Friday, February 27, 2015 EDITORIAL

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 EDITORIAL

Launch disaster kills 70: Stringent enforcement of safety code needed

Given enforcement of due attention to key safety parameters it is possible to avert most mishaps including waterway accidents, some people think that all events are predetermined because this fatalistic resignation stands them in good stead in passing the buck and shirk responsibility. Over the years many people have become victims of tragic waterway accidents in this country but mandatory safety rules do not seem to have been stringently enforced.
On 22 February disaster that befell luckless vessel MV Mostafa in the Padma River in Manikganj in which 70 people were killed. As water vessel M V Mostafa carrying around 200 passengers went down in the Padma around, more than a hundred passengers were either rescued or they swam ashore.
Common sense, which is at times uncommon, says that a shipping minister’s job is to look after national waterways, ports etc. But it is apparent that shipping minister Shahjahan Khan is often busy with sundry other assignments like threatening to stop supply of food to Khaleda’s office and urging Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to immediately arrest the BNP Chairperson. The incumbent Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan in 2009 was reported to have applied pressure on the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority to get 10 thousand driving licenses WITHOUT mandatory driving test ! After that year too Khan was reported to have demanded 24,000 thousand more driving licenses without test, ignoring the very fact that every holder of such licence could be a potential killer.
Khan’s covert approval for toll collection hit the news headlines in 2012. On July 22 a major English-language daily front-paged “Extortion at Ferry Terminal: Minister ‘backer’ of toll collection.” The report reads: Toll collection at Daulatdia ferry terminal on the other bank of the Padma River has its roots apparently in the ‘silent support’ of none other than Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan. “The minister, who is also the top boss of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation… did not take any steps in this regard, which has led to the rise of a large gang at the terminal. The gang, comprised of ruling party leaders and activists, police and staff of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation, illegally realises around Tk 5 lakh from vehicles every day. The minister, a lawmaker from Madaripur, himself does not deny his tilt towards the toll collectors.”
After such accidents, as a ritual of sorts in their part, newspaper editorials suggest appropriate measures, and we too do the same —- but more often than not sermons and admonitions go unheeded. The bottom line is: though it will sound like a cliché, safety code has to be complied with, scrupulously.  
----------------------------


The Press and Nation rise and fall together
The Press and the Nation rise and fall together; but newsmen here do not realise it.  Despite the adage that the crow does not eat crow’s flesh meaning a semblance of unity among the species, the Bangladesh journalists have proved the maxim “united we stand, divided we fall” incorrect over two decades ago when media persons were divided into distinct “pro-Awami League” and “pro-BNP” groups. In a Channel-i TV Tritiya Matra talk show in the third week of this February, participated by anchors who compère talk shows in different TV channels, except two, the rest 10 participants explicitly supported the government and virulently deprecate the opposition.
A yawning disuniting rift has surfaced in the Editors’ Council over a statement that has criticised the government for ‘interfering’ in the running of media amid the turbulent political situation in Bangladesh. The organisation of the print media editors issued the statement, signed by the Council’s General Secretary and the Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam, on 24 February. But its President and daily Samakal editor Golam Sarwar disagreed with the contents of the statement.
It read, “We have noticed with concern that it has recently become very difficult for newspapers and national media to work independently and neutrally. Journalists are being attacked and falling victim of violence in name of political programmes while attempts to curb the independence of the newspapers and media are being made. The government is interfering with the media’s rights. Independent and impartial news gathering and publishing are facing obstructions from the government and administration. Sometimes certain newspapers or television channels are being wrongfully labelled as the mouthpiece of a particular party or group,” said the statement.
With many custodial deaths, violent crimes, enforced disappearances of opposition political leaders of the BNP, killing of a journalist couple one of whom was said to have been working on an investigative report about the power gas sector, involvement of law enforcing agencies like RAB in political murders in Narayanganj, corruption of gargantuan proportions, huge stock market swindling and scams galore in government-owned banks, the Awami League (AL) rule of  Sheikh Hasina has been widely condemned in the media abroad, while at home a substantial proportion of the body politic [about 90 per cent people according to Org-Quest] by and large disapproved of her party.  
After the Liberation, AL’s unabashed abuse of power became agonisingly repressive; the demon of misrule, corruption and tyranny began staring the masses in the face. Brazen high-handedness of the government came at full blast: seasoned crusaders for democracy and progressive editors [the Holiday’s founding editor Enayetullah Khan was one of them] were harassed and imprisoned. The juggernaut of the AL government’s vehement ferocity ravaged the nascent print media like an avalanche when all except only four government-owned newspapers of the country were banned.
The bottom line is: there should be no creeping spectre of interfering with press freedom; all disputes should be settled at the Press Council which has to be strengthened with due seriousness.

