On a hot Saturday in August, the parking lot of the Middle Eastern Immigrant and Refugee Alliance in West Ridge is filled with the sound of festivities. Kids jump in a bouncy house, Arabic pop music blares on the speakers, and a group of aunties chat as they watch over their charges. The organization, formerly known as the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society, hosts this yearly event as a way to connect the families they serve with the rest of the immigrant community.
Children gather round a foldable plastic table with a tawula set, playing a Turkish version of backgammon popular throughout the Middle East. Among them is Asal Alshammari, 11, who lives in West Ridge with her grandparents and sister. She immigrated to America with the rest of her Iraqi family after living in Dubai for nine years. Since moving to Chicago, Alshammari has been puzzled by the way Americans categorize race. “I identify myself as Middle Eastern, but [on school forms] it says I’m white, and that’s kind of confusing,” she says.
Sometimes she’ll even whip out her smartphone to show other kids at school exactly where Iraq is located: western Asia. “If someone says, ‘Oh, you’re white,’ I tell them ‘No, I’m Asian.’ But they’re always like, ‘What? You don’t seem Asian,’ because I have blue eyes from my grandpa,” she says. Alshammari wishes there were a box that was a better fit for people from countries like Iraq, Syria, and Libya, and she’s not alone.
As the 2020 U.S. Census approaches, local groups are working to ensure there’s an accurate count of their communities. But the census has never included any racial or ethnic category for Middle Eastern or North African communities. That, along with the current climate of fear surrounding immigration status, is a big challenge for folks hoping a full census count can help the community build political representation and gain access to crucial social services.
More than 20 years ago, when the federal government made major changes to the way race and ethnicity are reported on official forms, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget recommended additional testing on a category that would be called Middle Eastern North African, or MENA. Without a MENA option on the form, people from this region usually chose the white category, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 Race and Ethnicity Analysis.
In a 2015 community forum held by census officials to discuss the MENA category, participants indicated that “MENA responses should not be classified as White. They thought classifying this group as White makes them invisible in the data, even though they face discrimination in many aspects of society.”
With the support of advocacy groups like the Arab American Institute, the census bureau began testing a potential MENA category addition in 2015, and in 2017 released preliminary results that stated, “The use of a distinct Middle Eastern or North African category appears to elicit higher quality data for people who would identify with MENA.”
Despite all this, the bureau announced in 2018 that a MENA category would not be included in the 2020 census, claiming that “more research and testing is needed” since some in the MENA community felt that the designation should be treated as an ethnicity rather than a race.
“Some of us identify as white, some as Brown, some as Black,” says Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute. “We don’t necessarily need a category that reduces us to one race, but we do need visibility, inclusion, and to be seen as a group of Americans with needs and not just the focus of counterterrorism programs or political bigotry.”
With the decision made, local groups serving MENA residents in the Chicago region are now focused on ensuring that their community participates, period.
An accurate count is essential, they say, since census numbers determine the allocation of funding for services like cultural diversity training for institutions that interact with the community. Though federal funding formulas are complex, a George Washington University study in 2018 estimated that for every Illinois resident not counted, the state would lose $840 in Medicaid funding.
In Cook County, where an estimated 100,000 residents are of Middle Eastern, North African, or Southwest Asian descent according to a Los Angeles Times analysis, outreach efforts are beginning. It won’t be easy, says Imelda Salazar, an organizer for the Southwest Organizing Project, noting that many MENA residents are descended from immigrants or are immigrants themselves. Salazar says outreach to immigrants in general is difficult given the Trump administration’s policies, including increased restrictions on who can seek asylum and the executive order restricting entry of foreign nationals from some Muslim-majority countries.
“We give a lot of know-your-rights trainings and we tell people, Do not open the door [for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents],” she says, which makes it hard to allay their anxiety about opening the door for census workers. To try to dissipate these fears, SWOP precedes many of its workshops with a conversation about current deportation and detention issues and then talks about the legally mandated confidentiality of U.S. Census data. Salazar emphasizes that “fear won’t take us anywhere” and that if “we really want to build power, we need to be counted.”
