep understanding of their field.
  3. Clean Water Availability: Angola has a lack of clean water resources. Forty-four percent of Angolans do not have access to clean water, according to the United Nations Children’s Agency. The Public Water Company in the capital of Angola, Luanda, reports that although the daily need for water is well over a million cubic meters of clean water per day, the public water company EPAL can only supply 540,000 cubic meters of clean water per day. This leaves many without clean water. Even if EPAL were to have the capacity to supply all residents with clean water, it does not have the infrastructure to do so.
  4. Access to Electricity: Few Angolans have access to electricity. In rural areas, only 6 percent of Angolans have access to electricity. In urban areas, 34 percent of Angolans have electricity, leaving 3.4 million homes without power.
  5. Income Inequality: There is a severe gap between wealth in urban and rural areas. Income inequality in Angola is one of the highest in the world at 28.9 percent. Poverty is highest in rural areas where 94 percent of the population qualifies as poor. This is contrasted by the fact that only 29.9 percent of the urban population qualifies as poor.
  6. Public School Enrollment: There is low enrollment in public schools and UNESCO reports that enrollment has been on a steady decline since 2009. The low enrollment rate may be because many schools and roads suffered during Angola’s civil war and because many schools are located in inconvenient and rural locations with poor sanitation and untrained teachers.
  7. Unemployment: Unemployment is very high in Angola. Angolan unemployment has increased by 1.7 percent since 2018, growing to 30.7 percent. The youth unemployment rate is at an all-time high of 56.1 percent.
  8. Oil-based Economy: The economy is not very diversified. Angola is an oil-rich country and as such, more than one-third of the Angolan economy comes from oil and over 90 percent of Angolan exports are oil. Because the oil sector has been public for so long, the economy was prone to contractions and inflations along with global fluctuation in oil prices. This has left the stability of the Angolan economy at the mercy of oil prices, which have been rapidly fluctuating, destabilizing the economy.
  9. Food Insecurity: Many Angolans suffer from severe food insecurity. In fact, 2.3 million Angolan citizens are food insecure, and over 1 million of those individuals are children under 5 years old. Because of government redistribution of land, many farmers have lost their best grazing land and their arable land for crops, leading to a lack of meat and produce.
  10. Unpaid Debts: Unpaid debts threaten to dampen economic growth. After a long economic slump, the Angolan economy has further suffered due to unpaid loans. Twenty-seven percent of total Angolan credits are loans that are defaulted or close to being defaulted, and 16 percent of the largest bank in Angola, BIA, are not being reimbursed.

Although Angola has a multiplicity of problems related to poverty to solve, the country is not beyond help. Angola’s new President has secured loans from China, garnered aid from the International Monetary Fund and promised to allow local businesses to partner with international customers and trade partners to increase macroeconomic growth. As Angola diversifies its economy in 2020, the President of Angola states that economic growth and stability is on the horizon. Angola’s economy is receiving aid from a number of nations, including China, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the African Development Bank, which will no doubt prove to be a successful investment.

Denise Sprimont
Photo: Flickr

The World Economic Forum and Global Poverty
In the realm of international relations, there are countless organizations that have complex acronyms and unclear operations. The biggest and best-known organizations are the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Trade Organization (WTO) and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which often obfuscate lesser-known organizations, such as the World Economic Forum. The World Economic Forum and global poverty link which this article will explore while addressing the organization’s purpose.

What is The World Economic Forum?

The World Economic Forum is an international organization that emerged in 1971, congregating leaders in politics, business, culture and society to address issues and facilitate solutions on a global, regional and industrial scale. The pinnacle of the organization occurs every January in the form of an annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland at the organization’s headquarters. Global elites gather at the Swiss ski resort and discuss all manner of topics, ranging from the latest in technology and innovation to critical issues like rising global income inequality and global poverty generally.

Despite its standing as an independent nonprofit, people often confuse or associate the World Economic Forum with the United Nations, partially due to its focus on the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These ambitious objectives range from broad, borderline idealistic ones such as No Poverty and End Hunger to Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and Reduced Inequalities.

