Thursday, July 31, 2008

More science and technology needed in Africa

from All Africa

Speeking at a university that specialises in science. A former director at the World Bank says technology can help pull Africa out of poverty. - Kale

Abuja, - Former Minister of Finance and Managing Director, World Bank, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has attributed the poverty plaguing many countries in Africa to lack of science and technology base to solve their problems through innovations.

Okonjo-Iweala who spoke in Abuja at the end of the board meeting of the African University of Science and Technology (AUST) noted that countries that have innovations have been able to use that to solve their problems.

She posited that innovations could lift the people of the continent out of poverty

"Science and Technology is the future of Africa. If you look everywhere, countries that have managed to make a leap have depended on having innovation and applying that innovation to solve their problems. One of the most serious things that have kept us in poverty is the lack of science and technology base- lack of excellence in our work".

"For the first time, it has been decided by all these international supporters and the diaspora of Africa, professors have come together to say we have to put forward this to create a base for our young people to solve this problem and have innovations that can lift us out of poverty".

"It is innovation that led people to discover applications for the computers, it's innovation that led to green revolutions, it's innovation that has led to so many things that have lifted so many people out of poverty," she said.

The institution which is part of the larger Abuja Technology Village was established by the Nelson Mandela Institution in 2007 as the first Pan-African Network of Institutes of Science and Technology and Centres of Excellence located across the continent. It is being funded by the World Bank Group, amongst other development institutions.

AUST has developed extensive links with the African scientific Diaspora and is able to count on substantial pool of scientists and engineers teaching and conducting research in the best universities across the world.

Strong partnerships have already been established with the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Cape Town and with Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT) and with the AIST affiliate centre- the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Could microcredit work in Singapore

from the Electric New Paper Singapore

This article explores if microcredit could work in Singapore. A conference is happening there now to introduce the country to the idea. - Kale

IT has scored some stunning successes in developing countries such as Bangladesh, China and Indonesia.

Microcredit, which gives small loans to the poor, has helped them and the illiterate escape the poverty cycle. It gives them much-needed access to credit to set up their own businesses.

The Asia-Pacific Regional Microcredit Summit ends today.

Can microcredit work in first-world Singapore?

How microcredit works

MICROCREDIT, also called poverty lending, provides small loans to the very poor.

These loans can start from as little as US$20 ($27) to US$100 for first-time borrowers, and are usually used to start small businesses.

In most cases, no collateral is needed.

However, money tend to be directed at a group - ranging from five people to a whole village - in which members are accountable for one another.

So, when someone in the group defaults his repayment, the whole group will have problems getting further loans.

Under peer pressure to repay, borrowers default less.

Loans made by Grameen Bank, a Bangladeshi bank which pioneered microcredit, have a repayment rate of 98 per cent.

The 25-year-old bank has 7.5 million borrowers in its home country.

It earned US$15.85 million in 2005, and its founder Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, for 'efforts to create economic and social development from below'.

YES, it can work here...

GIVE small loans to Singaporeans to set up hawker and pasar malam stalls, Mr Ang Mong Seng had said.

The Member of Parliament for Hong Kah GRC had suggested that the microcredit system be adopted in Singapore during the Budget debate in February.

Give or lend money to the enterprising poor at low interest, so they can start simple businesses and be self-reliant, he had said.

He noted then that the Government gave $100 to $200 a month to the poor through Community Development Councils.

But a bigger amount of $800 to $1,000 could be offered instead for them to start a business, he argued.

Mr Ang told The New Paper that there are ways the Government can help microcredit programmes succeed here.

First, it can subsidise the loans.

However, he said Singapore should first test the viability of any microcredit programme by allowing experienced lenders such as Grameen Bank to run them without state help.

Second, the Government can set up low-rental marketplaces to provide microcredit borrowers with a cheap way to start a business.

United Overseas Bank economist Suan Teck Kin said microcredit can be used to help the poor start low-tech businesses, such as producing handicraft work, from home.

Ms Wong Chia Lee, a Singaporean independent consultant who has been working with microbanks in South-east Asia for the past 10 years, pointed out that religious and other self-help groups here could well be the closely-knit communities needed for microcredit to work.

These groups could be given loans in a way that makes their members accountable to one another - the same way microcredit loans are administered in other countries.

NO, it won't work here...

THE costs of running a business in Singapore are too high, financial experts said.

Mr Ben Fok, CEO of Grandtag Financial Consultancy, said: 'Our costs of living and services is one of the highest in Asia.

'That will make it harder to find a successful microcredit model.'

Agreeing, Mr Suan Teck Kin of United Overseas Bank singled out rental costs as one of the biggest obstacles for someone looking to set up a small business.

Another problem, consultant Wong Chia Lee pointed out, is the high level of regulation in Singapore.

In the microcredit programmes that she has helped set up in East Timor, people can immediately start using the money to sell kueh (cakes) or cosmetics door-to-door, or to sell vegetables on the streets.

'But the first thing someone in Singapore has to think of is the need to get a licence,' she said.

Ms Wong also said Singaporeans are not as entrepreneurial as people in some of the neighbouring countries.

'For microcredit to be successful,' she said, 'the borrowers need to have an idea of what they are going to do with the money first.

'But in Singapore, we virtually have entrepreneurship genetically engineered out of us.'

She recalled how a community support group asked for her advice on obtaining credit a few years ago.

When she met the group, she realised they did not have any idea what they wanted to do once they had the money.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

More programs for poor students in Wisconsin

from the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen

The programs that schools give to poor students are increasing in the US. From lunches to breakfasts to supplies. this article profiles a program in Wisconsin. - Kale


Beaver Dam Unified School District students who qualify for free and reduced lunches during the school year will also qualify for free school supplies this year.

"We know that the number of people living in poverty and low-income conditions has doubled over the last eight years in the district according to federal guidelines," BDUSD Superintendent Don Childs said. "We're approaching a 40 percent poverty rate for families with school-age children."

At the elementary school level, counting first- through fifth-graders, there are 447 students who qualify for free and reduced lunches. There are 250 pupils at Beaver Dam Middle School and 270 at Beaver Dam High School.

"At the middle school, we're approaching 40 percent poverty," Childs said. "The high school has doubled from 14 percent to almost 30 percent over the last couple of years."

Parents of students participating in the free and reduced lunch programs fill out a form provided by the school district at the beginning of the year. The size and income level for families are used to determine if students qualify for free or reduced lunch prices.

A family of two would have to make less than $18,200 to qualify for a free lunch or $25,900 to qualify for a reduced lunch.

For each additional family member, the yearly income levels goes up $4,680 for free lunches and $6,600 for reduced lunches.

The form also lists the income level as monthly, bi-weekly and weekly.

Childs said there are many reasons for the higher levels of students being eligible for the program including: a low average wage per job in the county and a turnover in the community where families with lower incomes have moved into the area.

The need in the district led Childs to contact Clothes For Kids about a campaign to provide school supplies for every child who qualifies for free or reduced lunches. Clothes For Kids for the past several years has provided school supplies for needy families.

Most of the students in the district who qualify for the program are already known by the school district because they filled out the forms last year. Those families will be getting a letter that they will need to bring in to pick up the school supplies. Others, such as kindergartners and new students to the district, will have to fill out a form as soon as possible to qualify for the program.

The district will have people available to help fill out the forms during the registration or screening process for new students.

The district has already sent out letters to local service organizations and the Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce will be contacting its members to help out in buying the school supplies, Childs said. Private citizens are also welcomed to help.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Floods, drug trade threaten West Africa

from Reuters Alert Net

West Africa is experiencing it's second year of flooding. That along with drug trafficking make the poverty situation that much harder to solve. - Kale

By Doug Palmer

GENEVA - A second year of severe flooding and a growing threat to regional stability from drug trafficking are compounding problems of poverty in West Africa, a United Nations official said on Thursday.

Last year, floods disrupted the lives of 800,000 people in 14 West African countries and left 210 dead, as well as destroying crops and killing livestock, said D. Herve Ludovic de Lys, head of the West Africa regional office for the U.N. humanitarian affairs agency OCHA.

"Those people have barely recovered from the floods of last year and once again, they are experiencing a very heavy rainy season," Ludovic de Lys said in a briefing for reporters.

Floods have killed 30 people so far this year, and damaged the lives of 50,000 with another 45 days of heavy rain still expected, Ludovic de Lys said.

Recent flooding in Togo has affected 10,000 people, destroyed 400 houses and severed nine bridges, including some on the main trade road to Burkina Faso, he said.

Six are dead from floods in Mali's capital, he said.

The second year of flooding in a region otherwise experiencing a slow onset drought comes at time of high international food and energy prices that has made life more difficult for many developing countries.