Distrust of the federal government is particularly salient in the sizable Arab American community of Bridgeview, a southwest suburb. In the 2018 documentary The Feeling of Being Watched, Bridgeview native Assia Boundaoui uncovered evidence that Muslim residents were under FBI surveillance as far back as 1985 as part of a counterintelligence effort known as Operation Vulgar Betrayal.
With Trump administration policies like the public charge rule and the Muslim ban, some people have become wary even of receiving public benefits, according to Nareman Taha, cofounder of Arab American Family Services, a nonprofit social service agency in the southwest suburbs. They’re afraid the government is collecting their personal information through the institutions that dole out benefits.
“Clients would come and say, ‘Close my file. I don’t want anything from the government. I don’t want food stamps. I don’t want medical cards,'” she says. “And these are people who are working poor, they’re eligible. . . . Imagine that detriment and the impact that had on families.”
To counteract that fear, groups like AAFS are relying on the relationships and trust built over years working within communities.
AAFS founded the Arab American Complete Count Committee, which meets at their office, and they are local members of the national Yalla Count Me In campaign—both are aimed at increasing census participation. AAFS is asking people to mark the “other” box on the form and write in “Arab” or their country of origin, in the hopes that when the Census Bureau reevaluates the MENA category there will be evidence to support its inclusion. Other groups, like the Arab American Action Network, say they have not yet decided what to recommend; they’re planning more conversations with community and national partners before making a decision.
Though race and ethnicity data in the census are rarely tied directly to federal funding, local organizations say that if the data were available, it could help them raise money from other sources and draw publicity for their work.
When Hatem Abudayyeh of the Arab American Action Network raises funds for the group’s work to protect youth against discrimination in schools, he says government representatives and donors will ask questions like, “What are the academic levels? How do they do in school? What are their literacy rates?”
“We were in a coalition with Black and Latino organizations, and they all had these stats about how Black and Latino kids were being suspended and expelled from school at much higher rates than whites for the same alleged activities,” he explains. “And we didn’t have any numbers for the Arab kids, even though anecdotally we knew that those things were happening to Arabs as well.”
Taha, at AAFS, says most of their funds come from state government, corporations, foundations, and private donors. The group has been encouraging local universities and other nonprofits to collect data using the MENA category to help them make the case for the services they provide, like domestic violence prevention and immigration legal consultation. One funder, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, did just that, adding a MENA category to collect better health data statewide.
Some organizations rely on their own surveys or draw noncensus data from sources like Chicago Public Schools. CPS conducts an annual survey asking what languages are spoken in students’ homes, and Arabic was the third-most common non-English language in 2019, preceded only by Spanish and Cantonese, according to data City Bureau received through a public records request.
Laura Youngberg, the executive director of the Middle Eastern Immigrant and Refugee Alliance, says her group was able to use CPS data to advocate for federal and state grants that support its youth and family services. “It’s a battle of like going back to the state and saying, your data is wrong,” she says. “This is the correct data [from the school district]. This is why we deserve to have funding.”
The census category gets at “the bigger issue of, how does a community define itself and how the families define themselves,” Youngberg says. Better data around MENA communities could improve language access for Arabic-speaking people, increase visibility and political representation, and contribute to a larger sense of belonging.
Beyond the census, Taha wants to push for the MENA category at the state level, asking newly elected governor J.B. Pritzker, “How would you recognize the Arab American community? I mean, you came to us when you needed our votes.” Now, more than ever, her community needs to be counted.
Sarah Conway contributed reporting.
This report was produced by City Bureau, a civic journalism lab based in Woodlawn. Learn more and get involved at citybureau.org.
The new Law of Hydrocarbons in Algeria: distinguishing economic time from political time was enacted despite concurrent street demonstrations against it. It was debated at length by Professor Abderrahmane MEBTOUL, International Expert, in interviews to Radio Algeria International – Paris France on 04/11/2019, to Algerian Radio Channel-3 and to Radio France International on 05/11/2019. Here are some excerpts of each.
Question – 1. Will Algeria with high domestic consumption be able to meet its international commitments?
Indeed, if we take natural gas, domestic consumption is likely to exceed 60 billion cubic meters of gas by 2030 and 100 billion cubic meters of gas between 2035/2040, the Ministry of Energy has announced the depletion of reserves would be at about 60%. An urgent need to review the current energy policy and move towards a clean energy transition policy that revolves around four axes, to meet its international commitments.