What Does The World Economic Forum Do?

In places like the World Economic Forum, world leaders and officials access the progress of the SDGs and evaluate what their statuses are and what they need for the future. For instance, a September 2018 article emphasized the success of the World Economic Forum’s initiative in reducing poverty, reducing the total amount of people living on less than $1.90 a day to 655 million people, or about 9 percent of the world’s population. The article cautions against too much hope, however, forecasting that the goal of ending poverty by 2030 will fall 480 million people short, or about 6 percent of the population. These figures come from a World Bank report portioning some of the blame on many countries failing to meet a U.N. target of 0.7 percent of economic output on aid, a sentiment that the London-based Overseas Development Institute supports.

How does the World Economic Forum intend to combat this shortcoming? In an October 2019 announcement, the forum proclaimed a theme for the January 21-24, 2020 meeting: Stakeholders in a Cohesive and Sustainable World. Reinforcing its commitment to the SDGs and the Paris agreement of 2015, participants will solidify a meaning to ‘stakeholder capitalism,’ a principle that companies should meet the needs and requirements of all of its stakeholders, including the general public. The World Economic Forum will emphasize six areas including Ecology, Economy, Technology, Society, Geopolitics and Industry, in an application of this philosophy. All of this will align with the forthcoming Davos Manifesto 2020, mirroring the Davos Manifesto of 1973, which founder and Chairman Klaus Schwab believes will “reimagine the purpose and scorecards for governments and businesses.”

Conclusion

Some criticize the World Economic Forum for being an aloof, exclusive assortment of billionaires and powerful people, exactly the kind of people global inequality directly benefited. Participants at Davos do seem to be aware of this, identifying rising inequality, protectionism and nationalism as byproducts of the globalization that they supported. Klaus Schwab, The World Economic Forum’s founder, realizes that globalization created many winners, himself included, but that the losers now need recognition and assistance. It can be difficult to attribute any direct action to the World Economic Forum, as its participants act mostly independently of it, though informed by discussions and insights gained at it. However, given the overall rhetoric and specific support of the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals, the World Economic Forum and global poverty clearly intertwine as the organization positions itself as a beneficial actor for the entire globe.

– Alex Meyers
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Corruption in Greece
When the Greek economy began to publicly collapse in 2009, it started to drown in a depression the likes of which many could not handle. Instead, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund stepped in with the largest bailout in the history of global economics. Greece got a second chance for a price of 240 billion euros. Many expected this to mark an end to illicit financial practices in Greece, however, in the past decade, corruption has managed to stay alive and well in a country with a new lease on life. These are 10 facts about corruption in Greece to help better understand what is happening and why.