A rise in illegal cocaine flows through West Africa from production centers in Latin America to markets in Europe and the Gulf region poses another threat, he said.

"This is a concern for us because West Africa is just emerging from period where we had very violent conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote D'Ivoire. We ... are very concerned because this drug trafficking could fuel conflicts, could bring back weapons," Ludovic de Lys said.

All of this makes this week's setback at world trade talks more difficult for West Africa. Talks collapsed before there was even any discussion of regional cotton producer demands for sharp cuts in U.S. and European Union cotton subsides.

Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad and Benin say those subsidies are destroying their cotton industries by encouraging excess U.S. and EU production that flood export markets.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

WTO talks collapse: the poor and farmers lose

from the Australian

This story has some opinions from farmers and poor advocates in Australia. They say the trade deal would have given the poor a chance in the worsening economy. - Kale

FARMERS and the world's poor will be the losers from the collapse of world trade talks in Geneva overnight, advocates say.

The World Trade Organisation talks, which aimed to salvage a global free trade pact, collapsed after the US, China and India failed overnight to agree on when poor countries could raise import tariffs on farm products.

National Farmers Federation president David Crombie said the breakdown would prevent farmers from selling into new and expanded markets.

"The breakdown of negotiations in the Doha Round of WTO trade talks is another dismal result for Australia's farmers and agricultural exporters," Mr Crombie said.

Agricultural domestic support limits among OECD countries would not be reduced and market access would not be improved.

With the world food shortage biting hard, Mr Crombie warned developing countries would be the "biggest long-term losers" from the world trade impasse.

Oxfam acting executive director James Ensor blamed rich countries for the impasse, saying it was not fair for them to force poorer countries into heavy trade concessions.

"They defended vested interests and put poor countries under intense pressure to make concessions that have no place in a development round," Mr Ensor said.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Book Review: a story of inner city work

from the Daily Chronicle

A new book chronicles an inner city mission in Dallas. The author says the time there taught her how wrong judgments or prejudices can be. - Kale


Dorothy Moore was afraid, but it didn't stop her. The Sycamore native, now 73, has spent the better part of the last 25 years ministering troubled youth and adults in the slums of Dallas. After living affluently for most of her life, Moore set out to intervene in the lives of people plagued by poverty, drug use and violence.

While the tribulations she's faced were difficult at times, Moore said her faith kept her going.

Moore's efforts with the Crusaders and Reconciliation Outreach ministry often found her in danger. She's dodged bullets and fights, and also talked straight to drug dealers in her efforts to bring people religious guidance.

Earlier this year, Moore published the book “Lady in the Hood.” The book is a chronological telling of her experiences in Dallas as she and other determined workers tried to set up outreach programs in the poverty-ridden areas of the city.

The story is a poignant description of Moore's carefree upbringing juxtaposed with a great deal of tragic circumstances she found herself a part of after her religious faith manifested in a desire to help others.

Moore spoke with the Daily Chronicle about what led her to write the book, how she dealt with the dangerous efforts and how she had to be honest about herself.

D.C.: Why did you decide to write the book?

Moore: I have kept a prayer diary for almost the last 40 years and I've entered into it almost daily. When I began to see some of this had long-term value, I started compiling the information - pulling out things that were most significant and putting it in some kind of book form.

The biographical part wasn't difficult. But the rest, I felt there was a lot of need in the church community for people looking at faith to understand what did it cost you, and did what did it bring you to do. That's what I learned working with the poor in the inner city.

People are generally looking for answers and hope.

D.C.: Were you in danger at times during this work?

Moore: I took children home one night and dropped them off in their neighborhood. I realized a gang war was going on. The first thing I thought to do was intervene. I got out in front of the car, yelled at the kids to come with me, and pulled them away because shots were fired and a boy was down. You could hear the sirens.

When I went home that night, I began to realize the relative security of my own life. I do this during the day but they live it all the time. It gave me a boldness to get out there. If they have to live it every day, and they're just kids, why can't I step out there and let the Lord do what I can't fix?

I honestly believe God is in charge of life and we will live and die according to his direction. He's not going to allow me to be taken out if I'm not ready.

I've been afraid not just for myself but for others. There are those risks. But there's the sense of destiny. You're there because you're supposed to be there and when you die it's when you're supposed to.

D.C.: Was it difficult to be honest

about your upbringing and your personality?

Moore: The truth is the truth. When you begin to understand who you are and how you think, it's only fair to be honest about it. I can't help anyone else without being honest about who I am. Then I'm just a do-gooder without any understanding of the real pain and problems. I had to go through a lot of testing to have anything to say to anyone else.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Family of four needs $50,000

from the Columbus Dispatch

Another story on the federal poverty guidelines as it relates to Ohio. This is related to what New York Mayor Micheal Bloomberg has been saying about the guidelines. - Kale

New study finds federal poverty levels unrealistically low

By Catherine Candisky

A single mother of a preschooler living in Franklin County needs to earn $34,260 a year to pay for housing, child care, food and other necessities.

A married couple with two children -- one in preschool and one of school age -- needs an annual income of $49,818 to make it in Franklin County, more than twice the federal poverty level.

A report released this morning shows what it costs in each of Ohio’s 88 counties to pay for basic needs without government or private assistance. The analysis provides figures for 70 different family types, including childless adults, single parents and couples with children.

The Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies commissioned the report and hopes it will help state policy makers consider the real cost of self-sufficiency when they set economic development incentives and guidelines for job training and assistance programs.

Advocates for the poor also are pushing for a revision of federal poverty guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that they argue is outdated and simply not high enough.

“It costs a lot more to be poor than it used to,” said Philip E. Cole, executive director of the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies.

Authored by Diane M. Pearce, director of the Center for Women’s Welfare at the University of Washington, the report determined self-sufficiency by costing out housing, food, health care, transportation, child care and taxes, assuming all adults, regardless of household composition, are working full-time.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

World Bank says biofuels major diver of food prices.

from Reuters

You don't say? :sarcasm: - Kale
By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON - Large increases in biofuels production in the United States and Europe are the main reason behind the steep rise in global food prices, a top World Bank economist said in research published on Monday.

World Bank economist, Don Mitchell, concluded that biofuels and related low grain inventories, speculative activity, and food export bans pushed prices up by 70 percent to 75 percent.

The remaining 25 percent to 30 percent was due to a weaker U.S. dollar, higher energy costs and related rises in fertilizer and transport costs, he wrote.

An unfinished version of the research that surfaced in news stories sparked a heated debate earlier in July, with trade groups for the ethanol industry calling the 75 percent figure "a stretch" and others saying it confirmed the dangers of current biofuels policies.

The outcome of Mitchell's research is controversial because it goes beyond most other estimates for the impact of biofuels on rising food prices.

Still, its research corresponds somewhat with the International Monetary Fund, which estimated in May that biofuels accounted for 70 percent of the increase in maize prices and 40 percent in soybean prices.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration has estimated that biofuel production pushed food prices higher by 2 to 3 percent. Hoping to wean the country off foreign oil, Washington has boosted incentives and mandates for alternative fuels made from food crop.

But Mitchell said without the increase in biofuels production, global wheat and maize stocks would not have declined, oilseed prices would not tripled and price increases due to other factors, such as drought, would have been more moderate.

Also, food export bans by countries trying to preserve food supplies and speculative activities would not have occurred because they were responding to rising prices.

"The large increases in biofuels production in the U.S. and EU were supported by subsidies, mandates, and tariffs on imports," Mitchell said in the research that looks at rapid rises in food prices since 2002. "Without these policies, biofuels production would have been lower and food commodity price increases would have been smaller," he added.

A widely respected agricultural economist, Mitchell said biofuels policies that encourage subsidized production need to be re-thought because they're hurting poor countries.

He said the increase in grain consumption in developing countries was moderate and did not lead to the large price increases.

Growth in global grain consumption, excluding biofuels, was only 1.7 percent a year from 2000 to 2007, while yields grew by 1.3 percent and area grew by 0.4 percent, which would have kept global demand and supply roughly in balance, he said.

The United States is the largest producer of ethanol from maize and is expected to use about 81 million tons for ethanol in the 2007/08 crop year. Meanwhile, Canada, China and the European Union used roughly 5 million tons of maize, which was about 11 percent of the global maize crop.

The use of maize for ethanol in the United States has global implications because the U.S. produces about one-third of the world's maize and two-thirds of global exports, and used 25 percent of its production for ethanol in 2007/08.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

14,000 AIDS deaths recorded in Caribbean last year

from the Jamaica Observer

Despite the grim headline, the report releasing these stats shows some leveling off on the number of new infections. More funding has contributed to to that stabilizing of new cases. - Kale

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad - At least 14,000 people in the Caribbean died of illnesses related to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) last year, but there appears to be a stabilisation in the HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to figures released here on Tuesday.