Comment

Given enforcement of due attention to key safety parameters it is possible to avert most mishaps including waterway accidents, some people think that all events are predetermined because this fatalistic resignation stands them in good stead in passing the buck and shirk responsibility. Over the years many people have become victims of tragic waterway accidents in this country but mandatory safety rules do not seem to have been stringently enforced.
On 22 February disaster that befell luckless vessel MV Mostafa in the Padma River in Manikganj in which 70 people were killed. As water vessel M V Mostafa carrying around 200 passengers went down in the Padma around, more than a hundred passengers were either rescued or they swam ashore.
Common sense, which is at times uncommon, says that a shipping minister’s job is to look after national waterways, ports etc. But it is apparent that shipping minister Shahjahan Khan is often busy with sundry other assignments like threatening to stop supply of food to Khaleda’s office and urging Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to immediately arrest the BNP Chairperson. The incumbent Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan in 2009 was reported to have applied pressure on the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority to get 10 thousand driving licenses WITHOUT mandatory driving test ! After that year too Khan was reported to have demanded 24,000 thousand more driving licenses without test, ignoring the very fact that every holder of such licence could be a potential killer.
Khan’s covert approval for toll collection hit the news headlines in 2012. On July 22 a major English-language daily front-paged “Extortion at Ferry Terminal: Minister ‘backer’ of toll collection.” The report reads: Toll collection at Daulatdia ferry terminal on the other bank of the Padma River has its roots apparently in the ‘silent support’ of none other than Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan. “The minister, who is also the top boss of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation… did not take any steps in this regard, which has led to the rise of a large gang at the terminal. The gang, comprised of ruling party leaders and activists, police and staff of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation, illegally realises around Tk 5 lakh from vehicles every day. The minister, a lawmaker from Madaripur, himself does not deny his tilt towards the toll collectors.”
After such accidents, as a ritual of sorts in their part, newspaper editorials suggest appropriate measures, and we too do the same —- but more often than not sermons and admonitions go unheeded. The bottom line is: though it will sound like a cliché, safety code has to be complied with, scrupulously.  
----------------------------