-First: an energy efficiency policy (energy sobriety) that affects all sectors and households by reviewing construction methods, cars/trucks fleet consumption, energy-intensive industrial units; the simple referring to a policy of targeted subsidies, but which do not penalize the disadvantaged, existing new technologies that save about 30% of energy consumption.
-Secondly: the development of renewable energies whose cost has fallen by more than 50% for both thermal and photovoltaics, where Algeria has significant potential.
-Thirdly: to continue to invest in upstream, which can make discoveries as part of a win-win partnership, SONATRACH with lower prices and physical production, which has dropped significantly since 2008, technological or financial capabilities, but no longer have to be deluded by large deposits like Hassi-Messaoud or Hassi-Ramel.
-Fourthly: avoid precipitation whilst developing SHALE oil and gas, Algeria having the third world reservoir, only by 2025, as I recommended to the authorities of the country, through this study with experts pending new technologies that replace hydraulic fracturing, saving freshwater and injecting more than 90% of the chemicals into wells, thus protecting the environment, but requiring in-depth social dialogue.
To answer your question directly, I highlighted the points at the 5 + 5 Meeting of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Libya with France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Malta in Marseille in June 2019. I had the honour of chairing the Energy Transition’s workshop in which the subject of a clean energy transition policy, and the modification by Algeria, a major energy player in the Mediterranean basin, as it has always done, to meet its international commitments by 2030.
Question – 2. Will the amendment of this law attract foreign investors?
Depending on several factors, such as:
-First: the revision of this law as I have pointed out since its enactment at the beginning of 2013 is unsuited to the current situation, in particular the tax component and the nature of the contracts in which Sonatrach supports the majority of the financing, the world having evolved from where the importance of its revision to take account of new global energy changes.
-Secondly: however, a law is only a legal instrument, being a necessary but sufficient condition of the attractiveness of foreign investment, where any company attracted by direct profit rate, and also as long as the level of foreign exchange reserves is high. Depending on the business environment where Algeria was in the latest report of the World Bank of 2019 was very poorly classified because of its paralyzing bureaucracy, corruption, financial and unsuitable socio-educational systems.
-Thirdly: the political climate is decisive, and according to international observers no serious investor would engage in Algeria without the resolution of the political crisis, political stability especially in a country like Algeria, where politics and economics are intertwined, being a determining factor in the attractiveness of a foreign investment.
-Fourthly: as I have just pointed out recently, to your colleagues on France 24 television, and several Algerian websites and daily newspapers, it would be desirable to postpone the adoption of this law after the presidential election. Only a president and a legitimate government can secure the future of the country where this resource, directly and indirectly, provides about 98% of the country’s foreign exchange resources. Some company executives fear that a new president would challenge this law, which would be passed by a transitional government, responsible for current affairs, while legal stability is a golden rule for all investor.
-Fifth: to answer this second question directly, the positive impact of this law would depend on the future global energy map, the entry of new producers and the sale price on the world market both of oil and gas returning at the cost of production in Algeria therefore to a new strategic management of SONATRACH and the impacts would not be felt only in three to four years, subject to the lifting of environmental constraints. Why this haste, which risks further sharpening social tensions in the run-up to the presidential election, thus possibly harming the voting turnout?
Saudi Arabian authorities opted some time ago for the whole and/or part nationalisation of its 9 million-strong manpower, kickstarted and still is going through a programme labelled Saudisation that recently ended up by excluding non-domestic contracting of governments jobs.
On September 16, Jahangeer was deported to Bangladesh along with other Bangladeshi workers.
Jahangeer Hossain was heading to his factory along with other workers in a vehicle around 7:30 am in Riyadh on September 2 like every other day.
Soon, a police patrol car blocked their vehicle and detained them. It never occurred to him even in his dreams that he would be then kept at a Deportation Camp in the Saudi Arabian capital for 15 days without any knowledge of the future.
On September 16, Jahangeer was deported to Bangladesh along with other Bangladeshi workers.
“I had a valid Iqama [work permit for foreign nationals] in Saudi Arabia. It’s still valid for three more months. I have no idea why I was arrested and sent back home,” said the man, who is currently at his village home in Jhenaidah.
