The Human Consciousness Now...Our World in the Midst of What? Observe, contemplate Now.

The Stream
Earth Rise
By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 7 2015 (IPS) - As the unprecedented flow of hundreds and thousands of migrants and refugees continues from war-ravaged countries to Europe, a new study warns that large-scale migration from poorer to rich nations will be a permanent feature of the global economy for decades.

The joint study by the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), released Oct. 7, says the world is undergoing a major population shift that will reshape economic development for decades.

And, while this poses challenges, it also offers a path to ending extreme poverty and shared prosperity if the right evidence-based policies are put in place nationally and internationally.

Joseph Chamie, an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division, told IPS that in contrast to the recently adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the WB/IMF report does not ignore population growth, but rightly acknowledges its vital role in the global economy and development efforts.

He said rapid rates of population growth in some regions, population decline in others, population aging, increased longevity, urbanization, international migration including increasing refugee flows and other critical demographic trends are ushering in a “new international population order.”

According to U.N. officials, the United Nations at onetime battled with two such concepts: a new International Economic Order and a new World Information and Communication Order.

“This new population order is increasingly affecting social and economic conditions, political representation and influence and international relations. Yet, politicians and their policy advisors by and large disregard those dynamics except when a crisis emerges, such as the recent refugee flows from the Middle East,” Chamie pointed out.

There is not a single development concern – including poverty, hunger, housing, education, employment, health and environment – that would not benefit from reducing high rates of population growth, predicted Chamie.

In a new twist to the migrant and refugee flows, the Wall Street Journal says the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as the Islamic State) is wooing doctors, teachers and skilled workers and preventing them from fleeing to Europe because the militant organisation is urgently in need of these workers.

“Islamic State’s pre-occupation with the migrant crisis reflects its increasing worry over a brain drain in its territory, which stretches across parts of Iraq and Syria,” said the Journal in a report published Oct. 7.

The Journal quotes one Mosul resident as saying: “They’re telling people that this migration is a conspiracy against Islamic State and that the same European countries that humiliated you long ago are trying to enslave you again.”

The WB/IMF report says the share of global population that is working age has peaked at 66 percent and is now on the decline.

World population growth is expected to slow to 1.0 percent from more than 2.0 percent in the 1960s. The share of the elderly is anticipated to almost double to 16 percent by 2050, while the global count of children is stabilizing at 2.0 billion.

The direction and pace of this global demographic transition varies dramatically from country to country, with differing implications depending on where a nation stands on the spectrum of aging and economic development. Regardless of this diversity, countries at all stages of development can harness demographic transition as a tremendous development opportunity, the report says.

“With the right set of policies, this era of demographic change can be an engine of economic growth,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

“If countries with ageing populations can create a path for refugees and migrants to participate in the economy, everyone benefits, Most of the evidence suggests that migrants will work hard and contribute more in taxes than they consume in social services.”

According to the study, more than 90 percent of global poverty is concentrated in lower-income countries with young, fast-growing populations that can expect to see their working-age populations grow significantly.

At the same time, more than three-quarters of global growth is generated in higher-income countries with much-lower fertility rates, fewer people of working age, and rising numbers of the elderly.

Chamie told IPS that due to the substantial differences in rates of demographic growth, the population of the least developed countries (LDCs) is expected to surpass the population of the more developed countries by 2030.

Another clear future trend acknowledged by the WB/IMF report, he said, is large-scale international migration flows, including refugees and illegal migration from poor countries to richer regions.