The Press and Nation rise and fall together
The Press and the Nation rise and fall together; but newsmen here do not realise it.  Despite the adage that the crow does not eat crow’s flesh meaning a semblance of unity among the species, the Bangladesh journalists have proved the maxim “united we stand, divided we fall” incorrect over two decades ago when media persons were divided into distinct “pro-Awami League” and “pro-BNP” groups. In a Channel-i TV Tritiya Matra talk show in the third week of this February, participated by anchors who compère talk shows in different TV channels, except two, the rest 10 participants explicitly supported the government and virulently deprecate the opposition.
A yawning disuniting rift has surfaced in the Editors’ Council over a statement that has criticised the government for ‘interfering’ in the running of media amid the turbulent political situation in Bangladesh. The organisation of the print media editors issued the statement, signed by the Council’s General Secretary and the Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam, on 24 February. But its President and daily Samakal editor Golam Sarwar disagreed with the contents of the statement.
It read, “We have noticed with concern that it has recently become very difficult for newspapers and national media to work independently and neutrally. Journalists are being attacked and falling victim of violence in name of political programmes while attempts to curb the independence of the newspapers and media are being made. The government is interfering with the media’s rights. Independent and impartial news gathering and publishing are facing obstructions from the government and administration. Sometimes certain newspapers or television channels are being wrongfully labelled as the mouthpiece of a particular party or group,” said the statement.
With many custodial deaths, violent crimes, enforced disappearances of opposition political leaders of the BNP, killing of a journalist couple one of whom was said to have been working on an investigative report about the power gas sector, involvement of law enforcing agencies like RAB in political murders in Narayanganj, corruption of gargantuan proportions, huge stock market swindling and scams galore in government-owned banks, the Awami League (AL) rule of  Sheikh Hasina has been widely condemned in the media abroad, while at home a substantial proportion of the body politic [about 90 per cent people according to Org-Quest] by and large disapproved of her party.  
After the Liberation, AL’s unabashed abuse of power became agonisingly repressive; the demon of misrule, corruption and tyranny began staring the masses in the face. Brazen high-handedness of the government came at full blast: seasoned crusaders for democracy and progressive editors [the Holiday’s founding editor Enayetullah Khan was one of them] were harassed and imprisoned. The juggernaut of the AL government’s vehement ferocity ravaged the nascent print media like an avalanche when all except only four government-owned newspapers of the country were banned.
The bottom line is: there should be no creeping spectre of interfering with press freedom; all disputes should be settled at the Press Council which has to be strengthened with due seriousness.


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Greece and EU on collision course

Barrister Harun ur Rashid

Prime Minister leftist Alexis Tsipras won the election on 25th January pledging to undo several austerity measures that were a condition of Greece’s international bailout, putting his new government firmly on a collision course with its European partners.
In a speech to lawmakers, Tsipras reiterated that Greece would seek a bridge loan from its international creditors until June, refusing to accept an extension of its current bailout, as demanded by European partners.
“We know very well that talks won’t be easy and that we are facing an uphill path but we believe in our abilities,” he said.
The Greek government hinted that it may seek finance from the US, or China or Russia to bail them out from the tight grip of European Union.
Among the changes announced by Tsipras are raising the taxable income threshold; gradually increasing the minimum wage, starting next year; and dropping a recently introduced property tax. He also promised that the  retirement age wouldn’t be changed.

Athens wants change of terms
In laying out his government’s program in a speech before Parliament, Tsipras sought to tread a line between satisfying coalition lawmakers and supporters that his government will honour the anti-austerity promises while reassuring creditors that his radical leftist administration is prepared to move towards a compromise that keeps the economy afloat without further burdening European taxpayers.
Greece’s creditors - the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - want the new government to seek an extension beyond February 28 of the European portion of the country’s bailout of €240 billion.
However, the government has said that despite dwindling cash reserves, it is not interested in the latest portion of the bailout, a loan of €7 billion, because of what it sees as onerous conditions. Instead, it has said it wants a program between now and the end of May to bridge the gap and permission to raise short-term funding by issuing treasury bills.
”We only have one commitment: to serve the interests of our people, the good of society,” Mr Tsipras said, noting that it was an “irreversible decision” of his government to fulfill its campaign promises “in their entirety”.
Greece’s current €240 billion rescue runs out at the end of February, and the government has warned it could run out of money in weeks unless it can gain access to additional funds.
The Greek government also has said that it wants to change the terms of its funding agreement, which require the leftist government to adhere to austerity measures agreed to by its predecessors.
But Greece’s partners in the European Union ­ led by Germany ­ have insisted that promises made by the previous Greek government have to be kept if Athens wants to receive further assistance.

