Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA

Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA

Muscat Daily on June 12, 2019, commented on Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA as “Peace in the world’s least peaceful region (MENA) improved marginally last year, based on improvements in 11 countries.” Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA is not alone for Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE preceded it in the ranking.

Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA

Oman has been ranked fourth among the MENA countries and 69th in the world on the Global Peace Index (GPI) 2019. Oman earned 1.953 points this year.

The report has been published by the Australia-based Institute of Economics and Peace. Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008. It is joined at the top by New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, and Denmark.

Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA

Bhutan has recorded the best improvement and is now the 15th most peaceful nation in the world. According to the report, Qatar made the next best improvement. Economic strains can increase the risk of unrest by fomenting internal divisions and civil and political unrest, the report stated.

According to the report, Afghanistan is now the least peaceful country in the world, replacing Syria, which is now the second least peaceful. South Sudan, Yemen, and Iraq comprise the remaining five least peaceful countries.

Peace in the world’s least peaceful region (MENA) improved marginally last year, based on improvements in 11 countries. The regional average improved in all three GPI domains in 2019, with reductions in population displacement, political terror, terrorism, deaths from internal and external armed conflicts, military spending, and armed services personnel.

In the 2019 GPI, 86 countries improved while 76 countries deteriorated, with the global average GPI score improving by -0.09 per cent.
The 2019 GPI finds that the world became more peaceful for the first time in five years, with the average level of country peacefulness improving slightly by 0.09 per cent.

Of the 23 GPI indicators, eight recorded an improvement, 12 had a deterioration, with the remaining three indicators not registering any change over the past year.

This is the thirteenth edition of the GPI, which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness.

Advertisements
Costs of Corruption running deep in the MENA

Costs of Corruption running deep in the MENA

The IMFBlog on May 28, 2019, is about a world phenomenon that seems to still be present in all walk of life throughout the world. The Costs of Corruption running deep in the MENA, have been amplified by the hydrocarbon-related rentier economies to a point where only a defossilisation of the respective economies could somehow reduce their extent. In the meantime, costs of corruption running deep in the MENA seem to go unattended to. Anyway here is this IMFBlog article.

Corruption and Your Money

The costs of corruption run deep. Your taxpayer dollars are lost in different ways, siphoned off from schools, roads, and hospitals to line the pockets of people up to no good.

Equally damaging is the way it corrodes the government’s ability to help grow the economy in a way that benefits all citizens.

And no country is immune to corruption. Our Chart of the Week from the Fiscal Monitor analyzes more than 180 countries and finds that more corrupt countries collect fewer taxes, as people pay bribes to avoid them, including through tax loopholes designed in exchange for kickbacks. Also, when taxpayers believe their governments are corrupt, they are more likely to evade paying taxes.

The chart shows that overall, the least corrupt governments collect 4 percent of GDP more in tax revenues than countries at the same level of economic development with the highest levels of corruption.

A few countries’ reforms generated even higher revenues. Georgia, for example, reduced corruption significantly and tax revenues more than doubled, rising by 13 percentage points of GDP between 2003 and 2008. Rwanda’s reforms to fight corruption since the mid-1990s bore fruit, and tax revenues increased by 6 percentage points of GDP.

These are just two examples that demonstrate that political will to build strong and transparent institutions can turn the tide against corruption. The Fiscal Monitor shines a light on fiscal institutions and policies, like tax administration or procurement practices, and show how they can fight corruption.

The costs of corruption run deep.

Where there is political will, there is a way

Fighting corruption requires political will to create strong fiscal institutions that promote integrity and accountability throughout the public sector.

Based on the research, here are some lessons for countries to help them build effective institutions that curb vulnerabilities to corruption:

Invest in high levels of transparency and independent external scrutiny. This allows audit agencies and the public at large to provide effective oversight. For example, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Paraguay are using an online platform that allows citizens to monitor the physical and financial progress of investment projects. Norway has developed a high standard of transparency to manage its natural resources. Our analysis also shows that a free press enhances the benefits of fiscal transparency. In Brazil, the results of audits impacted the reelection prospects of officials suspected of misuse of public money, but the impact was greater in areas with local radio stations.