The figures, which were released as part of the Caribbean Launch of the UNAIDS Global report 2008, showed that last year an estimated 230,000 to 270,000 persons were living with HIV, while an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 were newly infected.

"We have made some headway against HIV in the region," said Dr Michel de Groulard, acting director of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team.

"But we still have a long way to go to ensure that our response is as effective as it should be and that our prevention strategies really work and reach those who need them most," he added.

In a message read at the launch, Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretary General Edwin Carrington said that 27 years after HIV/AIDS was first identified in the region, the epidemic is challenging "our basic way of life, family, society, community and workplace".

"Many Caribbean families have lost their loved ones to AIDS, many communities have lost their leaders and their members to AIDS. In addition, the persistence of stigma and discrimination against people living with AIDS is an affront to the principles of human rights," he said.

"How many times has someone been denied a job because they are living with HIV?" Carrington asked.

The Caricom top official, however, pointed to some positive news in the fight.

"Despite the somewhat gloomy picture which the data suggests, there has been substantial progress in the Caribbean. It is the only region in the world which has built strong partnerships against the epidemic," Carrington said, pointing to the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP).

United Nations officials said that although surveillance systems were largely inadequate in several countries, available data indicated that the situation in most Caribbean countries appears to have stabilised, while the numbers have declined in a few urban areas.

"This is particularly evident in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Both countries are home to the largest epidemics in the region," according to UNAIDS.

It said that at the end of last year, an estimated 30,000 people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral treatment in the region, a 50 per cent increase since the end of 2006 when 20,000 people were on treatment.

UNAIDS said that the main mode of HIV transmission in the Caribbean remains unprotected heterosexual sex, but "unprotected sex between men is also a significant factor in several epidemics".

It added that as many as one in eight, or 12 per cent of reported HIV infections in the region occurred through unprotected sex between men.

"It reportedly represents the main driver in Cuba and studies in Trinidad and Tobago have found HIV prevalence of 20 among men who have sex with men.

"In the Dominican Republic, surveys have indicated that more sex workers are protecting themselves and their clients against HIV, especially in the main urban and tourist areas. Among female sex workers, HIV prevalence of nine per cent has been documented in Jamaica and 31 per cent in Guyana," the UNAIDS report said.

It said that AIDS remains one of the leading causes of death among people aged 25 to 44 years in the Caribbean, but the "scaling up of antiretroviral treatment could be reducing the number of HIV positive people progressing to AIDS and eventually dying of AIDS-related illness".

UNAIDS said that the Caribbean epidemics occur in the context of high levels of poverty and unemployment, gender and other inequalities and considerable stigma, "all of which can fuel the spread of HIV as well as hinder efforts to control the epidemic".

"The scaling up of prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV programmes in several countries including Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica has significantly reduced the rate of transmission to infants," the report said.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Nigeria banking remittances

from Business Day

This article examines banking practices in Nigeria. - Kale


Going by the recent Central Bank of Nigeria's (CBN) released chart which indicated that remittances from Nigerians in the diaspora helped to grow the macro economy, then it is unfortunate that the issue of monies remitted by Nigerians in the Diaspora is no longer being taken seriously, particularly by banks which should know better.

While banks dangle attractive rates to woo depositors, billions trickle into the system, which in most cases, are not well utilised because some of the benefactors of such remittances lack banking acumen.

A look at the official figures bandied by government agencies or other world bodies may be incorrect, because there is more money flowing in through unofficial than official quarters. This problem stems from the incorrect figure of the population of Diaspora Nigerians.

A research material prepared by Manuel Orozco of Inter-American Dialogue and Bryanna Millis, for review by the United States Agency for International Development, says Nigeria represents one of the more mobile societies in Africa with huge populations moving to the East, West, and South of Africa, as well as Europe and North America.

However, official statistics on Nigerian emigration are inaccurate and incomplete. For example, the United Nations reveals that there are approximately 1.1 million Nigerians living outside their home country, representing 0.84 percent of the Nigerian population. But this figure plainly falls short of the reality.

Just in West Africa, the trend of Nigerian migration is substantial. In Ghana alone, there are at least half a million Nigerians. Likewise, the large and growing outflow of the country's citizens to South Africa over the last 10 years makes it difficult to have confidence in the official figure of less than 20,000. In the United States, a single transfer company reports processing 125,000 transfers monthly to Nigeria, a figure that is nearly identical to the US Census estimate (134,940) of Nigerians in the U.S., including the UN estimate.

Data on migrants from countries with similar populations-in the range of 100-200 million people-show that on average, 3.9 percent of their nationals are living abroad. Applying that percentage to the Nigerian population gives a figure of 5,701,806 Nigerians abroad.

A World Bank report about the UK-Nigeria corridor claims from interviews with money transfer operators (MTOs), that there are five million Nigerians in the United States.

Another report argues that there are half a million Nigerians in England, adding that one-third of West Africans are living outside their country (Black et al. 2004).

The bottom line is that so much money is coming to the home system in the form of remittances. But what should ordinarily be a blessing to national development by increasing the amount of monies saved by Nigerians in the country, is witnessing a reversal.

Development bankers estimate that some $10 billion of remittances could be saved or invested if people had access to banks and were encouraged to use them. By banking part of their remittances, recipient families could earn interest, establish credit and provide money for local investment. The result would be more resources to help pay for schooling, starting small businesses or home ownership. Such savings and investments lead to economic growth; and growth, at the bottom of the economic scale, is the surest way to lift people out of poverty.

As of now, most banks in developing countries that receive remittances simply dole out the sums to recipients, after collecting part of the fee paid by the sender. They make no attempt to turn the recipients into bank customers. Bank officials and the politicians that oversee them need to do more to educate the poor about banking. They need to be reminded that such lending can be profitable" and will further broaden national goals for economic growth. To that end, remittances deserve a more prominent place on the agenda at the meetings of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Group of 8 leading industrialised nations. Unless those billions in remittances are banked, money that could fight poverty will be left on the table.

Apparently, only one bank in the country seems to be thinking in this direction. PHB Asset Management Limited, a subsidiary of Bank PHB plc, was recently selected to manage a $200 million (N24 billion) Diaspora Investment Fund (DIF) set up by the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, Europe (NIDOE)

The Diaspora Investment Fund is an innovative $200 million investment vehicle that engenders the dual goal of achieving capital growth for the individual investor, while facilitating Nigeria's economic growth.

Recently, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former finance minister and now a World Bank chieftain, challenged fund managers in Nigeria to devise means of tapping into "Nigeria's money abroad."

She said they could either do this from money owned by Nigerians in the diaspora, which may be remitted for investments at home, or money saved abroad by Nigerians, otherwise called capital flight.

The World Bank chieftain noted that though not backed by statistics, there is evidence of high levels of capital flight from the Nigerian economy, partly due to lack of appropriate financing vehicles for domestic investors.

She spoke against the backdrop of the need to stimulate economic transformation in Nigeria through venture capital, noting that Africa's long-term development must be driven by economic growth from within. This, she stated, requires private capital.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reducing taxes for food

from IRIN

This subject was debated during the food summit last month. Past calls to cut taxes for chartable food purchases has met a lot of resistance. - Kale

The World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a call by the World Bank for a UN resolution to scrap taxes and export controls on food aid purchases, but experts say there is little chance of such a resolution being effected.

Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank Group, called on the UN General Assembly's 63rd session, coming up in September, to vote for a resolution to exempt humanitarian purchases from export restrictions and taxes.

A global food and fuel price crisis has not only pushed up the cost of food aid but made finding adequate quantities to purchase and transporting them even more problematic, as governments attempt to control food supplies to ensure that their people have enough to eat. Some have even imposed export bans or taxes.

Nicole Menage, WFP's head of Procurement, told IRIN that "the world is really riddled with export control measures now, which makes the already difficult task of buying food in the present highly volatile and thin markets even more of a challenge." WFP usually requires US$3 billion a year in voluntary contributions but needs $5 to $6 billion this year, and a similar sum next year.

More donors are giving cash instead of food. In an attempt to widen the sources of food supply, in 2007 WFP purchased in 82 countries, of which 69 were developing. The food aid agency's choice has become even "more restricted now" as a result of the export controls, "at a moment when, again, globally the availability of food is so much more limited," said Menage.

Besides the new export control measures, the cost and the process of getting export and import permits were also barriers to providing timely aid, said Richard Lee, WFP spokesman for Southern Africa.

But will it happen?