In search of a common ground
Greece and its international creditors started talks on 13th February on reforms needed to keep the country financed, increasing the possibility of a interim compromise deal between the euro zone and Athens.
The talks between euro zone finance ministers led by Dutch Minister and Greek Finance Minister need to be thrashed out. Finally a four-month extension  beyond February 28 was agreed upon on conditions that Greece should advise how reforms could be carried out within the framework of EU’s earlier terms and conditions of reforms.
Greece needs such an extension to ensure continued official financing at a time when market borrowing is too expensive for Athens and to be eligible for negotiations on more time to repay the euro zone loans already received.
Ms. Merkel made few concessions, saying Greece either has to request an extension for its bailout or demonstrate that the conditions attached to that program can be implemented by the end of the month.“Those are the only two possibilities,” she said.
Earlier Tsipras held talks with Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who presides over the regular meetings of his eurozone counterparts, in an effort to patch over some of disagreements. After that talk, the two agreed that technical work would begin to define “common ground” between measures mandated under the existing bailout and the plans of the new government in Athens.
If Greece wanted to remove a certain reform from the list agreed under the bailout, it would have to propose in its place a measure that would have a similar fiscal effect, he said.
The dispute between Athens and its European partners, together with the freezing of the long-delayed payout of a slice of Greece’s existing rescue funding ­ has raised questions over how much longer the country will be able to pay its bills. Diminishing tax revenues in the run-up to January elections have pushed Greece’s finances to a precarious point, according to government officials.

Catch 22 situation
The country’s growing cash crunch prompted Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services to cut Greece’s sovereign credit rating one notch further into junk territory.
If the Greek government runs out of cash, the country would be forced to default on its debts and reintroduce its own currency, thus abandoning the euro.  The EU is on a bind because if Greece leaves EU zone, then euro will be in trouble.
Compensation from Germany for the Second World War: Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras  cleverly sought to embarrass  Germany  for its tough stand against Greece by saying that  Germany has a “moral obligation” to claim reparations from Germany for the damages wrought by the Nazis during World War II.
Greece had “a moral obligation to our people, to history, to all European peoples who fought and gave their blood against Nazism,” he said in a key address to parliament.
Berlin has already sounded a firm “no” to requests for reparations nearly 70 years after the end of the war, but Tsipras and his radical left party have vowed to tackle the issue. The issue risks aggravating already strained ties between Athens and Berlin, as Tsipras bids to reverse austerity measures imposed by its international creditors.
“Our historical obligation is to claim the occupation loan and reparations,” the new prime minister said, referring to Germany’s four-year occupation of Greece and a war-time loan which the Third Reich forced the Greek central bank to give it, and which ruined the country financially.
Tsipras’s anti-austerity Syriza party claims Germany owes it about around €162 billion ($236 billion), about or around half the country’s public debt, which stands at over €315 billion. The loan to the Third Reich was for 476 million Reichsmarks, which was valued at $8.25 billion in a 2012 German Bundestag lower house of Parliament report.
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

Comment

Barrister Harun ur Rashid

Prime Minister leftist Alexis Tsipras won the election on 25th January pledging to undo several austerity measures that were a condition of Greece’s international bailout, putting his new government firmly on a collision course with its European partners.
In a speech to lawmakers, Tsipras reiterated that Greece would seek a bridge loan from its international creditors until June, refusing to accept an extension of its current bailout, as demanded by European partners.
“We know very well that talks won’t be easy and that we are facing an uphill path but we believe in our abilities,” he said.
The Greek government hinted that it may seek finance from the US, or China or Russia to bail them out from the tight grip of European Union.
Among the changes announced by Tsipras are raising the taxable income threshold; gradually increasing the minimum wage, starting next year; and dropping a recently introduced property tax. He also promised that the  retirement age wouldn’t be changed.