Reform institutions. The chances for success are greater when countries design reforms to tackle corruption from all angles. For example, reforms to tax administration will have a greater payoff if tax laws are simpler and they reduce officials’ scope for discretion. To help countries, the IMF has built comprehensive diagnostics on the quality of fiscal institutions, including public investment management, revenue administration, and fiscal transparency.

Build a professional civil service. Transparent, merit-based hiring and pay reduce the opportunities for corruption. The heads of agencies, ministries, and public enterprises must promote ethical behavior by setting a clear tone at the top.

Keep pace with new challenges as technology and opportunities for wrongdoing evolve. Focus on areas of higher risk—such as procurement, revenue administration, and management of natural resources—as well as effective internal controls. In Chile and Korea, for example, electronic procurement systems have been powerful tools to curtail corruption by promoting transparency and improving competition.

More cooperation to fight corruption. Countries can also join efforts to make it harder for corruption to cross borders. For example, more than 40 countries have already made it a crime for their companies to pay bribes to gain business abroad under the OECD anti-corruption convention. Countries can also aggressively pursue anti–money laundering activities and reduce transnational opportunities to hide corrupt money in opaque financial centers.

Curbing corruption is a challenge that requires persevering on many fronts, but one that pays huge dividends. It starts with political will, continuously strengthening institutions to promote integrity and accountability, and global cooperation.

Related Links:
Corruption Disruption

Popular Posts

Tackling corruption in government could save $1 trillion

Tackling corruption in government could save $1 trillion

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), keeps on pressing on all economic and policy issues of the day in every country. Doing so for all these years, it has, in the end, amassed such knowledge and experience that enabled it to have a worldwide view of the latest trends. Tackling corruption in government could save $1 trillion in taxes, but not only that as we were recently told, it could also resolve many of the plethora of all related issues throughout all regions in the developing and developed world alike. A point in case is elaborated on this particular article that is republished here for its obvious importance, especially for those developing countries of the MENA region. 

Tackling Corruption in Government

By Vitor Gaspar, Paolo Mauro and Paulo Medas

No country is immune to corruption. The abuse of public office for private gain erodes people’s trust in government and institutions, makes public policies less effective and fair, and siphons taxpayers’ money away from schools, roads, and hospitals.

While the wasted money is important, the cost is about much more. Corruption corrodes the government’s ability to help grow the economy in a way that benefits all citizens.

But the political will to build strong and transparent institutions can turn the tide against corruption. In our new Fiscal Monitor, we shine a light on fiscal institutions and policies, like tax administration or procurement practices, and show how they can fight corruption.

Political will can turn the tide against corruption.

Corruption helps evade taxes

We analyze more than 180 countries and find that more corrupt countries collect fewer taxes, as people pay bribes to avoid them, including through tax loopholes designed in exchange for kickbacks. Also, when taxpayers believe their governments are corrupt, they are more likely to evade paying taxes.

We show that overall, the least corrupt governments collect 4 percent of GDP more in tax revenues than countries at the same level of economic development with the highest levels of corruption.

A few countries’ reforms generated even higher revenues. Georgia, for example, reduced corruption significantly and tax revenues more than doubled, rising by 13 percentage points of GDP between 2003 and 2008. Rwanda’s reforms to fight corruption since the mid-1990s bore fruit, and tax revenues increased by 6 percentage points of GDP.


Corruption also prevents people from benefiting fully from the wealth created by their country’s natural resources. Because the exploration of oil or mining generates huge profits, it creates strong incentives for corruption. Our research shows that resource-rich countries, on average, have weaker institutions and higher corruption.

Corruption wastes taxpayers’ money

The Fiscal Monitor shows that countries with lower levels of perceived corruption have significantly less waste in public investment projects. We estimate that the most corrupt emerging market economies waste twice as much money as the least corrupt ones.

Governments waste taxpayers’ money when they spend it on cost overruns due to kickbacks or bid rigging in public procurement. So, when a country is less corrupt, it invests money more efficiently and fairly.

Corruption also distorts government priorities. For example, among low-income countries, the share of the budget dedicated to education and health is one-third lower in more corrupt countries. It also impacts the effectiveness of social spending. In more corrupt countries school-age students have lower test scores.