He told Dhaka Tribune that about 120 to 150 people were kept in each room at the Deportation Camp.
Jahangeer has no idea how he is going to provide for his family now. On top of that, he still has to pay back Tk1 lakh (more than GB£945) he had taken in loans to travel to Saudi Arabia.
Jahangeer said he could not even ask the Riyadh police why he was being held because he was afraid of getting beaten.
He said an official of the Bangladesh Embassy in Saudi Arabia visited the Deportation Camp, but he said he was not authorized to talk to them.
A total of 389 Bangladeshi workers like Jahangeer were sent back home by Saudi Arabia Arabian authorities in last three days following a crackdown on undocumented workers there.
Of them, 160 arrived in Dhaka on Tuesday night. Most of them complained that they were forced to return despite having valid documents.
What govt says
Government official and experts say the number of migrants is way more than the number of jobs over there, and the recent Saudization policy, officially known as Saudi nationalization scheme or Nitaqat, has led layoffs of Bangladeshi migrant workers.
Rownak Jahan, secretary of the Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry, told Dhaka Tribune: “We have asked the Bangladesh Embassy to Saudi Arabia to look into it.
“We will be able to comment after they give us a report on it. Our minister is also visiting Saudi Arabia. He will discuss this issue.”
She said migration does not remain static and recently Saudi Arabia is being very strict about undocumented migrants.
She told Dhaka tribune that more people are migrating to countries like Saudi Arabia for jobs. There are more jobseekers than vacancies, she said and added that sometimes migrants have valid papers but there are no jobs for them.
The Saudization policy of hiring Saudi nationals over migrant workers could be another reason because of which Bangladeshi migrants’ job contracts are not being renewed, the secretary added.
She said every country has its own law and other countries cannot intervene in their internal issues.
13,000 deported in 2019 alone
Shariful Hasan, the head of Brac’s Migration Program, told Dhaka Tribune that at least 13,000 Bangladeshi workers have so far been deported from Saudi Arabia in 2019 alone.
Some recruiting agencies and brokers are luring migrants saying they can go to Saudi Arabia with “free visa,” but there is no such thing, he said.
Shariful said the recruiting agencies and brokers are still sending people abroad without ensuring a secured job because the more they can send, the more money they will make.
As per the law, migrant workers are not allowed to work under any employer they want. They have to work under the employer they signed a contract with. If they leave the job and work under another employer, they will become undocumented.
Shariful recommended solving the problem bilaterally.
“Our embassy should ask the Saudi Arabian government why they are deporting Bangladeshi migrants [even though they had valid documents], and then they can work on the solution based on their response,” he said.
Marina Sultana, program director of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, said many Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia are not being regularized and as a result, they are being deported.
She also pointed finger at Saudization for the layoffs and eventual deportation of the migrant workers.
According to a Saudi Press Agency report, the Saudi authorities have so far arrested around 3.8 million foreigners as it continues the crackdown on labour and residency violations.
The latest figures indicate that 544,521 people have been arrested since early June.
The Summary of this paper dated 9 September 2019 is reproduced for all intents and purposes below and the paper can be read online or as a Download PDF (opens in new window)
In the Middle East and North Africa, a growing number of internationally recognized (de jure) states with formal borders and governments lack de facto statehood. Often, governance vacuums are filled by alternative actors that perform state-like functions in place of, or alongside, weakened official institutions. This results in hybrid orders where the distinction between formal and informal actors in the state is blurred, as too are the lines between the formal, informal and illicit economies.
International policymakers have struggled to establish political settlements in these contexts. Would-be state-builders have mistakenly assumed a binary distinction between state failure and success. They have sought to recreate an idealized archetype of the ‘orderly’ state, critically failing to recognize the more complex networks of de facto actors on the ground. At times, international policymakers pick or support leaders who lack local legitimacy, capability and power. This stalls and fragments ongoing organic state transformations, and produces hybrid orders as de facto actors adapt by both capturing state institutions and creating parallel ones.
We propose a new model for understanding the fragmentary transformations of the state underway in Iraq and Yemen. It involves the concept of a multi-layered state, consisting of the executive, the formal bureaucracy, the de facto authorities and society at large. The gap in legitimacy, capability and power between the middle two layers in this model – the formal bureaucracy and the de facto authorities – is a critical source of instability and an impediment to reform. Bridging that gap is thus the key to effective peacebuilding and/or state-building.