Athens wants change of terms
In laying out his government’s program in a speech before Parliament, Tsipras sought to tread a line between satisfying coalition lawmakers and supporters that his government will honour the anti-austerity promises while reassuring creditors that his radical leftist administration is prepared to move towards a compromise that keeps the economy afloat without further burdening European taxpayers.
Greece’s creditors - the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - want the new government to seek an extension beyond February 28 of the European portion of the country’s bailout of €240 billion.
However, the government has said that despite dwindling cash reserves, it is not interested in the latest portion of the bailout, a loan of €7 billion, because of what it sees as onerous conditions. Instead, it has said it wants a program between now and the end of May to bridge the gap and permission to raise short-term funding by issuing treasury bills.
”We only have one commitment: to serve the interests of our people, the good of society,” Mr Tsipras said, noting that it was an “irreversible decision” of his government to fulfill its campaign promises “in their entirety”.
Greece’s current €240 billion rescue runs out at the end of February, and the government has warned it could run out of money in weeks unless it can gain access to additional funds.
The Greek government also has said that it wants to change the terms of its funding agreement, which require the leftist government to adhere to austerity measures agreed to by its predecessors.
But Greece’s partners in the European Union ­ led by Germany ­ have insisted that promises made by the previous Greek government have to be kept if Athens wants to receive further assistance.

In search of a common ground
Greece and its international creditors started talks on 13th February on reforms needed to keep the country financed, increasing the possibility of a interim compromise deal between the euro zone and Athens.
The talks between euro zone finance ministers led by Dutch Minister and Greek Finance Minister need to be thrashed out. Finally a four-month extension  beyond February 28 was agreed upon on conditions that Greece should advise how reforms could be carried out within the framework of EU’s earlier terms and conditions of reforms.
Greece needs such an extension to ensure continued official financing at a time when market borrowing is too expensive for Athens and to be eligible for negotiations on more time to repay the euro zone loans already received.
Ms. Merkel made few concessions, saying Greece either has to request an extension for its bailout or demonstrate that the conditions attached to that program can be implemented by the end of the month.“Those are the only two possibilities,” she said.
Earlier Tsipras held talks with Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who presides over the regular meetings of his eurozone counterparts, in an effort to patch over some of disagreements. After that talk, the two agreed that technical work would begin to define “common ground” between measures mandated under the existing bailout and the plans of the new government in Athens.
If Greece wanted to remove a certain reform from the list agreed under the bailout, it would have to propose in its place a measure that would have a similar fiscal effect, he said.
The dispute between Athens and its European partners, together with the freezing of the long-delayed payout of a slice of Greece’s existing rescue funding ­ has raised questions over how much longer the country will be able to pay its bills. Diminishing tax revenues in the run-up to January elections have pushed Greece’s finances to a precarious point, according to government officials.

Catch 22 situation
The country’s growing cash crunch prompted Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services to cut Greece’s sovereign credit rating one notch further into junk territory.
If the Greek government runs out of cash, the country would be forced to default on its debts and reintroduce its own currency, thus abandoning the euro.  The EU is on a bind because if Greece leaves EU zone, then euro will be in trouble.
Compensation from Germany for the Second World War: Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras  cleverly sought to embarrass  Germany  for its tough stand against Greece by saying that  Germany has a “moral obligation” to claim reparations from Germany for the damages wrought by the Nazis during World War II.
Greece had “a moral obligation to our people, to history, to all European peoples who fought and gave their blood against Nazism,” he said in a key address to parliament.
Berlin has already sounded a firm “no” to requests for reparations nearly 70 years after the end of the war, but Tsipras and his radical left party have vowed to tackle the issue. The issue risks aggravating already strained ties between Athens and Berlin, as Tsipras bids to reverse austerity measures imposed by its international creditors.
“Our historical obligation is to claim the occupation loan and reparations,” the new prime minister said, referring to Germany’s four-year occupation of Greece and a war-time loan which the Third Reich forced the Greek central bank to give it, and which ruined the country financially.
Tsipras’s anti-austerity Syriza party claims Germany owes it about around €162 billion ($236 billion), about or around half the country’s public debt, which stands at over €315 billion. The loan to the Third Reich was for 476 million Reichsmarks, which was valued at $8.25 billion in a 2012 German Bundestag lower house of Parliament report.
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.