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October 2,2015 6:29 PM
ACP Secretary-General Dr Patrick Ignatius Gomes talks to Ramesh Jaura

Dr Patrick Ignatius Gomes of Guyana was elected the Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) at the 100th Session of the Group’s Council of Ministers, held at ACP Headquarters in Brussels on Dec.10, 2014.
October 2,2015 5:37 PM
At least ten million of the poorest people face food insecurity in 2015 and 2016 due to extreme weather conditions and the onset of El Niño, Oxfam has reported. In Oxfam’s new report called Entering Uncharted Waters, erratic weather patterns were noted including high temperatures and droughts, disrupting farming seasons around the world. Countries are […]
October 2,2015 5:05 PM
Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction programme, hailed as bold, has nevertheless left environmentalists frustrated at its lack of ambition in key aspects. “The decision to present absolute reduction targets is praiseworthy, but they could be better and more ambitious, to the benefit of the country itself and of the global climate change talks,” said André […]
October 2,2015 8:21 AM
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October 1,2015 5:37 PM
The Saudi coalition, which continues its air strikes against rebels in strife-torn Yemen, is fast gaining notoriety as “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight” – largely because of its misses than its hits. Last month, the coalition is reported to have targeted a bomb-making factory – and ended up killing some 36 civilians working at […]
October 1,2015 5:28 PM
A small fishing village on the Caribbean coast of Honduras has become an example to be followed in renewable energies, after replacing candles and dirty costly energy based on fossil fuels with hydropower from a mini-dam, while reforesting the river basin. They now have round-the-clock electric power, compared to just three hours a week in […]
October 1,2015 5:14 PM
“I come before you today…compelled to sound the alarm about the grave dangers of what is happening in Jerusalem,” said Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas in his remarks to the United Nations General Assembly on Sep. 30. In his speech, Abbas pointed to the renewed wave of violence at Al-Asqa Mosque, accusing Israel of “repeated, systematic […]
October 1,2015 5:02 PM
As the world suffers its biggest upheaval of human mobility, with 60 million people forced to desert their homes or countries due to persecution, armed conflicts, starvation and hunger that are a veritable danger to their lives, the response from the international community has been rather laggard. Rolling disasters like in Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, […]
By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 7 2015 (IPS) - “The TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] will…go down in history as the worst trade agreement for access to medicines in developing countries,” said Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in a statement following the signing of the TPP trade deal.

The controversial agreement is the largest trade deal in a generation, bringing together 12 countries around the world including the United States to govern 40 percent of the world’s economy.

Negotiations on the TPP deal, initiated in 2008, finally came to a conclusion on Oct. 5 in the southern US city of Atlanta. It includes a range of economic policies including lowered tariffs as well as standards for labor law, environmental regulation, and international investments.

“This partnership levels the playing field for our farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products,” said US President Barack Obama in a statement following the end of negotiations. He also noted that the deal has the “strongest” commitments on labor and the environment of any trade agreement in history.

Though the deal has yet to be formally adopted by the signatories’ legislative bodies, it has already received criticism from numerous civil society members, including MSF, whose main concern arises from the deal’s provisions on data protection for biologic drugs.

Biologic drugs include any therapy from a biological source including vaccines, anti-toxins and monoclonal antibodies for diseases including cancer and HIV/AIDS.

According to the Brookings Institution, a US-based think tank, biologics are larger and structurally more complex than other drugs, making them more difficult and costly to develop. On average, biologics cost 22 times more than nonbiologics.

Due to these high costs, companies utilize data from the original drug creator to develop “biosimilars,” cheaper, generic versions of biologics. MSF has stated that this competition is the “best way to reduce drug prices and improve access to treatment.”

For instance, MSF treats almost 300,000 people with HIV/AIDS in 21 countries with generic drugs. These drugs have reduced the organization’s cost of treatment from US$10,000 per patient per year to US$140 per patient per year.

However, in the US, biologics creators have 12 years of data exclusivity. During this period, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cannot approve a biosimilar that utilizes original biologic data.

Data protection rules vary in other countries, while Peru, Chile and Mexico do not have any biologics data rules at all.

As part of the TPP negotiations, the U.S. sought to include the 12-year protection rule. Trade ministers went back and forth on the rule, finally settling on a mandatory minimum of five to eight years of data protection.