Corruption is also a problem in state-owned enterprises, such as some countries’ oil companies, and public utilities like electric and water companies. Our analysis suggests that these enterprises are less efficient in countries with high levels of corruption.

Where there is political will, there is a way

Fighting corruption requires political will to create strong fiscal institutions that promote integrity and accountability throughout the public sector.

Based on the research, here are some lessons for countries to help them build effective institutions that curb vulnerabilities to corruption:

Invest in high levels of transparency and independent external scrutiny. This allows audit agencies and the public at large to provide effective oversight. For example, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Paraguay are using an online platform that allows citizens to monitor the physical and financial progress of investment projects. Norway has developed a high standard of transparency to manage its natural resources. Our analysis also shows that a free press enhances the benefits of fiscal transparency. In Brazil, the results of audits impacted the reelection prospects of officials suspected of misuse of public money, but the impact was greater in areas with local radio stations.

Reform institutions. The chances for success are greater when countries design reforms to tackle corruption from all angles. For example, reforms to tax administration will have a greater payoff if tax laws are simpler and they reduce officials’ scope for discretion. To help countries, the IMF has built comprehensive diagnostics on the quality of fiscal institutions, including public investment management, revenue administration, and fiscal transparency.

Build a professional civil service. Transparent, merit-based hiring and pay reduce the opportunities for corruption. The heads of agencies, ministries, and public enterprises must promote ethical behavior by setting a clear tone at the top.

Keep pace with new challenges as technology and opportunities for wrongdoing evolve. Focus on areas of higher risk—such as procurement, revenue administration, and management of natural resources—as well as effective internal controls. In Chile and Korea, for example, electronic procurement systems have been powerful tools to curtail corruption by promoting transparency and improving competition.

More cooperation to fight corruption. Countries can also join efforts to make it harder for corruption to cross borders. For example, more than 40 countries have already made it a crime for their companies to pay bribes to gain business abroad under the OECD anti-corruption convention. Countries can also aggressively pursue anti–money laundering activities and reduce transnational opportunities to hide corrupt money in opaque financial centers.

Curbing corruption is a challenge that requires persevering on many fronts, but one that pays huge dividends. It starts with political will, continuously strengthening institutions to promote integrity and accountability, and global cooperation.

Watch a conversation with the authors:

Related links:
Shining a Bright Light into the Dark Corners of Weak Governance and Corruption
Corruption Disruption
Corruption in Latin America: Taking Stock
The cries Algeria’s youth for a profound change must be heard

The cries Algeria’s youth for a profound change must be heard

Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul, Economist, Expert international. © DR at AP.P

In this long plea where he begins by paying homage to the Algerian youth, Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul analyses the handicaps, both political and economic, which overwhelm Algeria despite its immense potential. Then projecting himself into the perspective, he evokes the scenarios of the future and pleads with a lot of arguments and a great conviction, for “an indispensable global reform” (…) by flattening the differences through dialogue and consultation. 

So, here is this contribution from PR Abderrahmane Mebtoul, Economist, International Expert as posted on AFRICAPRESSE. PARIS on March 5, 2019, in French.

The strong mobilization of 22 February and 1st March implies a good analysis of the aspirations of civil society. Certainly not the rentier living in the salons, but the one that we saw on the street, the youth who does not want to be recovered.

The lesson given to the leader of the Workers’ Party, which was booed, should serve as lessons. At a time when the world is experiencing political, social and economic upheavals, where Algeria is being challenged by some 70% of its population claiming genuine democratic reforms – a condition of harmonious and sustainable development in the face of the relentless globalization – we must pay a great homage to our youth who have not experienced the drama of the years 1990-1999, and yet want a change.

Let us salute its political maturity and peaceful marches without violence, where political parties in all tendencies have played no role in mobilizing. Let us also salute our security forces who have managed in a modern way these events which must be meditated profoundly by the parties of power and their satellites – weakly representative, not to say non-representative – as well as by any of the opposition, which was off-track.

A partisan system disconnected from the society

According to some sources, the number of political parties is approaching sixty, often with unnatural alliances, whereas in democratic countries these alliances are made by ideological affinity and a clear programme.