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 VIEW POINT

Democracy in Delhi

Mashaal Gauhar in Lahore

While elections in Pakistan routinely result in the same amazingly durable cast of the usual suspects, the vibrancy of India’s democracy was amply demonstrated with the resounding defeat of the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to the Aam Admi Party (AAP) in Delhi. In an unprecedented election result, the AAP won a staggering 67 of 70 seats and over half the vote share while the BJP managed to gain just 32%.
Though not a large state with a population of 15 million, the Delhi result represents a significant erosion of the BJP’s once unquestionable grasp on power. More telling was the failure of Congress to secure a single seat, starkly highlighting the fading clout of the Gandhi dynasty and the declining fortunes of a party with a 130-year-old legacy.

Focus on corruption & communalism
The AAP’s precipitous rise is indicative of the disillusionment with traditional party rhetoric which never seems to match reality. The AAP’s focus on poverty alleviation allied with party leader Arvind Kejriwal’s calls to root out corruption from government has resonated deeply with the people. In addition, the resurfacing of the BJP’s hard-line elements have caused tension with the country’s Muslim and Christian communities. According to Delhi police, at least nine churches have been attacked between 2012-2014. In contrast, the AAP takes a more embracing stance towards India’s aggrieved minorities, with Kejriwal’s condemnation of a recent attack on a Christian school in Delhi.
In the wake of his party’s victory, former tax inspector Kejriwal asserted, “the people of Delhi have achieved something spectacular with the help of people, we will make Delhi a city which both poor and rich will feel proud of.” His appointment as Chief Minister of Delhi signals a new chapter in Indian political history where a party of protest against an iniquitous status quo has loudly made its presence felt.
Though Pakistan suffers from a similar sense of malaise with unceasing corruption, increasing wealth inequality, sectarian strife and a lack of basic infrastructure, the country’s political system has never been able to effect the same sort of seismic power shifts through its democratic process.
Charismatic leadership by Imran Khan has seen significant ground gained by the Tehreek-e-Insaaf party in the most adverse conditions where the levers of power have been zealously guarded by the traditional ruling parties and ‘establishment’. The headway gained by Tehreek-e-Insaaf is a heartening signal of the emergence of viable alternatives for a country dominated by dual-party politics. Whether Pakistan’s treacherous political landscape allows for any meaningful pluralism still remains to be seen.

Win for democracy
Indian Prime Minister Modi’s recent phone call to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wishing Pakistan good luck in the World Cup does not betray the ongoing tension between the two nuclear neighbours. Polarization over the seemingly intractable Kashmir dispute was evidenced when BJP student activists disrupted a seminar on Kashmiri self-determination at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi on Friday 13th February.
However, it is hoped that the upcoming visit of Indian foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, to Pakistan will help to quell border violence. These talks were scheduled to take place last year but were canceled by the Indian government. The escalation in firing from both sides along the border was addressed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last month who urged both countries to resume dialogue.
In spite of the historic animosities between the two neighbours, Delhi’s recent election result represents a win for democracy and serves as an inspiration to Pakistan where real democracy centered on the welfare of citizens still remains an elusive goal.


Economic growth isn’t enough

Jessica Faieta in New York

Recent new data show a worrying picture of Latin America and the Caribbean. Income poverty reduction has stagnated and the number of poor has risen — for the first time in a decade — according to recent figures from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
This means that three million women and men in the region fell into poverty between 2013 and 2014. Given the projected economic growth for this year, at 1.3 per cent according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) figures, our U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) estimates suggest that in 2015, more than 1.5 million people will also fall into poverty by the end of this year.
We need to invest in the skills and assets of the poor and vulnerable — tasks that may take years, and in many cases, an entire generation.
They could be coming from the nearly 200 million vulnerable people in the region — those who are neither poor (living on less than four dollars a day) nor have risen to the middle classes (living on 10-50 dollars a day). Their incomes are right above the poverty line but still too prone to falling into poverty as soon as a major crisis hits, as another recent UNDP study showed.