10 Facts About Corruption in Greece

  1. The Price One Pays for a Civilized Society: Oliver Wendell Holmes was an American Supreme Court Justice and not an expert on the Greek economy, however, his definition of taxes shall be important in these 10 facts about Greek corruption. It expresses the importance of paying taxes to maintain a civilized society. Tax fraud is rampant in Greece. When millions of citizens lie about their income to get away with spending next to nothing on taxes and large corporations do the same (albeit on a larger scale), the tax burden often shifts to the middle class. When life in the middle class becomes unaffordable, poverty grows and the problem seems increasingly unsolvable, eroding the public’s trust in its own institutions. Former U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Carmona, stated that “Tax fraud perpetuates income inequality. A government that does not do everything it can to fight tax fraud is a government that is not doing everything it can for economic equality.”
  2. Crime and Lack of Punishment: Millions of Greeks take no issue with lying about their income due to the fact that there are little to no consequences for it. Greek citizens and officials expect their names to disappear in a void of red tape and missing files, and it works more often than not. However, despite the general sentiment that corrupt officials can get away with their crimes, former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, leader of the New Democracy Party, began actively pursuing financial corruption in his government. Perhaps the most notable of his achievements was the arrest of former defense minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos. Prosecutors had reportedly given him a 20-year prison sentence after they determined that he might have stolen close to a billion euros from defense contracts.
  3. Fakelakia: Corruption thrives in places that have normalized it. Generally, bribes in Greece happen through small envelopes stuffed with cash to expedite services from household utility maintenance to hospital care. The practice is so common that fakelakia, meaning little envelopes in Greek, has become shorthand for bribes. Anyone can do it in Greece, from high-level officials to everyday citizens. In an effort to combat this, a young woman named Kristina Tremonti started an anonymous whistleblower website in 2012 for people to call out corruption without risking persecution. According to Tremonti, “names are not revealed for the whistleblower’s protection. Once a significant number of complaints have been lodged against a particular clinic or doctor the authorities are promptly notified.”
  4. Justice is for Sale: It is not just everyday Greek citizens who have become all too familiar with bribery. According to the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption group, the Greek judicial system needs more clearly defined rules concerning professional conduct and integrity for judges and prosecutors in the judicial system. As the system is now, it does not resolve corporate regulation cases in an efficient manner. When it does, “over a third of companies perceive the independence of courts as fairly or very bad.” In addition, almost half of all Greek citizens believe corruption to be a common practice in Greek courts.
  5. Corruption is Classic: While overhauling a nation’s government to root out corruption is certainly a victory, as Samaras began doing in 2014, the process can be a bit messier than most people might want to deal with. When a corrupt system is the only system with which people are familiar and it goes away, the immediate aftermath is a nation of citizens who do not know what to do next or how they should do it. Older generations suffer frustration that they can no longer fully utilize a system they have known all their lives. A Greek senior citizen reported to the Guardian that, “Nothing gets done anymore because it’s so much more difficult to bribe civil servants… Now nothing works.”
  6. Expectance of Failure Can Ensure Failure: The desire to hold on to as much money as possible is not the sole motivation for the tax fraud crisis in Greece, it is also about withholding that tax money so that a government the people perceive as untrustworthy cannot spend it. Without public funds to spend on health care, social security and school systems, all public services suffer as a result, thus reinforcing the public’s belief that the government doesn’t have what it takes to help them. In the early years after the financial crisis, under-the-table payments to doctors and clinics totaled 300 million euros or $334,949,950.66 U.S. Greece has made some progress in recent years, though, and now dental and health care costs have reduced by half.
  7. Many are Guilty of Corruption: Tax dodgers or corporations are not the only offenders of bribery in Greece. Corruption is so widespread in Greece that even rehab networks and humanitarian organizations have a history of doing things under the table for the sake of efficiency. The former president of Kethea, the largest rehab network in Greece, even went on the record saying, “Even agencies like Okana, dealing with the very sensitive issue of drug addiction, have been found to have abused funds on a massive scale.”
  8. For the Record, There is not Always a Record: When people do not include economic activities in national records to avoid paying indirect taxes to the proper authorities, they are part of a country’s shadow economy. Obviously, funds that go into a shadow economy are nearly impossible to track, but the majority of funds in the shadow economy are the result of undeclared employment. Getting payment under the table means fewer taxes for everyone involved. The issue may not seem too pressing, however “various studies have calculated that the shadow economy makes up between 20 to 30 percent of GDP [in Greece], an unusually high percentage for a developed country.” To put that into solid numbers, the shadow economy took up 22.4 percent of the total economy in 2015. That means 40 billion euros went unaccounted for that year.
  9. Holding Greece’s Corruption Accountable: Through these are 10 facts about corruption in Greece, financial and political corruption are prevalent all over the world. That is why a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) called The Combating Global Corruption Act proposes requiring the U.S. State Department to rank countries on a three-tier system. Countries compliant with anti-corruption regulations would rank as a first-tier country whereas countries like Greece with a history of apathy towards rooting out corruption would rank as a third-tier country. This bill would let U.S. officials put money into anti-corruption policies with seized resources. Essentially, those who helped perpetuate global poverty would have to pay to clean up their own mess.
  10. Ninety Years of Financial Instability and Still Going Strong: Greece gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830. The Greece that the world knows today is almost two centuries old and for 90 years of that time, it was either in the middle of restructuring debt or in default.