Also, except for ten of them, the others show a formal and ostentatious presence in the elections… Furnishing the emptiness, powerless almost always to act on the course of things and to articulate clearly the concerns and aspirations of the real society.

Because of the internal crises that periodically shake them, the discredit that strikes the majority of them, the defiance of them and the partisan activism, the current political formations today have a low capacity to carry out a work of mobilization and efficient management, to contribute significantly to the political socialising, and thus to make an effective contribution to the work of national recovery.

As proof, the last parliamentary elections, both 2012 and 2017: considering the null and official data of the Ministry of the Interior, the 3/4 of the Algerian population are not represented by the elected officials.

The discredit which strikes political groups, both from the power and from the opposition, must give way to credible, non-artificially created formations, subject therefore to the possibility of an objective assessment of the status and role which must be theirs in a society that aspires to join the ranks of democratic societies. These formations will have to be more capable of mobilizing society than in the years to come, reforms – long deferred to guarantee a fictitious, transient social peace – will be very painful.

An atomized civil society with an informal dominant

Civil society in Algeria is shattered. Contrary to the accepted and illusory ideas of past years, in a context of social disintegration and “satellite TV” youth, most official religious brotherhoods have less and less impact.

On the other hand, the confusion that currently prevails in the national association movement makes it difficult to devise a strategy to take into account and mobilize it. Its diversity, the politico-ideological currents that pass through it and its complex relationship to society and the State add to this confusion and make imperative an urgent reflection for its restructuring, its current state reflecting the major fractures have occurred in the national political system. Thus, it will soon be divided into four fundamentally different civil societies: three at the level of the real sphere and one dominant in the informal sphere.

The most important segment of this civil society, the privileged and often unique interlocutor of the public authorities, is constituted by appendages of power, located on the periphery of the parties in power and whose officials are sometimes deputies, senators, living in large part of the transfer of the rentier annuity. In fact, those who pride themselves on mobilizing millions of voters live in air-conditioned lounges, disconnected from society.

The second segment is that of a civil society frankly rooted in the Islamist movement, with there also appendages of legal Islamic parties.

The third segment is that of a civil society claiming the democratic movement. Poorly structured, despite the relatively large number of associations that comprise it, and undermined by contradictions in relation, among others, with the question of leadership. For these first three civil societies, their impact on the turnout in the last local and legislative elections, despite their accession, was relatively low.

We finally have an informal, unorganized, totally atomized civil society. It is by far the most active and important, as well as we saw on February 22nd and the 1st March 2019, with precise codifications forming a dense mesh.

Without the intelligent integration of this informal sphere – not by authoritarian bureaucratic measures, but by the involvement of society itself – it will not be necessary to rely on a real dynamism of civil society. Because when a state wants to impose its own rules disconnected from social practices, the society has its own rules that allow it to function with its own organizations.

Three scenarios for Algeria from 2019 to 2025

The dynamism of the partisan system and of civil society in order to make it an effective instrument of the framing of forces and a powerful lever of their mobilization is likely to succeed only if the movement that composes it, is not in the service of ambitions personal unmentionable and sometimes dubious.

We can foresee the different scenarios possible depending on the state of the power relations at the internal level, considering the evolution of the strategy of the actors at the external level.

The first scenario: failure of the reform process.

The conditions of failure are real and combined in the legal and economic environment in case of lack of visibility and coherence in the economic and social approach. Risk accentuated by the annuitants at the internal level and certain segments of external actors maintaining informal relations and who are not interested in deepening the reforms (loss of contracts in case of transparent tender notices).

On the other hand, the ambiguity of legal texts allows for the legal blockade of reforms, while the multiplicity of speakers allows for the confusion of prerogatives. Other parameters contributing to the risk of failure: the fragility of internal private investment capacity, stabilization plans that have made forced savings to the detriment of the average layers that have impoverished; the mistrust generated by internal and external investors through continual changes in legislation, while the stability must be rigorous; populist speeches on account settlements on the sensitive subject of taxation, and finally the high pressure of a fraction of the internal and external actors linked to the interests of the annuity, that to preserve protectionist postures because the liberalisation Destroyed a fraction of the annuity.