"The problem is that the UN General Assembly can pass a resolution to this effect, but it cannot enforce it if passed," said Christopher Barrett, who teaches development economics at Cornell University, New York, and is the co-author of the book, Food Aid After Fifty Years: Recasting Its Role.

"The sharp domestic political pressures that lead politicians to adopt such short-sighted and ultimately ineffective policies as export restrictions and export taxes will likely trump the gentle diplomatic pressure of UN member states," he commented.

Link to full article. May expire in future.

Giving hope to Haiti's children

from the Curry Pilot

A story of a US family taking in children from Haiti.The McMillan family children look forward to meeting their new brother and sister.

By Marjorie Woodfin

Why would a Brookings couple with four young children of their own, living in modest financial circumstances, travel to Haiti to adopt of two Haitian children?

"It's about Haiti. They need help, the children need help, and there is no hope. The only hope for the children comes from adoption," said Clinton McMillan.

"We have a heart to be a voice for children," added Clinton's wife, Emma.

There are millions of children around the world who are victims of child trafficking and worse, but Emma said she and her husband chose to adopt Haitian children because there are approximately one million orphans in Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Western world – and it is only a 90-minute flight from Miami.

The McMillans moved to Brookings from Crete when Clinton was separated from the military in November 2000. He currently works at Pelican Bay Prison. Emma is the director of the Haven of Hope women's shelter on Chetco Avenue.

"Children in Haiti are treated worse than animals," Emma said. She said Haiti doesn't have a nurturing society and children are considered an undervalued commodity, to buy and to sell. She said, "African babies are swaddled by mothers, but you don't see mothers carrying infants in Haiti."

The adoption process has been frustrating and sometimes frightening, but also rewarding. Emma said the unstable administrative process in Haiti means it will take 12 months or more before they can adopt two children and bring them to America.

The couple have seen evidence of children procured illegally for $300 within 10 hours, but she said it will cost them at least $25,000 to legally adopt the two children they now consider part of their family and call their own: 5-year-old daughter Lovley Destiny McMillan, and 3-year-old son Maicourely Justice McMillan. The middle and last names will be added at the time of the adoption.

This spring the McMillans traveled to Haiti to meet their new children. E

Emma said, "On May 14 we drove away from home down our country road. I remember telling Clinton, ‘The next time we drive down this road we will be changed people.' He nodded in agreement, with a contemplative look on his face."

Their first impression of Haiti? Incredible poverty.

"When we got off the plane we saw poverty," Emma said. "I have seen a lot of poverty, but it was a horrific drive for hours; miles and miles without a break in the poverty. We had to have a driver… it's not a safe environment for a tourist."

Prior to their trip to Haiti, the McMillans found Lovley and Maicourely in an orphan village run by a woman from the U.S. Emma said that in the village 30 to 40 children are cared for in 10 small adjoining houses with a nanny in each house.

Clinton and Emma were able to take the two children for several days. She said that the children were fascinated when they saw the bathroom in the motel with running water and a flushing toilet.

They also had an opportunity to spend one day in a part of Haiti that is the complete opposite of the extreme poverty seen on most of the island, Wahoo Beach. Emma said it is a paradise, and one of the most expensive vacation spots she has seen.

The 10-hour drive on roads filled with potholes and frightening traffic, with windows down in the 95-degree heat, left them so soot-covered and dirty-faced that they had to take two showers.

Other impressions of Haiti beside the desolation, poverty and hopelessness, were $8 per gallon gasoline and a day's pay between $1 and $2. Add to that mosquitoes, heat, and a country of dumps filled with goats running loose. Emma said the goats are not discouraged from eating garbage even when the trash is being burned, and watching the fire-eating goats is a Haitian spectator sport.

She said that so far God has provided the required $12,000 to proceed with the adoption, however they now need to raise another $8,000 within four months.

"I know God's going to provide it," Emma said. "My prayer is our kids will come here and we will love them and deposit enough love in them so that they can go back to their country one day to help their people. We will educate them about their country and their culture."

Clinton and Emma were right about their trip to Haiti: It was lifechanging.

Emma said, "Once back in Oregon, on the way back home we were driving down our country road in the middle of the night completely exhausted from our adventure, I looked over at Clinton and said, ‘I knew we'd be changed, I just didn't know it would be so much.'"

She said that they fell instantly in love with their Haitian children.

On the trip to Haiti in May they took approximately 150 pounds of donated items to the village, including children's toothbrushes, medical supplies, clothing, and other supplies donated by Dr. Richard Edmiston, Oak Street Health Care Center, and the Brookings Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Emma's photography, "Haiti, Her Beauty and Her Sorrows," will be displayed at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, 102 Park Ave., in August. Emma will be at the church from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 9 and is hoping Second Saturday Art walkers will find their way to the church to meet her, view her photographic art, and talk about Haiti.

Anyone who would like to contribute funds or items for the November trip is encouraged to contact Emma at

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Malaysian bank to help African nations with microcredit setup

from the New Straits Online

A Malaysian bank will help African nations in setting up microcredit schemes. The announcement was made at a conference for Asia and African countries. - Kale

BANK Negara Malaysia will assist interested African countries to come up with microcredit schemes under the Financial Inclusion Advisers (FIA) programme.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said BANK Negara would look for the best possible scheme for each of the nations interested.

"They will not necessarily follow the same scheme. Each scheme will be planned according to the respective country's needs and will be a long-term programme," he said.

Najib was speaking last night after the first day of dialogue proper at the Global Southern Africa International Dialogue (GSAID) at the Mulungushi Dialogue Centre.

On the dialogue itself, he said Malaysia was often spoken of as a model in the session.

He said this was because the participants were impressed with the country's national vision, microcredit scheme and infrastructural development.

"The participants and leaders of several of the countries reported that their national visions were on schedule. However, one thing important for them to note is that any national vision must be accepted by the people.
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WTO Talks collapse: in battle over farm aid

from the Washington Post

This story serves as an overview of this round of talks, and the issue that ended them. - Kale
By Anthony Faiola and Rama Lakshmi

International talks aimed at ushering in a new era of free trade collapsed in Geneva yesterday during a bitter split between developed and developing countries over the future shape of global commerce.

The failure of the talks after nine days of intense negotiations underscored what is likely to be the biggest challenge in coming years to expanding world trade: the reluctance of emerging juggernauts such as India and China to risk their newfound success by offering rich nations greater access to the hundreds of millions of consumers rising out of poverty in the developing world.

High-level delegations from the United States and the European Union showed fresh willingness at the World Trade Organization talks to make concessions that would have gradually curbed the subsidies and tariffs they have long employed to protect First World farmers. But India and China dug in their heels, insisting on the right to keep protecting their farmers while accusing the United States and other rich countries of exaggerating the generosity of their concessions.

"The breakdown of these talks is bad news for the world's businesses, workers, farmers and most importantly the poor," said Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "It's ironic that this blow . . . came from two of the chief beneficiaries of worldwide trade. India and China are emerging powers, but with great power comes great responsibility. They missed an opportunity to show leadership as key players in the global trading system."

The result is what most experts concede is at least a temporary mothballing of the Doha Round of trade talks, so named because a group of nations agreed to work toward dramatic new cuts in subsidies and trade tariffs in Qatar's capital, Doha, in 2001. The talks have floundered for the past seven years, with negotiations falling apart each time trade ministers have gathered to try to hash out an accord.

The WTO meeting of more than 35 nations in Geneva that ended yesterday had been described by officials as a "do or die" moment for the round, with the lack of agreement postponing the $50 billion to $100 billion injection such a deal was expected give the global economy. The sense that the failed talks may not get another chance anytime soon is linked to the pending exit of the pro-trade Bush administration, rising opposition to farm concessions in Europe and an upcoming changing of the guard of several key trade officials who have worked on this agreement for years.

Some analysts said the spread of free trade for now is likely to shift toward more modest bilateral agreements, or the expansion of regional trading blocs such as South America's Mercosur and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Yet even bilateral deals have recently faced stronger resistance during a growing global wave of protectionism, including in the United States, where free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama are being held up by opposition in Congress.

"We are heading toward the fragmentation of the global trading system into individual trading blocs -- regional and bilateral -- which offer no guarantee for the economic benefits we have seen in the post-War era," said Randall Soderquist, senior trade program associate for the Center for Global Development.

The talks in Geneva at times took on a highly charged, personal tone that immediately cast the negotiations as a power struggle between the developed and developing worlds. Within 24 hours of landing in Geneva nine days ago, Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Amorim, infuriated First World negotiators, comparing their efforts to hype their proposed trade concessions to Nazi propaganda. His comments drew sharp reprimands, particularly from Washington's top negotiator, U.S. Trade Ambassador Susan C. Schwab, the daughter of Jewish Holocaust survivors.