Despite Greece’s challenges with corruption, it is slowly moving in the right direction through Kristina Tremonti’s whistleblower website, government efforts and the reduction of costs for health care services. With the implementation of The Combating Global Corruption Act in the U.S. and Greece’s internal efforts to reduce corruption, these 10 facts about corruption in Greece may disappear into the past.

 – Nicholas Smith
Photo: Flickr

The Fall of Venezuela’s Oil-Based Economy
Currently, Venezuela is in an economic crisis. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Venezuela’s inflation rate will exceed 10 million percent by the end of 2019. This high inflation has destroyed Venezuela’s economy, causing poverty and unemployment rates to rise. In turn, it has also created mass food and medical supply shortages across the nation. Venezuela was not always in a state of crisis; it was once a thriving country backed by a booming oil-based economy. If one understands the fall of Venezuela’s oil-based economy, they will know how Venezuela’s current crisis came to be.

Fruitful Origins

Back in the 1920s, people found some of the world’s largest deposits of oil in Venezuela. Upon this discovery, Venezuela embarked on the path of a petrostate. As a petrostate, Venezuela’s economy relies almost entirely on oil exports. The government overlooked domestic manufacturing and agriculture, choosing to import basic goods instead of producing them within Venezuela. With strong support for an oil-based economy, Venezuela rode on its economic boom until the end of the worldwide energy crisis of the 1970s.

The 1970s energy crisis involved international oil shortages due to interrupted supplies from the Middle East. In place of the Middle East, Venezuela became one of the top oil suppliers worldwide. Oil prices thus skyrocketed due to limited suppliers and oil production in Venezuela increased to meet rising demand. Venezuela added about $10 billion to its economy during the energy crisis, providing enough wealth to cover the importation of basic goods. It was even able to begin more social welfare programs.

The Fall

Once the energy crisis ended in the early 1980s and oil prices stabilized again, Venezuela’s economy saw its first notable decline. Oil production did not decrease in spite of lowered oil prices and demand, resulting in a capital loss for Venezuela’s economy. The production of oil is an expensive endeavor which requires high capital investment in the hopes of that even higher sales can offset the investment. Therefore, while oil production remained high, Venezuela failed to build off of the investment, losing capital immediately.

This loss of capital marked Venezuela’s oil-based economy’s initial fall, as Venezuela risked its well-being on the unstable oil market. Just prior to the drop in oil prices, Venezuela went into debt from purchasing foreign oil refineries. Without investing in domestic agriculture or manufacturing, the Venezuelan government became economically strapped; it could no longer pay for its imports and programs, and especially not its new refineries.

In order to pay for its expenses, Venezuela had to rely on foreign investors and remaining national bank reserves. Inflation soared as the country drilled itself further into debt. It was not until the early 2000s that oil prices began to rise again and Venezuela could once more become a profitable petrostate — in theory. Under the regime of Hugo Chávez, social welfare programs and suspected embezzlement negated the billions of dollars in revenue from peaked oil exports.

By 2014, when oil prices took another harsh drop worldwide, Venezuela did not reserve enough funds from its brief resurgence of prosperity. Ultimately, the country fell back into a spiral of debt and inflation.

Lasting Effects

The fall of Venezuela’s oil-based economy sent shockwaves throughout its population, affecting poverty and unemployment rates and causing mass food and medical shortages. Estimates determined that in April 2019, Venezuela’s poverty rate reached nearly 90 percent nationwide. A notable factor of its widespread poverty, some suggest that Venezuela’s unemployment rate was 44.3 percent at the start of 2019.

Unemployment is rapidly increasing in Venezuela as both domestic and foreign companies lay off workers — with some companies offering buyouts or pension packages, and others just firing workers without warning. As Venezuela falls further into debt and its inflation rises, there is not enough demand within the country for foreign companies to stay there.