The second scenario is the status quo.

It would lead to the regression for both social and physical, the world being in perpetual motion. This hypothesis will prepare the conditions of failure by imputing the current social conditions (poverty and unemployment) to reforms, which, except macroeconomic stabilization, are timid in Algeria (microeconomic and institutional reforms, Issues of future years), or to technical bodies while petrol is the absence of political will (neutralization of power relations).

This status quo will participate in a programmed failure and would be suicidal for the future of the economy and Algerian society. This is maintained by the confusion of some concepts assimilating false reforms to the sale of national heritage.

Thus, according to the proponents of this analysis, the reforms would be dictated by the major global oil companies, the IMF and the World Bank. A posture reminding us of the Times of the Inquisition against those who advocated the market economy and the establishment of democracy.

The third scenario is the success of solidarity-specific political and economic reforms as contained in the legal, economic and political environment of Algeria, thanks to a youth increasingly aware of the country’s future issues.

The rupture of the previous system, in view of historical experiences, only occurred through violent but short-lived revolutions. Successful experiences have shown that the gradualist pathway inserting the Conservatives into a reformist dynamic has involved a profound redevelopment of the structures of power and new people acquired in the reforms with cultural demystification, the devastating rumours in the opinion are only the translation of the weakness of the communication system, especially in Algeria where the oral route is predominant.

There is, therefore, therefore, an urgent need for close cooperation between the supporters of the reforms, the political parties, the associations and, in general, all civil society, the administration, public and private enterprises, the collectives of Workers, trade unions, flattening differences through dialogue and consultation.

The goal will be to make the strategic objective emerge through a symbiosis of individual interests and collective interest, showing that the medium-term winners of the reforms will be more numerous than the short-term losers.

The support of external actors for their interests in order to avoid the negative effects of the Destabilisation, but above all the mobilisation of the favorable internal actors because no country can make the reforms in our place, the fate of Algeria is in the hands of Algerian and Algerian.

Algeria, an indispensable actor for Euro-Mediterranean and African stability, can lead to a process of inseparable reforms of a profound democratisation of its society. In the business world, feelings do not exist, only reforms will allow economic growth and the reduction of the nagging problems of unemployment and poverty. Any obstacle to these reforms only decreases the rate of growth, increases the country’s insecurity and, Over there, contributes to social and political destabilization. Time being money, any delay in the process of reforms could result in more important social costs that could be supported by the most disadvantaged.

A strategic vision to surpass a multifaceted crisis

It is time to have foresight in the medium and long term, in order to correct the mistakes of the past, like navigating on sight by ignoring the aspirations of society.

The strategic question is: shall we go towards a real salutary change by reorganizing society, due to the global geostrategic upheavals announced between 2019-2025-2030 or, thanks to the passive distribution of the annuity, shall we simply replaster, postponing the inevitable social tensions?

These are important enough reasons to seriously consider reorganizing the partisan system and civil society so that they can fulfil the function that is them in any democratic political system that reconciles modernity with our authenticity, far from administrative injunctions.

The redesign of the state, including administration, integration of the informal sphere, reforms of financial, fiscal, customs and socio-educational systems, new mechanisms of regulation and social cohesion, optimisation of the effect of public expenditure and the new management of infrastructures based on the rationalization of budget choices… and pose the problem of the future of the Algerian economy so as to reconnect it with growth and, consequently, to alleviate unemployment.

As I have often recalled, in this month of February 2019 – and this is not today – Algeria is going through a crisis of governance, which implies having a strategic vision of the future of Algeria on the 2030 horizon.

Algeria needs for its national and international credibility, geostrategic tensions at the level of the region and the inevitable budgetary tensions between 2019-2020-2025 to bring all its children into their diversity and not to divide us, requiring a minimum of economic and social consensus that could not mean unanimism, a sign of decadence of any society in order to stabilise the social body.

The reforms – beyond the natural resistance of the pensioners – by rehabilitating good governance (the fight against corruption, in concrete terms and not only by legislation) and human capital, are the basis for development. The cries of youth in these months of February and March 2019 for a profound change must be heard so that Algeria can meet the challenges of the 21st century characterized, in this constantly interdependent world, by major geostrategic upheavals in the security, economic, political, social and cultural fields.