Yet Brazil would later show far more flexibility than India or China, casting the Asian nations as the principle holdouts.

Schwab said negotiators were "so close" last week in reaching an agreement. But the talks fell apart over the insistence by developing nations to reserve the right to protect their farming sectors against sudden surges in cheap food imports. India's chief negotiator and commerce minister, Kamal Nath, may have played the biggest role in undoing the talks, repeatedly blocking attempts by developed nations to win greater access to India's burgeoning market.

Nath's inflexibility was cheered as heroic in India, where his refusal to offer major concessions to rich nations was being portrayed as a classic David vs. Goliath case.

"I kept saying 'No, I don't agree' at every point," Nath said in a telephone interview from Geneva yesterday. "I come from a country where 300 million people live on 1 dollar a day and 700 million people live on 2 dollars a day. So it is natural for me, and in fact incumbent upon me, to see that our agricultural interests are not compromised. You don't require rocket science to decide between livelihood security and commercial interests."

Opposition to the talks had been building in India since June, when 35 farmers groups from across that nation gathered at a conference in New Delhi to discuss the implications of the trade negotiations with trade and food policy activists. They called upon wealthy nations to remove their farm subsidies, saying such assistance to First World farmers denies a level playing field to subsistence-farming nations such as India.

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WTO talks collapse: Reaction from World Leaders

from the Raw Story

Here is another story on the WTO talks collapse. This story gathers reaction from leaders across the globe. - Kale

World powers reeled with regret and emotion on Wednesday from the collapse of WTO negotiations for a global trade pact, warning that the poorest countries would suffer.

"It is particularly distressing for us that we find ourselves without an agreement today," US Trade Representative Susan Schwab told a news conference, as delegates reviewed the wreckage of nine days of talks.

She lamented that tense talks had broken down on deadlock over special import tariff measures, after certain countries rejected WTO proposals.

"It would have worked, and yet there were others who demanded more. and more included a tool to close markets," Schwab said, without naming names.

Delegates who went into many late nights in an attempt to reach a deal affecting the lives of populations around the globe, said that deadlock had centred on a row between the United States and India over tariffs.

Kenya's trade minister meanwhile warned that the breakdown of talks "gravely undermined" efforts by African countries to fight poverty.

Ministers had struggled for nine days to reach consensus on subsidy levels and import tariffs for a new deal under the WTO's Doha Round, which has foundered repeatedly since it was launched seven years ago.

Delegates said negotiations stumbled on proposals for so-called SSM measures to protect poor farmers that would have imposed a special tariff on certain agricultural goods in the event of an import surge or price fall.

"Africa's opportunity to achieve fair trade has... been gravely undermined by the lack of progress in these negotiations," the minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, told a news conference, speaking on behalf of a grouping of African countries at the World Trade Organization talks here.

"Africa critically needs to realise development and get itself out of poverty through the establishment of fair trade rather than aid," he said.

Several delegates hoped on Tuesday for further moves to salvage the negotiating process in light of progress that had raised spirits over the weekend. But momentum seemed to have ground to a halt.

"It's extremely difficult to find words to express the disappointment," said EU Commissioner Mariann Fischer-Boel in an emotional address on Tuesday. "It's a truly sad day for the developing countries that had so much to gain."

"We will need to let the dust settle a bit," the World Trade Organization's Director-General Pascal Lamy said. "WTO members will need to have a sober look at if and how they bring the pieces back together."

The world's economic superpower, the United States, and India, one of the world's biggest emerging economies, were sharply divided over the SSM -- the special safeguard mechanism.

"I feel very disappointed that this had to be left unresolved in the last miles," India's Commerce Minister Kamal Nath told reporters. "It's unfortunate that in a developing round, the last miles we couldn't run" due to the SSM.

India and other developing countries wanted the mechanism to kick in at a lower import surge level than has been proposed in order to protect their millions of poor farmers from starvation. Nath said that about 100 developing nations backed his position.

Others wanted it to take effect at a higher rate so as not to hurt exporters.

Ministers avoided publicly pointing the finger of blame. European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said on Tuesday that the collapse was a "collective failure."

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WTO talks collapse: a reaction on how it effects Africa

from AFP via Google

The WTO talks have collapsed due to an arguement between India and the US. Here is a reaction on how the absence of an agreement will effect Africa. - Kale

GENEVA — The breakdown of talks on a world trade pact has "gravely undermined" efforts by African countries to fight poverty, Kenya's trade minister warned on Wednesday.

"Africa's opportunity to achieve fair trade has... been gravely undermined by the lack of progress in these negotiations," the minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, told a news conference, speaking on behalf of a grouping of African countries at the World Trade Organization talks here.

"Africa critically needs to realise development and get itself out of poverty through the establishment of fair trade rather than aid," he said.

"Most of the key issues of interest to the African continent were not even discussed, especially the issue of cotton."

WTO Director-General announced on Tuesday that the latest negotiations for a much-delayed trade liberalisation deal under the so-called Doha Round had broken down after nine days due to unresolved differences.

Delegates said the deaddlock centred on a row between the United States and India over special tariff measures to protect poor farmers from surging imports or price falls.

Physician who led launch of Head Start dies

from the Boston Globe

Dr Julius Richmond passed away Sunday. His obit provides some history on how the Head Start program started in the United States. - Kale

Served as surgeon general in Carter administration

By Bryan Marquard,

Poverty undercuts the ability of the young to learn, Dr. Julius B. Richmond realized during research nearly half a century ago, and he drew from his findings to launch Project Head Start, a federal program that has helped millions of children since its inception in 1965.

"It really is a remarkable legacy to his career how many graduates of Head Start programs there are all over the country who have benefited from early-childhood care and education," said Allan Brandt, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University.

Dr. Richmond, who also served as US surgeon general under President Carter, died in his Chestnut Hill home Sunday. He was 91 and as recently as May was still spending a few hours each day in his office at Harvard, where he was a professor emeritus, despite having been diagnosed with cancer a few years ago.

"Jimmy and I are saddened to learn of the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Dr. Julius Richmond," Rosalynn Carter said in a statement issued yesterday. "Julie was a wonderful and compassionate champion in the fight to improve health, mental health, and educational opportunities for our nation's children. All Americans have benefited from his decades of leadership in advancing the healthcare needs of our country."

In a career that ranged from serving as a flight surgeon in the Army Air Corps during World War II to the US surgeon general from 1977 to 1981, Dr. Richmond left few areas of medicine untouched - including some that engendered public controversy.

While the health and well-being of the nation's children were a focus all his life, he also issued a key report in 1979 that set quantitative benchmarks for public health. And Dr. Richmond waded into the legal battles involving the tobacco industry during the 1990s when he was the lead-off witness in a class-action lawsuit brought by flight attendants who believed their health was compromised by secondhand smoke.

In 1979, he issued a memo ending the policy that allowed US quarantine officers to detain those arriving from foreign countries who they believed were gay or lesbian on the grounds that their sexual orientation was the product of a mental disease or defect. And the following year, he announced that the government had approved plans to let cancer specialists prescribe synthetic marijuana pills to control nausea and vomiting for patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Even at 90, Dr. Richmond was weighing in on national medical issues, decrying the absence of universal health coverage.

"The financiers don't want government intervention," Dr. Richmond told the Globe in October 2006. "It's such an embarrassment that I think the issue will resurface, but it's difficult for the political figures in Washington to formulate a plan."

The intersection of public need, political will, and public policy was something Dr. Richmond thought about frequently.

"He often used three variables to describe the most significant elements of public policy," Brandt said. "He would ask, 'Do we know enough; what's the knowledge base?' Then he would ask, 'Is there the political will to apply what we know?' Then he would ask, 'Do we have a social strategy to bring the knowledge and the politics together in a productive way?' He was a great analytic thinker and was always thinking about what we need to do to improve a particular situation."

Dr. Richmond grew up in rural Illinois and for a time worked on a sheep farm during the Depression. When the time came for college, he considered both medicine and animal husbandry.

"I chose people," he told the Globe in October 2006.

He studied at the University of Illinois campuses in Urbana and Chicago, receiving bachelor's and master's degrees. In 1939, he received a medical degree from what is now the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago.

"He was a very compassionate and thoughtful guy who really had a remarkable life," Chuck Richmond of Indianapolis said of his father. "He was the son of Russian immigrants who rose to be the nation's chief health officer, and he was always wholly supportive - first and foremost - of his family and extended family. And he really took great pride in mentoring young colleagues, which made his extended family quite a huge one."