As previously mentioned, the earlier Venezuelan government chose to rely on imports rather than domestic production for its basic goods. Now, in 2019, the country suffers from its past mistakes. Unable to afford its imports, food and medical supply shortages are rampant across Venezuela. According to recent United Nations reports, over a 10th of the nation’s population is suffering from malnourishment. In addition, malaria — which the country virtually eliminated several decades prior — is reappearing as there are more than 400,000 cases nationwide.

A Way Out

While the fall of Venezuela’s oil-based economy may be detrimental to the nation’s overall stability, there is a way out of ruin: the International Monetary Fund, an international agency that exists to financially aid countries in crisis. In the fight against global poverty, the IMF is a vital tool that can prevent countries from reaching an irreparable state.

If Venezuela defaults on its debt and seeks funding from the IMF, Venezuela would be able to invest in domestic agriculture and other infrastructure. Therefore, if the oil industry continues to decline, there will be a fallback for supplies and potential exports. While this is not a panacea to the fall of Venezuela’s oil-based economy, it is a way for the nation to prepare for any future declines in oil prices and begin to work toward prosperity.

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Flickr

Save the State Protests

Liberia, or officially the Republic of Liberia, is a small country located on the western coast of Africa. Coming from a rich history of international involvement, the nation holds the title of the first African state to declare independence and, therefore, is the oldest African modern republic. The Save the State protests are currently gripping Liberia.

On June 7, 2019, in the capital city of Monrovia, ongoing tensions and disappointment in the current regime reached a head, resulting in the largest anti-government protest since the end of the civil war in 2003. This was the first of the Save the State protests, which a coalition of politicians, professionals, students and regular citizens called the Council of Patriots organized.

The main goal of the demonstration was to protest high inflation rates and governmental corruption. These two points of frustration have been amplified during the current presidential administration, as these were the two major campaign promises behind the 2018 election of President George Weah. However, these issues merely represent the breaking point of decades-long tensions and it is necessary to understand the socio-economic situation in Liberia which has caused so much unrest, especially as protests continue.

A Damaged Economy

Liberia has continued to feel the effects of two civil wars that took place between 1989 and 2003 and resulted in the death of a quarter of a million people. The wars crippled the Liberian economy by 90 percent and the economy has struggled to fully recover ever since. It suffered another blow with the outbreak of Ebola from 2014 to 2015 that claimed the lives of thousands.

After these crises, foreign aid flowed into the country to help in the restoration of the economy and offer assistance to those struggling in the aftermath. But, as international funding began to dissipate – most recently with the withdrawal of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in 2018 – the country has struggled to develop on its own.

The country continues to rank among the poorest nations in the world, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook. The fact that inflation reached a record high of 28.5 percent in 2018 and an International Monetary Fund growth rate projection of only 0.4 percent in 2019 compounds this.

Disillusioned Voters

The socio-economic situation of sustained, long-term poverty and poor living conditions due to rising prices and financial mismanagement have escalated since the election of President Weah. This is as a result of the lack of changes he made following his campaign promises. His connection to the people of Liberia as a former football star who achieved international acclaim initially spurred people’s excitement for his presidency.

However, hope for improvement has soured as prices continue to rise, fiscal growth continues to slow and the president’s personal wealth appears to be growing. This dissatisfaction brewed alongside a huge scandal where $102 million in new banknotes was allegedly missing. Although no one found evidence to support this claim in an investigation, people cited accuracy and completeness as major issues in the central bank’s records.

As 64 percent of Liberians continue to live below the poverty line and the people have planned more Save the State for the coming months, it is clear that long-term poverty engenders long-term instability and, therefore, a constant state of tension. This kind of unstable environment becomes a powder keg for tensions to erupt, making the future of these peaceful protests uncertain.

Despite President Weah’s opposition to the demands of the protestors thus far, their message remains clear: they want to save their state and improve the lives of their compatriots. It is a prime example of citizens wanting their voices be heard.

– Alexandra Schulman
Photo: Flickr