Faced with the inevitable budgetary tensions and the geostrategic stakes of 2019-2025-2030, the success of the reforms must be based on four axes: gathering, rebasing of the state, democratisation and economic reforms accommodating economic efficiency and profound social justice.

A Chaotic Tale of a Process Now Being Dismantled

A Chaotic Tale of a Process Now Being Dismantled

(Apparently)

Lost in Globalisation

By Baher Kamal on February 28, 2019

Lost in Globalisation

Do not panic! This is not about telling you how your bank accounts and pension funds have been used to finance the production of nuclear bombs (they call it ‘investment’).

Nor it is about the four dozens of major and minor wars that the so-called “traditional weapons,” which are being manufactured and exported by civilised, democratic countries, continue to systematically fuel.

It is not about the irrational depletion of natural resources, the destruction of forests, the massive provision of arms to “rebel groups’ to burn entire villages, rape girls and women, and recruit child soldiers in more than one African country, for the sake of ‘cleaning’ the mines area for big multinationals to continue extracting precious minerals which serve to produce more (and more expensive) smartphones. Not even it is about how today’s youth will see more plastic than fish in all seas.

More: this article will not focus on the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of so many mediocre apprentices of self-called ‘politicians’, who embrace dangerous fanaticisms while, in some ‘very democratic’ countries, calling their own selves “centre-right” (some dare saying they are simply “centre”), slipping further into ‘dictato-cracy.’

Nor it is about those so many States which were once net exporters of emigrants (Italy, Spain, Greece, etc), but which now stand as die-hard enemies of immigrants… all under the pretext of the “crisis” they have created and the resulting high unemployment rates, and “national security,” post-truth arguments.

Let alone big powers such as the United States, which have been entirely built up by migrants at the easy cost of exterminating the original, native populations. What to say about Canada? And Australia…?

Now those migrants who are forced to flee created armed conflicts, impoverishment, climate change (which they did not contribute to generate), are easy prey to arbitrary measures – walls, fences, and shame pacts to send them to detention centres and slavery markets in countries like Libya.

So What?

So, what the hell is this article all about? Well, it is about a scarce handful of examples on the biggest damages the so-called globalisation has caused to human species.

Let’s begin with the term globalisation itself, a process that was somehow formalised in the beginning of the 80’s with the performance on power stage of British “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher and US actor who became President, Ronald Reagan.

The Iron Lady-Premier and the Actor-President represented the visible face of the also so-called ‘neo-liberalism’, which in poor, simple words has led to the steady dismantlement of all aspects of painfully gained social welfare services – from public healthcare, to retirement pensions, through the suppression of workers rights, labour unions, public education and a very long etcetera. In short, it was about turning back to the Victorian era.

Instead, neo-liberalism rapidly paved the way to a wild wave of privatisation, the supremacy of the uncontrolled marked rules, record-high youth unemployment rates, abysmal inequalities…

Let alone infinite greed, including the unleashing of endless wars, for the sake of keeping happy gigantic weapons industry and the business of ‘reconstruction’ of destroyed countries, all in exchange of their generous funding for electoral campaigns.

This Anglo-saxon neo-liberal hegemony soon contagioned European States, which rapidly adapted their ‘values’ to those new ones coming from Washington and London. Business as usual for Europeans, some would say.

Rather than providing a longish list of documented, figure-supported examples of what such process has meant at the macro and micro-economic levels, this quick, chaotic tale modestly pretends to focus on some of its biggest impacts on human beings. Human beings that are now considered as mere numbers of ‘voters’ (mind you not any more ‘electors’).

Voracity

One point is that the term globalisation has consistently been systematically given positive connotations, while it could be rightfully interpreted as a process of gradual “monetisation” and even “dollaristaion” of livelihoods, and soon became an aggressive ‘massification’ of imported habits, blind consumption, hysterical greed, irrational imitation, the death of what used to be considered ‘truth’ (the post-truth era), the dominance of disinformation and misinformation (the ‘fake news’).