Dr. Richmond began expanding his extended professional family the moment he was out of school, entering pediatrics residencies and postgraduate training that was interrupted by World War II. After the war, he taught at his alma mater and in New York State at what is now Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

He went to work for the Johnson administration in the mid-1960s and was the first director of what was then called Project Head Start.

In 1967, he went back to Syracuse, where he was dean of the medical faculty, and left four years later to join the faculty at Harvard Medical School.

While teaching there he also served as chief of psychiatry at what was then Children's Hospital Medical Center and also was director of Judge Baker Children's Center, a Harvard Medical School affiliate that works to improve the lives of children with mental health problems.

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Nigeria behind on meeting NDG's

from Guardian Newspapers

This is an examination of the factors that make it difficult for Nigeria to meet the Millennium Development Goals. It blames corrupt government for not using oil proceeds to benefit all of Nigeria. - Kale

By Bukky Olajide

THE achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 will require a need for countries to grow their respective economies especially in education and health sectors.

MDGS, a programme designed to halve the proportion of poor people in the world to be achievable between 1990 and 2015, has influenced development benchmarks around the world, with nation's evolving various strategies to achieve the goals.

It is a programme by which all countries of the world, rich and poor have agreed to participate.

The MDGs, as it is, addresses those issues that are common to all nations especially in the areas of health and healthy habits.

Therefore, apart from the fact that achieving MDGs by countries would require an open, rule-based global economy, it will also require the cooperation of member countries in the areas of good governance that will translate into a sound national economy.

The 2008 World Development Indicators (WDI) a publication of the World Bank in conjunction with its numerous partners recognises governance as the performance of public officials and the quality of government institutions as an important determinant of development success.

But to understand how governance, good or bad affects development, it must be measured, said the World Bank, in ways that are sensible to politicians, citizens and others responsible for improving governance.

Therefore, the World Bank defines governance as the way public officials and institutions acquire and exercise authority to provide public goods and services, including education, health care, infrastructure and a sound investment climate.

Accordingly, bad governance is often equated with corruption, as corruption is the abuse of public office for private gain and is an outcome of poor governance, reflecting the breakdown of accountability.

Talking about types of governance indicator, the report examines rules indicators that attempt to establish the presence or absence of rules and processes.

That is, whether countries have laws guaranteeing the right to information, whether they have independent anti-corruption commissions and whether budget documents are published.

For instance, bad governance also includes long time required to resolve dispute in court, inability to provide security against crime and inefficiency of the tax system.

However, the WDI reasons that many countries of the sub-Saharan Africa might not be able to achieve the MDGs because poverty rates still remain above 40 per cent, raising concerns of widening inequalities among regions.

In the last decade, said the report, poverty reduction was not always commensurate with income growth, saying that in most low income economies and regions, inequality worsened, as poor people did not reap the fruits of economic expansion, lacking opportunities to do so.

The report observed that in working towards the achievement of the MDGs, the worst performers include a large number of sub-Saharan countries.

The World Bank also observed that great public spending is not associated with better outcome in these countries and this has resulted in the impoverishment of citizens.

According to the report, while poverty is a static concept, vulnerability is a dynamic one. Vulnerability reflects a household's resilience in the face of shocks and the likelihood that a shock will lead to a decline in well being.

Thus, depending primarily on the household's asset endowment and insurance mechanism, usually, poor people have fewer assets and less diversified sources of income than the better off, therefore, fluctuations in income affect them more.

And this is where microfinance comes in: Enhancing security for poor people means reducing their vulnerability to such risks as ill-health, providing them the means to manage risk themselves and strengthening market or public institutions for managing risks.

The tools include microfinance programmes, old age assistance and pensions and public provision of education and basic health care.

Achieving the MDGs also involves participating in international treaties on environmental issues.

According to the report, in many countries, efforts to halt environmental degradation have failed primarily because many governments have neglected to make this issue a priority.

The World Bank also stresses a direct relationship between governance and growth arguing that a determining factor in development was the effectiveness of the state concerning infrastructure, the report notes that the quality of an economy's infrastructure, including the power and communications, is an important element in investments decisions for both domestic and foreign investors.

Therefore, for instance, an economy's production and consumption of electricity is a basic indicator of its size and level of development.

Expanding the supply of electricity to meet the growing demand of increasingly urbanised and industrialised economies without incurring unacceptable social, economic and environmental costs is one of the greatest challenges facing developing countries.

Also, the report states that while access is the key to delivering telecommunication services to people, if that service is not affordable to most people, then goals of universal usage will not be met.

Concerning environmental sustainability the report adds that access to improved water sources and emissions of carbon dioxide are among the indicators that the international community uses to monitor progress toward environmental sustainability.

According to the report, economic activity, agriculture and industry in particular with human needs for access to water sources. But greater wealth and urbanisation allow more of the population to connect to safe drinking water networks.

Also, since diseases an environmental degradation do not respect national boundaries, access to reliable supplies of safe drinking water and sanitary disposal of excreta are two of the most important means of improving human health and protecting the environment.

On taxation, the report classifies taxes in six major groups; namely, income, profits and capital gains, pay roll and workforce, property, goods and services, international trade and transactions and other taxes.

Rich countries, however, rely more on direct taxes believing that direct taxes tend to be progressive, while indirect taxes are proportional.

Direct taxes are taxes levied on the income and profits of individuals and corporations while taxes and duties levied on goods and services are classified as indirect taxes.

On the enterprises surveys of investment climate, the report states that improving government policies and behaviours is a key to shaping the investment climate because they are influential in driving growth and poverty reduction.

According to the report, firms in developing countries have constraints in policy uncertainty, which measures the credibility of governments and their policies and the ability to deliver on promises.

Corruption -the exploitation of public office for private gain -can harm the investment climate in several ways as it can distort policy making, undermine government credibility, tax entrepreneurial activities and divert resources from public coffers," the report states.

"Robbery, fraud and other crimes against property and against the person undermine the investment climate," the report states.

It, however, states that most countries have room to improve regulation and taxation without compromising broader social interests.

Therefore, the investment climate is harmed when government impose unnecessary costs, by increasing uncertainty and risk by erecting unjustified barriers to competition.

Improvements in the tax system may include broadening the tax base, simplifying tax structures, increasing the autonomy of tax agencies and improving compliance through computerisation.

According to the report, when financial markets work well, they connect firms to lenders and investors, which allow firms to seize business opportunities and grow their businesses.

But too often, it says government distortions introduced by state ownership or directed credit undermines financial sector development, productivity and economic growth.

Looking at the world by income, Nigeria is classified among the low-income group.

In Nigeria, economic growth, which should be a distinct indication of development, has not yielded positive results. The porous and lopsided system has not allowed the poor people to enjoy the fruits of the country's abundant natural resources.

While Nigeria is a nation with enormous resources and possibilities, it was driven into poverty and wretchedness, because it lacked leaders to put these resources into good use.

Nigeria is in this sorry state because of the fact that right from inception, the leaders have formed the habit of diverting the huge earnings of oil into private pockets.

With every opportunity to make lives easier for the citizens because of the huge resources at their disposal, the successive Nigerian leaders did not undertake industry-based projects that would have freed the country from the shackles of imported goods.

And when they establish such good projects, they are never executed to the level of completion as successive governments keep on deviating from the projects initiated by the previous governments, thereby leading to a waste of abundant resources.

Speaking recently on governance, a former vice president of African Development Bank (ADB), Mr. Bisi Ogunjobi observed that there was a strong correction between the quality of a country's governance and the success in achieving growth and improving the quality of life of the population.

Ogunjobi said that good governance was used in a generic sense to encompass the quality of leadership in its capacity to govern effectively, the consistency of policies and the efficiency of institutions in providing qualitative public good and social services for the majority of citizens.

Therefore, he said, good governance must at the minimum, include accountability of those in government to the governed, transparency, due process and rule of law as well as a political system that allows for popular participation in the decision making process of selecting the leaders.

"Failure to meet these principles results in corruption and mismanagement of national and public resources as well as political exclusion leading to inability," he said.

Talking about corruption, the former vice president said that corruption symbolised a breakdown of ethical and moral values of systems and institutions of government.

According to Ogunjobi, corrupt practices take many forms, including embezzlement of public funds, theft or illegal use of public property, bribery of official to obtain favours, state or regulatory capture by private firms and bribery to influence procurement decisions.

"Corruption has devastating effects on the productive use of resources and economic development. It violates public trust and corrodes social capital while having far reaching effects on the allocation of resources and hinders service delivery. Corruption undermines the authority of state," he said.

Strangely enough, he said further that the phenomenon of corruption in Nigeria was aided in view of the incidence of high level of corruption by the leaders that combine abuse of office with greed and insatiable acquisitive appetite.