As a result, biosimilars will not be able to enter the market in countries that previously had no restrictions. According to MSF, this will lead to high, sustained drug prices by pharmaceutical companies, preventing individuals and health providers from acquiring affordable and essential medicines.

MSF predicts that at least half a billion people will be unable to access medicines once the TPP takes effect.

“The big losers in the TPP are patients and treatment providers in developing countries,” MSF said in its statement.

The organization urged governments and its legislatures to consider the consequences.

“The negative impact of the TPP on public health will be enormous, be felt for years to come, and will not be limited to the current 12 TPP countries, as it is a dangerous blueprint for future agreements,” MSF warned.


By S Kulkami

Vani S. Kulkarni is with the Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, and Raghav Gaiha is with the Global Aging Programme at Harvard School of Public Health.

PHILADELPHIA AND BOSTON, Oct 7 2015 (IPS) - Mohammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, transformed the lives of millions of poor women through unsecured micro loans or micro credit to self-help groups. Microcredit evolved into microfinance that also includes savings and basic forms of insurance and transfer mechanisms. Within a few years, microfinance became a global phenomenon. Although microfinance continues to grow, the enthusiasm for it shows signs of waning.

In recent years, there has been a great deal of scepticism regarding the “miracle” of microfinance. Critics have questioned whether the rhetoric has moved far ahead of the evidence, with some even suggesting that microfinance can spell the death of local economies. Meanwhile, its defenders present robust evidence to substantiate their claims that microfinance delivers enormous benefits. We argue that the miracle is largely intact but needs strengthening.

According to data from MIX, which tracks microfinance institutions (MFIs), there is a solid and growing base of microfinance providers, with a global loan portfolio amounting to US$ 81.5 billion in 2012 with an outreach of 91.4 million low income clients. Women make up 80 per cent of the clients of the world’s largest 34 microlenders. Yet half of the world’s adults still do not have accounts in financial institutions and 76 per cent of the poor are unbanked. When you add all this up, the case for vigorous expansion of financial inclusion in the SDGs is patently obvious.

Recent shift of the focus to financial sustainability raises serious concerns about dilution of the outreach of microfinance [for example, the number (breadth) and socioeconomic level (depth) of the clients served by MFIs.] That the trade-off exists is undeniable but little is known about its extent. It is often emphasised that large-scale outreach to the poor on a long term basis cannot be guaranteed if MFIs are not financially sustainable. Consequently, donors, policy makers, and other financiers of microfinance have shifted from subsidising MFIs towards financial sustainability and efficiency of these institutions.

Analysis of a large cross-section of countries reveals that MFIs providing mainly individual loans are more profitable, but the fraction of poor borrowers and of women in the loan portfolio is lower than in institutions that concentrate on group lending. Moreover, MFIs that provide individual loans increasingly focus on wealthier clients, a phenomenon that is often referred to as “mission drift,” while this is less so for the group-based MFIs. So the importance of institutional design in reducing the trade-off cannot be overlooked. Besides, sustainability is feasible without mission drift by reducing costs and gaining efficiency through innovative use of information and communication technology.

Research has documented that social networks help the diffusion of microfinance. A survey in Guatemala demonstrated that individuals imitate the choices made by other members of the same network – in this case a household’s access to credit was closely related to membership in a church network. In another example, a majority of representatives of financial institutions in India concurred that self-help groups (SHGs) were more likely to be successful in villages with a high density of social networks and associations.

Not only do SHGs benefit from the presence of networks, they themselves also contribute to trust, reciprocity and associational capital (such as through strengthening of local institutions). Moreover, presence of successful SHGs induces quicker formation of other SHGs at a much cheaper cost and the self-reinforcing process gathers momentum over time.

Group lending not only reduces transaction costs of small loans but also ensures high repayment rates. However, group liability may also impose a “cost.”