In the course of this process, the so-called “low classes” have been provided with easy bank credits to purchase houses, last model of cars, travel across the world… Psychologically, this led them to believe that they had become “middle class” and later on “high middle class”, thus approaching the enviable status of “high class.”

Then came the crisis. With it, the most vulnerable groups, falsely transformed in privileged groups, lost everything—the loans, the houses, the cars, travelling, etc.

The result

One of the most dramatic consequences is the loss of identity—both individual and collective identity. Simply, identity has become ‘virtual.’

Such a dangerous consequence is now being rapidly aggravated by the arrival of hi-tech products—robots replacing humans.

Sorry for this quick, chaotic tale about some of the most perilous impacts of the globalisation process that, according to some interpretations, would be now dismantled. The fact is such massification appears to have no end.

In exchange, the ‘voters’ hare now being told that they will receive, sooner or later, a basic income (also called unconditional basic income, citizen’s income, basic income guarantee, universal basic income or universal demo-grant), which implies that all citizens or residents of a country will regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, in addition to any income received from elsewhere.

According to its defenders, this would be financed by the profits of publicly owned enterprises. A difficult exercise given that the private sector has been taking over the roles of the states, which have been gradually dismantled.

This way, the citizens will be kept alive, will complain less about the evident failure of governments to create job opportunities, while doing what they are expected to do: that’s to consume all what industries produce and, by the way, continue playing their role as ‘voters’ (not electors, mind you again!).

Baher Kamall is an Egyptian-born, Spanish national, secular journalist, with over 45 years of professional experience — from reporter to special envoy to chief editor of national dailies and an international news agency. Baher is former Senior Advisor to the Director general of the international news agency IPS (Inter Press Service) and he also contributed to prestigious magazines such as GEO, Muy Interesante, and Natura, Spain. He is also publisher and editor of Human Wrongs Watch.

In North Africa’s political spheres, stepping down from rule

In North Africa’s political spheres, stepping down from rule

In North Africa’s political spheres, Algeria’s Bouteflika reaching his mandate end by April, stepping down from rule looks more like a bet placed on his health condition than any constitutional arrangement.

In next door Tunisia, the president has a history of brain strokes that also placed him on a wheelchair.

Youssef Cherif wrote on January 9th, 2019 that Less than a year before the next general election, scheduled for late 2019, Tunisia is again in crisis. The Arab world’s most promising democratic experiment can still avert a political meltdown, but it needs help.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi attends a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of Tunisia’s independence at the Carthage palace in Tunis, on March 20, 2016, as the country reels from a series of deadly jihadist attacks that have battered its already struggling economy. Last year, IS claimed attacks on the Bardo museum in Tunis and a popular resort hotel, killing 59 tourists in total, and the suicide bombing of a bus that killed 12 presidential guards. On March 7, 2016 dozens of jihadists mounted a dawn assault on security installations in Ben Guerdane, which is near the border with unrest-plagued Libya. On March 19 Tunisian authorities said two “terrorists” were killed close to the southern town of Ben Guerdane near the border with Libya. / AFP / FETHI BELAID (Photo credit should read FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

Can Tunisia’s Democracy Survive?

TUNIS – When anti-government protests swept across the Arab world in 2011, Tunisia seemed poised to emerge better off. Yet, by 2013, the democratic process was almost derailed by unfulfilled economic promises, political and ideological disagreements, and foreign meddling. Fortunately, local and international mediation then helped to avert catastrophe and pave the way for elections.

But less than a year before the next general election, scheduled for late 2019, the country is again in crisis. This time, however, mediators are either disinterested in solutions or part of the problem. In a world focused on the war in Syria, instability in Libya, Russian assertiveness, European uncertainty, and the tweets of an isolationist American president, Tunisia has faded from the headlines. Tunisia’s democratic breakdown would, one assumes, attract international attention; but by then, it will be too late.