Up and down the poverty line
Our analysis shows a clear pattern: what determines people to be “lifted from poverty” (quality education and employment) is different from what “avoids their fallback into poverty” (existence of social safety nets and household assets).
This gap suggests that, alone, more economic growth is not enough to build “resilience”, or the ability to absorb external shocks, such as financial crisis or natural disasters, without major social and economic losses. We need to invest in the skills and assets of the poor and vulnerable — tasks that may take years, and in many cases, an entire generation.

Exclusion beyond income
We simulated what would happen if the region grew during 2017-2020 at the same rate as it did during the last decade — that is 3.9 percent annually — yet our estimates show that fewer people in Latin America and the Caribbean would be lifted from poverty than in the previous decade.
While an average of 6.5 million women and men in the region left poverty every year during 2003 and 2012, only about 2.6 million a year would leave poverty behind (earning more than four dollars a day) between 2017 and 2020.
Clearly, ‘more of the same’ in terms of growth — and public policies — will no longer yield ‘more of the same’ in poverty and inequality reduction, according to our analysis. There are two reasons: easy sources of increased wages are declining and fiscal resources, crucial to expand social safety nets, have shrunk.
What lies ahead are harder challenges: addressing exclusion, discrimination and historical inequalities that are not explained by income alone.
Fundamentally, progress is a multidimensional concept and cannot simply reflect the idea of living with less or more than four or 10 dollars a day. Wellbeing means more than income, not a consumerist standard of what a “good life” entails.
These are central elements to our next Human Development Report for Latin America and the Caribbean, which we are now preparing. It will also include policy recommendations that help decision makers lead an agenda that not only focuses on growth recovery and structural adjustment, but also redefines what is progress, development and social change in a region of massive inequalities and emerging and vulnerable middle classes.
[ Jessica Faieta is U.N. Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.]
— IPS

Comment

Mashaal Gauhar in Lahore

While elections in Pakistan routinely result in the same amazingly durable cast of the usual suspects, the vibrancy of India’s democracy was amply demonstrated with the resounding defeat of the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to the Aam Admi Party (AAP) in Delhi. In an unprecedented election result, the AAP won a staggering 67 of 70 seats and over half the vote share while the BJP managed to gain just 32%.
Though not a large state with a population of 15 million, the Delhi result represents a significant erosion of the BJP’s once unquestionable grasp on power. More telling was the failure of Congress to secure a single seat, starkly highlighting the fading clout of the Gandhi dynasty and the declining fortunes of a party with a 130-year-old legacy.

Focus on corruption & communalism
The AAP’s precipitous rise is indicative of the disillusionment with traditional party rhetoric which never seems to match reality. The AAP’s focus on poverty alleviation allied with party leader Arvind Kejriwal’s calls to root out corruption from government has resonated deeply with the people. In addition, the resurfacing of the BJP’s hard-line elements have caused tension with the country’s Muslim and Christian communities. According to Delhi police, at least nine churches have been attacked between 2012-2014. In contrast, the AAP takes a more embracing stance towards India’s aggrieved minorities, with Kejriwal’s condemnation of a recent attack on a Christian school in Delhi.
In the wake of his party’s victory, former tax inspector Kejriwal asserted, “the people of Delhi have achieved something spectacular with the help of people, we will make Delhi a city which both poor and rich will feel proud of.” His appointment as Chief Minister of Delhi signals a new chapter in Indian political history where a party of protest against an iniquitous status quo has loudly made its presence felt.
Though Pakistan suffers from a similar sense of malaise with unceasing corruption, increasing wealth inequality, sectarian strife and a lack of basic infrastructure, the country’s political system has never been able to effect the same sort of seismic power shifts through its democratic process.
Charismatic leadership by Imran Khan has seen significant ground gained by the Tehreek-e-Insaaf party in the most adverse conditions where the levers of power have been zealously guarded by the traditional ruling parties and ‘establishment’. The headway gained by Tehreek-e-Insaaf is a heartening signal of the emergence of viable alternatives for a country dominated by dual-party politics. Whether Pakistan’s treacherous political landscape allows for any meaningful pluralism still remains to be seen.