This paper argues that all states lie along a chaos–order spectrum. No state is entirely chaotic or orderly. Even those that display many features of chaos – as in Iraq and Yemen – contain pockets of order that are all too often overlooked. The larger the gap between the formal bureaucracy and the de facto authorities, the more a state slides towards the chaos end of the spectrum. Effective state-building must find a way of institutionalizing improvised governance arrangements.
To achieve this, we advocate a ‘middle–out’ approach that aims to strengthen the connective tissues between the bureaucracy and de facto authorities. Simplified, this more inclusive approach entails reframing international involvement as playing the role of a ‘referee’ to monitor the transformations of the state while enforcing accountability, as opposed to the practice of picking ‘winners’ and integrating unfavoured actors into unpopular political settlements.
In AFRICATECH of August 22, 2019; More deals, less conflict? Wondered Laurie Goering, Thomson Reuters Foundation whilst Cross-border water planning key, report warns.
LONDON, Aug 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Efforts to share rivers, lakes, and aquifers that cross national boundaries are falling short, raising a growing risk of conflict as global water supplies run low, researchers warned on Thursday.
Fewer than one in three of the world’s transboundary rivers and lake basins and just nine of the 350 aquifers that straddle more than one country have cross-border management systems in place, according to a new index by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
With more than half the world’s population likely to live in water-scarce areas by 2050 and 40 percent dependent on transboundary water, that is a growing threat, said Matus Samel, a public policy consultant with the Economist Intelligence Unit.
“Most transboundary basins are peaceful, but the trend is that we are seeing more and more tensions and conflict arising,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
When work began on the index, which looks at five key river basins around the world from the Mekong to the Amazon, researchers thought they would see hints of future problems rather than current ones, Samel said.
Instead, they found water scarcity was becoming a “very urgent” issue, he said. “It surprised me personally the urgency of some of the situation some of these basins are facing.”
Population growth, climate change, economic and agricultural expansion and deforestation are all placing greater pressures on the world’s limited supplies of water, scientists say.
As competition grows, some regions have put in place relatively effective bodies to try to share water fairly, the Economist Intelligence Unit report said.
Despite worsening drought, the Senegal River basin, shared by West African nations including Senegal, Mali, and Mauritania, has held together a regional water-governance body that has attracted investment and support, Samel said.
Efforts to jointly govern the Sava River basin, which crosses many of the once warring nations of the former Yugoslavia in southeast Europe, have also been largely successful, he said.
But replicating that is likely to be “a huge challenge” in conflict-hit basins, such as along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq and Syria, Samel said.
Still, even in tough political situations, “there are ways … countries and local governments and others can work together to make sure conflicts do not emerge and do not escalate,” he said.
“The benefits of cooperation go way beyond direct access to drinking water,” he said. “It’s about creating trust and channels for communication that might not otherwise exist.”
‘NO EASY SOLUTIONS’
The report suggests national leaders make water security a priority now, link water policy to other national policies, from agriculture to trade, and put in place water-sharing institutions early.
“There are no easy solutions or universal solutions,” Samel warned. “But there are lessons regions and basins can learn and share.”
The index has yet to examine many hotspots, from the Nile River and Lake Chad in Africa to the Indus river system in India and Pakistan, but Samel said it would be expanded in coming years.
Working toward better shared water management is particularly crucial as climate change brings more drought, floods, and other water extremes, said Alan Nicol, who is based in Ethiopia for the International Water Management Institute.
“Knowing how a system works effectively helps you know what to do in the face of a massive drought or flood event – and we should expect more extreme weather,” he said.
While efforts to coordinate water policy with other national and regional policies and priorities are crucial, the key missing element in shoring up water security is political will, he said.
“We’ve been talking about this kind of integrated water management for 30 years,” he said. “The problem is practicing it. And that’s essentially a political problem.”
Reporting by Laurie Goering @lauriegoering; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking, and property rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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,
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
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.
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.
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.
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 Prof.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
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
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
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
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
A strategic vision to surpass a
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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’).
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.
One of the most dramatic consequences is the loss
of identity—both individual and collective identity. Simply, identity has
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.
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.
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