The current stalemate began soon after the December 2014 presidential election. In February 2015, President Beji Caid Essebsi, founder of the secular political party Nidaa Tounes, struck a deal with Rached Ghannouchi, president of the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, to form a coalition government. But soon after, Nidaa Tounes was beset by infighting and, in January 2016, dozens of the party’s MPs resigned in protest, giving Ennahda a parliamentary majority.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, Essebsi’s protégé and appointee, has been challenging the 92-year-old president’s inner circle, throwing Nidaa Tounes further into chaos. By mid-2018, as the party’s turmoil peaked, Ghannouchi was supporting Chahed rather than the president’s son and groomed heir, Hafedh Caid Essebsi. The president, reacting either to a sense of betrayal or out of fear for his legacy, responded by renewing his criticism of Ennahda and by launching an investigation into allegations that Ghannouchi’s party is tied to terrorism.

Moreover, Essebsi and his clan embraced populist rhetoric and restarted courting the anti-Islamist Saudi-Emirati-Egyptian axis. Essebsi even endorsed a law to give men and women equal inheritance rights, a measure that is supported by many secular Tunisians and praised by the international community, but loathed by Ennahda’s conservative base.

Amid this brewing political turmoil, rumors of coups and attempted coups have intensified. In June 2018, Tunisia’s interior minister was fired over an alleged coup attempt. In November, Nidaa Tounes’ secretary-general accused Chahed of planning his own putsch. In December, Qatari-backed news outlets warned of a Saudi-Emirati plot to stage a coup in Tunisia. And every now and then, Tunisian social media buzzes with unfounded rumors of army movements. It seems as if trial balloons are being floated.

In a well-functioning democracy, an early election would have been called in September 2018, when the governing coalition felt apart, and perhaps as early as 2016, when Nidaa Tounes lost its majority in parliament. But most Tunisian political parties suffer too much dissension or are too weak to run. And the current ructions are even jeopardizing the work of the Independent High Authority for Elections.

There is now a real risk that the 2019 elections will be postponed. For a fragile democracy led by a nonagenarian, saddled by an endless state of emergency, and lacking a constitutional court, this delay may prove fatal.

Tunisia’s political crisis is occurring alongside an economic one. As Tunisia has moved from a controlled economy under dictatorship to a transitional one marked by austerity measures and structural reforms dictated by the International Monetary Fund, corruption has spread and investors have fled. Today, with public debt, unemployment, and inflation growing, strikes and protests are increasingly common, and support for democracy – frequently portrayed as the cause of the current tumult – has dwindled.

Ennahda, an economically liberal party that draws important support from informal economic circles and outside the public sector, backed the IMF’s economic reforms; the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), which represents public-sector workers, did not. Leftists and many remnants of the former regime were also opposed. Chahed, meanwhile, was aggressive in implementing the IMF-backed reforms, in part to win support from abroad. But his approach put the UGTT, alongside old-guard politicians and some key socioeconomic groups, on the same side as Essebsi. In fact, the UGTT led the mediations during the crisis of 2013.

Foreign influence is another destabilizing factor. Today, Tunisia is a geopolitical battlefield for regional powers like Egypt, Turkey, and the Gulf states, and Tunisian politicians occasionally take sides to suit their suitors’ goals. Broadly speaking, Saudi Arabia and the UAE demonize Tunisia’s democracy and Ennahda, while Qatar and Turkey laud both. Both camps have their clients in the country. These players amplify coup rumors and delegitimize Tunisia’s political independence, which adds to the public’s distrust of the government. Back in 2013, the US, Europe, and Algeria limited the reach of these countries. Ironically, in 2018, it is the US, the EU, and Algeria that are rattled by internal divisions and terrified of foreign interference.

History holds many lessons for those navigating Tunisia’s tumult, with some particularly apt parallels to be found in Russia’s post-Soviet transition. There, during his final years in power, a weakened Boris Yeltsin sought to secure his presidential legacy and save his family from prosecution. Hence, the so-called “father of Russian democracy” appointed then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, to succeed him. Russia’s democracy never recovered.

Tunisia’s infighting and nepotistic policies have a similar feel. The Arab world’s most promising democratic experiment can still avert a political meltdown, but it needs help. Local and international mediators guided Tunisia from turmoil once before. They must do so again.

Youssef Cherif

 Youssef Cherif

Youssef Cherif is a Tunis-based political analyst, member of the Carnegie Civic Research Network, and head of Columbia Global Centers Tunis.