Ogunjobi said further that corruption created uncertainty about the rules and regulation of business, leading to poor economic environment for investment, while it hurts the poor in society by increasing the cost of service.

According to him, corruption also depressed economic growth, resorting in further limiting economic opportunities, encouraged lawlessness and organised crime eroded the moral and ethical standards of society and engendered social exclusion and marginalisation which led to regional conflicts.

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Seeking Common Ground

from MPN Now

Women in New York State are more likely to live in poverty then women nationwide. This story profiles an organization that can help women in New York. - Kale

By Julie Sherwood

While there are many organizations and government programs aimed at helping people in need, one organization co-founded by a South Bristol woman is working to specifically address the needs of women through education, programs and the development of a support network.

Co-founder Deb Denome is now director of that organization, a nonprofit called Seeking Common Ground. She and four friends started it in 1997. At first they wanted to form a community-based business, said Denome, who then had a corporate job in publishing. The idea soon evolved into much more than that. They discovered that other women were “feeling the same pressures we did,” she said, wanting to spend quality time with their children and make a living, too.

That wasn’t all.

“We saw women not being able to break out of poverty,” said Denome, 41, a mother of three who was facing her own set of challenges then that included her newborn daughter being diagnosed with cancer. Denome, who was married at the time, said her husband was starting his own business, which added to the financial strain.

Then she had a dream about a type of place that would soothe the spirit as well as help women manage financially.

Seeking Common Ground and the programs that operate under its umbrella are the embodiment of that dream. The programs include a community organic farm at Denome’s home on Hicks Road in South Bristol; a farm-to-cafeteria program that works with Ontario County Cornell Cooperative Extension, local farmers and food service directors to increase the use of local foods in cafeterias; and Herb Haven, an herbal gardening and retail training program for women and children who are striving to become economically self-sufficient.

About 50 women are participating in one or more of the programs. The community farm is a cooperative that offers the chance to learn about agriculture and help grow a variety of vegetables and other edibles in exchange for having healthy, homegrown food. At Herb Haven, women attend eight to 10 hours a week to learn life skills (such as budgeting and setting goals), horticulture and retail job skills and attend a support group. They plant, tend and harvest the garden, create useful products with the herbs and then sell them from a shop at the site in Crystal Beach on Route 364. Free nutritious meals are provided for women and children, and a child-care program offers arts, crafts, song, dance, gardening, cooking and creative play.

Herb Haven is grant-funded and free to participants, said Denome, who is an herbalist and horticulture therapist. The women are asked to make a minimum commitment of six months. Most of the women are from Ontario and Yates counties and in transition from situations such as underemployment, job displacement, illness, divorce, abuse, chemical dependency and incarceration for non-violent crimes.

Robin Cross, 45, of Canandaigua, is one of those women who turned to Herb Haven. A widow, Cross is a mother of three and legally blind. “It’s strengthening, the support here,” said Cross, who works in the garden and may soon be using her computer skills to help with organizing special events at Herb Haven.

Herb Haven doesn’t provide job-placement services, but it does work with Finger Lakes Works, an organization that helps match people with jobs.

Feedback on Mbeki's Poverty Plan

from All Africa

South Africa is responding to President Mbeki's war on poverty plan. Mbeki announced the effort last weekend. The plan has it's fair share of critics. - Kale

by Amy Musgrave and Karima Brown

Johannesburg - CIVIL society and organised labour have cautiously welcomed the government's planned anti poverty campaign, saying it is scant on detail and that they were not consulted.

The campaign, announced by President Thabo Mbeki at the weekend, following the cabinet lekgotla, will be headed by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and launched next month.

Yesterday, lobby groups welcomed the campaign but said it was difficult to ascertain how it was different from existing anti poverty measures.

Mbeki told reporters that the campaign would identify deprived wards and households.

A team of professionals and community workers would identify their needs and accelerate access to government services and " provision of safety nets".

The long-term goal was that the poorest households should receive assistance and support in a co-ordinated and sustained way.

The campaign comes as the government stalled on an antipoverty strategy supposed to have been signed off by the lekgotla for public comment.

Talks around defining a poverty line (to measure poverty) have also not gone anywhere as stakeholders have failed to agree on key aspects of both the strategy and line.

The question of defining poverty and quantifying poor people remains unresolved and is the cause for the delay in defining a poverty index.

Jan Mahlangu, Congress of South African Trade Unions head of policy, said yesterday that it was difficult to understand what the campaign would entail.

"What is this programme when government doesn't have a clear measurement?

"One would have expected the lekgotla to embark on this process. Postponing issues on the poor is a problem because it shows that there is no urgency," he said.

The national economic development and labour council has still not heard from the government on when the poverty line and strategy will be made available for comment.

"On the poverty line there was internal disagreement within government.

"We had two views; one from the treasury and one from social development. The government promised to come back last month , but we are still waiting," Mahlangu said.

Glenn Farred, programme manager at the Studies on Poverty and Inequality Institute, was equally sceptical, questioning how the campaign was different from the existing interventions.

"I think they (the government) didn't get the response they wanted on the strategy. Now they won't engage in a formal process.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Insecurity heightens in northwest Kenya

from IRIN News

This profiles a growing lawlessness in northwest Kenya. - Kale

LODWAR - John Lochimoe used to own several heads of cattle that his grandfather left him, until raiders from the neighbouring Pokot District of northwestern Kenya took the animals.

"All the cows my grandfather left me have been stolen, driving me deeper into poverty," he said. Today, Lochimoe, a single parent of two, who also cares for his mother and mother-in-law, can hardly cope thanks to the insecurity that has robbed him of his livelihood.

"At night the dogs bark all the time and people are always on the look-out. It seems as if the peace and reconciliation efforts do not work," Lochimoe, a former teacher living in Oropoi village, Turkana North District, said.

Like Oropoi, many areas of the mainly arid northern Kenya experience resource-based conflicts, livestock theft and a lack of access to infrastructure such as roads, schools, communication and health facilities.

The situation has particularly affected the pastoralist communities that dominate the region. The major causes of conflict include cattle-rustling, proliferation of illicit arms, inadequate policing, and competition over control and access to natural resources, according to a report by the NGO Practical Action Eastern Africa report. The NGO implements peace programmes in northern Kenya.

"The pastoralists cannot access water and pasture because of the insecurity," Turkana Central District Commissioner George Ayonga said. Residents rely on seasonal rivers and water pans, and rising fuel costs have also reduced access to motorised water schemes.

The insecurity, he added, had caused population displacement, especially in areas such as Lokori and Lomelo, south of the main town of Lodwar.

To cope, residents often have to rely on police reservists and have organised local security to safeguard their livestock. Boys, some as young as 14, carry guns while herding livestock.

According to a drought bulletin for Turkana, June was particularly bad for conflicts in all cross-border zones of Turkana North, Central and South districts.

The problem was attributed to resource-based battles after the failure of the long rains. The region borders Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and the areas of Baringo, Marsabit, Samburu and West Pokot in Kenya.

The bulletin recommended strengthening early warning and rapid response systems, in addition to holding peace meetings and encouraging dialogue.

Health issues

According to Sarah Wanaswa of the Oropoi dispensary, many cases of assault and gunshot wounds were reported during the months of peak conflict. "When there are no peace and reconciliation efforts, there are also many raids," Wanaswa said. "We get targeted more when the herds move."

Apart from insecurity, the region experiences other health problems. Low awareness of personal hygiene, she added, had also often led residents to suffer preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, skin and eye infections. The dispensary, which treats between seven and 10 people each day, relies on supplies flown in by the government and NGOs.

The other problem was low latrine coverage. "Most people use the 'cat method'," she said. "Those [residents] who are mobile see no value in erecting latrines which they will not use for long.

"Some say the soil is rocky and are therefore reluctant to dig latrines," she said. "Waste disposal depends on personal knowledge."

Wanaswa said community health workers were conducting outreach services. "We are educating the people on the consequences of not having a toilet."

The dispensary at Oropoi also lacks HIV prevention services while most women deliver at home, seeking medical help only in case of complications. At the same time, the population movements had also contributed to low immunisation coverage of childhood diseases such as measles.

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WHO says malaria still a major challenge in Africa

from All Africa

An official from the WHO talks about the challenges in getting quick malaria diagnosis in Africa. - Kale

BuaNews (Tshwane)

The African continent is loosing up to $12 billion per year of its Gross Domestic Product in scaling up malaria intervention programs, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

WHO country representative, Olusegun Babaniyi said malaria remains a global threat to the attainment of social-economic targets, with three million and more cases and an estimated one million deaths annually.