The incentive for group participants is to reduce the risk taken by their fellow members, since participants do not benefit from the upside of any risky investment, but are liable for the downside. As a result, members of a group may impose excessive risk aversion. Our analysis of selected Asian countries – especially India – offers insights.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO
Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram is the Coordinator for Economic and Social Development at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and received the 2007 Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

ROME, Oct 7 2015 (IPS) - It has become clear that the South, including the least developed countries, has little reason to expect any real progress to the almost half century old commitment to transfer 0.7 percent of developed countries’ income to developing countries. But to add insult to injury, developing countries have, once again, been denied full participation in inter-governmental discussions to enhance overall as well as national tax capacities.

The ability to pursue development policies depends crucially on available fiscal space, which relies mostly on domestic revenues, especially taxes. However, tax revenues in most low- and lower middle-income developing countries are low. The average tax-GDP ratios in low-income and lower-middle income countries are around 15 and 19 per cent respectively, compared to the OECD average of around 34 per cent.

Although non-tax revenues may add significantly to total revenues in some countries, these ratios are typically low even in countries with considerable non-petroleum mineral resource extraction activity. Therefore, low- and lower-middle-income countries should take steps to increase their revenues after considering various options for doing so.
This is necessary because the main approach in recent decades has been to increase tax rates only if unavoidable. It was presumed that lower rates would ensure better compliance with tax laws, and thus raise revenue.

By Emilio Godoy
Experts predict that in the long term, shale gas production will not be sustainable in the United States. The photo shows a shale gas well in Montrose, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS
Experts predict that in the long term, shale gas production will not be sustainable in the United States. The photo shows a shale gas well in Montrose, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Experts predict that in the long term, shale gas production will not be sustainable in the United States. The photo shows a shale gas well in Montrose, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

WASHINGTON, Oct 7 2015 (IPS) - The emergence of fracking has modified the global market for fossil fuels. But the plunge in oil prices has diluted the effect, in a struggle that experts in the United States believe conventional producers could win in the next decade.

The U.S. oil industry had peaked – when the discovery of new deposits and output from existing wells begins to fall – which made the country more dependent on imports. But the equation was turned around thanks to the new technique.

“The bubble won’t explode, but it will progressively deflate. At current prices, we would see a relatively quick shrinking of capital availability for the shale sector, because those companies are producing at a loss.” -- David Livingston

By Thalif Deen
Sanam Naraghi Anderlini
Sanam Naraghi Anderlini

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 6 2015 (IPS) - When the Security Council recently hosted a meeting of world leaders to discuss the growing threats from violent extremism, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that any success in battling intolerance will be predicated on a “unified response.”

The most recent U.N. data, he told the summit meeting, shows a 70 per cent increase in foreign terrorist fighters from over 100 countries to regions in conflict. And they not only pose a direct threat to international security, he said, but also “mercilessly target women and girls”, and undermine universal values of peace, justice and human dignity.

Responding to the call for unity, a coalition of over 25 women’s groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has formed a new alliance to counter violent extremism (CVE) and promote peace, rights and pluralism.

By Patricia Grogg
The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shakes hands with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, after raising the UAE flag at the opening of the Emirati embassy in Havana on Oct. 5, 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS
The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shakes hands with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, after raising the UAE flag at the opening of the Emirati embassy in Havana on Oct. 5, 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

The United Arab Emirates foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shakes hands with his opposite number in Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, after raising the UAE flag at the opening of the Emirati embassy in Havana on Oct. 5, 2015. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

HAVANA, Oct 6 2015 (IPS) - Cuba and the United Arab Emirates agreed to strengthen diplomatic ties and bilateral cooperation during an official visit to this Caribbean island nation by the UAE minister of foreign affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

During his 24-hour stay, Al Nahyan met on Monday Oct. 5 with Cuban authorities, signed two agreements, and inaugurated his country’s embassy in Havana, which he said was a clear sign of the consolidation of the ties established by the two countries in March 2002.

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