Win for democracy
Indian Prime Minister Modi’s recent phone call to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wishing Pakistan good luck in the World Cup does not betray the ongoing tension between the two nuclear neighbours. Polarization over the seemingly intractable Kashmir dispute was evidenced when BJP student activists disrupted a seminar on Kashmiri self-determination at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi on Friday 13th February.
However, it is hoped that the upcoming visit of Indian foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, to Pakistan will help to quell border violence. These talks were scheduled to take place last year but were canceled by the Indian government. The escalation in firing from both sides along the border was addressed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last month who urged both countries to resume dialogue.
In spite of the historic animosities between the two neighbours, Delhi’s recent election result represents a win for democracy and serves as an inspiration to Pakistan where real democracy centered on the welfare of citizens still remains an elusive goal.


Economic growth isn’t enough

Jessica Faieta in New York

Recent new data show a worrying picture of Latin America and the Caribbean. Income poverty reduction has stagnated and the number of poor has risen — for the first time in a decade — according to recent figures from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
This means that three million women and men in the region fell into poverty between 2013 and 2014. Given the projected economic growth for this year, at 1.3 per cent according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) figures, our U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) estimates suggest that in 2015, more than 1.5 million people will also fall into poverty by the end of this year.
We need to invest in the skills and assets of the poor and vulnerable — tasks that may take years, and in many cases, an entire generation.
They could be coming from the nearly 200 million vulnerable people in the region — those who are neither poor (living on less than four dollars a day) nor have risen to the middle classes (living on 10-50 dollars a day). Their incomes are right above the poverty line but still too prone to falling into poverty as soon as a major crisis hits, as another recent UNDP study showed.

Up and down the poverty line
Our analysis shows a clear pattern: what determines people to be “lifted from poverty” (quality education and employment) is different from what “avoids their fallback into poverty” (existence of social safety nets and household assets).
This gap suggests that, alone, more economic growth is not enough to build “resilience”, or the ability to absorb external shocks, such as financial crisis or natural disasters, without major social and economic losses. We need to invest in the skills and assets of the poor and vulnerable — tasks that may take years, and in many cases, an entire generation.

Exclusion beyond income
We simulated what would happen if the region grew during 2017-2020 at the same rate as it did during the last decade — that is 3.9 percent annually — yet our estimates show that fewer people in Latin America and the Caribbean would be lifted from poverty than in the previous decade.
While an average of 6.5 million women and men in the region left poverty every year during 2003 and 2012, only about 2.6 million a year would leave poverty behind (earning more than four dollars a day) between 2017 and 2020.
Clearly, ‘more of the same’ in terms of growth — and public policies — will no longer yield ‘more of the same’ in poverty and inequality reduction, according to our analysis. There are two reasons: easy sources of increased wages are declining and fiscal resources, crucial to expand social safety nets, have shrunk.
What lies ahead are harder challenges: addressing exclusion, discrimination and historical inequalities that are not explained by income alone.
Fundamentally, progress is a multidimensional concept and cannot simply reflect the idea of living with less or more than four or 10 dollars a day. Wellbeing means more than income, not a consumerist standard of what a “good life” entails.
These are central elements to our next Human Development Report for Latin America and the Caribbean, which we are now preparing. It will also include policy recommendations that help decision makers lead an agenda that not only focuses on growth recovery and structural adjustment, but also redefines what is progress, development and social change in a region of massive inequalities and emerging and vulnerable middle classes.
[ Jessica Faieta is U.N. Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.]
— IPS


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