Dr Babaniyi was speaking on Monday at the official opening of the Eastern and Southern Africa Annual Review and Planning Malaria Meeting, themed "Improving Malaria Diagnosis".

The theme of the meeting is timely, he said, adding that it serves as a reminder of the need for African countries to pay attention to diagnosis in order to eradicate poverty.

He said malaria has kept the poor people poorer, adding that it is consuming 25 percent of household incomes.

Dr Babaniyi also emphasised the need for countries to improve the health provider's confidence in malaria diagnostic results.

"The prompt use of microscopic examination in the diagnosis of malaria is vital, as it aids the management of the diseases by confirming clinical suspicion which also saves money and reduces evolution of drug resistance."

The lack of confidence, he said, in the diagnostic results by health providers emanates from limited trust in the quality of diagnostic services.

"It is for this reason that the WHO has developed a comprehensive manual on quality of microscopy and other diagnostic techniques in an effort to strengthen quality assurance and quality control in malaria diagnosis among countries," Dr Babaniyi said.

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The hidden white poverty in South Africa

from the BBC

The BBC has picked up on the story of white poverty in South Africa. Attention has been drawn to the subject by the ANC president Jacob Zuma. - Kale

by Peter Biles

Karel and Annetjie du Randt moved to the Bethlehem settlement in Pretoria West five years ago after falling on hard times.

Previously, Mr du Randt had been employed, making tombstones in the town of Rustenburg.

The du Randts' home today is a tiny wooden hut on a private plot of land where about 30 whites make up the small community.

The huts have no electricity or individual toilets, but there is a spacious garden where the residents can grow and sell vegetables.

"We try to help each other", says Mr du Randt.

"We're not just sitting around and crying. Most of the guys here don't have any income, but we're just starting a new project, making small folding tables. You have to be part of the set-up here, in order to survive."

Bethlehem is not nearly as crowded or as impoverished as South Africa's teeming black townships such as Khayelitsha in Cape Town, or Diepsloot in Johannesburg.

However, Bethlehem reflects the face of South African society that is rarely seen - white poverty.

"It's a huge problem, and I don't think people realise how bad it is," says Elsabe Blignaut of the Danville Help Project which assists poor white Afrikaners.

"People are homeless. They have no jobs. They don't earn anything. We try to get them off the streets, feed and clothe them, and make life better for them".

Privileges of apartheid

In the days of apartheid, impoverished white Afrikaners were amply protected by the state.

The National Party which came to power in 1948 on a wave of Afrikaner nationalism, guaranteed Afrikaans-speaking South Africans employment, subsidised housing and state benefits.

Today, the ANC government provides a safety net of social grants and basic services for all South Africans who need them, but Afrikaners have lost the privileges they once enjoyed.

The mainly white Solidarity trade union says South Africa must accept that poverty is not only a "black" problem.

"Although poverty is less prevalent in the white communities, there is an alarming increase amongst white South Africans," concludes a Solidarity report that has been handed to ANC President Jacob Zuma.

Mr Zuma went to the Bethlehem settlement earlier this year, and promised to return.

His second visit last week, brought South Africa's presidential hopeful face-to-face with the daily problems of poor whites.

Accompanying him was Minister of Social Development Zola Skweyiya, who told the residents that in return for government assistance, they must make available whatever skills they can offer.

South Africa has a major shortage of skilled workers.

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Tracking loan costs for microcredit

from the Vancouver Sun

Don Cayo is a columnist in Vancouver who writes on poverty related issues. Here is a excerpt on the interest charges on micro credit loans. This is related to the story about Muhammad Yunus saying there is no place for profits in microcredit - Kale

by Don Cayo

Annual interest of 25, 50 or maybe 100-plus per cent: What's fair? Where, exactly, should the line be drawn between loan-sharks and worthy micro-credit programs? Between enterprises that exploit poor people who can't get conventional loans and those that help them?

There's no short answer.

Rates that sound to Westerners like gouging -- 25, 35 or even 45 per cent a year -- may, in fact, be the least a responsible lender can charge and stay afloat. Factor in the inflation that plagues many developing economies, plus the high cost (at least, high as a percentage of principle) of administering tiny loans, and you can see how what sounds like usury can be the bare-bones minimum.

But 100-plus per cent in an economy where inflation is reasonably under control? To most of us, that's over the line.

It gets trickier, of course, when the number is in between -- too high to be readily justified but too low to be clearly out of line, especially if the stated interest rate is in addition to confusing fees and caveats. The on-the-ground reality is so complex that even micro-finance professionals -- not to mention unlettered peasants -- find it hard to compare the costs of competing agencies.

The issue has been around for years, but it came to a head after Mexico's Banco Compartamos, which started life as a non-profit, became a profit-seeking enterprise. It went public early last year on the Mexican stock exchange, attracting money from Wall Street, among other places.

So far, the investments are paying handsomely, perhaps no surprise given that its loans can cost more than 100 per cent a year.

To defenders of the free market, outside investors provide much-needed capital. And only market mechanisms, which reflect the basic law of supply and demand, can establish a truly fair price for loans -- the point where lenders' willingness to put up the money converges with borrowers' willingness to pay.

Competition in the field may, indeed, work as it's supposed to in a country like Bangladesh, the home of Muhammad Yunus's famed Grameen Bank and of several other large, sophisticated micro-credit agencies. There, lending concepts have come to be understood by even the poorest clients, and many agencies compete with interest rates of about 25 per cent.

But, as Yunus underlined in a telephone news conference from a micro-finance summit in Bali on Monday, micro-credit was originally developed for people who were ill-served, or unserved, by the establishment market.

In many of the 100 or so countries where micro-credit is a key tool to combat mass poverty, that's still the case. Untold millions have no access to loans from a reputable agency. In such places, a new market-based player has no competition other than unabashed loan sharks -- local money-men who, typically, lend out five currency units at sunrise and collect six in repayment at sundown.

There's also a great danger of unfairness in what economists call "asymmetry of information." Well-heeled lending institutions can calculate costs and profits to the penny; unschooled borrowers often have no idea of what they're getting into or what a fair-priced alternative would be.

So I applaud Yunus and his colleagues from 44 other micro-finance stakeholders -- mostly those who fund micro-credit agencies, rather than those who actually make loans -- for an initiative launched Monday to expose lenders' actual prices to the light of day. A new NGO, MicroFinance Transparency, will collect and publish data on the cost of loans from lenders all over the developing world.

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Sudan women brewing alcoholic drinks

from the Turkish Daily News

Sudanese women brew this illegal alcohol to try to make money. But if they are caught beating can be severe. - Kale

by Jennie Matthew

Zakia is a Muslim woman living under Sharia law, stigmatized as a criminal for brewing and selling illicit alcohol to feed the family that her father abandoned outside Sudan's booming capital.

It is a simple recipe and one cooked up by thousands of women in the squalid camps and impoverished neighborhoods of those who fled years of war across southern, western and eastern Sudan.

Put dates and baking powder in water. Cover with a plastic bag to fend off the perennial dust, then bury underground for two to five days depending on the season. Heat over a fire and drip the piping hot liquid through a sieve.

Add water.

One to two hours later, 23-year-old Zakia has enough bottled aragi to flog to local laborers for a week, earning enough cash to keep her, her mother, brother, niece and seven sisters in food and clothes.

She got married last year. But the relationship failed and they live apart. With a street attitude akin to the Bronx, she slices through the air with a defiant hand when asked if her husband looks after her financially.

"I don't even want to see his face," she says, recoiling in distaste, catching a whiff of aragi as she sits back on a plastic chair while her sisters giggle and plait their hair in the corner.

A gangly customer folds himself onto the bed behind, extending a boney arm along the back of her chair, already a bit drunk in the stifling heat of a leisurely Friday in Halfaya, 15 kilometers north of Khartoum.

"It's just a trade," she says, denying any pang of conscience in profiting from what the Koran forbids.

But it's a dangerous business. Police raids are frequent. Around 90 percent of inmates in the women's prison were arrested on suspicion of selling aragi. They complain of beatings, fines, ransacked homes and confiscated booze.

Community workers say police hide behind the cloak of Islam, running alcohol rackets with what they confiscate to supplement poor pay. They talk about women sinking into prostitution and sexual favors in return for protection.

Chol Sakina, a Christian from the south, has been in Khartoum for more than two years. The poorest of the poor, she does not know how old she is and cannot afford to go home. She is too frightened to talk about alcohol.

She lives with her one-eyed aunt in a mud hut. They say they have not worked since police threw their equipment into the river four months ago.

"Sometimes we only eat flour with salt," says her aunt, Kadose. "This is poor people's food," she says tilting a bucket of grey, watery slop into view.

"We'll die from this food."

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